Nouvelle Observateur interview with Jim Jones

Among the documents recovered by the FBI in Jonestown after the deaths of November 1978 was an interview which an unnamed journalist with Nouvelle Observateur, a French weekly, conducted with Jim Jones. The interview was likely done on tape, and this document is likely the Temple’s version of the transcript, since there are several locations where a word is interjected as if the transcriber is unsure, and one juncture where the transcriber’s guess is incorrect.

While undated, the conversation undoubtedly took place in the first few months of 1977: the two speak of the television series Roots, and the interview ends with a question about Gary Gilmore, a Utah prisoner who was the first to die after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume. Both the miniseries and the execution occurred in January 1977, and the events are current in the minds of both parties.

Some of the questions are out of the ordinary – “What was the worst thing you ever did?” “If a good fairy … said you could have three goals, what would they be?” “Is there … anything that you did not do yet that you would like to do?” – but none are confrontational or even challenging. There is no doubt that the interviewer is sympathetic to the causes which Jones and Peoples Temple espouse.

Much of what Jones says about his own character would be familiar to his followers: he is not on an ego trip, and considers himself to be quite humble and modest; if anyone else could lead the group, he would certainly turn over the reins of power to that person; he assumes great pain on behalf of the Temple. His well-known apocryphal views also find voice, with his prediction that “we’re not going to make it through the thermonuclear age.” He decries the -isms of the day, ranging from racism to chauvinism to elitism, all of which Temple congregants have heard from the pulpit. What is different is that the interview is a two-way conversation, rather than a monologue, and – since the interviewer is an outsider – is directed at a larger audience than that within Temple walls. As such, it is one of the last extended examinations of Jones before he left the United States for Guyana – never to return – in the summer of 1977.

Jim Jones interview with Nouvelle Observateur, RYMUR 89-4286-C-12-d-1, pp. a through l
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Last modified on May 23rd, 2017.
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