Am I a Jonestown Apologist?

I’ve been called several things in my life: nerd, dork, and genius to name a few. And I could digest those labels, considering the sources and reflecting on how the charges may or may not really apply to me. But one label that has been affixed to my being truly gives me pause. Quite frankly, I’m still struggling with it. And that label is, Josef Dieckman: Jonestown Apologist. I won’t say who thrust this brand upon me, lest I draw even more undue attention to these individuals. However, I must address it, as I am sure many people in the research community have been targeted and unfairly bashed by these same people.

Before tackling the problem of answering the question, “Am I a Jonestown Apologist?”, it would probably be in my own best interest to find a concrete definition of the term. Certainly it’s not something my detractors just throw around just for fun, right? There has to be some kind of referenceable criteria before determining whether one deserves the label or not, right? Wrong! The problem is that the very people who take pleasure in casting their dispersions on those of us in the research community fail to provide any kind of definition of the term. As a result, I am forced to speculate, within reason, what they mean.

Based on my own study of the words and actions of my detractors, I have concluded that to be an “Apologist”, you simply have to meet any one of the following:

  1. Someone who objectively studies all aspects of Peoples Temple history in an effort to understand the larger picture.
  2. Someone who objectively studies specific portions of Peoples Temple history in an effort to understand the smaller picture.
  3. Someone who can say one good thing about something that happened in Peoples Temple.
  4. Someone who doesn’t solely focus on the bad things that happened in Peoples Temple.
  5. Someone who doesn’t spend their energies in condemnation of a group that hasn’t existed for 30 years.
  6. Someone who doesn’t dwell on what “corrupt” government officials could, or should, have done in regards to Peoples Temple.

If you fit into any one of the above six categories, you are probably cannon fodder for those aiming the “Jonestown Apologist” gun. But assuming those criteria are correct, I see absolutely nothing inherently wrong with being a “Jonestown Apologist.” My detractors, on the other hand, feel otherwise.

What they fail to realize is that these criteria can be applied to a myriad of historical events. For example, what about the Civil War? Why are there no “Confederate Apologists?” In certain segments of society, people actually dress up as Confederate soldiers and reenact battles, fighting to defend their “right” to own slaves, withdraw from the Union and determine their own destiny. They spend hours reading up on daily Confederate life, researching their favorite Confederate figures, and detailing their costumes to be as authentic as possible. So where’s the “Confederate Apologist” label? Why is there not a constant, systematic attack on these people by the same detractors that attack “Jonestown Apologists”?

The answer is simple: their logic is flawed and their motives are very much reproachable. If the detractors refuse to apply their reasoning effectively to aspects of their own lives, then the appropriateness of using that reasoning to attack something else demonstrates the weakness of their argument.

But perhaps the biggest error my detractors have made is thinking that the label is an insult, that I wouldn’t wear it as a badge of honor, that applying it to me would change my behavior. They believe it diminishes me instead of them.

Yes, I proudly declare myself a Jonestown Apologist. Yes, I meet all six of the criteria. And the only thing I apologize for is my delay in not speaking up sooner.

So I ask you, dear reader, are you a “Jonestown Apologist”?

(Josef Dieckman has written extensively about both the so-called death tape (Q 042) and the “day after” tape (Q 875). His complete collection of writings for the jonestown report may be found here. He can be reached at