Summary prepared by Fielding M. McGehee III. If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.
FBI Catalogue: Jones Speaking
FBI preliminary tape identification note: Labeled in part “8-Aug Peoples Form”
Date cues on tape:
Jimmy Carter, U.S. president
Former president Abraham Lincoln
Former president Richard M. Nixon
Former president Harry Truman
Charles de Gaulle, former President of France
Marcus Garvey, Pan-African black nationalist
Adolf Hitler, German Fuhrer
Vladimir Lenin, father of Russian Revolution
Mao Tse-Tung, leader of People’s Republic of China
Forbes Burnham, Prime Minister of Guyana
Peter Fernandes, head of Guyana Livestock Board
George King, Guyana Minister of Trade
Ptolemy Reid, Deputy Prime Minister of Guyana
Salvador Allende, President of Chile, deposed in 1973 coup
Kim Il-sung, President of North Korea
Kenneth David Kaunda, president of Zambia
Robert Mugabe, leader of Zimbabwean Patriotic Front in Rhodesia
Joshua Nkomo, leader of Zimbabwean Patriotic Front in Rhodesia
Julius Nyerere, president of Tanzania
Ian Smith, Prime Minister of Rhodesia
Alessandro Pertini, president of Italy
Aldo Moro, assassinated prime minister of Italy
Eleonara Moro, wife of Aldo Moro (by reference)
California Gov. Jerry Brown
Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, boxer convicted of murder
John Artis, alleged accomplice of Hurricane Carter
Angela Davis, member of Communist Party, black activist
Don Freed, author and screenwriter (by reference)
Charles Garry, Temple attorney
Charles Manson, leader of criminal gang
Grandma Moses, aka Anna Mary Robertson Moses, folk artist
Daniel Ellsberg, Pentagon worker who leaked Pentagon Papers
Lewis Fielding, psychiatrist for Daniel Ellsberg (by reference)
William Byrne, judge in trial of Daniel Ellsberg (by reference)
Debby Blakey (by reference)
Kathy Hunter, reporter for Ukiah Daily Journal
Suzanne Jones (by reference)
Wanda Kice (by reference)
Grace Stoen (by reference)
Carol (several in Jonestown, likely Carol Stahl)
Christine (several woman named Christine)
David (numerous in Jonestown, could be Chaikin)
Fannie (either Fannie Ford or Fannie Jordan)
Irene (three elderly black women from rural South named Irene)
Mike (numerous Mike and Michaels in Jonestown)
Motons family (numerous in Jonestown, some outside)
Pauline (several in Guyana, likely Pauline Scott or Pauline Simon)(speaks)
Tony (numerous in Jonestown)
Wilson (several people named Wilson)
Jimbo Jones, aka Jim Arthur Bishop (speaks)
Johnny Moss Brown, Jr.
Gene Chaikin (speaks)
Tom Grubbs (speaks)
Jann Gurvich (speaks)
Carl Glouster Hall (speaks)
Heloise Janice Hall (by reference)
Artee Harper (speaks)
Magnolia Harris (speaks)
Joe Helle (speaks)
“Miracle” Bea Jackson
Agnes Paulette Jones
Jim Jones, Jr.
Lew Jones (by reference)
Lynetta Jones (by reference)
Marceline Jones (speaks)
Timothy Tupper Jones (by reference)
Tom Kice, Sr.
Lisa Layton (by reference)
Ruth Lenin, aka Ruth Ann Tupper
Dee Dee Macon
Brenda Parks (by reference)
Edith Roller (speaks)
Abraham Staten (speaks but inaudibly)
John Victor Stoen (by reference)
Harriet Sarah Tropp
Summary and analysis:
(Note: This tape was transcribed by Vicki Perry. The editors gratefully acknowledge her invaluable assistance.)
(Note: This tape was one of the 53 tapes initially withheld from disclosure.
According to Jim Jones, this three-hour tape is one of supreme importance to the Jonestown community. Visitors are coming to Jonestown – he makes a reference to Don Freed, a Hollywood screenwriter who became a friend of the project, but he also plays the role of a somewhat hostile or skeptical reporter as he poses his questions to residents – and he wants to be sure people are prepared.
There is some evidence that this tape was made in two separate sessions, and perhaps on two separate days. In the first part, Jones addresses questions to community members – principally to Carl Glouster Hall, a 74-year-old black male, whose answers Jones applauds more than criticizes – and the leader invites other people in the crowd to take turns at the microphone to ask questions. About three-quarters through the tape, however, Jones invites people to submit their questions in writing to take up on a future occasion – “I think that’s about it, because we got to close” – and soon afterwards, the tape turns to a series of questions that Jones reads and then answers himself.
But the questions are important, Jones says. Arrangements are made to play the tape for anyone who missed it when it was made, or who may need review. He wants to be sure they have the answers down: “[Y]ou got to cover all this, you ought every bit of this. How many are going it over and over and over and over again? . You will listen to this for five days till you hear it, sleep it, drink it, think it.” There are unspecified rewards for those who pass the acid test – when the visitors come – but real consequences if they don’t: “you don’t pass this, you’re in trouble. if you don’t pass this, five extra days, I guarantee you.” (The five days likely refers to additional time in education classes.)
The tape opens with Jones’ announcement that he has lung cancer, but that he can expect to live another three to five years, even without treatment. And treatment is unlikely: Even if Jonestown could bring in a surgeon, the medical report which he reads aloud reveals that it is inoperable.
The cancer likely came from those whom he has healed over the years, he says, since the illnesses he cures must find a new home, and so they are transferred to his body. This belief is strengthened in the statistic that only four percent of people who develop lung cancer have never smoked, and he has never smoked. The other possibility is that the same agents who infected Marceline with cancer – a disease which he recognized and healed – also infected him.
He returns to the subject several times, with different messages to be taken from it. One is that “maybe tonight some [people] will hear me that didn’t” before he contracted the illness. A second is an opportunity to attack his antagonists in Concerned Relatives: if he did get treatment, it would have to be in Georgetown, but because of the Stoen custody lawsuit, he cannot go without running the risk of being arrested. It also allows him to remind his followers that he has always been in pain. In one twist, however – and in one of his relatively few references to death during the tape – he compares the anguish of his cancer to the sleepiness of a woman in the crowd before him, and adds: “I hope to hell you die before I do. I hope you do, because I don’t want any of you left alive to worry the leader.”
Further, the medical report gives him an opportunity to remind everyone who he is – a human who, despite his extraordinary paranormal healing powers, is not a god – and what he has done for them over the years. “I’ve suffered to the depth of my bone,” he says. “[N]o human being ever lived before in history that suffered like I suffer over people, because I care deeply about every blessed one of you.” Even when he has to be “a harsh authority figure” and yell at people to get things done, it is out of a sense of caring, and he hopes people will recall the hundreds of times he’s shown the gentleness of compassion instead of the consequence of fatigue and illness.
There are a few asides which are familiar to the residents of Jonestown by that point: he speaks on several occasions of how much better socialistic societies are than capitalistic; he agrees with China’s assertions that nuclear war is inevitable, and the world should endure it sooner rather than later so that the survivors can pick up the pieces and go on; he reviews various attacks from the outside and lists the relatives – including his own – who would bring down Jonestown.
His account of the six-day siege a year earlier includes descriptions of the courage he witnessed during that period, and he breaks down as he recalls what people told him. “You give meaning to my life,” he quotes a young man as saying, “a purpose to live for and something to die for. These are good people here.” A moment later, he remembers what longtime follower Jack Beam told him: “He said if this only lasted one day, it’s been a testimony to the whole world.” Building upon that – and recovering his strength – he speaks of revolutionaries who died of broken hearts, because they didn’t see their vision through, but “[w]e moved out. And we showed our protest. America, we don’t like your racism. America, we don’t like the way you treat poor people, black, white, Indian. We don’t like the system. And that’s quite a testimony.”
But there is some unfinished business which Jones wants to wrap up before continuing. Everyone in Jonestown is supposed to write evaluations of their lives, and while many people have turned in their drafts, most “have been superficial.” They are supposed to reveal things they have done in the past – including their crimes, their times of unhappiness – and demonstrate how they have changed since coming to Peoples Temple. Instead, the evaluations “don’t say anything. You don’t want to admit that you were not a good person before you met me.”
It is in this context that he conducts the main business of the evening, which is how to answer questions asked by reporters, and generally how to conduct themselves around guests. As with his asides along the way, some of the instructions are – or, as he points out, should be – familiar to his followers. People are not to refer to him as “Dad” or “Pastor,” but rather to call him “Jim” instead. “Don’t refer to any religious titles,” he admonishes. Similarly, Jonestown should not be called “the Promised Land” or “Freedom Land,” even if that’s how it was referred to hundreds of times over the years. It’s a town, a community, an agricultural project, or simply Jonestown.
People must watch their terminology on other aspects of their lives there. The front gate is not to be called a front gate but rather “the front entrance or entrance way.” Announcements over the PA system are not reports – “Don’t say ‘report’ over the PA system when you’re calling people” – but rather summons. People are warned about using the word “malnourished,” even when talking about Guyanese, because reporters will seize upon the word and use it about the community or about the country that hosts them.
Then there are words and concepts which should not come up at all. They are not to mention “public service,” the disciplinary structure of Jonestown. They are to deny the existence of “the box.” They are not to talk about issues which Jones has told them concerning life in the US, such as the inevitability of nuclear war – even though that is part of Jones’ creed – the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, and the concentration camps for black people.
As with other tapes in which Jones leads various random residents through a series of questions, the leader dissects most of what people say, offering better words, tweaking, correcting, cautioning on seemingly-minor concerns such as the length of the pause between the question and the answer, coaching on facial expressions and body language at the audacity of a question: “I’d look shocked if they asked that.”
People are encouraged to shade the truth as well. When one man says he lives in a cabin with 14 or 15 other people, Jones amends the answer to four or five. They only have one community-wide meeting a week, Jones says at another point, “never more than two.” The tower is not for security at all, but is an uncompleted piece of playground equipment that only needs slides for the children to use it (alternatively, they could refer to it as a “pagoda,” and even though Jones like the concept, he’s afraid some folks will call it a “potato” instead).
The shading can come in the form of an incomplete answer. They get the BBC and the Voice of America over the radio, he says, but “that’s as far as I’d go.” They are to avoid mention of Radio Moscow, Jones’ principal source for the news he read every day.
People are asked to manufacture a reality: he says that an older woman with artistic abilities is “jokingly” referred to as “our own Grandma Moses,” then adds, “You ought to call her jokingly that. Grandma Moses.” They are asked to tell stories, “but you all don’t give the same story.”
Finally, people are encouraged to deny what they know to be true. Are there weapons? (“We are a peaceful people, we are nonviolent, or we are pacifist.. Of course not. What are you talking about?”) Is there security? (“We don’t need any security. Don’t have any fences.. You see any fences?”) Does your leader tell you he’s the reincarnation of Lenin? (“Who? Try that,” he adds for the tone of voice. “Who? What are you talking about?”) Do they believe in suicide? (“Of course not. Ridiculous. Did you ever have a meeting in which you discussed suicide, and took some kind of a deadly potion or a punch? Are you crazy? No, no.”)
There are reasons for the different answers, some of which Jones explains. He would like the answers to show what Jonestown will eventually be like, instead of what it is like at the moment, so on issues such as the number of books in the library, the type of food they eat, the number of people in each cabin, even on the use of discipline, Jones argues from what “ideally what we will do.”
On other issues, as in the discussion of suicide, Jones tells his followers that these are revolutionary acts which reporters from the States would not understand. Does Jones have his own refrigerator? “No,” he says, then begins again. “[I]t’s filled with medicines, but no, I’d just say no, because they won’t understand it.” Even on the subject of beatings as a form of discipline, Jones defends the practice as “the only thing [that] saved . some people [who] have grown up in the past through strong measures,” but adds that outsiders don’t understand that either.
The problem for the people of Jonestown is that there is no overall direction to guide them. Do they lie? Do they shade the truth? Do they speak the truth?
Beyond that, how are they to handle the myriads of contradictions confronting them, with the messages mixed even on this tape, and rote memorization leading only to additional confusion? What are they to do when Jones coaches them one moment on the freedom of movement in and out of Jonestown, down to the ability to simply walk out – “Yeah. All of us know the paths” – and within the hour talks about the perils of going into the jungle? How are they to respond when Jones instructs them that there have never been any snakes in Jonestown, and within the hour talks about someone catching a poisonous snake under Cottage 36? What is the correct answer to a question when – on this occasion – they are told the Jonestown school is the best in Guyana and then – during another rehearsed Q&A session – a woman is admonished for describing their school as such when she doesn’t have the credentials or detailed knowledge to support the claim?
Unfortunately – as Jones specifies several times – there are consequences for not getting the right answer.
Considering the length of the tape, and the subject matter covered, however, there are few references to death. Only once does he say that the consequence of a wrong answer to a newsman’s question will lead them to death – more often, he speaks of the negative publicity in the States, or the strength that their missteps would give the Concerned Relatives – and only once does he talk about dying being a pleasure, and only then as he’s quoting someone else.
Date of transcription: 6/8/79
In connection with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 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 May 25, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B69-17. This tape was found to contain the following:
JIM JONES announces he has lung cancer and has three to five years to live. Thereafter, follows announcements and a general discussion of JONES’ health and “miracles.” Then, a long discussion and coaching members in how to answer reporter’s questions concerning diet, living conditions, work, discipline, marriage, security, suicide, schooling, freedom of movement, adequacy of housing, religion, weather, complaints and politics. JONES exhorts the members to memorize and practice the answers and to avoid all negative comments. The tape concludes with JONES highlighting the recent news stories before a quiz on current events.
Differences with FBI Summary:
The summary is accurate and meets the FBI’s purposes.
Tape originally posted May 2009