(Brad Elliott is a video editor who was born and raised in Minneapolis. He owns a home there with his girlfriend of six years. His hobbies include collecting music and photography. His email address is email@example.com.)
Anyone who attempts to tell the Jonestown story – or any part of it, for that matter – appreciates how difficult it is to present it openly, honestly, and completely. The same holds true even for someone who tries to limit the story to that told through audiotapes, and to create a CD that captures the nuances of Peoples Temple and the man who led it.
I was initially drawn to the Jonestown audio tape project because I found it fascinating to be able to listen to untainted recordings of Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple. I started picking tapes to listen to based upon the FBI descriptions that were on the Jonestown Institute website. Some of the tapes had transcripts available, while others did not. The length of the Temple’s recording sessions and the quality of the recordings, as I discovered, varied from tape to tape.
Initially I just listened to the tapes without transcripts. As I started to hear things that I found interesting, I decided I would record parts of them and possibly burn a CD for myself.
I picked parts that I found interesting, shocking, and in a few cases humorous. I did this by going through transcripts and highlighting potential areas of interest. I would then go through the tape with the transcript and try and locate the section in question. When there was no transcript available, I listened to the entire cassette and sampled as I listened.
Over a period of twelve months I went through a total of twenty-three cassettes that varied in length from three minutes to two hours. The tapes spanned the Redwood Valley years through Jonestown.
In some cases there were only a few areas of potential interest on a 120-minute cassette. It could take fifteen to twenty minutes to locate a section on a tape that had twenty-six pages of transcript.
When I started requesting cassettes, it was merely part of my own personal odyssey to learn more about Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple. As I listen to the CD now, I feel it offers a well-rounded glimpse into the lucid, odd, and disturbing moments of what it was like to be a member of the Temple and to live in Jonestown.
I recently came across a quote from a political forum thread on a webpage for a music group. To me it seems to sum up the power and charisma of Jim Jones’ control over the members of the Peoples Temple.
“Through clever and constant application of propaganda people can be made to see paradise as hell, and also the other way around, to consider the most wretched sort of life as paradise.” Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, 1923.
There are a number of references to the evils of fascism, the Nazis, and Hitler in the tapes I listened to. It seems ironic to me that someone who claimed to have waved the flag of socialism ultimately used a tool of early fascism to achieve his goals.
If I walk away from this experience with anything, I feel I have a better understanding of how people were willing to follow Jim Jones as far as they did. I also realize that not everyone wanted to follow him to the end.
This CD may be purchased for $10. This price includes postage to anywhere in North America. The CD includes some rare images within the color artwork. Sections of this CD do contain strong language and mature subject matter that may not be for everyone. For more information please email firstname.lastname@example.org.