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 “Oct. 17, 1978, Comments”
Date cues on tape: Conversation on tape consistent with tape identification note
President Jimmy Carter
Gerald Ford, former president of the US
Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA)
Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Adviser under Carter
Juanita Castro, sister of Fidel Castro (by reference)Vibert Mingo, Guyana Minister of Home Affairs
“Commander Price,” GDF official
“Norman,” head of Guyana National Service
Linus Pauling, scientist
Charles Garry, Temple attorney
Mark Lane, Temple attorney
Charlotte Baldwin, mother of Marceline Jones (by reference)
Christine (either Christine Talley or Christine Lucientes)
Langston (three people with last name of Langston)
Lee (16 males – including 9 minors – with “Lee” in their names)
Ricky Johnson (by reference)
Jim Jones Jr.
Irene Mason (speaks)
“We ought to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper. That means our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper in Africa too.” (Genesis 4:9, “And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?”)
“[T]here’s a circle around here like Nehemiah’s wall that is protected us from any of that.” (Book of Nehemiah)
(Note: This tape was transcribed by Vicki Perry. The editors gratefully acknowledge her invaluable assistance.)
At a late-night meeting in Jonestown in mid-October 1978 – a month before the deaths – Jim Jones speaks to his followers about his two major concerns of the evening, and of the period leading up to Leo Ryan’s visit: manifestations of disillusionment with Jonestown, which has led to malingerers and runaways; and the threats represented by hostile relatives.
The tape opens with the meeting already in progress. Jones’ tone of voice is almost conversational for most of the session, although it is clear he is angry, combative, and not open to argument on the solutions that he sees. Only once or twice does his voice rise into an outraged cry.
There have been a number of runaways, and Jones is tired of it. He presents a number of solutions to the problem, and he is ready to use any of all of them. Among the threatened actions:
• He has authorization from the Guyana Defense Force to stop runaways by turning “our licensed weapons” against them, and the commander of the GDF – a personal friend of Jones – has said the military doesn’t care if Jonestown security “shot you in the legs and laid you down. So that’s what we’re going to do.”
• He warns about the dangers in the jungle, if the runaway happens to get past the guards. There are tigers out there, Jones mentions a couple of times, but more dangerous than those are the venomous snakes of Guyana, which he discusses at greater length. He notes that the snakes do not bother them in Jonestown – his power has made it a protected zone – but once they leave, they are in danger.
• If runaways make it past the dangerous animals, they have to contend with the mercenaries hired by the relatives who are out there “waiting for a weak point.”
• If they make it to the Venezuelan border, then they would be shot by the GDF itself or from the guards on the other side. “It’s illegal to cross that border,” he says. “They’ll shoot ya. You try to cross that border, they’ll shoot ya. You’ll get shot from either side.”
• If, going the other direction, the runaways make it through 200 miles of jungle to the capital city of Georgetown, they will not have escaped the power of Jim Jones. “You got to go to the Guyana Tax Board and get a clearance, and they promised to let us know if anybody does. You got to go to the U.S. Embassy and they promised to let us know if anybody’s trying to get out.”
He punctuates several of the alternatives with invitations to prove him wrong. “So just go out there and take your chances. That’s what I say,” he says. But he knows they won’t succeed. “[W]e get you every way you go,” he adds in conclusion. “I ain’t worried about you.”
Nevertheless, the runaways result in numerous costs to the Jonestown community. In addition to the hardship and worry it creates for the abandoned family, it creates more work for the people who have to go looking for them. The greatest cost, though, is that Jones himself is so exhausted by the strain that he’s too tired to conduct miracles to heal some of those who are sick or injured.
Jones also decries those who are avoiding their jobs in the fields – and thereby shirking their responsibilities to the community – by pretending to be mentally ill. “[A]ll of a sudden,” he says, “there’s an outburst of mental problems.” Jones says the medical staff has ways of weeding out the fakers, with a regimen of physical calisthenics and the diet of nutritious but unappetizing food. “If after they eat five or six plates of that and they still have a problem, we will conclude that they have an emotional problem.”
Even as he complains that most mental illness is faked – “I happen to believe that most emotion problems are a manipulation. I don’t care how crazy they act, I think it’s a manipulation for attention or to get something done that they want to achieve done” – Jones promises assistance for those who are truly sick, and demands that they be treated with respect. “We do not tease people because they have emotional problems… I want no fun made of anybody on special care.”
The third way of avoiding work is to attempt suicide, and Jones addresses that as well. He speaks of the relatively few deaths the community has experienced – there were a total of six in Jonestown before November 18, 1978 – and points out that there has been “no successful suicide.” That doesn’t mean people haven’t tried, though, including a young man who drank gasoline.
The disaffection some people have about Jonestown, and the lack of gratitude that represents, leads him to reflect upon the relatives and former members who create such problems for them now. He focuses on his daughter Suzanne – to whom he refers once as a “son of a bitchin’ no good lousy ass anarchistic capitalist bitch” and then, a moment later, with the worse epithet of being “bourgeoisie” – and says he would be willing to kill her, if he had the chance. He knows other people’s relatives are no different from his – “if you trust your damn relative, you’re a fool, because if they are where they ought to be, they’da got out of that mess and be over here” – but doubts his followers would have the courage to do what he would do.
The relatives represent the system to Jim Jones. “[Y]ou’ve got to recognize, if your family’s living there and enjoying it and talking up that country and asking you questions why you enjoy living over here where there’s no racism, no genocide, no concentration camps, no honky police looking at you… they ain’t worth shit.” Those sentiments extend to people who defend their relatives. “Some of you don’t hate that system enough. You’re still in love with that goddamned system. Oh, don’t tell me you’re not!” he calls over protests to the contrary. “‘Cause you’re always griping about some little old damned thing you don’t have. I don’t miss that shit… To me, if we never got further than [Jonestown], it’d be heaven, by God.”
Date of transcription: 6/18/79
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 June 4, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B93-11. This tape was found to contain the following:
Comments and a lecture from JIM JONES regarding physical security and the problems of runaways from the community.
Differences with FBI Summary:
The summary is accurate and meets the FBI’s purposes.
Tape originally posted April 2008