Q049-1 Summary

Summary prepared by Fielding M. McGehee III. If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.

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FBI Catalogue: Jim Jones speaking

FBI preliminary tape identification note: Marked in part “Sat Nite Answers/Reporters”

Date cues on tape: None (in Jonestown)

People named:

Public figures/National and international names:
Che Guevera (by reference)

Jonestown residents, full name unknown:
Bell/Belle (several in Jonestown)

Jonestown residents:
Lonnie Newman
Larry Schacht (by reference)
Charlie Touchette

Bible verses cited:      None


(Note: This tape was transcribed by Seriina Covarrubias. The editors gratefully acknowledge her invaluable assistance.)

In this undated – and non-contextual – tape, Jim Jones holds a meeting of the Jonestown community during which he prepares them for the arrival of a few unnamed reporters, by posing random questions to random (almost all unidentified) members and passing or revising the answers he hears. While Jones coaches the people to improve their answers, the tone is generally light-hearted, and there are numerous moments of levity.

Jones often offers suggestions to people on what to emphasize: “I would say about the weather that we always have some sunshine every day”; “You might say, before I came into this church, I was wasting my life on drugs and that sort of thing, [but I] haven’t had any need for drugs, and haven’t committed a crime of any kind since I got in the church, ’cause my life is fulfilled”; “I’d say it’s a community. That’s what I was after. Jonestown’s a community.”

But just as often, he cautions people about what not to say. He asks the people not to call him “Dad,” but the habit is engrained, so when one man slips up, Jones’ reminder is quiet: “‘Thank you,’ just say ‘thank you.’ Stop the ‘Dad’ now. Let’s practice.” When another man answers a question about the health of people in Jonestown by saying a number of people have lost weight, Jones reminds him that their critics have charged that the Jonestown diet is insufficient, so “[b]e sure to preface [your comment] by saying, a lot of our people back [in the States] were terribly overweight.” The access to Jonestown in a “front entrance,” not a gate. He also tells them not to talk about guards, about fences – “which obviously we don’t have” – or about discipline. He counsels them on what to say about people going in and out of Jonestown, and admonishes them not to talk about anyone wanting to leave. He discourages talk about healings or cancers, because “[t]hey won’t understand it. They’ll only make mockery of it.” He urges them not to call each other “comrade” or to refer to each other by revolutionary names – “we’re not gonna call anybody Che. Nobody making that mistake” – or to do anything else “that shows our red.” In one string of reminders of their beliefs, he interjects, “We don’t believe in suicide.”

But many of his suggestions are refinements, additions, and modifications to the answers the people give him. In one exchange, he asks a man what could be improved.The man replies there’s nothing, to which Jones says, “I’d say, I’m hard-pressed to think of anything I’d need. [We] Got everything we need, just wish the fishing hole was a little closer, that sort of thing.” When another man says the Jonestown medical staff might be able to take care of the problems that come their way, Jones seizes on the word “might,” and recasts the man’s answer to emphasize the services they do provide and the contingency plans for the ones they don’t. When another man talks about the Jonestown band that entertains them in the evening, Jones suggests that he include the different places that the bands plays outside of Jonestown.

Jones is complimentary to many of the people, especially the seniors who “think on their feet,” and describes many of the answers as “excellent,” even as he offers alternative wording or minor corrections. Only one woman of the 40 people who speak is severely reprimanded. She gives the wrong answer when Jones – in the role of reporter – asks her if the church promised to help pay for the way for disaffected members to return home. “I never promised that,” he says, “and that would be a terrible thing to say, because they’d put us under a great deal of burden. That’s an error.” With apparent reluctance, he then adds, “I’m going to have to give you an extra class for that. Okay?”

In fact, there are mixed messages on how far afield the people should go in answering questions. In one moment, Jones applauds the creativity he sees, and urges the teachers to encourage the children to be the same. In the next moment, when a man says he looks forward to traveling around South America, Jones bores in on him, and when the man becomes flustered, Jones chides him: “You’re caught.”

Finally, there is advise on tone and approach to the visitors. The people should not give long or involved answers, because they’ll trip up. They shouldn’t hesitate long before answering, because it’ll make the reply seem forced. They shouldn’t feel as though they are experts on things that are outside their areas of knowledge, like the Guyana government’s issues of foreign policy. And if a question seems too personal, he says, they should let the reporter know that in such a way as to disarm – or discourage – similar questions.

But there is also laughter. When Jones asks one man if they “allow extramarital activities here,” and the man replies they do, Jones joins the laughter before telling the man that “extramarital activities means adultery.” At another point, when people involved in role-playing talk about the jungle and how beautiful it is out there, Jones adds the suggestion that they encourage the reporter to go there and see for himself. “And that’ll take care of one reporter. Right?”

Nevertheless, it’s serious business. When distractions in the back of the pavilion divert the crowd’s attention, Jones calls them out. “Now you better hear me. ’cause you can hurt our people back there, the CIA’s on their ass and they could get ’em framed.”

FBI Summary:

Date of transcription: 6/27/79

In connection with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) investigation into the assassination of U.S. Congressman LEO J. RYAN at Port Kaituma, Guyana, South America, on November 18, 1978, a tape recording was obtained. This tape recording was located in Jonestown, Guyana, South America, and was turned over to U.S. Officials in Guyana and subsequently transported to the United States.

On June 24, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B60‑2. This tape was found to contain the following:

JIM JONES questioning and instructing members in correct replies to possible newsman questions regarding the settlement. He instructs them to discontinue the use of the term “DAD” for him and “group”, “family”, comrade and other revolutionary terms to combat CIA. plot against the church. He also mentioned statements should not be anti-United States or pro Communist countries and should indicate an unbiased knowledge of correct events. The majority of side two seemed to be blank although distant voices can be heard.

Differences with FBI Summary:

The summary is accurate and meets the FBI’s purposes.

Tape originally posted February 2005