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 Scotch C-90/April 10 People’s Rally
Date cues on tape: 10 April 1978 (notation on tape box consistent with context)
Public figures/National and international names:
- Doctor Pierre Noel, Georgetown doctor
Temple members not in Jonestown:
- Debby Evans
Jonestown residents, full name unknown:
- Becky (likely either Rebecca Flowers or Rebecca Beikman)
Betty (several in Jonestown) (speaks)
Davis (probably Soloman) (speaks)
Diane (many in Jonestown)
Earl (several in Jonestown, likely either Earl Johnson or Earl McKnight)
Jack (several in Jonestown, probably Beam or Barron)
Jackson (many people in Jonestown, last name Jackson)
Jan (several in Jonestown, probably either Gurvich or Wilsey)
Jerome (likely either Anderson or Simon)
Jimmy (several in Jonestown)
Johnny (probably Johnny Moss Brown or John Cobb)
Mary (Many in Jonestown)
Ronnie (several in Jonestown, could be Berryman)
Rose (numerous in Jonestown)
Shirley (numerous) (speaks)
Tim (numerous in Jonestown) (speaks)
- Keith Baisy
Rory Bargeman (speaks)
Geneva Beal (speaks)
Karen Carr (speaks)
Gene Chaikin (speaks)
Donald James Fields
Lee Ingram (speaks)
Eartis Jeffery (speaks)
Laura Johnston (speaks)
Marceline Jones (speaks)
Stephan Jones (speaks)
Timothy Borl Jones
Carolyn Layton (speaks)
Annie McGowan (speaks)
DeeDee Macon (speaks)
Anita March (speaks)
Danny Moten (speaks)
Joyce Parks (speaks)
Larry Schacht (speaks)
Jim Simpson (speaks)
Charlie Touchette (speaks)
Mike Touchette (speaks)
Keith Wright (speaks)
Bible verses cited: None
(Note: This tape was one of the 53 tapes initially withheld from public disclosure.)
(This tape immediately precedes Q 734. Our thanks to Matthew Carey for his assistance in this sequencing.)
This meeting of the Jonestown community in April 1978 includes most of the elements from the gatherings of this period: there are reports from the various administrative departments, and a reading of praises and warnings; people are analyzed as they present their reports, they enter into arguments with each other and with Jim Jones, and several are disciplined; the crowd is often involved and animated, sometimes angry, sometimes quiet, often filled with laughter. Jim Jones directs the meeting, but many people participate, including those with some authority.
The conversation — already in progress when the tape begins — opens with news from the various agricultural departments, with reports on greens, bananas, peanuts, kelp, and herbs. Jones and others analyze the reports both for their content and for the motivations for discontent of two of the people making reports. One man who expresses his desire to leave the crew he is administering is subjected to an analysis of his unhappiness, and told why his reasons are insufficient.
There are a few references to death, an underlying theme at many of these meetings. When a woman speaks about a new herb in cultivation which will "preserve a long life," Jones’ immediate response is, "Burn it." He retracts the comment as laughter swirls around him, and says they need to stay alive to fight the revolution. When the woman continues that the herb is also good for the memory, Jones praises it, saying that they need it to help folks remember the news.
During the open discussion that follows the farm reports, one unidentified male suggests that someone should be assigned to taste the food that is served to Jones before he eats it; another unidentified male suggests that the person who prepared the food be the taster. The context — the reason for the suggestion — is unclear, although this eventually became the practice in Jonestown.
For several moments, members of different agricultural committees discuss lines of authority, work schedules, and new procedures for filling in for workers who are late or otherwise occupied. The driving force of this part of the discussion is an urgency for contingency plans so that the mechanical equipment will never sit idle, that it will keep working even when the scheduled worker hasn’t shown up.
Different people confess their shortcomings, including sleeping in late, leaving sensitive reports out where anyone could see them, and contradicting supervisors in the public arena. This last point initially focuses on a dispute between one father and son — Charlie Touchette and his son Mike — but in the midst of that, Stephan Jones stands up to defend Mike, and the discussion turns into a public dispute between another father and son: Jim and Stephan. Jim calls his son down, and says that this kind of disagreement was exactly what he was trying to prevent, because their enemies are looking for these kinds of fissures. "I got people looking for anarchy in any quarter."
The argument not only continues, though, it becomes more heated. Drifting away from a defense of Mike Touchette, Stephan complains about his burdens of responsibility for cleaning, maintaining and storing the firearms of the community. The conversation ends with a truce, with Stephan conceding his father’s authority and Jim conceding his son’s strength. Charlie Touchette — the original participant in the discussion — offers the final word: "I’d just like to point out that what I noticed in this is that same rules apply for Stephan and Mother [Marceline Jones] is what it’s applied for all of us in here. And I’d just like to thank you [Jim] for your fairness and your love."
Not only here, but elsewhere during this community meeting, Jones acknowledges his own failings, and says he is like the rest of them in needing to learn, to become more sensitive, to proclaim his own guilt. "That was my mistake," he says at one point. "That’s what I want all of you to do, is look at errors. Judgments. Not perfect."
The issue of criticizing superiors in front of others returns late in the meeting, during the reading of praises and warnings. Jones reads of a woman who argued with her boss, who chastised her to her face, and who talked behind her back. "That shit won’t be," Jones says. "We won’t allow that. That’s [a] warning. Never criticize management in front of others. You do it privately."
Midway through the tape, the conversation turns another recurring theme in Jonestown: what to do about the fly problem. Jones demands that everyone carry and use flyswatters, and warns of penalties for those who don’t. The issue leads one man to raise an environmental concern about the chemicals sprayed on the compost to keep the flies down. He asks whether the spray goes into their food, since the compost is eventually used for fertilizer.
Jones and others dismiss the concern. "[T]his ecosystem has never been bothered by these chemicals," Jones says, so there won’t be any long term effects. Besides, he adds, they aren’t using that much. An agronomist joins Jones by pointing out that the soil in a great purifier, and that the pesticides break down. Besides, he points out, they spray the crops themselves to keep down animal and plant pests (to which Jones quickly adds, "I would rather take a little insecticide with my leafy green vegetables, than to have no leafy green vegetables"). Jones characterizes the concern as "one of these liberalish notions that they get overly excited about," but his main consideration is how the community will react to the concern. "I wouldn’t get these people unduly alarmed out there, that they’re going to die of something from chemicals," he says.
Much of the second half of the tape centers on a young woman called before the community for a comment she made while on security, and in the course of defending herself, she becomes more deeply mired in trouble. Jones asks the woman — whose name is unknown — what she meant when she talked to someone about "what you would do in the case of my death." The woman tries to defend her remark as casual conversation, although she admits it was stupid. Jones says he knows that some people hope he will die, but he won’t. Despite his health problems, he says, he’ll be around a long time. The more important issue is a security breach — how this woman got on the security force in the first place — and members of security talk about changes in personnel policy.
Then a graver security breach arises, one involving the young woman already in trouble. Someone reveals that the guns which the security forces carry around the community don’t have any bullets. Jones is furious. "Get out of my sight," he says in a tight voice. "There was no reason for that. You traitor. There was no reason for that." After a pause, he adds, "There’ll be bullets in them now." Moments later, he turns his anger on the young woman. "What you were doing was telling some traitor out there that he can run away from our guns. And you were bright enough to know that, you bitch." He then issues a warning to anyone who thought they sensed an opportunity. "Don’t run now. Don’t run now. They [Security] will all be equipped." Later, when tensions have eased a bit, Jones implies that he had known of the security breach all along, and that the guns had had bullets for several nights.
The young woman apologizes numerous times, and says she deserves whatever she gets. Her own suggestions for punishment seem insufficient to the community, and people shout down her apologies. Jones remarks that, rather than truly confessing, she is only repeating what he says. Several older women seem to be the most agitated about the young woman’s betrayal, and one senior who says she would like to "whup your ass myself" apparently gets the opportunity. For several moments, there is the sound of slapping, of cheers, of Jones’ laughing approval, and finally, a call for the end of whatever is going on.
But the criticism of the young woman is still not over. Jones continues to ask her why she did what she did, and she keeps replying that she was stupid, and Jones tells her repeatedly that she was more than stupid. She finally offers an explanation: when someone had asked her what would happen to Dad if there was a traitor on security, the young woman had replied, nothing would happen to Dad, because there were no bullets in the guns, that "even if they did [shoot], wouldn’t nothing happen to [him]… he wouldn’t get hurt, because they ain’t no bullets in the gun, like that." Finally, Jones tells her to take her seat.
Another person is physically punished later in the session. A young man, called onto the floor because he had told his superior he would no longer work his best, gets into deeper trouble when he initially denies the charge. As Jones points out, though, everybody heard him — "I saw black and white people putting up their hands together" — so when his mom beats him in front of the crowd, the punishment is as much for "lying to the office" as it is for the original transgression.
After the beating, Jones learns that the boy has a pin in his hip, and probably should not have been subjected to the physical punishment. It leaves Jones conflicted. Despite the boy’s protests that the pin does not affect his work — nor his punishment — Jones says, "He can be dealt with otherwise. We’re not trying to torture. We’re trying to get people to behave." Jones chastises the medical staff for not knowing about the condition, or at least, not letting him know about the condition. A few moments later, Jones also charges security with the responsibility of knowing who can and can’t be manhandled. "All security got to know every medical problem they have when you grab them."
But, in a moment of self-reflection, he also assumes the mantle of guilt. "One does feel guilty, yes, all the time, but that’s good… Invariably when we make a impulsive move, I’ve always found … it’ll be in the wrong place."
At several points in the tape, Jones speaks of the need for people to watch out for each other, but as with so many other things throughout Jonestown, there are multiple meanings to the watchwords. At one point, he speaks of the need to inform on each other for security reasons ("We’ve got to be all information-gatherers and reporters, if we want to safeguard this house"), but at another, the words have a more reassuring purpose ("We’re all going to have to know one another… In spite on the hell we may thump on each other, we’re gonna fight for each other").
Indeed, this tape, as do others of Jonestown community meetings, often seem to depict people being kept off balance — that they can never know how their leader will respond to their complaints or observations or even laudatory comments — and at the end of this tape, Jones acknowledges that it is a deliberate management style. "You can’t be predictable. One thing I can’t be is predictable. I don’t dare… I’m merciful, I’m gentle by nature, but I can’t be predictable. And I won’t be. So don’t count on it."
Date of transcription: 3/5/79
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 #42. This tape was found to contain the following:
A general discussion between JONES and his followers during an apparent "rap" session, including complaints, accusations and testimony.
This tape was reviewed, and nothing was contained thereon which was considered to be of evidentiary nature or beneficial to the investigation of Congressman RYAN.
Differences with FBI Summary:
The summary is accurate and meets the FBI’s purposes.
Tape originally posted September 2003