Peoples Temple in the News, 2010

11-port kaituma 1• In May 2010, The New York Times reported on efforts to develop the Jonestown site as a tourist destination. While the Times article gave the idea its most widespread publicity, it was not the first time the idea had been in the news within the past year.

On November 18, 2009 – the 31st anniversary of the deaths in Jonestown – Guyana’s Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce Manniram Prashad and U.S. Charge d’Affaires Karen Williams unveiled a plaque at the Port Kaituma airstrip commemorating the tragedy. An article about the unveiling also appeared on the NBC Bay Area website.

The plaque is the first marker to be erected since August 2007, when Minister Prashad led a delegation to the overgrown Jonestown site to determine whether it could be developed and opened as a tourist attraction. A photo from Mr. Prashad’s earlier trip is here.

11-port kaituma 2

Since that 2007 trip, several other enterprises have tried to follow up on Minister Prashad’s proposal, but none of these has been successful as of yet.

Several articles and blogposts commented upon the Times article, including “Let the Night Roar with It:” Dark Tourism at Jonestown — Sightings.

Less than two weeks earlier, the Nile Travel Log had included Jonestown on its list of Macabre Tourism: 9 Sites of Cult Massacres and Suicides, but noted that “[i]t’s not exactly mapped out on Google Earth, and the thick jungle has probably overgrown the small airstrip that used to be there.”

Responding to media queries – as well as notes of concern from peoples in the Temple community – the editors of this report prepared a response, which appears here.

• A woman’s long-term efforts to locate her niece – a quest which put her in touch with several Temple survivors and this website – were successful, when Emily Snider was reunited with Jennifer Keller, the daughter of Peoples Temple member Darell Keller, who died in Jonestown. While Ms. Snider made an effort to establish the contact through the Remembrance section of Darell Keller’s biographical entry on the site, she was ultimately successful through Facebook, according to King5 News in Seattle, Washington.

• The image of Jonestown arose several times during the nation’s debate on health care within the last year.

Caddell: Health Bill Is “Political Jonestown” For Dems
Democratic strategist Pat Caddell compares voting for the health bill to a “political Jonestown,” 21 March 2010, on Fox News. The video was also posted on numerous political – mainly conservative – websites including The Rogers Institute and Real Clear Politics.

Haley Barbour: Health care reform like Jonestown
The Political Carnival blogspot

Gov. Haley Barbour (R-Miss.) chairman of the Republican Governors Association, called the Democrats’ health care reform proposal “catastrophic” Thursday and compared it to the poison ingested at the infamous Jonestown cult’s mass suicide in 1978. “This is such bad policy for the United States, and it’s going to be so bad for our health care system,” the Mississippi governor said. … “I’ve been looking for Jim Jones and where’s the Kool-Aid. This is awful, awful policy for our country—and the people know it. … But politically, if the nation can survive it, it will be a political windfall for Republicans.”

Gov. Barbour’s comments stirred several editorial reactions, including these:

Barbour Comparison Off the Mark?
by Adam Lynch, Jackson (MS) Free Press, 18 December 2009
… Back in Mississippi, Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman, who is also president of the Association of Young Democrats, found the comparison unsuitable for the debate, indicating the comment would backfire on Barbour anti-health-reform arguments.? “That’s the problem with rhetoric. It’s a powerful device, but one of the liabilities is it sometimes makes a more powerful statement than people intended when they use it,” Wiseman said.

Barbour: Reform like Jonestown
by Meredith Shiner, Politico, 17 December 2009
“No one who brings Jim Jones and that tragedy into this conversation should be taken seriously,” responded DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse. “It’s disgraceful — and Haley Barbour is a disgrace. And his blatant politicization of this issue shows that Republicans are more interested in scoring political points than improving health care for the American people.”

California Rep. Jackie Speier (D) said Barbour “should be ashamed of himself, but shame is as foreign a feeling to that man as common sense and intellect.” ??As an aide to then-Rep. Leo Ryan, Speier was shot five times and left for dead by members of Jim Jones’ organization. Ryan, who flew to Jonestown to investigate Jones, was killed along with four others on the trip. “The Governor of Mississippi doesn’t have to look at a horrific tragedy in a third world country for comparisons to our country’s health care problem,” Speier told POLITICO in a statement.

Beyond these two newsmakers, several editorials and blogs compared the health care overhaul – and more generally, the proposals of President Barack Obama – to Jonestown.

America’s Suicide By Self Immolation!
by Ron Ewart, The Federal Observer, 18 May 2010

… Many remember Jim Jones Peoples’ Temple and the 1978 mass suicide of the entire Temple flock, by purportedly a cocktail of poisoned Kool-aid, in Jonestown, Guyana. Although many of Jones’ followers drank the cyanide-laced Kool-Aid voluntarily, others were shot, or forcefully injected with a poison. A direct manifestation of cult radicalism… Does any of what Jones preached have a similar ring to it? Could America be on the suicidal path of a Jim Jones Peoples’ Temple? Are Americans unknowingly drinking the Kool-Aid of a Jim Jones cocktail? Will we next be asked to sacrifice our freedom, our sovereignty, or worse, our lives, by our leaders, in a case of mass self immolation, or self-induced enslavement? From the mounting evidence, it would seem so.

The Jonestown Massacre Part Two
One Term, 8 February 2010

Heading off the political correctness police in advance, I want to say that the Jonestown massacre was a tragedy. Jones leading 912 brain-washed people to their death was horrific.
Members of the Democratic party running for office in November have their own version of Jones.
You may recall that Jones headed a liberal ministry based on a combination of religious and socialist philosophies, advocated left-wing political ideals, and wanted to escape American capitalism.

Does this description of Jones sound like anyone else leading a band of political left-wing followers?

By continuing to push Health Care and expecting congressional support the President is asking them to take a political poison pill.

• In addition to these news articles, Jonestown and Peoples Temple is often mentioned in the mainstream media both as cultural icons and in serious considerations of religious and political issues.

Jonestown cited in serious articles

Alleged Abuses in Scientology Are Far From Unique
by Clay Farris Naff, Huffington Post, 9 March 2010

Whatever religious beliefs you may hold, you must surely agree that some religions spring up to exploit that hunger for meaning. Over and over again, we have seen that for certain personalities religion is the shortest route to absolute power. And we’ve seen that absolute power, as Lord Acton so rightly observed, corrupts absolutely. Some who hold sway over their flocks are undoubtedly sincere, others undoubtedly hucksters. I make no judgment about Hubbard in saying this. It really doesn’t matter. The point is not whether a person sincerely believes that they bear tablets (or copper plates, or whatever) inscribed by God, so to speak. What counts is what happens to them once they come down from the mountain and taste power.

From Rev. Jim Jones, who led his flock to “Jonestown” in the jungle and got them to commit suicide by drinking bad Kool-Aid, to Shoko Asahara the blind Buddhist guru who founded Shin Aumrikyo and persuaded his followers to release nerve gas in the Tokyo subways, to Ayatollah Khomeini, who after coming to power in Iran decreed death by hanging for girls as young as nine for alleged religious improprieties, the record of religious tyrants is rife with abuse. So it should come as no shock to learn that the inheritor of Hubbard’s mantle, David Miscavige, stands accused by former lieutenants of slapping, beating, and worse.

Artificial stupidity
by Thomas Sowell, The Washington Examiner, 8 March 2010

“When we see children in elementary schools out carrying signs in demonstrations, we are seeing the kind of mindless groupthink that causes adults to sign petitions they don’t understand or — worse yet — follow leaders they don’t understand, whether to the White House, the Kremlin or Jonestown.”

Savior Accused of Enslaving Israeli Women
by Amy Teibel, Associated Press, 8 February 2010

How [Goel Ratzon] managed to lure so many young women and live this way so long in full view of authorities remains a mystery. While cult leaders like Jim Jones, who led hundreds of followers in a 1978 mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana, claimed messianic status, Ratzon did not.
“I’m not their Messiah, I’m not their savior. I’m just good to them,” he said in a rare interview to Israel television last year.

Jonestown, Japan
by Katherine Bruce, breezywithoutborders, 27 January 2010

The whole of Japanese society functions like a machine – a machine that is programmed to one channel and every component matches and is coated with an impeccable metal armor. The acronym “5s” stands for five Japanese words: seiri, seiton seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke. This is the guts of the working machine. It signifies order, systematization, cleanliness, purity and commitment. Although Japanese have a reputation for being hard working and diligent in every aspect of life, their mechanical efforts is a guise for a real lack of efficiency mainly because machines can’t think for themselves.

Japan is ironically cursed in the same way the victims of Jonestown were. The people of Jonestown pursued the truth in equality–one in which America could seemingly not provide them. So, they take the untrodden golden brick road to a utopia that ends in an untimely death. Similarly, Japanese people are the longest living race of humans in the world, yet they also have the highest suicide rate of any country to date. Could this mechanical 5s system delude individual thinking to a mob mentality no different from a cult? Sure, the society functions with poise and global positioning as an economic leader, but it is an insignificant claim in comparison to a life of true happiness.

A judge’s vote for the rule of reason
by Andy Parker, The Oregonian, 15 January 2010

Starting tomorrow, prosecutors and defense attorneys are expected to tangle for two weeks over whether Jeff and Marci Beagley are guilty of failing to provide adequate medical care for their 16-year-old son, who died of an untreated urinary blockage. But perhaps the most important phase in the latest trial involving faith-healing parents in the Followers of Christ church may have already passed: The jury selection. Even before the first pool of 14 potential jurors filed into Judge Steven Maurer’s courtroom last week, defense attorneys had red-flagged four jurors whose responses on juror questionnaires raised concerns. … Juror #2 compared the local faith-healing church to “Jonestown.” … After questioning the juror who made the Jonestown comparison, Maurer agreed it was unlikely she could overcome her biases and kicked her from the pool.

Legal struggle over child porn
by A. Alan Borovoy, Toronto Star, 9 December 2009

…It would help for the child porn law to focus instead on material whose creation involved the unlawful abuse of real children. If this happened, there would be no need for the subjective defences. No such defences should be able to rescue material that is – or is even held out to be – the product of an unlawful abuse. What would be lost? On one theory, mere depictions and descriptions encourage imitation. But where, then, would censorship stop? Did exposure to the Bible encourage the Jonestown suicides? Does exposure to the television news encourage “copycat” crimes? While the Bible and TV news obviously have redeeming merit, so do many works that have been stigmatized as “child porn.”

Jonestown politics: Tony takes the chalice
by Alan Thornhill, PrivateBriefing.com, 1 December 2009

The [Australian] Liberal party sealed its fate today, when it elected Tony Abbott to lead it, by a single vote.

This was, certainly, the worst group decision taken anywhere since November 18, 1978, when Jim Jones led 900 of his followers – and 9 unlucky-by-standers in a mass suicide, in Jonestown, Guyana.

A Tale of Two Community Organizers
by Elinor Lynn Warner, American Thinker, 19 November 2009

Article compares “two infamous organizations” ACORN and Peoples Temple

Jonestown cited in cultural references

Obscure no longer, Quran-burn pastor opens door to the asylum
by Betty Winston Bayé, Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal, 9 September 2010

… this Saturday, the ninth anniversary of 9/11, is the day that “Pastor” Terry Jones has set as the occasion that he will host his “International Burn a Quran Day” at his church, The Dove World Outreach Center, in Gainesville, Fla.… That whole scene brought to mind another pastor named Jones — Jim Jones… Maybe Terry Jones is the spawn, not just of Jim Jones, but also of Osama bin Laden and many other charismatic figures who over centuries have relied on a combination of ignorance, faith, grievance, mysticism and smooth talking to draw near to them people in search of salvation — and if not that, to deliver them from having to make the tough choices that life sometimes requires of us all.

Having a little fun with the pious elites
by Wesley Pruden, Washington Times, 9 September 2010

The media created Terry Jones, the Florida storefront preacher who wanted to be Jim Jones without the Kool-Aid, but neither bloggers nor pontificators had a clue to who he is.

Reverend Terry Jones: A Case of ‘Somebody’ Envy
by Mark Goulston, Huffington Post, 13 September 2010

Reverend Terry Jones, the Florida pastor intent on burning the Koran on the 9/11 anniversary, is suffering from “somebody envy.” … That may explain why Reverend Terry Jones may fulfill his mission and will not be talked out of it. Even if he is told the negative and far-reaching consequences of his hurtful actions, my fear is that he’s locked into a “Jonestown in freedom of speech’s clothing” mindset.

Religion and human emotion
by A. Hugh Jones, Muncie (IN) Star Press, 30 August 2010

Was Jim Jones of Jonestown a Christian? Was David Koresh of the Waco Branch Davidians a Christian? Is the Ku Klux Klan, with its lynchings and cross burnings, a Christian organization? Osama bin Ladin, Mohammed Atta and their murderous al-Qaida thugs are Muslims in exactly the same way Jim Jones and David Koresh were Christian.

Real Islam, like real Christianity and genuine Judaism, is a life-affirming faith which worships the God Who Is, the God of being, of creation, of life and love – whose face is eternally against death, deadness, destruction, corruption, hatred. Ultimately, I hope, we shall come to realize that these three religions are all expressions of the same faith, conditioned by the historic, cultural, situational differences of the times and places in which they entered human existence.

Mosque debate is healthy for America
by Wendy Murphy, Quincy (MA) Patriot Ledger, 29 August 2010

…Lots of folks feel strongly that Ground Zero is hallowed ground, and that it will never be appropriate to build a mosque nearby simply because the murderers were Muslim. It would be like putting up a statue of Jim Jones in the middle of “Jonestown,” Guyana. Nobody believes that all Muslims are violent, but if some kill because of their religious beliefs, especially when their religion is also a political movement, then we needn’t be allowing a religious trophy to be erected at the spot where the victims died.

Environmentalism Not About the Earth But About Control, Part 1
by Frederick Meekins, WEBCommentary, 15 January 2010

For decades, American motorists have been subjected to propaganda insisting that they either need to drive less or give up safe, comfortable automobiles in favor of what amount to motorized coffins in order to preserve natural resources and environmental quality. Now that this policy goal is pretty much on the road to being implemented, the elites running our lives are not content to sit back in the glow of their accomplishment but are rather laying the groundwork for the next phase in their grand dream of limiting the free movement of the American people.

It has been a few years since the 1960’s, so perhaps a few readers (a significant percentage of whom like myself didn’t even trod the earth at that time) need to be reminded what exactly a commune is. A commune is a living arrangement where the residents do not own their respective domiciles outright but rather in common with the group (or rather those designated as the representatives of the group) making decisions on behalf of the members. While it may sound all warm and fuzzy, seldom do such living arrangements end happily. At best, most participants part ways with hurt feelings and at worst they often end in bloodshed as typified by the Jonestown and Heavensgate tragedies or when the principles are applied society-wide as was the case in the Soviet Union and Red China.

Balloon boy fallout: Should Heenes lose custody of children if guilty of hoax?
by Amber Watson-Tardiff, NJ.com, 22 October 2009

Today we hear accusations from a former co-worker of Mayumi Heene claiming that Richard Heene is unbalanced. She worried that a Jonestown incident could ensue if his wife and children are not taken out of the home immediately and placed in protective care.

Dangerous adventures in Barbie-land
by Kara Nesvig, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 25 September 2009

“Surrogates” [is] a subpar sci-fi thriller set in an Atwoodian alterna-future where regular folks stay at home glued to a complex computer screen while their surrogates venture into the world. The world seems perfect with surrogates; there’s a massive decrease in crime and communicable diseases, for starters. And everyone looks like a Barbie or Ken doll. Then something goes amok, and humans begin to die when their surrogates do. The son of the surrogates’ creator is found dead in his dorm room. Is this the work of a faction of real humans who’ve created a Jonestown-like utopia under the rule of a man who calls himself The Prophet? Or are other forces at play?

Karen Walker’s New Vampy Eyewear
by Catherine Blair Pfander, NBCNewYork, 9 December 2009

Is it just us, or is vampire-themed eyewear going to be huge this spring?… The collection, modeled by fanged lads and lasses, features Ms. [Karen] Walker’s signature bold plastic frames mixed with a few clean metal shapes. The wit and playfulness that made Walker famous comes through not only in her choice of ghoulish company, but the names of the frames themselves: ”Helter Skelter,” “Voodoo,” and “Jonestown” will all become available at the conclusion of the holiday season.

Originally posted on July 25th, 2013.

Last modified on December 29th, 2021.
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