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 Jones Speaking
FBI preliminary tape identification note: Labeled in part “Aug 1 Questions & Answers”
Date cues on tape: Context of tape consistent with date
Public figures/National and international names:
Edward M. Kennedy, U. S. Senator, Democrat from Massachusetts
Richard Nixon, former U.S. President
William Webster, FBI director
Margaret Thatcher, leader of Britain’s Conservative Party
Josip Broz Tito, President of Yugoslavia
Menachem Begin, Israeli Prime Minister
Anwar Sadat, President of Egypt
Julius Nyerere, President of Tanzania
Mobutu Sese Seko, President of Zaire
Deng Xiaoping, Premier of China
Anastasio Somoza Debayle, Nicaraguan dictator
Forbes Burnham, Prime Minister of Guyana
Viola Burnham, wife of Forbes Burnham
Mervyn Dymally, lieutenant governor of California (by reference)
Angela Davis, university professor, black activist
Huey Newton, leader of the Black Panther Party
James Earl Ray, convicted assassin of Martin Luther King
Genghis Khan, leader of Mongol Empire
Temple members not in Jonestown:
Jonestown residents, full name unknown:
Casanova child (either Angelique or Sophia)
Chaikin child (either David or Gail) (speaks)
Mike (likely Carter, Touchette or Rozynko) (speaks)
Odell (either Blackwell or Rhodes) (speaks)
Patty (probably Cartmell, could be Parks)
Peoples Temple members
Shawn Baker (speaks)
Jack Beam (speaks)
Jim Arthur “Jimbo” Bishop (speaks)
Ernestine Blair (speaks)
Eugene Chaikin (speaks)
James Cordell, aka Jim Stalin (speaks)
Tom Grubbs (speaks)
Magnolia Harris (speaks)
John Moss Brown Jones
Dov Lundquist (speaks)
Oreen Poplin (speaks)
Deanna Wilkinson (speaks)
Bible verses cited: None
(This tape was transcribed by Katherine Hill. The editors gratefully acknowledge her invaluable assistance.)
Jim Jones leads the Jonestown community in a discussion of the news. People answer questions which he poses, and receive rewards of time (whether they are allowed time off of work, or are granted another dispensation of time commitment, it is unknown). Jones offers his own expansion on the answers or provides additional commentary on almost each reply, and sometimes, he uses the answer as a point of departure to offer some lesson or opinion which is only tangentially related.
In the context – since he comments upon the complexity and subjectivity of the questions themselves – it is apparent someone else has written them for him. The writer could be Eugene Chaikin, whose own commentary show more thoughtfulness and analysis than mere responses to questions about the news.
Whatever the authorship of the news quiz, Jones uses several of the questions to present his commentary with which the people of Jonestown were by then familiar. A question about Israeli intentions for Lebanon leads to a discussion of nationalism, which leads to a discussion of China’s Doctrine of Three Worlds and its corollary, “that nuclear war is inevitable.” In fact, as Jones claims a few moments later, the whole doctrine articulated by China’s leaders “is predicated on the inevitability of nuclear war.” Moreover, as Jones says later, “if China believes there’s gonna be a nuclear war, it’s best in her mind, no doubt, to get it over with, right?” It should reassure his followers, he adds, that “all the world admits that this part of the world will survive, almost untouched.” This is a recurring theme throughout Temple history, leading Jones, for example, to transfer his congregation from Indiana in the mid-1960s to northern California.
This is also a recurring theme of the night. Jones returns to the Doctrine of Three Worlds – and its implications for nuclear war – no fewer than three times, asks if everyone knows it, and promises that it will be on the next test. He also prods for further discussion by soliciting contrary opinions. Even if they don’t agree with his own view, “if you want to take a devil’s advocate,” people will be rewarded with time off. “We don’t like to reinforce ourselves with our own beliefs,” he says. “We welcome a ray of hope.”
One of Jones’ digressions leads to a question-and-answer session – mostly rhetorical, with himself – on how they are to conduct themselves around reporters and visitors. He reminds them to “remember certain things. We live by peace. We don’t believe in guns. We don’t believe in violence towards each other. You remember all of these things? Be sure you got them all in your brain. Obviously we don’t put anyone in boxes.” He makes similar admonitions on sex and marriage, child-rearing, and the role of religion in Jonestown.
Especially on the latter, though, Jones gives a mixed message. At first, he counsels his followers to answer a reporter who asks questions about religion that “what I believe about religion is my own business, I don’t want to go into that.” Immediately afterwards, however, he starts speaking of the contrasts between religion and socialism, how the latter “brings about selflessness. It brings about the death of the ego and the life of the sociocentric ego.” The problem as he sees it is that people can’t seem to escape religion’s hold on them. “Some of you got one leg in that religious shit and one leg in socialism. That’s why you crip around.… That’s why a lot of you are sick.”
He has similar views on astrology, “an opiate of the people” which offers false hope to those who believe in it but which is really nothing but a form of fatalism that keeps people from trying to change things, because there’s “nothing you can do about the goddamn situation.”
There are elements of fatalism in reincarnation as well, a concept he spoke of often in the States. Here he gives a more nuanced view: He believes in reincarnation, but he doesn’t like it, and can’t really relate to it. “I believe it,” he repeats, but “I don’t understand it, still don’t make this universe any sensible to me, don’t make any sense to me at all.”
The one “practical merit” which reincarnation has taught him, however – in a message consistent throughout the Temple’s history – is, “don’t commit suicide, ‘cause you get your ass in a worse grab bag.… You’ll go back 500 generations. Ten thousand years.” In addition – in a more explicit message than he delivered from the pulpit – the definition of suicide covers more than the act of killing yourself. It includes not taking your prescribed medication, it means not watching your weight. “When your ass is waddling, bigger than a balloon, down the pathway, you’re commitin’ suicide.”
In general, the mood of the meeting is upbeat, and Jones hands out many more compliments and rewards than he does criticisms. His praise of the opportunities which the community has to learn about current events around the world, both during the news quizzes and in the schools, appears to be genuine. Complimenting one young teenager, Jones notes, “he wouldn’t have known that kind of a commentary [in the US]… What insight, to be able to quote a black president in Tanzania and give his philosophy? We see a senior like Comrade [Oreen] Poplin stand up here and give a question and pose her own answers that you would never see from seniors in USA.”
Among the news items discussed:
- Namibia’s independence, possible interference by the US, and opinions of USSR and Guyana
- Abuse of the press by US government, including confidentiality of news sources
- Jamaica accepts financial assistance from China, Russia, and the International Monetary Fund
- The US government violates detente with Russia
- Guyana discourages domestic liquor use and encourages rum export
- Guyana regulates prices of goods, punishes “white marketing”
- Conference of Non-Aligned Nations
- Nicaraguan dictator Somoza abuses his citizens
- The decline in value of the U.S. dollar
- A comparison between China’s communism and Russia’s communism
- Washington Post’s criticism of President Carter with regard to race relations
- Guyana receives aid and technology from other countries
- Cuban youth festival condemns alleged CIA bombing of Cuban airplane in 1977
- Senator Edward Kennedy’s criticizes President Carter’s welfare programs
- Israeli conflicts with its neighbors, including Palestine and Lebanon
- Organization of Africa Unity meetings discuss Namibia, South Africa and Tanzania
- Worker strikes in Britain and France
- KKK meetings in Los Angeles and Oxnard, California
- A woman suit against NBC movie Born Innocent
Date of transcription: 6/13/79
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 1, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B93-59. This tape was found to contain the following:
A question and answer session on the news of the day, narrated and led by JAMES JONES.
JAMES JONES while discussing religion and socialism stated that he did not believe in reincarnation or suicide.
Differences with FBI Summary:
In a relatively brief discussion of reincarnation during the course of a 75-minute tape, Jones says he believes in reincarnation but doesn’t understand it or relate to it very well. Other than that, the summary is accurate and meets the FBI’s purposes.
Tape originally posted July 2011