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: One Kmart 60/April 12 Peoples Ralley [Rally]
Date cues on tape : 12 April 1978 (notation on tape box consistent with context)
Cuffy, Guyanese national hero
Viola Burnham, wife of Guyana Prime Minister
Temple adversaries; members of Concerned Relatives:
Temple members not on death or survivors’ lists:
Jonestown residents, full name unknown:
Brenda (three in Jonestown; probably either Warren or Cobb)
Eva (probably Pugh)
Joyce (several in JT; probably Touchette, aka Swinney)
Patty (numerous; probably Cartmell)
Rhonda (Fortson or Page)
Sharon (probably Amos; numerous in Jonestown and Georgetown)
Simpson (two in JT – Jewell or Dorothy – but probably neither of these)
Tim (either Tim Jones or Tim Swinney)
Tom (numerous; probably Grubbs or Kice)
Jean Brown (PT member, not JT resident)
Jocelyn Brown (speaks)
Marthea Ann Hicks
Chris Cordell Jones
Marceline Jones (speaks)
Penny Kerns (speaks)
Harriet Sarah Tropp
Teena Turner (speaks)
Janet Wilson (speaks)
Bible verses cited: “[D]o you expect manna to drop out of heaven, like it didn’t in Egypt. I’m sure it didn’t drop out in Egypt, but the fool Moses couldn’t get a leading from the Lord, to lead him 40 miles, it took him 40 fucking years to get him 40 miles going around in circles in the damn desert, I’m sure there¹d be no food dropped out of heaven to feed the son of a bitch.” (Book of Exodus)
This April 1978 meeting in Jonestown focuses on some of the problems facing the collective, ranging from the philosophical, such as the elitism and racism which seems to be creeping into some people’s behavior, to the pragmatic, such as the difficulties with raising enough foodstuffs on the farm to feed all the people. Especially during times of calling people out for discipline, the community relies on self-confession and community chastisement, although there are certainly times in which Jim Jones leads the criticism and other times when the community members give mixed messages to those who have done wrong.
The tapes begins (in mid-sentence) with Jones criticizing those in leadership positions who feel they are above others in avoiding some meetings or arriving late to others. “It’s most disarming, and painful and agonizing to watch people who are supposed to be leaders show no respect whatsoever, talk and even come in after I speak the news, as if that’s their prerogative,” he shouts. “Well, goddamn you to hell, it’s not your prerogative. You have no right to do that. This organization is built upon the dictatorship of the proletariat, and I am, goddammit, very much in control.”
He also criticizes those who feel they have special privileges because they built Jonestown from scratch and were there before the mass migrations. He acknowledges that they are tired from having worked there for more than three years, but then points out that he has worked without ceasing for 25 years. Later, community members voice specific criticisms to some of those pioneers – namely, Charlie Touchette – to whom Jones had only alluded.
Jones directs much of this criticism to white leaders who feel that, because they are in the radio room doing important work, they can duck other responsibilities. But then he turns it around on the blacks who “cry race” for what they see as special privileges that the white leaders have, when the whites are the ones working and the blacks are lazy. “I hate that goddamn shit … just so you can walk around in your fucking bourgeois clothes and not get your damned fingernails dirty, and you can be laying up, shacking up in a room and saying, I don’t like it because white folk run it. What you mean is you’re too goddamn lazy to help the white folk.”
He then attacks elitism, and defines an elitist as anyone who puts himself or herself above the rules. Sometimes he lets something go by, he says, in the hope they’ll change, in the hope they’ll feel what’s right. But when that doesn’t happen, he has to call them out.
Finally, he attacks those who think they can wait out Jim Jones, that Jones will die first – or worse, that they can kill him – and they can go back to the States. “I’ll bet you don’t,” he warns. “I bet you haven’t read some of the plans … [of] my security… I never told them one thing to do, but you ought to read some of them. If I drop over here dead, you won’t go.” He then mocks the quiet that follows the threat. He didn’t come all this way, he says, just to disappear, or for the movement to end there.
Still, he speaks of his approaching death, which he is “entitled” to. As his blood pressure climbs, unidentified voices – Marceline and Larry Schacht undoubtedly among them – warn him about continuing to speak, but he feels he has to continue, the consequences be damned. If he dies tonight, he says, the guilty ones “are those who’ve taken privilege, those who walk around like cocks of the walk, those who stand back and backbite.” Later, he adds to the list those who practice “indifference, insensitivity, ignorance and taking advantage of your position.”
Jones calls out Jocelyn Brown for being part of the problem. He asks her what she did in Georgetown, if she weren’t one of the ones crying race; she denies that charge, but admits to being argumentative and defensive. She also admits to not taking care of a problem with the car. Jones points out that Marceline had been in the car and was paralyzed until he healed her, but that whiplash could have finished her off. It’s unclear if the problem with the car led to Marceline’s paralysis, or would have contributed to her death if something had gone wrong.
People air their grievances with each other, and engage in self-criticism, including:
Community members accuse each other of sexual dalliance, and one woman says that another woman should have her “butt kicked” for her infidelity. Another community member chastises the first woman for “open[ing] the book on violence” for proposing such a solution.
At one point, as a woman confesses to not paying attention to the news, another community member criticizes the confession itself, and asks whether she is there “to face herself or to get sympathy.”
When one young man apologizes for talking tough to a woman, Jones calls him out for the larger transgression of not ratting on Grace Stoen. Jones says he knows the young man was fearful over his theft of $300, but he would have been forgiven for letting the community know about Grace’s larger theft of $5000, which she used to escape.
On the subject of escape, Jones warns about the dangers in the jungle, including vampire bats that will attack your jugular vein, tigers, and poison frogs.
Jones speaks of the need of the women in Jonestown to establish their own identity, separate from men. It doesn’t depend on how men think about you, he says, but how you measure up to socialism, how much character you have, how much you know about the news. The community has workshops to change how women look at men, he continues. If you’re a socialist, you don’t have to worry about going, but if you’re in a “sick, mooney-eyed relationship,” he warns, you better get your education. And if you’re not, “I will haul you out, no matter where you are.”
Turning to the farm report, Jones expresses the need to get more people in the fields. If people volunteer, they will be freed from other responsibilities. In discussing personnel allocations, one man asks for an explanation, since it runs counter to the community’s commitment to education. Jones responds, that if they don’t look out, they’ll have a “remarkable educational department, teaching skeletons, and a hell of a good nursery dealing with bones.”
The problems seems to arise from taking American agronomy techniques and applying them to Guyana. They have had problems with growing rice, although if the kidney beans they’ve planted start to fail, they can eat the tender shoots. Marceline also urges the kitchen workers not to peel potatoes or throw away the skins.
Date of transcription: 3/13/79
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 March 1, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B47-37. This tape was found to contain the following:
JONES makes reference (counter 67-69) to the fact that the “white night” will just have to happen.
JONES make reference (counter 171-192) to the fact that all persons there figure if JONES dies, they can all go home. But he states that his security people have a plan that will eliminate their return home. It will go into effect at the point of a gun.
Nothing of value noted.
As with many FBI summaries, this captures the one or two most spectacular quotes on the tape, but does not begin to give a sense of the overall tone. While there is anger and while Jones does voice threats, there is also laughter, there is a relatively mundane crop report, and there are disciplinary/self-confession hearings which is how the Jonestown community – for good or ill – treated its problems with dissidents and malcontents.
Tape originally posted January 1999