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: One Tracs 90/ "Services Sides 2 & 3"
Date cues on tape: April 1, 1978
Public figures/National and international names:
- Former Pakistani leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
former Chinese premier Mao Tse-Tung
Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos
President Jimmy Carter
former President Richard Nixon
Angela Davis, political activist
Congressman Charles Diggs
Bert Lance, Carter’s director of Office of Management & Budget
Billy Joe Smith (unknown; put in context of political activist)
Temple adversaries; members of Concerned Relatives:
Valerie St. John
Temple members not on death or survivors’ lists:
- Jeremy (last name unknown)
Jonestown residents, full name unknown:
- David (many in Jonestown)
Edith (several in Jonestown)
Helen (likely Ford or Snell, given age of voice; could be Swinney or Johnson) (speaks)
Jeff (probably Wheeler, given reference; could be Smith or Carey)
Jerry (numerous in Jonestown) (speaks)
“Comrade Johnson” (Many in Jonestown)
Marie (likely Marie Lawrence, aka Exia Maria Duckett) (speaks)
Mary (many in Jonestown)
Michael (many in Jonestown) (speaks)
Nancy (likely Sines; could be Clay or Jones)
“Comrade Rhodes” (could be one of three: Odell, Isaac or Marquess)
Rose (several in Jonestown)
Simpson (either Dorothy or Jewell)
Tommy (probably Anderson, given reference; could be one of several others)
- Christine Bates
Ernestine Blair (speaks)
James "Reb" Edwards
Rebecca Flowers (speaks)
John Harris (aka Peter Holmes)
Gleniel Johnson (speaks)
Stephan Jones (speaks)
Carol Kerns (speaks)
Shanda Oliver, aka Shanda James
Charlie Touchette (speaks)
Bible verses cited: None
This nighttime meeting of the Jonestown community of an undetermined date includes a discussion in which Jim Jones talks about the differences between capitalism and socialism, a number of disciplinary actions, and a series of presentations by community members who either tell what they’ve learned that night, confess misdeeds and bad thoughts, or offer testimonials to their leader.
As do many tapes, this begins midway through a sentence, as Jim Jones asks people to be honest with their feelings that night. Even though he says later that disciplinary measures such as the Learning Crew and the “box” are all that some people respond to, he says at the outset that no one will go on Learning that night for what they say. (He eventually reneges on the promise, in an incident discussed below, but it could be argued that that discipline was already underway and he just saw it through to the previously-decided outcome.)
The subject of the box comes up several times. He tells people coming out of the box that its purpose “is to get us together, not to punish. Do you understand? … That’s what you must see. We want you to know you, to find the better you.”
In the political discourse which takes up the first part of the tape, Jones begins by saying: “The benefits of communism are incalculable. And the dangers of capitalism are incomprehensible.” As an example, he says that people living in socialist Jonestown have fewer accidents and illnesses, in part due to the medicine for all, in part due to the special protection he offers. In capitalist hospitals, the doctors and nurses “just as soon you’d die and get out of their way.” No one will ever reveal the number of people who die in hospitals, because they don’t want to alarm the general public. By the same measure, patients often face unnecessary surgeries, “just because a goddamned doctor wants to make a quick buck and go golfing.” In Jonestown, though, everyone gets help. Even if people have been spiteful, they’ll get taken care of.
He returns to the benefits of communism discussion later by showing how capitalism will betray everyone who lives under it. “There’s always somebody after your job,” he says, as he offers several examples. There’s always someone after your power; that’s the real reason Richard Nixon was forced from office. “He wasn’t going down the line, he wasn’t playing the game to suit everybody just right.”
He completes his discourse on communism by relating a story he often tells, about the starving orphans he met in a hovel in Brazil, and the Catholic priest’s response to merely pray for them. “I became a confirmed goddamn communist and a hater of all things religious, when I was on that mountain top,” he says at the outset. He reiterates the point at the end of the story: “Fuck the priest, and fuck their religion, and fuck all these people that don’t feel guilt about a world like that.”
Along the way, Jones says he will protect the people of Jonestown against the U.S. law. The Guyana government will support them, he says, not out of principle, but because he can make trouble if he needs to. That is what he calls “an angry fact.” Moments later, he makes a single, isolated comment about being tired of waiting for a White Night, but those are the only references – veiled or overt – that he makes about the community’s willingness to die.
He does add that “we can never be hurt from any outside source. As long as we keep our strength and our solidarity, they’ll never bother us.” Nevertheless, he says they should strengthen their hold in the Northwest District by taking money to the people of Port Kaituma, to organize them into allying with Peoples Temple. “We could actually shake this whole country for socialism, we could shake it for revolution, till, by God, they wouldn’t know what to do with it,” he calls out. “When folk get to eat, they don’t give a shit who’s feeding them.”
In a momentary digression, Jones voices a complaint about the number of complaints they get, about food, about slights from other people, about any one of a number of things. He proposes a rule, not to forbid people from complaining, but to offer some self-criticism before they complain about other people.
After his long – and interrupted – lecture on communism, he asks community members to come forward and reveal how his thoughts had affected them. That request – “I’m just wondering what you got from myself, my thoughts, something that triggered something about, from me” – steers the conversation for the balance of the tape. As members come forward to speak, he takes each confession and uses it for an object lesson. The testimonials people offer also allow him to reveal things about himself. “You just happen to be cursed with a bad mom,” he tells one woman, “and I was cursed with a bad dad.”
As the people come forward, he interrupts periodically with requests for information about the farm. People report on bananas, on the herbal garden, on peanuts, on brick manufacturing, and about pest control. He talks about a garden that was languishing, almost requiring a water brigade, but then the rains came. He admits that he made the difference, that he caused the rain, but wonders aloud how he did it. “That’s a trick. That rain business’s a trick… I don’t know what the interlocking, inter-connecting thoughts was.” A woman expresses her appreciation for the rain, and says she understands him and what he’s going through. He disagrees, and says no one can know what he goes through each day. They can only know “who does the things.”
One recurring theme of the night is money. Jones talks about spending money to send a member to a hospital in Georgetown, even though that member doesn’t bring any money into the community through Social Security or other resources; he talks about consideration someone else wants, even though they contribute nothing financially to the community; he talks about the nickels and dimes they lose through theft and inconsiderate behavior, and says how much more they could have if the petty selfishness ended.
He talks about his own sacrifices, the people he’s had to fuck for the cause. “Why should I be good, and you not be?” he asks, but then continues: “I’ll still be good, whether you’re good or not, that makes no difference. ‘Cause I know I’m not worth shit. I have no right to be anything else, but just what I am: the servant to the people.”
Later, though, when an elderly woman offers to give up some of her allotted food ration because she doesn’t contribute anything, Jones is tender in his response that she needs to keep her weight up.
He returns to the theme of the problems of being good. It allows people to think they can do shitty things to him. “They take their moods, their spites, their little feelings, they take it out on me. I’m supposed to be the final person you can dump it on [since] I’m God. Communists ought to know better than that. They can’t dump it on anybody else, they dump it on me… And that’s not right.” Towards the end of the tape, he says he’d welcome a time in the box, to get away from everyone and their complaints. But it would be punishment for him too, he says. “I’d go crazy in it, because I’d know there’d be something going wrong up here that I should be taking care of.”
Another recurring theme of the night is the discipline of two young boys. They had left their cabin through the window and gone running through the jungle. He confesses to a bit of respect for them – “I admire spunk, but not spunk used for anarchy” – then asks them about their punishment so far. He threatens to tie them up outside the community where the tiger can get them, and when they respond with tears and wails, asks them if they actually think he’d do that. When they reply yes, he says, “I don’t believe it – I don’t believe you could … think you’re going to go out there. Dad never came to kill, he came to heal. Dad never came to hurt, but to relieve pain. You think I’m going to put you out there with the tiger?” They both maintain their belief that he will. A woman then says that the boys are trying to manipulate Jones into not punishing them as he’s threatened.
A few minutes later – bringing together the themes of money and discipline – Jones points out that the two boys don’t bring in any money into the community, that they don’t get a check each month, that they “haven’t got a dime.”
Eventually, Jones does send the boys out to be tied for the tiger to get them, and expresses a hope that the guard watching them will be quicker with the trigger than the tiger is. The boys leave in near hysterics.
They return in hysterics as well, calling out their thanks to Dad for protecting them from the cat that almost ate them. Jones laughs – as do the community members – until he realizes they actually believe the tiger was out there (“Well, I didn’t count on that. You really saw the cat?”). Moreover, the guard sent to protect them is upset, because the boys’ punishment put him in danger. Jones teaches a lesson from the incident – they need to behave, because the cat won’t eat good people – and concludes the punishment by sending them to the box.
Date of transcription: April 5, 1979
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 19, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B62 Number 60. This tape was found to contain the following:
A direct sermon/lecture from a person believed to be JIM JONES to his people discussing the evils of the United States of America, Capitalism and the goodness of Socialism, Communism and Russia.
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. The subject matter of the FBI description represents about 20% of the tape’s actual content.
Tape originally posted October 2000