Summary prepared by Fielding M. McGehee III. If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.
FBI Catalogue: Tapes Not Summarized
FBI preliminary tape identification note: One 60 min Compact cassette / April 12 1978 Meeting #8
Date cues on tape: February 16, 1978 (Edith Roller’s journal)
Charles Diggs, U.S. Congressman, Democrat from Michigan
Secretary of State of Pennsylvania
Forbes Burnham, Prime Minister of Guyana
Viola Burnham, wife of prime minister (by reference)
Desmond Hoyte, Guyana Minister of Development
Hubert Jack, Guyana Minister of Energy and Natural Resources
Cheddi Jagan, leader of Guyana’s People’s Progressive Party
Vibert Mingo, Guyana Minister of Home Affairs
C.A. “Skip” Roberts, Guyana Commissioner of Police (by reference)
Mohammed Shahabadeen, Guyana Minister of Justice (by reference)
Fred Wills, Guyana Minister of Foreign Affairs
Judge Bishop, Guyana official
Frank Hope, Guyana official
Steve Narine, Guyana official
Robert Corbin, First Vice Chairman of Guyana’s PNC
Guyana Minister of works
Beverly and Howard Oliver
Jonestown residents not on death or survivors list:
Jonestown residents, full name unknown:
Ann (likely Ann Rozynko or Annie Moore)
Joe (speaks) (numerous in Jonestown)
John (numerous in Jonestown)
Kenny (numerous in Jonestown)
Mike (numerous in Jonestown)
Sandra (probably Evans, could be Sandra Cobb, aka Sandra Jones)
Shirley (numerous in Jonestown)
Princeola Bryant (speaks?)
James Edwards (“Reb”) (speaks)
Donald James Fields (by reference)
John Harris (speaks)
Lee Ingram (speaks)
Timothy Tupper Jones (speaks)
Jewell James Simpson
Willie Delois Sneed
Harriett Tropp (speaks)
Bible verses cited: None
The tape is the second in a series of four (beginning at Q 641, and continuing on Q 643 and Q 644) of a White Night – the most serious White Night since the previous September, Jim Jones says at one point in this tape – in February 1978.
The community is in a crisis, especially with some of their advocates in the government out of the country, and they need to discuss the options of what they can do. There are a number of suggestions, but the conversation turns repeatedly to “revolutionary suicide” as the only realistic and reasonable alternative.
This tape opens with Jones reporting the words of an unknown female advisor to the community at large: they are having problems with the Jonestown doctor getting a license to practice in Guyana, the Jonestown school hasn’t been accredited yet, and even minor things – like Jones being officially named as a marriage officer – seem to be unnecessarily difficult. What’s worse, some of their friends in the government are less willing to champion whatever demands Jones has, and there is a small comment that makes it seem likely that the custody battle over John Victor Stoen is at the heart of the official foot-dragging. At one point, the woman tells Jones, “there’s so many problems in Guyana that they won’t do as much for us because they don’t want pressure from other elements that we were getting special favors.” And who are the other elements? While the woman thinks that Guyana’s opposition political parties could be behind the resistance to Jonestown’s status, Jones himself has only one candidate. “That could only be the United States.”
There are several early references to Russia and Cuba in the tape, and meetings with Communist officials, but whether the meetings involve Jonestown leaders or Guyanese leaders is unclear. Jones and the unknown woman also talk to each other in radio code through a number of exchanges, until Jones gives the community an oblique explanation. “[H]ow’s Oscar relate to Netty?… How do they see Oscar relating to Eleanor? … Where do they see us in reference to all this shit? Talking about Russia, USA and Cuba.“ The discussion sets the tone for what will eventually follow.
If community members cannot follow the intrigues of the coded conversation, there is no doubt about the underlying tension. Throughout the tape, residents follow Jones’ lead in castigating others for falling asleep, for not speaking up, for not shutting up, for not giving satisfactory answers to questions. “I was saying, Dad,” one woman says, “I didn’t hear John Harris make a statement tonight about a White Night.” When Harris attempts to explain, he is met with derision and impatience. “You had better help us to know what’s in your head,” one man interrupts him.
One of the transgressions is a little more serious than the others, though. Jones criticizes an unknown male for giving out the wrong codes during some “harassment” at the front gate to Jonestown. The code was for the message that “Tim Stoen was on the road.” If they had followed up on that – if Jones’ intuition hadn’t interceded – “It’d been the wrong person blown away… and that’d been the end of it.”
Most of the tape revolves around the options facing the Jonestown community during the crisis. The only option off the table is returning to the US, but there seem to be plenty of others: they can go to Russia; they can go to Cuba; they can be airlifted to Africa and join in the liberation struggle for Zimbabwe. If they stay in Guyana, they still have things they can do: they can stage a protest in Georgetown with a single person committing suicide through public self-immolation; they can go on hunger strikes, which would bring equal pressure on the government; they can disappear into the jungle; they can make a stand in Jonestown and fight anyone who comes. Or, they can die. And whatever decision they make, they’ll have a “task force,” a group of people who will be activated by a code, to go and take care of their many enemies.
Jones lists the options one by one in a matter-of-fact tone of voice, and shows emotion – of exasperation and impatience – only when people don’t remember the options so that he is forced to repeat them. “Goddamn it, I don’t know how much– Don’t I speak the king’s English? Did everybody understand those alternatives? Did you understand them?”
But just as quickly as a voice in the crowd speaks for one alternative or another, Jones – or one of the two or three others speaking with Jones’ authority – dismisses the choice. Their emigration to Russia might lead to a nuclear war, for example, and “that can give you to believe that the Soviet Union might not be so inclined to pull us out.” If they went into the jungle, “we might have to war with [Amerindian] tribes. We might have to try to get what they have, … to get what we want. And there won’t be no aspirin tables for pain after a while.” If they made a stand in Jonestown, they’d have to fight the Guyanese army and that means “it’d be maybe black people having to kill black people that they’d use to come after us and we would lose our moral impact.” Jones doubts even that the people could endure a hunger strike, much less the torture that would come with their capture. “[H]ow much these apathetic people who’ve inherited socialism rather than fought for it will be able to [accomplish their goals], it’s an unknown quantity.” In short, Jones eventually removes all the options except revolutionary suicide.
Jones also differentiates between suicide and revolutionary suicide. “Not suicide. Suicide’s an immoral act,” Jones says when a woman voices that option. “Only revolutionary suicide is justified… make a witness like other communists have made.”
Even the acquiescence to death doesn’t seem to be enough. One man – whose speech is slurred from a stroke or mental illness – says he wants to do the work that he can and then starve himself to death. A voice in the crowd calls out that the two are contradictory, but Jones is even more abrupt. “Somebody planted ‘dying’ in your head, and so you come up with dying. You decide you go on a starvation diet. That’s brave and wonderful, but maybe that’s the simplest solution. We don’t look for the simple solutions, we look for the right ones.”
Another man who votes “to stay here and fight and die that way” is grilled about the other suggestions, until one leader asks him, “how do you figure we take care of the children, if we gone stay here and fight?” The man says he doesn’t want his daughter to fall into the hands of the fascists. “If necessary what would you do then?” Jones asks. “As much as I wouldn’t like it, there’s only one way to go,” the man replies. “She would have to be put to sleep.”
In general, though, the direction of the conversation seems to frustrate Jones. “Die? Die?” he calls out at one point. “Now there all kindsa ways you can die.” Only once does he make a suggestion about their method of death. “Take a potion and we go, all of us go.”
This White Night continues on Tape Q 643.
Date of transcription: 3/15/79
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 5, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B47-87, 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:
There is nothing to compare between the two summaries, since the FBI did not write anything for this, or 64 other tapes which bear the notation “Tapes Not Summarized.” These tapes seems to have little on them which the FBI could use for its purposes of investigating crimes arising from the Jonestown tragedy, but then again, that describes many other tapes as well. The difference seems to be that one or two FBI agents catalogued this set of tapes – as evidenced by the typewriter used in writing the reports – and that generally, the transcriptions were made early in the process, before someone may have asked for greater detail in the reports.
Tape originally posted April 2006