Supporting Preconceptions:
A review of the Jonestown film

by David Parker Wise

I just watched the Stanley Nelson film. I have no reason to defend Jim or survivors who participated in hunting me down, beating me up or framing me up on false charges, or telling me there is a contract on my life, and all because I refused to go give in to Jim’s post bait and switch “Milgram Experiment.”

Yet, I am trying my best to tell the objective truth without agenda.

The filmmakers took the footage and manipulated it to support their preconceptions. No wonder that they turned away my offer to contribute more factual information. An example would be the image of Jim throwing his fists into the air during a healing along with audio from an entirely different context. Or the writhing image of a woman being healed as a representation that she was poisoned. This type of opportunist contextual misrepresentation occurred often and undermines credibility. Still, I will support the film as having great new footage and for making mention of social conscience and better world motivations.

The reason I was not interviewed – as I can see now – is that this is not about people who went against Jim and were hunted down, it is more about those sycophants, who are now resolving the cognitive dissonance of their conscience with overly simplified demonizations, something we have seen before. The fact is that in spite of seeing these wrongdoings many “go alongs” did not leave. That is because they were participants. They did not leave even when coming face to face with their conscience… over and over. Now these people wish to posture as victims. I am not better than anyone, but I could not rub elbows with wrongdoing and fail to take a stand, over and over, only to later come out with simplistic demonizations to make oneself appear the more innocent.

I believe that certain folk worked together to ostracize me from the interview process, though I made myself available. The result, though, is that I was not able to offer historical information such as the reason that Jim launched a program trying to declare all men homosexual: he had been arrested on a homosexual charge at a Los Angeles theater and told me plainly that this would destroy him unless he could offset the possible public reaction. I do not defend him for it, but I have it to report that many men were asked to pretend to be bisexual to offset possible attacks on Jim in the case that his arrest were to hit the newspapers.

In the film, a survivor says, “Where did all the guns come from?” but he knows how many guns there were. There were 36, according to a report by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, distributed among over a thousand people. In his conversations, Grover Davis is quoted as saying that he walked up to a security guard during the mass suicide and asked to leave because he did not want to die. The security guard said, “Have a good life.” Maybe everyone could have just walked away. Nell Smart reported that when she went to Guyana, the guns were not threatening but appeared to be to protect the community. Now, however, people still want someone to pay for the death of their loved ones, and it is easy to blame others to avoid looking deeper or looking within.

This film supports the idea that we are all victims and that this historical incident is a freak lone madman. Such scapegoating insures that we will all keep marching in lockstep like robots in the cult of a modern society gone sociopathic, still in denial, still with nothing learned.

It is particularly disturbing to me to see some supposed childhood friend say that “some other child” saw Jim kill a cat. I think it is very charming that a young Jim Jones had funerals for animals. I myself have been falsely accused before. People emerge in a shark-feeding frenzy and make statements that are not true. What is this process where gossip and slander from people you did not get along with becomes history? I think the film had a prior agenda to demonize Jim as mentally ill from youth and that there is no real evidence supporting that.

What an easy thing to make a film about. Where are the production skills in interviewing a few folk sitting in a room and then plugging in footage to support preconceived notions? In all this we wind up missing some bigger messages with the same old simplistic demonizations. The filmmakers speak too soon to say that this is a final word. Some of us could use the same footage and make a film with much more illuminating and truthful historical conclusions.

The real story contains a powerful message for entire nations as the Peoples Temple cooperated together using “all or nothing,” “end justifies the means” tactics like collectively “creating” healings to fund a Socialist revolution and a “Jonesian dictatorship of the proletariat.”

The church copied American politics as it attempted to set up its own country, its own society. It failed because it was using non-sustainable tactics, just as we see the US doing today.

I do, however, commend the film for better humanizing the survivors and the humanitarian motives of the members than has been shown in previous films.

(After going up against Jim Jones, David Parker Wise, a former Pastor of the Los Angeles Peoples Temple was hunted down, and told that a contract had been taken out on his life. His complete collection of writings for the jonestown report may be found here. His website is JonestownLegacy.com. Mr. Wise can be reached at hopetek@gmail.com.)

Last modified on March 8th, 2014.
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