(The paper is adapted from Anssi Viljanen’s graduate thesis in English Philology for the Department of Modern Languages at the University of University of Helsinki in March 2013. Mr. Viljanen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
This thesis is a study on manipulation and what can be said about manipulation based on linguistic evidence. The case studied is the incident of the Jonestown mass suicide on the 18th of November 1978 where 909 Peoples Temple members died. The speech in which the movement leader Jim Jones urges the mass suicide was recorded and it has been published for listening. In the study I make the assumption that the speech can be considered manipulative based on its outcome. I seek to define the general characteristics of the speech. With the assumption that the speech is manipulative I purpose to define what is central to manipulation based on this text.
For the purposes of this study, a theoretical framework and method was adopted from James Paul Gee. Gee’s work is a holistic approach to discourse analysis that unlike many other theories of discourse analysis does not only concentrate on one aspect of the text such as power. Instead Gee has observed that a speaker always creates different spheres of meaning around itself. These spheres Gee calls building tasks, of which there are six in Gee’s theory. The text of Jim Jones’ speech, henceforth the Death Tape, is analyzed from the perspective of these six building tasks in order to learn what kind of world of values Jones presents, what kind of activities are performed, what the relationship structure is, what intertextual references are drawn on and how power is manifested.
It is observed here that the Death Tape cannot be considered in a vacuum. The effects of the speech cannot be singularly attributed to the strength of Jones’ rhetoric during the speech. On the contrary, Jones’ speech, in order to be successful, required an audience conditioned in a certain way. Before introducing Gee’s discourse analytical theory, a brief history of the Peoples Temple movement is given. The second chapter of this thesis reviews the background of Jim Jones, the history of the Peoples Temple movement, different ways in which people were being conditioned for the mass suicide and how the mass suicide actually happened. In the background section the process of transcription is also explained
The main part of this study is in the fourth chapter where each of the building tasks is given its own section. With most of the building tasks the elements pertinent to each building task were relatively easy to find. The harder task was the process of deciding what was relevant and what was not. All the major observations were recorded but it was noticed that one theme ran through all of the building tasks which is redefinition. It was observed that Jones operates with totally different definitions of reality than would a person from outside the movement. While it is interesting to observe how Jones’ definitions of for example peace and death work, it is at the same time haunting to observe that those definitions have taken ground among the members of the congregation.
This study does not seek to provide new information about Peoples Temple. At the same time this is not a psychological analysis. Rather its objective is in creating a case for studying manipulation by the means of discourse analysis. To my knowledge such studies have not been made before and the last speech of Jim Jones definitely has not been analyzed from this perspective.
My interest in the topic has emerged as the result of personal experiences, not with cultish manipulation, but with everyday situations where I’ve felt that I have not been given enough room to decide things for myself but someone has sought to impose their will upon me. My desire is to receive more insight into the nature of manipulation by the study of something clearly manipulative as opposed to something subtle. After conducting this study my hope is to be able to spot similar tendencies in more subtle and less harmful ways in everyday life.
The structure of the thesis is as follows. After the introduction, the background to the Peoples Temple movement is given. The third chapter of the thesis describes Gee’s theory. The reason for introducing background before the theory is that in the theory section some of the examples are given from the Death Tape and with the knowledge of the background it may be easier for the reader to follow. In the fourth chapter the observations are recorded by applying the tools of inquiry to the Death Tape. Before the final concluding chapter the findings of the analysis chapter are discussed in chapter five.
In this section background will be provided for three different things. Firstly, the suicide of 909 people can hardly be understood in the first place but an attempt is made to shed light on the background of the movement so as to provide an appreciation of what the movement was like. Secondly, the speech did not happen in a vacuum but it had a definite context. The events of the day of the suicides and the day before are briefly introduced as well. Thirdly, the speech and its transcription are introduced.
The effect of the speech was so dramatic that there is hardly a parallel to it. It is not possible to understand the speech and its effects without understanding its context and the long background of manipulation that had taken place prior to the event of the speech. The suicide of 909 people is not explainable by the analysis of one speech, even though it is the final one. Rather the speech was the finalization of a longer continuum of manipulation. In order to understand the background a short summary of the history of the Peoples Temple movement and its leader Jim Jones is due.
The information in this chapter has been gathered from three main sources. The first source is a book called Seductive Poison (1998) written by Deborah Layton who was a member of the inner circle of the movement. The second source is the most extensive work on the cult, its history and details. It is the winner of the PEN award by Tim Reiterman and John Jacobs, Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People (1982). Tim Reiterman is a journalist who began covering Peoples Temple for San Francisco Examiner two years prior to the mass suicide. After having been wounded in a shooting on the day of the mass suicide, Reiterman continued his investigations on the cult, all of which are compiled into this book. The work was completed together with John Jacobs. The third resource reviewed for covering the background of the cult is a video documentary called Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples (2006), directed by Stanley Nelson. Crediting the video documentary is somewhat complicated in that it contains many interviews in addition to the storyline. All of the interviews on the video could be referenced independently. Furthermore the storyline is written by two different people, Marcia Smith and Noland Walker, and it is not possible to make the distinction as to who should be credited where. Hence, for simplicity’s sake the producer Nelson has been credited whenever the video documentary is referred to.
A note on the emotiveness of the secondary literature may be due. Written history is always an interpretation of the causes and effects of past events. Histories, though they may appear to be objective are always prone to be colored by the writer’s background. At this point it is only fair to note that the source material has not been written with the intention of objectivity but contains emotive word choices and expressions of emotion. As an example of such emotiveness: each of the sources describes Jones’ long sermons with the word harangue which hardly is an objective word. However, arguably first-hand accounts are the best resources that are available and therefore they have been chosen as the source material.
Jim Jones was born on May 13, 1931 in Randolph County in rural Indiana near the border of Ohio (Hall 1987: 3). The living conditions of his family were poor due to his father’s alcoholism and the post Great Depression era. Early childhood friends have stated that Jones had a fascination for death and religion already at an early age. He would conduct burial ceremonies for small animals. His childhood friends described him as a “weird kid” (Nelson 2006).
At the age of 20, Jones became a member of the Communist Party USA. In his youth he had been an ardent student of the writings Lenin, Stalin, Gandhi and Hitler (Horrock 1978, Reiterman & Jacobs 1982: 24). In thinking what would be the best way to introduce socialism in the United States he came to think of it in these terms: “I asked myself: how can I demonstrate my Marxism? The thought was, infiltrate the church” (Q134).
In 1952 Jones became a student pastor of a Methodist Church. His desire was to integrate black and white to be part of the same congregation. When he was met with opposition from the board of the church in 1954 he started his own church which was later named Peoples Temple (Wessinger 2000). Jones was able to gather a following in his Indiana based church by his charismatic personality and preaching coupled with staged healings and miracles (Reiterman & Jacobs 1982: 9–10).
2.1. Receiving following
Jones created a strategy for drawing people into his movement. Tim Reiterman describes him as a diligent student of human needs. Deborah Layton describes in her book Seductive Poison how she became a member of the movement. She had lived a life rebelling against her parents and had been sent to school in England. Layton’s older brother had become involved with Jones’ movement. Upon meeting her brother after a long time she was invited to Ukiah, California where the cult had moved in 1965. Layton describes how upon meeting Jones personally she was met by a man who seemed to know her already and who seemed to care for her deeply. Jones was able to make her feel loved, needed and cared for. Right before talking to Jones she had witnessed what seemed to be the healing of an elderly lady. Jones seemed to have aura of a prophet or of a god. Although Layton felt compelled to join the movement she still went back to school in England. At this point she started receiving numerous letters from the members of the movement. All these letters described to her how she was needed and her arrival expected by the community. She describes how she felt like she had finally found a meaning for her life: she felt fulfilled and energetic. After the year spent in England she came back to America and joined the movement.
Her story is similar to many others. Jones received information on prospective converts through secret detectives and friends (Reiterman & Jacobs 1982: 49–52). This information he used in order to appear omniscient of a chosen prospect’s life. He would call out addresses and very personal information on people’s lives from the stage. For example Deborah Layton’s mother later on became a member after the secret that she was a Jew was disclosed in a public setting. Like her daughter she had also witnessed a healing prior to being addressed by Jones himself (Layton 1999: 67). People joining the movement did not think they were joining a cult; they gravitated towards meaningfulness and fulfillment.
2.2 Manipulation and exercising of authority
While Jim Jones and Peoples Temple were effective in recruiting new converts, the binding of the new members to the fellowship was, one might argue, even more effective. Jones had a way of binding every human need to himself. He had a way of separating all his followers from each other in such a way that his followers were all competing against each other for Jones’ attention. Even though each of the members probably had their doubts about many of the things that they were witnessing in the meetings of the cult, they were socially and emotionally, even though not physically, separated from each other (Nelson 2006). The members of the group did not have horizontal level coherence to each other but all social relating happened vertically towards Jim Jones who led his movement into deeper commitment to the cause and ultimately to a mass suicide. In the following some of the methods of Jones’ every day manipulation will be described.
New members came into the movement in search of utilitarian values and doing good. The movement did indeed feed and clothe the poor. The movement worked as a communistic micro-government. People sold their possessions and gave the proceeds to the movement. In turn they were fed, clothed, their health was cared for, they would receive free dental care. This was possible because the movement attracted members from all levels of society (Nelson 2006).
“Working for the Cause” was an important way in which the members of the movement were controlled. Even though officially people were to work eight hours a day for the movement, practically they worked more than 16 hours a day. Many members of the community held their day job and turned in their pay checks to the movement while they received all the benefits from the community. A form of boasting was prevalent in the movement. People would ask each other how much they had slept the previous night. One would answer, “two hours” and another would reply, “Oh, I slept for an hour and a half.” One survivor recalls a case where she had been awake for six days without caffeine or any stimulants. Hue Fortson Jr., a Peoples Temple survivor has said: “In an environment where you are constantly up, you’re constantly busy, and you are made to feel guilty if you take too many luxuries like sleeping you tend to not really think for yourself and I allowed Jones to think for me because I figured he had the better plan.” From the outset it seems like that was a common sentiment in the movement and something deliberately used to make people surrender themselves over to the control of Jones (Nelson 2006).
It seems that because the common cause was altruism and selflessness, it was possible for Jones to induce a culture of guilt related to the basic needs of a human being. Too much sleep or too much time for themselves was to be considered selfish and thus wrong. A measure was adopted to enhance the effect of guilt. The members of the movement were to report and confess their “treasonous” thoughts on paper. This provided Jones with information that he could use against anyone who would sway in their loyalty to the cause. In addition to people having to report on their perceived crimes they were to report on each other. Reporting on another person’s treasonous behavior was considered a show of loyalty. The effect of this circle of reporting was that people in the movement could not trust each other with their doubts or their feelings. This caused every member to answer for their life only to Jim Jones (Nelson 2006).
The showing of loyalty was what ultimately led to the most extreme forms of manipulation and blackmail, reveals former inner circle member Deborah Layton in her account. The members of the inner circle especially were encouraged to show their loyalty by signing affidavits where they confessed for example to having abused their own children or having had thoughts of murdering the president. These affidavits were systematically collected and filed for future use for blackmailing purposes should any of the inner circle members choose to defect and leave the movement. According to Layton, most of the so-called confessions were not at all true but again there was a competition for the acceptance of Jones which led the members to write the most unbelievable confessions (Layton 1999).
Sexuality was another powerful vehicle that Jones employed for his own purposes. It was commonly believed and declared in the movement that all people were homosexuals except for Jim Jones. All heterosexual thoughts were treasonous and were declared as compensation to the true sexual identity. Giving birth to children was considered selfish because the world was not to be crowded anymore (Wise N/D). Rather the adoption of children, especially of different races was considered praiseworthy. Jones himself had adopted children of Asian, African and Caucasian backgrounds. By condemning sexuality Jones was able to divert even the mating drive of his followers towards his cause. Again, the guilt of not being able to live up to the set standard worked as a force to drive people to deeper commitment to Jones. What Jones declared to offer was enlightenment in his aura, salvation from selfishness and growing to greater spiritual level where the low desires of human nature could not prevail anymore (Nelson 2006).
The stealing of his followers’ sexuality worked in the favor of Jim Jones fulfilling his own sexual desires. He was the only one allowed to grow facial hair. Followers, men and women, were only allowed to confess sexual desire towards Jim Jones. Jones had sexual relations with tens if not with hundreds of members of the movement, men and women. Jones declared that he did it for his followers, that there was nothing selfish about him sodomizing men, but rather his followers were allowed the privilege of coming closer to the Father (Wise N/D).
According to Nelson, men were publicly forced to confess their homosexuality. That again would show their loyalty to the cause but at the same time cause them to be wrongfully represented and humiliated. Men being humiliated and made loyal to Jones, there was no challenge to Jones’ alpha role. Women repressed and allowed only to express adoration for Jones caused the idolizing of the leader to be heightened. Were one outside the cult to be introduced to this idea of sexual robbery it would seem utterly incoherent, inhumane and repulsive. One might ask how come the members would not draw their boundaries. One has to remember, there was no one to talk to, talking about all the suffered wrongs or feeling bad was considered treasonous. Rather than turning on each other for help, people turned against each other in their coveting for the attention of the Father. Because the followers were not able to turn to each other each individual had to turn to Jones. The student of human needs that he was, he was always capable of reassuring the hurting souls that they were needed and loved and growing in their commitment. Through this vehicle, Jones was able to get a tight hold on his followers (Nelson 2006).
The indoctrination of loyalty and socialism was all done under the constantly looming danger of not only humiliation but physical violence. In the services, disciplinary boxing matches were conducted. Sometimes people were knocked unconscious. As a milder form of punishment lashes from the stick on the behind was regular. Later on, as the movement moved to Guyana armed guards patrolled the area (Nelson 2006).
The stationing of the armed guards was made perfectly acceptable. Constantly over the years, the movement was closing from the surrounding world. Jones would create an “us versus them” mentality. No one was to be trusted; anyone might be a CIA spy (Layton 1999). In 1961 Jones declared to having seen a vision of an impending nuclear holocaust (Reiterman & Jacobs 1982: 76–77). Under this pretext Jones moved the whole movement to Ukiah, California which was to be a safe place when the war would start. The “us versus them” mentality served as a reasoning why Jones had to introduce “safety measures” such as the armed guards and reporting on treasonous thoughts. At the same time the reporting served in providing Jones information on his followers and the armed guards were there to execute any order Jones might give (Layton 1999). On the fatal November 18th of 1978 armed guards were also present to make sure that everyone drank cyanide-spiked Kool-Aid (Nelson 2006).
2.3 Moving the movement
Peoples Temple started as a church independent from the Methodist movement that had ordained Jones in 1954 in the state of Indiana (Wessinger 2000). In 1956 the movement bought its first own property and first called the church Wings of Deliverance (Reiterman & Jacobs 1982: 49–52). Later on, the name was first changed into Peoples Temple Full Gospel Church and then into simply Peoples Temple (Wessinger 2000). Massive Christian rallies and “healing services” helped to generate revenue and bring people in. Effective employment of the efforts of his following helped Jones reach out to all levels of society. Most of his following consisted of working class black people. That group was the representation of his social gospel. He was against the oppression of classes and races. He preached the social Gospel (Reiterman & Jacobs 1982: 49–52).
In 1961 Jones gave a prophecy that Chicago would be destroyed in a nuclear attack and that Indianapolis would be destroyed as well. Jones then set out to find a place that would be suitable in the case of a nuclear holocaust. Esquire magazine published an article in 1962 that listed the nine safest places in the world in the case of nuclear attack (Reiterman & Jacobs 1982: 77, 82). As a result ultimately in 1965 Jones moved about 140 members of the movement to Ukiah in Redwood Valley, California (Reiterman & Jacobs 1982: 57). With San Francisco assistant district attorney Tim Stoen as a new member, the movement was being established in credibility and numbers (Lindsay 1978).
In California Jones was able to establish a presence as a political powerbroker. The 1960’s were a time of political awareness and there were always riots and rallies, human rights causes to be fought for and ultimately politicians to whom Jones could lend a favor. According to Reiterman & Jacobs (1982: 302–304) Jones had the capability of dispensing a crowd of 2000 at the notice of six hours to the use of any politician that might need the presence of a favorable crowd. For example in 1975 George Moscone became the mayor of San Francisco by a narrow margin. Crediting part of his success to Jim Jones, Moscone appointed Jonesas the Chairman of the San Francisco Housing Authority Commission. Jones also met privately with such political figures as First Lady Rosalynn Carter and Vice Presidential Candidate Walter Mondale. Jones’ publicity as an egalitarianist lent more credibility to the movement without which Peoples Temple may not have survived the public dismay it later came under.
From Ukiah Jones mobilized his people for recruiting new converts, creating more revenue and gaining political publicity. Besides travelling on buses for political campaigns, Jones brought his people to attend his meetings that were held in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Wayward people were brought in with promises of better life. According to Reiterman & Jacobs (1982: 164) the services in San Francisco regularly gathered a congregation of 3000 people. The total number of members in the Temple’s registry was 5000 at the time of the cult’s dissolution.
Having a foothold in San Francisco, Jim Jones was now able to be closer to politics but also was subjected to closer media scrutiny. This caused Jones to hold tighter to his followers through the use of manipulative tactics. In addition to some of the manipulative conditioning mentioned above, one of Jones’ methods was to keep the movement constantly under fear of outside hostile forces. Jones had been persecuted for preaching a social gospel and for integrating blacks and whites on a societal level. He received threatening phone calls and the Peoples Temple property was vandalized. While some of the persecution that Jones experienced was true and from real sources, much of what Jones communicated as persecution to his people was false. Reiterman & Jacobs (1982: 72–74) accounts this to Jones’ mental health, to deliberate dramatizing of events and to staged threats.
While receiving wider publicity, the damage caused by potential defections grew greater. The most notable defection took place in 1973 when a group of college students calling themselves the Eight Revolutionaries escaped with a truck armed with weapons and fled to the mountains of Montana where they wrote a manifesto on the injustices that took place inside the Temple (Reiterman & Jacobs 1982: 224). After this incident, Jones for the first time flashed the thought of a “revolutionary suicide.” He had summoned thirty of the most trusted members of the Temple and raged about how the world was not ready yet for socialism and that they should commit suicide as an act of revolution (Nelson 2006).
Later on Jones conducted events that were called White Nights. According to Nelson (2006), in the first White Night all the participants had drunk a cup of punch after which Jones had told them the punch had been poisoned and that they were going to die. The followers believed that they were going to die. After a while, however, Jones told them that there was no poison in the drink but that it had been a rehearsal, a test of loyalty. This way the movement started getting acquainted with the idea of a revolutionary suicide and giving up their lives for the cause (Nelson 2006).
When the movement ultimately moved to Jonestown, the White Nights became more frequent. In these White Nights there was always some sort of a death threat (Jonestown FAQ). The people in the movement were kept in fear by staged sniper threats, longest of which lasted for six nights (Reiterman & Jacobs 1982: 360–361). They served Jones’ purpose in showing that the world outside of the movement was hostile towards the movement. On the Death Tape, this hostility serves as Jones’ reasoning for making a peace in death because it was not available in life.
2.4 Christine Miller
In the context of the Death Tape, it is needful to make a brief remark on the person of Christine Miller, because next to Jones she is the person talking most on the Death Tape. After Jones’ initial informing on the situation and the introduction of performing the revolutionary suicide, he asks for dissenting opinions. Christine Miller stands up to argue against the suicides. In the following is a short biography of Christine Miller based solely on an article by Bellefountaine (N/D).
At the time of the Death Tape Miller had just turned 60. She had a unique relationship with Jones. She stood out in the movement because of her independence. Many of the members had joined in the movement because they were in need of help, others because they had the desire to help, Miller being one of the latter. In joining the movement people were obliged to turn in their personal possessions. To Miller however Jones gave a special permission to keep some of her jewelry and furs which Miller had earned by hard work.
Bellefountaine (2012) records a telling story of Miller’s independence and self-esteem:
During one meeting, Jones became frustrated with Christine’s vocal independence. He pointed the gun at her and said he could shoot her, and no one would ever find out. Christine replied, “You can shoot me, but you are going to have to respect me first.” Jones repeated his threat with more menace, but Christine wouldn’t back down. “You can do that,” she said, “but you are going to have to respect me first.” A moment later, Jones was standing before her, holding the gun to her head, shouting his rage at her defiance. She looked him in the eye and said calmly, “You can shoot me, but you will respect me.” The standoff ended when Jones – not Christine – backed down.
Why the biography is important and pertinent to this thesis is that it shows that the case for survival was presented by a strong individual whose opinion still was not enough to turn the Jones’ plan for the revolutionary suicide.
2.5 The Mass Suicide
As the group of defectors grew, distinguished members of the movement among them, the pressure to escape from the public eye grew (Nelson 2006). In 1976 Grace Stoen, assistant district attorney Tim Stoen’s wife, left the movement (Reiterman & Jacobs 1982: 287). The matter of dissention was that earlier Tim and Grace Stoen had signed an affidavit that stated that Jim Jones was the true father of their son John Stoen. Jim Jones had started gradually alienating John from his biological mother making Maria Katsaris the surrogate mother of the child (Reiterman & Jacobs 1982: 291). In June 1977, Tim Stoen left the movement as well and started a battle for John’s custody (Reiterman & Jacobs 1982: 324).
The idea behind adopting John Stoen was to create a symbol of the revolutionary ideology. Jones thought that marriages and romantic attachments were counter-revolutionary. The adoption of babies, especially across racial borders, was encouraged (Reiterman & Jacobs 1982: 174). John was to be privileged to be raised by The Father. John was to be the “Son of God” and the one who would take upon himself the work of Jim Jones in the future (Reiterman & Jacobs 1982: 288). Also surrendering one’s own son served as way of testing loyalty from an especially powerful member of the movement.
As the battle for the custody was on, the press was becoming more aware of the conspicuous nature of the Peoples Temple movement. In 1977 Grace Stoen had disclosed secret information of the movement to the media and reporter Marshall Kilduff was publishing an article that was about to do serious damage to the image of the movement. Before the release the article was read over the phone to Jim Jones. While listening to the article, Jones wrote a note to the Temple members in the room: “We leave tonight. Notify Georgetown [Guyana]” (Layton 1998: 115).
In 1973, anticipating a flight from the United States, Peoples Temple had acquired a lease of a property in Guyana (Reiterman & Jacobs 1982: 237). The name of the property was Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, which eventually became known as Jonestown. In 1977 the population of Jonestown was about 50 residents but after Jones made his exodus, the population grew to be just under 1000 (Layton 1998: 113). Within days the movement migrated to Jonestown which was spoken of as the Promised Land.
In September 1977 Georgetown court required reasoning from the Temple why John should not be returned Jim and Grace Stoen (Reiterman & Jacobs 1982: 361). A few days later a second order was given that John should be arrested by authorities (Reiterman & Jacobs 1982: 366). The order however was not carried through. The custody battle and the media work conducted by Concerned Relatives however did get the attention Congressman Leo Ryan (McConnell 1984:67).
On November 15, 1978, Congressman Leo Ryan with his delegation of reporters coupled with Tim and Grace Stoen arrived in Guyana to investigate whether the reports he had heard were true. Tim and Grace Stoen were not admitted to Ryan’s delegation for the trip to Jonestown on the 17th of November. Initially Ryan was impressed by the happiness of everyone in Jonestown (Nelson 2006). It was something that he even mentioned in a speech that was recorded and later on made public (Q048). On the second day however one of the Temple members slipped him a note that said that they were being held in Jonestown against their will and that they wanted to leave (Zane 1998). What resulted was an uproar. A Temple member called Don Sly attempted to kill Ryan by stabbing but failed (Reiterman & Jacobs 1982: 519–520). Soon after that Ryan’s party departed with 15 members of the movement (Reiterman & Jacobs 1982: 524).
After Ryan’s departure for Port Kaituma Airstrip, an armed hit squad followed after Ryan’s delegation. A shooting took place at the airstrip, about 40 minutes away from Jonestown. As everyone was boarding two small airplanes, the hit squad arrived in a trailer pulled by a tractor and began firing. Ryan and four others were killed in the shooting and several were injured (Reiterman & Jacobs 1982: 529–531). At the same time Jones had summoned the last White Night. Everyone was to meet at the pavilion. The area was guarded by armed guards (Nelson 2006). On that day, November 18th 1978, 909 people including 304 children committed suicide during and after a final speech given by Rev. James Warren Jones also known as the Father or Jim Jones.
2.6 The transcript
According to FBI Audiotape Project (FBIAP), the last speech of Jim Jones was found among other tapes from Jonestown during the investigations following the events of November 18th 1978. The tapes were numerically designated by the FBI. In this thesis all the references to different audiotapes are in the form designated by the FBI. For example the reference to the Death Tape is Q042. All of the tapes discovered have been released under the Freedom of Information Act and they can be downloaded from the Jonestown Institute website (FBIAP).
There are many transcripts that have been written on the Death Tape, wherefore it was not needful for me to write the transcript myself. Furthermore, in this transcript many of the speakers are identified, a work which would have taken an unnecessary amount of effort. The transcript is written by Fielding McGehee III, the research director of Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple, a research project sponsored by the Department of Religious Studies at San Diego State University.
The transcript has been produced without markings on overlaps, intonation and hesitation markers. The transcript reads like a theatre play. In some places the author has inserted notes in brackets on the tone in which something is said, for example (pleading), or (weary tone). There are also frequent breaks and edits on the tape, all of which have been marked on the transcript as well. It is not exactly known why the recording has been stopped and resumed. Where something on the tape is indistinguishable, a note (unintelligible) has been made.
I have added only one thing on to the transcript. In order to help navigate the speech I have numbered each part of dialogue with running numbering and will be calling these numbers verses. I have divided the speech into four sections as listed below:
- · v. 1–11 Introduction and posing the course of action
- · v. 12–118 Dealing with dissenting opinions
- · v. 119–129 Plateau and assuring
- · v. 130–187 Urgency to finish the course of action
The division is based on the activities that Jones seems to be performing in each section. Further discussion of the division is in the analysis chapter. Until verse 118 Jones is very calm, very fatherly and kind but after the news about the death of the congressman between verses 118 and 119, the tone changes into more urgent and decisive.
3. Theory and method – Discourse analysis
Discourse Analysis as a field of study is concerned with meaning that is drawn from the context of a given linguistic element. Discourse analysis is a multi-disciplinary science that has been approached by scientists from many fields such as sociolinguistics, psychology, psycholiguistics, communication studies, translation studies and social sciences. In this thesis the Discourse analytic approach of James Paul Gee is adopted. In the following I will outline Gee’s theory and its application to the study at hand.
The theoretical frame work and methodology of this study follow the guidelines of James Paul Gee’s An Introduction to Discourse Analysis: Theory and Method (2001). Due to lack of resources, this thesis is not written after Gee’s second revised version of the book that came out in 2011.
In the following, three things will be exposited. Firstly, a set of terms important to the theory will be briefly explained. Secondly, the core of the theory consisting of six building tasks will be discussed. The building tasks will be visited after defining important terms. Thirdly and finally, for methodological purposes four categories have been suggested for assessing the validity of a conducted discourse analysis. In the following section important terms for understanding the theory will be explained. The terms are:
- · social languages
- · situated identities
- · D/discourse.
In the theory the terms social languages (Gee 1996, Bakhtin 1986) and situated identities go together. Gee observes that a person taking part in a formal dinner party projects a very different situated identity than they do around family dinner (2001:13). The person does not change but the image projected changes. At a formal dinner it might be appropriate to address people by their titles whereas around a family dinner no addressing is perhaps needed. The spoken component a person uses to portray their situated identity is called social language.
Central to Gee’s theory is the term D/discourse. Discourse has a two-fold definition. There is Discourse with a capital D and there is discourse with a lower case d. Discourse with a capital D is the way an identity is carried out not only verbally but also non-verbally. Gee writes: “The key to Discourse is ‘recognition’” (2001: 18). What are the verbal and non-verbal elements that it takes for one to be recognized as for example a genuine Sikh woman or Los Angeles Latino gang member? Those elements are called Discourse. When the word discourse with the lower case d is used it means that a segment, large or small, is separated for observation. One of the goals of this study is to find out whether the Death Tape as a discourse could be considered to contain the elements of a larger Discourse. In other words, what kind of world of values, actions and communication does the Death Tape portray?
In this section the core of the theory will be introduced. Gee starts his account by observing that by the means of language we create worlds of meaning. He illustrates this by the age old question, which came first: the egg or the chicken (Gee 2001: 11)? Is a committee meeting called a committee meeting because certain kinds of discourse takes place? We might argue that if the mode of communication was a monologue or if people were quiet and no one interacted, we could not call the meeting a committee meeting. A certain way of interacting is expected in committee meetings. Or is it rather so that discourses are born to facilitate certain kind of functions such as committee meetings? Gee does not find it relevant to answer the question except to observe that language and different kind of tasks or activities intertwine. Because activities and language are so inseparable, by studying the language a lot can be learned for example of the activity, relationships involved, values behind the activity and the distribution of social goods.
3.2 Building tasks
Gee’s theory comprises of six building tasks. They are named building tasks because Gee observes that a speaker always builds a host of meanings around the act of discourse. A speaker invariably reveals something about his beliefs, social status, relationships and activities. Gee (2001:12) has boiled down his theory into the following task. Each of the tasks will be briefly explained.
- 1. Semiotic building
- 2. World building
- 3. Activity building
- 4. Socioculturally-situated identity and relationship building
- 5. Political building
- 6. Connection building
The abovementioned building tasks are not as much a strict form to be followed in conducting discourse analysis as they are tools of inquiry. Depending on the text, different tools of inquiry may be more useful than others. The question that a discourse analyst asks is what does the text tell about different things that are not explicitly in the text but can be seen between the lines. For example on the Death Tape Jim Jones calls himself a prophet. Immediately by that word choice he has revealed many things. The word choice calls for judgment that has definite implications for the power structure of the event (task number 4). If the recipient agrees that this man is a prophet then certain authority is admitted. Simultaneously, the word choice tells something about the activity that is taking place (task number 3). It shows that perhaps something religious is happening. While something religious is taking place it is already possible to suggest something about the value systems that are prevalent in the situation (task number 2). By observing similar cues a lot can be learned of the world that is created in the discourse.
Before expounding on the building tasks a definition of purpose may be due. Gee (2001:8) says:
Finally, let me say that in D/discourse analysis we are not interested in specific analyses of data just in and for themselves. A D/discourse analysis must have a point. We are not interested in simply describing data so that we can admire the intricacy of language, though this is, indeed, admirable. Rather we are interested beyond description, in two things: illuminating and gaining evidence for our theory of domain, a theory that helps to explain how and why language works the way it does when it is put in action; and contributing, in terms of understanding and intervention, to important issues and problems in some “applied” area (e.g. Education) that interests and motivates the researcher.
Gee suggests that the theory can be used for understanding why language works the way it does in a given situation. Additionally, he suggests that understanding may be gained in an “applied” area. The purpose of this study is to gain understanding on the manipulative use of language. The study works from the presumption that Jim Jones’ speech recorded on the Death Tape was a manipulative speech and the death resulting from the speech were due to years of manipulation. Opposing views exist but they are here discarded as conspiracy theories (Judge 1985). The goal of this discourse analysis is to formulate some key characteristics of manipulative language.
The first building task described here is the Semiotic building task. Oxford English Dictionary defines semiotic in the following way: “late 19th century: from Greek s?meiotikos ‘of signs,’ from s?meioun ‘interpret as a sign’.” In building a meaning we use various systems of signs, spoken language being the obvious one. Besides spoken language meaning is carried by for example the systems of facial expressions and gestures. A simple sentence such as “Good morning” will be understood in different ways depending on the tone of the voice or gestures accompanying the words. The matter of interest within this building task is the study of what systems of signs are relevant in creating the message in discourse (Gee 2001: 12, 85).
The second building task is called the World building task. The key question in this building task is to ask what values are conveyed by the word choices and what is real (or unreal) to the speaker in the situation. On the Death Tape, for example, Jones constantly makes references to death and peace almost interchangeably. By this word choice Jones elevates the ideal of peace above the ideal of life. Some other questions might be: What is the speaker’s evaluation of the surrounding world? How does the situation relate to future and past? What kind of world of modalities is created by the speaker? What is probable, inevitable, possible, impossible, real or unreal? (Gee 2001: 12, 86).
The third building task is called the Activity building task. The question with this building task is to find out what kind of action is taking place. This might be on the macro-level of knowing what kind of physical activities are situated in the context but a point of interest may also be just being. The question that may be asked in the context of activity building task is, what kind of intentions are displayed by discourse. What kind of activities or agendas can be deduced from these activities? (Gee 2001: 12, 86).
The fourth building task is called the Socioculturally-situated identity and relationship building task. In other words, discourse reveals something about the kinds of relationships that are involved in the situation. Jones appears on the Death Tape as a prophet and as a leader. That reveals something about the kind of relationship structure that can be perceived in the situation. Interestingly enough, though Jones exudes authority in every turn he still uses the pronoun we frequently as well as many grammatical structures which identify him as part of the group, or rather the group being part of himself. Also this building task is a tool of enquiry for noticing different emotions, attachments and commitments that are relevant to the situation (Gee 2001: 12, 86).
The fifth building task is called the Political building task. In the context of this building task we might ask what kind of distribution of social goods is relevant. Depending on the context, social goods can mean any number of things such as money, power, esteem, resources etc. This building task is the part of the theory which incorporates the widely researched topic of power and power structures as they are expressed in language. Some of the relevant questions regarding this building task are: How does gender, race, power, status or resources affect the situation? Are those things relevant? In what way are they relevant? What shows that they are relevant or that they are not? (Gee 2001: 12, 86).
The sixth building task is called the Connection building task. Important questions in the context of this tool of enquiry are how the situation relates to past and future and what additional meanings that might add. Language also shows connectedness not only to time but to other ideas, people, and texts. The study of intertextuality is a part of this building task. Also a matter interest within this building task is how the discourse itself connects. What kind of coherence is there in the discourse? (Gee 2001: 12, 86).
According to Gee these building tasks are not comprehensive in the sense that a step by step procedure could be followed into perfect discourse analysis. Rather the different building tasks serve as tools with which to operate. Some of the tools may be more useful than others. In this study the data was carefully read through and analyzed through the lens of each of these building tasks. Key situated meanings are reported in the analysis section. In the discussion section an attempt has been made to identify the Discourse that Jones uses and observations have been made about manipulative language. In the discussion section the validity of the research is also discussed by using four principles that have been listed in Gee’s methodology. The principles are introduced in the following.
The nature of discourse analysis is that it is not an exact science. Two different analyses might not arrive at the same conclusions even if the methodology and the data are the same. According to Gee this is not to say that discourse analysis would be subjective. In order to evaluate the validity of discourse analysis these four principles are applied:
- (1) Convergence
- (2) Agreement
- (3) Coverage
- (4) Linguistic details
The principle of convergence suggests that to a degree the validity of an analysis can be accredited based on how many categories support similar conclusions. Many of the building tasks overlap. Any observation made from the data based on just a single building task may be just a stray shot, but if the observation can be supported by many different building tasks there is convergence. For example in my data the theme of lying is present at least in the activity and the world building tasks.
Furthermore, a degree of validity is lent by agreement. The more “native speakers” and other analysts agree on the observations made, the more trustworthy the analysis. By native speaker Gee refers to a person who knows a given discourse by experience. In this case a native speaker might be considered someone who is familiar with Peoples Temple discourse.
Validity can also be seen in how the analysis relates to what has been analyzed before and how the conclusions can be related to other similar data. This principle is called coverage. To determine the validity of the analysis any discoveries should be relatable to other studies conducted concerning the Death Tape and Peoples Temple. In addition, any discoveries should be relatable to other manipulative discourses.
Lastly and most importantly, the validity of an analysis depends greatly upon the amount of linguistic detail that is presented in order to support the conclusions. A danger in studying this kind of data is that it is very interesting and the temptation is to jump into conclusions without sufficient linguistic evidence. The validity of discourse analysis is largely based on the amount of linguistic evidence presented in support of the conclusions.
Before the analysis section a brief explanation on what has been discussed above is due. James Paul Gee’s theory of discourse analysis is based on six building tasks which serve as tools of enquiry. Some of the tools are more helpful than others based on the data. The semiotic building task appears to be less important in this study. Only one observation is made based on the semiotic building task. In this study the data is approached by observing it through the lens of these six building tasks. The observations are brought together in the discussion section of this study and they are then subjected to the validity test, drawing on the four principles. The research question of this study is: What can be learned about manipulative use of language from Jim Jones’ Death Tape by using discourse analysis?
The speech can be divided into four sections based on the contents. There is an introduction, a line of argumentation, a time of settling and finally a strong urging for action. The McGehee transcript did not have any system of reference wherefore a verse system was adopted. I divided the transcript into verses in such a way that each segment of dialogue was marked with running numbering. There are 187 verses in the speech. By indicating the verse it is easier to understand how far into the speech a given part of dialogue is. In the following is a brief overview to each section of the speech.
In the first section, running through verses 1-11, Jones makes a case that the existence of the movement has reached the stage where it is impossible for them to reach the peace they had been pursuing all along. The main activity that takes place at this section is Jones informing and introducing a plan of action. What had happened just prior to the speech was that about 20 members of the movement had left the area of Jonestown with Congressman Leo Ryan’s delegation. The delegation was ambushed by men sent by Jones around the same time as the speech started back at the pavilion in Jonestown (Reiterman & Jacobs 2008: 565). That ambush and the following deaths was the main argument that Jones used in making his address to the movement. In the first section of the speech Jones announces that the people who had defected were going to get killed and therefore they would need to either endure hostility from enemy forces or then they could commit what he called a revolutionary suicide. The section ends with an encouragement: “Anybody. Anyone that has any dissenting opinion, please speak” (Q042: 9).
The second section of the speech runs through verses 12–118 and it is the longest section in the speech. In this section Christine Miller, a strong willed individual in the movement stands up to question whether suicide is the reasonable solution at this point. Miller presents altogether six arguments against the idea of suicide. Each of the arguments is countered by an argument from either Jones or someone in the congregation.
In the third section (119–131) the main activity that can be seen is Jones being praised. In this section Jones is more passive and he is rather in a responsive role than in a leading role. The audience is doing most of the speaking. Few people stand up to agree with Jones in that the chosen course action is the correct one. This section can be seen as a section where most of the ground work for Jones’ agenda has already been done and the information is sinking in with the people. The section is fairly short and it is paused by an apparent gap in the tape. It is a short period of calm before the last crescendo of the last section.
In the last section (132–187) the main activity is that of urging and hurrying. At this point the suicides have already started as can be deduced from the content of the tape. There is crying at the background and much of what Jones speaks is directions so that the children should be given the poison first so that the adults could continue. Jones encourages the parents to calm down their children.
4.1 Jones’ world
The first building task that is going to be examined here is the world building task. A speaker always conveys a set of values in discourse. Word choices reveal what the speaker thinks is real or unreal, true or false, good or evil. There are two main characteristics about the world that Jones creates in his speech. Firstly, it seems as if Jones wants to convey a world that is very hostile towards the movement. He uses strong words such as betrayal and treason. Furthermore, he suggests that the enemy wants to come and murder the children in the movement wherefore it would be better for the movement to choose their own kind of death in committing suicide. Secondly, in the world that Jones creates everything seems to be inevitable. The modalities that he uses in his speech are very definite and sure. The impression that he creates is that the movement would not be able to survive because of the circumstances, wherefore it would be commendable for the people to end their lives by themselves. In the following these two characteristics will be discussed after which a suggestion is made as to how these characteristics might relate to manipulation.
4.1.1 The hostility of the world
The world that Jones portrays in his speech is one of hostility. The idea of hostility seems to base on the threat to the ideal of peace. In the speech the ideal of peace is challenged by treacherous outsiders, some of whom had been part of the movement in the past and some of whom have taken a step against Peoples Temple on the initiative of the defectors. All throughout the text there is a strong sense of an us versus them mentality. Only on few however occasions are the aggressors identified. The ambiguity regarding the identity of the aggressors could have been due to Jones’ paranoia of enemies. Frequent testimonies have been given by ex-Temple members that attest to Jones having become more and more paranoid about espionage (Nelson 2006). Jones’ description of the surrounding world serves the purpose of taking urgent action in the speech. At the end of the speech there are numerous pleas for reacting against the inhumane world. The last words recorded from Jim Jones were: “Take our life from us. We laid it down. We got tired. We didn’t commit suicide, we committed an act of revolutionary suicide protesting the conditions of an inhumane world” (Q042: 187).
I purpose to show how the ideas of peace and death are linked with the themes of treachery and lying. The definition for peace seems to be two-folded in Jones’ discourse. The primary definition of peace in Jones’ discourse seems to be freedom from hostile influences and forces. In the speech however the ideal of peace is re-defined. Jones’ argument is that because it is not possible for the movement to acquire their freedom from hostile forces in life, therefore they should get their freedom from oppression in death. In the following the textual evidence is given to support this interpretation.
The themes of treachery, treason and lying are constantly present in the speech. The speech begins with the notion: “How very much I’ve tried my best to give you a good life. But in spite of all of my trying a handful of our people, with their lies, have made our lives impossible” (Q042: 1). The theme of treachery continues in the introduction of the speech: “The world– the kingdom suffereth violence and the violent shall take it by force. If we can’t live in peace, then let’s die in peace” (Q042: 5). This verse is the key passage where the concepts of hostility and the absence of peace are united with the suggestion of suicide. In this passage can be seen the two-fold definition of peace. Jones presents the idea of peace in the light where ideally it would have been good if they could have been in peace in life but in the re-definition the ideal of peace is promoted higher than life itself.
A second passage where death and peace are strikingly united is in the second section of the speech where Jones is dealing with the dissenting opinions of Christine Miller. Miller expresses that she thinks that despite the circumstances the children of the movement would deserve to live. Jones again connects the ideal of peace with death: “I– I agree. But they– But don’t they also they deserve much more, they deserve peace” (Q042: 55). In Jones’ discourse the ideal of peace is promoted higher than life itself providing a pretense for mass suicide. In successfully creating such a connection without being contested, Jones accomplishes establishing a pretense under which every form of hostility can be interpreted as justification for suicide.
In the speech, almost every reference to peace is synonymous with death. Other synonyms used for death are sleep and rest. For example at the very end of the speech Jones says: “All they’re doing is– All they do is taking a drink. They take it to go to sleep. That’s what death is, sleep. (Tape edit)– of it. I’m tired of it all” (Q042: 182). The word rest is used as a synonym for death in verse 154: “Somebody give them a little rest, a little rest.” Jones redefines death to mean something positive. All throughout the speech the connotations related to death are always positive and desirable.
At the end of the speech Jones’ definition of peace has clearly been adopted by the congregation or at least members of the congregation. Towards the end of the speech an unidentified male stands up and says: “Hate and treachery. I think you people out here should think about how your relatives were and be glad about that the children are being laid to rest. And all I’d like to say is that I thank Dad for making me strong to stand with it all and make me ready for it. Thank you” (Q042: 181). This comment shows the years of conditioning to the hostility of the world. The speaker has a clear animosity towards relatives. He urges his hearers to remember what their relatives were like and therefore to be glad that the children are dead – by implication – rather than in the hands of the relatives. Lying is highlighted as the reason for the movement not being able to attain the ideal of peace except in death.
It is interesting to consider the notion of treachery and that being the great reason for proceeding to suicide. For one, what exactly was treacherous and lying is never specified in the speech. Rather, it seems to be an emotional response to people defecting from the movement. In essence, what is communicated is that what had been breached were the trust of the movement and the trust of individuals. What is interesting about this is that many accounts attest to the custom that individuals in the movement were not to trust anyone except for Jim Jones. Members were always to report on each other’s treasonous thoughts or any signs of doubt in Jim Jones (Nelson 2006). It seems as if the greatest sin within the movement was treason and therefore it made sense for Jones to draw upon that reasoning when showing that their ideal of peace was being threatened. This goes on to show the reason why the effect of the speech has to be seen in the context of the movement’s background. Jones could hardly have created as strong an appeal without the background of many years talk of treason.
In the world of hostility that Jones creates in his speech the unity between death and treachery is an important theme. Another central theme that can be traced throughout the whole speech is in depicting the world as something that wants to hurt the children of the movement. The hostility of the world in Jones’ discourse is personified in children. The occasions of Jones talking about the aggressors being evil towards their children are numerous. Only seldom however does he identify the aggressors. Nevertheless, Jones does frequently note what the aggressors would do in the case the movement did not commit the revolutionary suicide.
As with many common themes in the speech the theme of children being the primary object of inevitable future aggression begins in the introductory section of the speech. Already in verse 10 Jones says: “–And we had better not have any of our children left when it’s over because they’ll parachute in here on us.” The same idea is repeated about half way through the speech as Jones argues with Christine Miller: “–But when they start parachuting out of the air, they’ll shoot some of our innocent babies. I’m not lying– I don’t wanna (inaudible). But they gotta shoot me to get through to some of these people. I’m not letting them take your child. Can you let them take your child?” (Q042: 96) Perhaps the clearest linkage between the reason for dying being rooted in the supposed welfare of the children is found in verse 135: “Don’t be afraid to die. You’ll see, there’ll be a few people land out here. They’ll torture some of our children here. They’ll torture our people. They’ll torture our seniors. We cannot have this.”
Linking death as a better solution for the children than being left in the hands of the so-called aggressors suggests at least two things. Firstly, it suggests that children could only be safe within the confines of the movement. This attitude seems to have been adopted within the movement judging by the following statement made at the end of the speech by an unknown male: “Because, like Dad said, when they come in, what they’re gonna do to our children– they’re gonna massacre our children. And also the ones that they take capture, they’re gonna just let them grow up and be dummies like they want them to be. And not grow up to be a person like the one and only Jim Jones” (Q042: 166). The speaker suggests that in the outside world people grow to be “dummies” whereas within the movement one could grow up to be like Jim Jones. Secondly, the message is a very strong message concerning the surrounding world and its hostility. There is hardly a more hostile picture concerning someone than that they are willing to harm children.
I would go on further to suggest that Jones made a successful choice for accomplishing his agenda in connecting the need for death to the children. A theme that seemed to go through the whole history of the movement was that Jones required ever greater signs of commitment to the common cause. The order in committing the suicides was that the parents were first to help their children to digest the poison. If Jones was able to convince the parents to murder their children, the parents would hardly keep back from taking their own lives as well.
4.1.2 Circumstances and inevitability
The second characteristic of the world that Jones creates in his speech is that of inevitability and circumstances that cannot be overcome. In verse 124 Jones says: “(Unintelligible)– to do, but stop that way. It’s the only way to step. (Microphone off briefly, unintelligible word) But that choice is not ours now. It’s out of our hands.” (Q042: 152). There are several different occasions in the speech where Jones underlines the fact that he is a victim of the circumstances and that death is the inevitable solution. Initially Jones distances himself from all the responsibility that arguably was his. In the speech there seems to be a whole thread of argumentation based on inevitability. First, Jones says that there is no way for him to control what would happen concerning the death of the congressman. After that he speaks of the inevitability of armed forces entering in Jonestown. He suggests that there is no way that the movement could survive or protect itself. At the end of the argument with Christine Miller, Jones states that their suicide is the will of a Supreme Being. Lastly, towards the end of the speech there are two notions that at this point it would be too late to turn back. At this point apparently many of the children were already dead.
Like most of the important themes in the speech, also the theme of inevitability is introduced in the first section of the speech: “How very much I’ve tried my best to give you a good life. But in spite of all of my trying a handful of our people, with their lies, have made our lives impossible. There’s no way to detach ourselves from what’s happened today” (Q042: 1). It is followed by the notion that Jones was not able to do anything about the people that were going to kill the congressman and were at the moment of the speech following him to the Kaituma airstrip: “But it’s too late. I can’t control these people. They’re out there. They’ve gone with the guns. And it’s too late” (Q042: 13). Jones distances himself from the responsibility concerning Leo Ryan’s death.
Furthermore, Jones continues on to speak about the inevitability of armed forces entering in, torturing and killing. “And we had better not have any of our children left when it’s over because they’ll parachute in here on us” (Q042: 10). Later on in verse 135 Jones says: “Don’t be afraid to die. You’ll see, there’ll be a few people land out here. They’ll torture some of our children here. They’ll torture our people. They’ll torture our seniors. We cannot have this.” As Jones speaks, though it seems he has orchestrated all the events he shows himself as a feeble, passive victim who is only acting in the only perceived rational way under the circumstances of inevitability. He says in essence that he has no authority over the people who had gone to kill the congressman. He also adds that he doesn’t have authority over armed forces parachuting to Jonestown. However, neither of these statements was true. There were no armed forces. The only reason why his followers thought there were was because he had been telling them so for a long time in his propaganda (Nelson 2006). Furthermore, Jones was the supreme ruler in the movement and could have very well stopped the people in the movement from killing the congressman.
In the argument of inevitability there is a yet another facet that Jones makes part of the world he creates in his speech. At the end of his argument with Christine Miller, Jones states that there was also a divine will behind the “revolutionary suicide”: “Some months I’ve tried to keep this thing from happening. But I now see it’s the will– it’s the will of Sovereign Being that this happen to us. That we lay down our lives to protest against what’s being done. That we lay down our lives to protest at what’s being done. The criminality of people. The cruelty of people” (Q042: 111). While denying his own responsibility in the course of events and claiming the role of a victim, Jones goes further in claiming it divine responsibility for them to continue on with the plan of suicide. This is interesting in the sense that Jones himself claimed to be an atheist (Q622). Yet he knew that many of his followers came from a religious background. This kind of comment seems to serve the authority of Jones’ message.
Lastly, at the end of the speech when the suicides have seemingly already started, Jones many times repeats the idea of point of no return. “It’s all over. The congressman has been murdered. Well, it’s all over, all over. What a legacy, what a legacy” (Q042: 130). The same idea is reiterated again in verse 139: “I don’t know how in the world they’re ever going to write about us. It’s just too late. It’s too late. The congressman’s dead. The congressman lays dead. Many of our traitors are dead. They’re all layin’ out there dead.” There is a further reiteration in verse 152: “It’s the only way to step. That choice is not ours now. It’s out of our hands.”
To conclude, in the world that Jones creates there are two characteristics that seem to be present all the way through the speech. First one of them is the idea of hostility. A great setting of us versus them mentality is created. Almost in every instance he marks the people who are not inside the movement with negative connotations. Jones speaks of treachery and torture and lying. The second great characteristic in the speech is the idea of inevitability. All along through the history of the movement Jones had appeared as a messiah type of figure who was able to deliver his people from ailments and broken lives. Yet, at the final hour of the movement Jones claims total inability to do anything else but to lead his people to death.
Jones makes two definitions about the world that he builds in his speech. One of the definitions is concerning the world outside of the movement and the other concerning the world inside the movement. The world outside of the movement is defined as hostile. Jones accomplishes this by elaborating on the themes of peace and death, treachery and lying; aggression towards children. The world inside the movement is defined in terms of inevitability. Jones defines a significant amount of things in exacts and absolutes. According to Jones there is no way for the movement to survive wherefore it is their responsibility to take action and commit “revolutionary suicide.” That is the kind of world that Jones creates in his speech.
4.2 The acts of the Apostate
A key question with the activity building task is to learn what kind of intentions and agendas are present in discourse. In the following is an attempt to delve into the discourse of manipulative language through the study of intentions and agendas as they are displayed in the activities. There are at least five different activities on the Death Tape that can be considered manipulative. The activities are listed below and consequently each of them will be visited in more detail.
- · Lying
- · Rationalization
- · Minimalization
- · Playing the victim
- · Projecting the blame
The first activity that can be seen on the Death Tape is the theme of lying. The theme of lying is present throughout the speech in three ways. Firstly, Jones constantly accuses his opposition of lying and treachery. Secondly, he declares that he himself is not lying and has never lied to his people. Thirdly, he is knowingly constructing a distorted version of the truth. In short, one of the activities in the speech is the activity of lying and having different opinions about the truth of events. The theme is handled in greater detail in the world building task section of this thesis wherefore it is not needful to delve into it here.
Jones behaves shrewdly at the end of the first section of the speech. After proposing that they should commit the revolutionary act of suicide he asks if anyone has any dissenting opinions. “So my opinion is that you be kind to children and be kind to seniors and take the potion like they used to take in ancient Greece and step over quietly because we are not committing suicide; it’s a revolutionary act.… Anybody. Anyone that has any dissenting opinion, please speak” (Q042: 11). Jones knowing that “revolutionary suicide” was not something that could be carried out easily, calls out for an argumentation to take place so that any life preserving thoughts might be rationalized away. Knowing that people would have fears and arguments against the “revolutionary suicide”, Jones shrewdly calls any of those thoughts to be voiced so that they could be dealt with openly. Rationalizing is the second activity that is definitely present throughout the speech.
There are at least three different acts of rationalization in the speech. The first rationale for suicide is that when the airplane carrying Leo Ryan would be shot down, enemy forces would parachute into Jonestown and kill all the children in the movement and torture the seniors (Q042: 10, 135). The argument then is that it would be better for the movement to choose their own kind of death rather than fall into the hands of enemy forces. Years of conditioning to the idea of imminent hostility had created a basis where this rationale was evidently accepted.
The second rationale has to do with the idea of peace. After Jones asks for dissenting opinions, Christine Miller stands up to voice opposition against Jones’ proposed plan. The dialogue between Miller and Jones is the lengthiest section of the speech. Miller starts the section by asking whether there might be an alternative to dying. She asks whether they might still be able to flee to Russia as had been discussed earlier. Jones however obscures the conversation by mixing the idea of airlifting by plane and the plane that he knew would be shot down. This leaves a confusion as to what plane is being discussed. This first argument is in verses 12–53. It seems like Miller initially tried to change the course of action by offering an alternative in order to not go directly against the leader. In verse 54 however it seems that she finally voices her greatest concern: “But, ah, I look about at the babies and I think they deserve to live, you know.” As a counter-argument Jones creates an ideal that Miller is not able to refute. In verse 55 Jones says: “I agree. But also they deserve much more; they deserve peace.” What follows is a discussion that concludes with the idea that because of all the hostility around the movement there was no peace for them in the world. Thus Miller’s argument is shut down.
The third argument that Miller makes is also rationalized away. This time however the rationale comes from Jim McElvane who was Jones’ assistant pastor. The sense of the audio is easier to understand if a longer section of the dialogue is shown here.
71) Miller: I well know that. But I still think, as an individual, I have a right to–
72) Jones: You do, and I’m listening.
73) Miller:– to say what I think, what I feel. And I think we all have a right to our own destiny as individuals.
74) Jones: Right.
75) Miller: And I think I have a right to choose mine, and everybody else has a right to choose theirs.
76) Jones: Mmm-hmm.
77) Miller: You know?
78) Jones: Mmm-hmm. I’m not criticizing (unintelligible)– What’s that?
Unintelligible woman’s voice
79) Jones: That’s today. That’s what 20 people said today. We’re alive.
80) Miller: Well, I think I still have a right to my own opinion.
81) Jones: I– I’m not taking it from you. I’m not taking it from you.
82) McElvane: Christine, you’re only standing here because he was here in the first place. So I don’t know what you’re talking about, having an individual life. Your life has been extended to the day that you’re standing there, because of him.
As can be noticed, Jones cuts off Miller’s thought. It is not plainly evident from the style of transcription but Jones almost speaks over Miller. He seemingly gives value to Miller’s argument of individuality. It seems as if Miller is trying to make the case that she should be allowed to make her own decision concerning her death without the pressure of the community. It seems however that Jones’ feedback discourages her from developing her thought further and Miller never gets to the bottom of her argument. Where Jones does not take a stance on Miller’s developing argument he remains silent when McElvane steps in to rationalize down the idea that Miller was an individual. The argument then is that she owes her life to Jim Jones in the first place and therefore the idea of her individuality is superfluous.
A third activity that seems to be present in the speech is the activity of minimalization. The whole speech seems to abound in thoughts that make death seem like a marginal thing. Minimalization seems to largely happen by the means of re-definition. The main subject of minimalization is the subject of death.
In the speech many names are given to death and suicide. In verse 10 Jones says that the movement is not committing suicide but that everyone present was committing a revolutionary act: “So my opinion is that you be kind to children and be kind to seniors and take the potion like they used to take in ancient Greece and step over quietly because we are not committing suicide; it’s a revolutionary act.” Jones speaks of death being kind to their seniors and something peaceful. This is in stark contrast with one of the descriptions that a Jonestown survivor gave of the incident. Tim Carter says that he saw his child and wife throbbing in the mouth as a result of cyanide poisoning (Nelson 2006). The death that the movement members suffered was hardly peaceful or kind. Another term used for the suicide used in the speech is stepping over to peace or making a peace (Q042: 54, 172). Already in the argument with Miller Jones speaks of the children deserving peace. In Jones’ discourse death not only seems to be linked with peace but in the speech death is re-defined as peace.
While the dreadfulness of death itself is minimized throughout the speech, also the experience of facing death is re-defined in the speech through exhortations. The word cyanide or poison is never mentioned in the speech, instead Jones speaks of medication (Q042: 133, 147). In addition, Jones calls death a friend: “It’s not to be afeared. It is not to be feared. It is a friend. It’s a friend … sitting there, show your love for one another. Let’s get gone” (Q042: 168). Furthermore Jim McElvane offers comforting words telling that stepping over is a good feeling and that in the next life one who was cripple in this life would be whole again in the next (Q042: 151–155).
Two activities can be deducted already from what was discussed in the world building task – namely, projecting of blame and playing the victim. These two activities are not discussed here at length because of more extensive handling in the previous section. Rather, they are mentioned here for the record. As was discussed earlier, Jones describes the surrounding world in terms of hostility and inevitability. Describing the surrounding world in these terms serves Jones’ agenda in that it shifts blame from him to others. It serves to create the message that he is not the one with an agenda but he is rather merely reacting to the circumstances. As he reacts, he also creates the activity of playing the victim.
4.3 Defining relationships: The Messiah
Gee’s relationship building task is a useful tool of enquiry. In studying discourse valuable information can be deduced from the study of relationship structures. Central to Gee’s discourse analysis is the term situated identity. A person may behave very differently based on the situational identity assumed. For example a college student may speak very differently concerning their studies depending on the situation. When talking with other students, a person might complain about the workload of a certain course. In doing so the student assumes the role of a burdened student and perhaps receives affirmation for the feelings concerning mundane study routine. When talking about the workload with his parents, the student might still talk about the same workload, but this time not complaining about it. The circumstances haven’t changed, but now the student appears as a diligent student who keeps on working despite the hard work load and the parents are happy.
The core finding resulting from the analysis of the relationship building task is that Jones’ reasoning for the revolutionary suicide required the definition of situational identities. In the speech Jones in a subtle, and at times less subtle, ways defines the situational identity of each group. There is the world that is hostile towards the movement. A man called Ujara (Don Sly) and the Red Brigade, the movement’s security team, are defined as having committed a crime against that hostile world, namely the murder of Congressman Leo Ryan. In the center of it all is Jim Jones in the role of a messiah or a propitiatory offering. Jones refuses to detach himself from the sins and therefore concludes that he has to die with his people. Finally, many times in the speech Jones urges the people that they could not detach themselves from Jones without whom there is no meaning to life. Thus defining the identity of everyone in the group has a purpose in Jones’ agenda. In the following each of these situational identities are taken into consideration.
The key concept of relationships that Jim Jones conveys throughout the whole message is that there is no way to detach from what has happened, namely the killing of the congressman. The first mention is already in verse 3. In the beginning part of the speech Jones tells the congregation that now since the congressman would soon be dead that would be no way for them to survive, that there would be vengeance exacted against them and therefore it was best for them to commit the revolutionary act of suicide. In explaining the situation he also mentions that “it all almost happened here” (Q042: 5). Right before Leo Ryan left the Jonestown Agricultural Project a Peoples Temple member named Don Sly, also known as Ujara, had attempted to stab Leo Ryan (Nelson 2006; McGehee 2001). After saying that the congressman almost died in Jonestown he ventures on to explain that the plane that the congressman was going to be on was going to fall from the sky as a result of someone in the Red Brigade shooting the pilot (Q042: 10). Because of this, it could be expected that hostile forces would start parachuting on site at any minute. What is created in the beginning of the speech is a relationship between the movement and the world. The hostile world is seen as a debtor that the movement has to pay. The expectation was that the seniors and the children of the movement would soon be tortured and killed, because the congressman was soon going to be dead.
The situational identity that Jones creates for himself is that of a messiah-like figure that takes upon himself the blame for the sins of his people. After giving the report on the situation and the instruction on how they would proceed, Jones asks for dissenting opinions. Christine Miller steps up to ask whether it would be possible for the movement to move to Russia. Jones’ answer is that it would not have been too late for Russia if some people in the movement had not started to kill. Jones uses this as a chance to make a case for his messiahship. Jones assumes an argument asking whether the guilty should not be delivered to justice. Jones responds that he could not detach himself from identifying with his people and as far as he is concerned he is the one doing the killing.
The personification of Jones’ saving dynamic is the man named Ujara on the tape. Jones says in verse 13: “They said deliver up Ujara, who tried to get the man back here. Ujara, whose wi– mother’s been lying on him and lying on him and trying to break up this family. And they’ve all agreed to kill us by any means necessary. You think I’m going to deliver them Ujara? Not on your life.” The situational identity given to Ujara is that of a sinner needing a savior. After Jones’ initial defense of Ujara, Ujara himself asks whether it would be helpful if he gave himself up (Q042:16)? The question is met by the crowd shouting, No! Jones responds in verse 19 by saying: “You’re not going. I can’t live that way. I cannot live that way. (More emphatic) I’ve lived with– for all, and I’ll die for all.” In this verse Jones further takes that place of an atoning offering.
Jones defines the role of the congregation as being part of him. The definition is given in verses 47 and 49: “–I’m going to tell you, Christine, without me, life has no meaning.– I’m the best thing you’ll ever have. I want, want, I have to pay– I’m standing with Ujara. I’m standing with those people. They’re part of me. I could detach myself. I really could detach myself. No, no, no, no, no, no. I never detach myself from any of your troubles.” In these verses Jones defines the congregation as being part of himself. In a subtle way a reason is given why they all should die. The reason is that Jim Jones is going to die in the stead of Ujara and the whole congregation being a part of him is to die with him. If Jim Jones was going to die an individual person in the congregation did not have a meaning left to their life. The key is that the congregation is not given any situational identity apart from Jim Jones, wherefore there was no denying whatever he would command.
In defining the congregation, or rather in stripping the congregation of their individual identity Jones uses a tactic that he had been accustomed to using. He creates division within the group. At the very end of the argument with Christine Miller Jones makes the point that most of the people that left earlier during the day were white people. Jones’ notion serves to point out at the injustice of the world that the blacks had suffered throughout the centuries. Moore (2005) points out of that 68% of the population in Jonestown were black. The effect of this notion can be seen later on in the speech where one of the members steps up to speak: “It broke my heart, to think that all of this year the white people had been with us, and they’re not a part of us. So we might as well end it now because I don’t see–” (Q042: 129). It seems as if this notion creates a dynamic where the black population wants to identify with Jones when he points out that it is white people that had left, the inference being that black people had not. At the same time the effect is that the white people want to show their identification with Jones by staying. By staying they would communicate that they did not want to be identified with the white defectors but they rather wanted to identify with Jones.
The results of the speech show that most of the people indeed did assume the situational identities as were defined by Jones. Besides the fact that 909 people ended up dying as a result of the mass suicide there is an interesting indication of people assuming their identity after verse 151. In the verse an assistant pastor, Jim McElvane stands up and tells of his past experiences as a therapist where he had been able to lead people through their past reincarnations all the way through the death. He describes death as being something peaceful in all of these experiences. In giving the short speech, he is the first one in the speech to address Jim Jones as the Father. Interestingly enough, in every single address until the end of the speech people stand up to give their thanks to Jim Jones and they either address him as Father or as Dad. After this, there is no further argumentation as to whether the suicide would be committed or not. The speech ends in the string of praises given to Jones.
The relationship building task serves to show a manipulation tactic. Throughout the narrative of Peoples Temple there seems to be a theme of re-definition. Morals were re-defined as well as behavioral patterns. The speech serves to show that also there was a re-definition of identity. People ceased from being individuals but they were rather part of who Jim Jones was. In the speech there is the constant reminder that there was no way for one to detach themselves from the events that had taken place or from Jim Jones as a person. In the beginning of the speech Jones gives situated identities to the world, to Ujara, to the congregation and to himself. Throughout the speech these identities are argued, Christine Miller being the one voicing most of the arguments. She argues that they should rather move to Russia and that they were not right in killing innocent children and that she still should have had a choice as an individual to make her own choice. Each one of these arguments however was brought down either by Jones or one of his associates. At the end of the argument Miller says that she had nothing more to add. It is after this that McElvane invokes the name Father. In that name Father, everyone in essence accepted their identities as they had been defined and argued by Jones.
4.4 Jones: the point of reference
Intertextuality means that an additional world of association is brought into the discourse by referring to something that is outside of the context. In discourse analysis the study of intertextuality is important. It helps to understand what may be the sources where associations are drawn from and how a communicator positions him- or herself. With a reference to a source outside the immediate context additional meaning is brought in.
The Death Tape is not very rich in intertextuality. This serves to show that much of what Jim Jones communicated was in direct relationship to him. Often intertextuality in speech is used for establishing credibility. Jones however did not have the need for much of this. There are some three different sources that Jones refers to in his speech. The sources are Huey Newton’s term revolutionary suicide, the Bible and a movie called I will fight no more forever. Each of these sources are visited in the following and evaluated in their significance to Jones’ message.
The most important intertextual reference on the Death Tape is the term revolutionary suicide. The term is mentioned three times in the speech. The occurrences are in verses 51, 164 and 187. The term was coined by Huey P. Newton, a Black Power movement activist and the founder of the Black Panthers. Yates (2008) defines Newton’s idea of revolutionary suicide as follows: “For him, “revolutionary suicide” referred to the need for African-American people to stand up – even at the risk of their own lives – to fight against the oppression of racism and poverty, as well as the agents of that oppression, the police and the government.” The idea of a revolutionary suicide was that the blacks should stand, if necessary even in injurious circumstances against the oppression of the government and police even if it meant death. Fighting would be suicidal but at the same time revolutionary because there would be a time when blacks could be equal.
Jones’ usage of the term revolutionary suicide differs from Newton’s original idea. Newton had an idea of active resistance to oppression that would cause a certain death. Jones’ use of the term in contrast was that of an active actual suicide. Yates (2008) argues that Jones used Newton’s rhetoric in order to connect with his black audience. Jones however used Newton’s concept to further his own agenda instead of furthering the original idea that Newton had created. If Jones had followed Newton’s ideology, he would have fought whatever forces he envisioned attacking Jonestown.
The second item of intertextuality is a movie called I will fight no more forever (1975). The movie is situated in the late 19th century America in which General Howard sets to drive out Nez Perce Indians from the Wallowa Valley of Idaho. Chief Joseph of Nez Perce, while outnumbered, leads a 108-day fighting retreat before surrendering (IMDB). In arguing with Jones, Christine Miller says that when the movement would destroy itself they would be defeated (Q042: 63). Jones asks whether Miller had seen the movie and whether she did not take pride in the main character of the movie who would not subject himself to the will and whim of people (Q042: 66). Jones makes an emotional argument that does not address the question that Miller had posed. Miller continues in the domain of intertextuality that Jones had chosen and makes a further case for her argument. She states that in the movie a mistake was made where the Indians had stopped to rest but instead they should have continued. By this Miller suggests that the movement as well should continue and not stop at this point. The argument however is stopped by Jim McElvane intervening and insisting that they should make the day beautiful. Miller’s argument is thus shut down.
The significance of this intertextual item is that it seems to be one of the weaker points in Jones’ argumentation and rhetoric. It is used as an emotional decoy to take Miller’s argument off track. McElvane stops Miller’s argument and gives Jones the time to regather momentum for his speech. The fact that this intertextual reference is one of the weaker points in Jones’ rhetoric serves to show that Jones did not need to seek credibility from outside of his own person. One of the key passages of the whole speech is when Jones elevates himself into messianic status by saying that without him the life has no meaning (Q042: 36). Throughout the movement’s history, Jones had purposed to connect all of the people to himself. Based on this example, he had succeeded in his purpose very well and did not need exterior affirmations for his credibility.
The third source of intertextuality in the speech is the Bible. The first of the references is in verse 3 where Jones says: “It is said by the greatest of prophets from time immemorial: “No man may take my life from me; I lay my life down.” The biblical passage that Jones refers to is John 10:17–18: “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.”
The second reference is in verse 5: “You can’t take off with people’s children without expecting a violent reaction. And that’s not so unfamiliar to us either, if we– even if we were Judeo-Christian– if we weren’t Communists. The world– the kingdom suffereth violence and the violent shall take it by force. If we can’t live in peace, then let’s die in peace.” The biblical passage is from Matt. 11:12: “The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.”
The third reference is in verse 85: “Paul said, ‘I was a man born out of due season.’ I’ve been born out of due season, just like all we are, and the best testimony we can make is to leave this goddamn world.” The biblical reference is from I Cor. 15:8 “And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.”
Jones did not believe in the authority of the Bible. He had publicly said in the church that they did not need the Bible (Nelson 2006). He had systematically sought to point out the inconsistencies of the Bible to support his claims. There is one thing that is in common with each of these references. Each one of the references is followed by applause from the crowd. Rather than trying to verify his claims Jones is using the biblical quotations as punch lines for creating ethos in his rhetoric. Also it is worthy to note where in the speech these occurrences are. The first two occurrences are in the very beginning of the speech. In the beginning Jones gathers momentum for his speech and uses the biblical passages as punch lines. Many of the people in the movement had come from different denominations and were therefore able to recognize the quotes. The last one of these punch lines is at the very end of Jones’ argument with Christine Miller. After this applause people stir and it is difficult for Christine Miller to get her voice heard anymore. She says that when she tries to speak, the crowd gets hostile towards her. After the stirring of the crowd Miller speaks only once more and states that she has nothing more to say.
To summarize, on the Death tape there are three different intertextual references. The reference to Huey Newton’s concept of revolutionary suicide was something that Jones had used in gaining favor with the black part of his congregation. In time it had become the name for his fantasy. The second reference is to the movie I will fight no more forever. The reference is an emotional decoy for throwing Christine Miller off her argument. The reference however is one of the weaker links in Jones’ speech and serves as an example of how for the most part Jones did not need to establish credibility for his claims outside of his own authority. Thirdly, there are three references to the Bible. Jones uses biblical quotations as punch lines for creating momentum for his speech.
My estimation was that there is very little original material in the speech. What is meant by original is something that Jones had not said before. In order to verify my estimation I wrote the leading researcher of the Jonestown incident, Fielding McGehee III. McGehee’s response was very short: “I think that is right on point. Everything JJ said that day, he had said before.” This is to point out that while there is somewhat little overt intertextuality in the speech, at the same time everything that Jones said had a reference point in his previous speeches. The lack of intertextuality to other sources serves to prove that Jim Jones had established himself as the reference point.
4.5 The power of Jones
The final two building tasks are here coupled together under one section. The remaining tasks are the political building and the semiotic building task. In the political building task the object of interest is the distribution of social goods. Depending on the context, social goods can mean any number of things such as money, power, esteem, resources etc. In this study the building task is applied specifically in the context of power. In addition, a note is made concerning the semiotic building of Jim Jones’ message. The matter of interest in the semiotic building task in general is to analyze what are the relevant modes of conveying messages.
The matter of interest in this section is how Jim Jones uses power on the Death Tape. My initial expectation was that the speech would have contained many exertions of authority. The expectation was based on Jones’ history as the leader of the movement. Reiterman & Jacobs (1982) records numerous examples of Jones threatening, blackmailing and exerting his authority with a gun. Contrary to the expectation Jones, even though all the time in control of the situation, does not verbally exert his authority many times in significant ways. This is not to say that Jones did not display tremendous authority in taking over 900 people into a “revolutionary suicide,” but that the authority is not displayed verbally as much as might be expected.
There are some three different occasions of Jones verbally showing his authority in a confrontational manner. The first occasion is in the beginning of the argument between Jones and Miller. Miller asks Jones if it was too late for Russia. Jones’ counter-argument is that the killings were already taking place and he would need to stay by the side of the guilty like Ujara. Miller continues to insist on the idea that everything is possible for one who believes and that they should therefore make an airlift to Russia. Jones responds in a tone of unbelief: “How are we going to do that? How are you going to airlift to Russia?” (Q042: 23). The question is set up in such a way that Jones leaves Miller alone to create a plan to go to Russia. The pronoun used is you. The usage of the pronoun could be seen as a generic usage of the second person singular creating the effect of passive voice as well as a pointed usage of second person singular implying that Miller should actively present an organized plan for the airlift. In either case Miller is left to answer the question about the airlift without the command of any resources. Because Jones has the command of such resources as escaping he is able to exert authority in not giving access to the potential of such resources.
A similar occasion is right in between the two sections of dialogue concerning Russia where Ujara asks whether it would be helpful if he gave himself in. Jones categorically denies the possibility by saying that he could not live that way. Both in the case of Ujara and in the case of Miller, Jones uses his authority to counter arguments concerning alternative options. On both occasions, however, he does not exert his authority in any threatening way.
The second case of Jones exerting his authority is at the end of the argument with Miller. Towards the end of the argument the crowd starts to get hostile towards Miller. At the end of the argument many people try to voice their concerns and opinions and Miller says to Jones that the crowd gets hostile when she tries to speak. When Lue Ester Lewis speaks on top of her saying that she should prepare to die, Miller asks Jones: “I’m not talking to her. … Would you make her sit down and let me talk while I’m on the floor or let her talk?” (Q042: 87–90). To this Jones quickly snaps back: “How can you tell the leader what to do if you live? (Crowd stirs) I’ve– I’ve listened to you. You asked me about Russia. I’m right now making a call to Russia. What more do you suggest? I’m listening to you. You’ve got to give me one slight bit of encouragement” (Q042: 91–93). After this comment Miller is drowned by the crowd and when she is again able to get a word in, it is just to say that she has nothing further to say. Miller is silenced at this point of the argument and afterwards there is a transition in the event to the point where the suicides apparently start. However, although Jones uses his authority it is not in the overtly aggressive way as many sources describe him.
The third occasion or rather sequence of occasions is at the end of the speech. Jones repeatedly encourages people to hurry. At the end of the speech there is a point when numerous people get up to give small speeches in the glory of Jones. Jones cuts in at one point (verse 162) and says: “Please. For God’s sake, let’s get on with it. We’ve lived– we’ve lived as no other people have lived and loved. We’ve had as much of this world as you’re gonna get. Let’s just be done with it. Let’s be done with the agony of it.” Jones’ encouragements to hurry can be seen as use of authority but there is no mentionable threat in the voice.
As the result of looking at the Death Tape from the perspective of power it can be said that contrary to expectations there is not quite as much domineering language on Jones’ part as might be expected. The observation is valuable in two ways. Firstly, this might reinforce the view that Jones had established his authority already during the years of manipulation and that the Death Tape was the fruit of years conditioning. Hue Fortson Jr., one of the Jonestown survivors has said: “In an environment where you are constantly up, you’re constantly busy, and you are made to feel guilty if you take too many luxuries like sleeping you tend to not really think for yourself and I allowed Jones to think for me because I figured he had the better plan” (cited in Nelson 2006). Furthermore, the practice of mass suicide was not a new idea to any of the members but it had been practiced in many “White Nights” (Jonestown FAQ) wherefore the final White Night can be just seen as the outworking of the frequent exercises. If this view can be seen as correct, then that would also explain the absence of any overtly threatening language.
The second note concerning the apparent absence of threatening language is a note on the semiotic building task. Jones’ assertiveness could have been mediated via other semiotic systems but the verbal component. Many eyewitness reports testify to there having been armed Temple member guards in the camp during the suicides (Nelson 2006). Could it be that there is an absence of threatening language because it would not have been needed while firearms were present? In other words, could it be that the message of threat was communicated through other medium but words? Furthermore there are many reports on incisions found between the shoulder blades of bodies (Carter 2012). This could indicate that some physical force may have been involved in the deaths of Jonestown which could explain that the possible source of threat would have been outside of Jones himself wherefore Jones did not need to be as assertive himself as might be expected.
In conclusion it can be said that while Jones is an assertive and strong character on the Death Tape, there is still a certain absence of domineering language in the speech. Coming from the background of threatening people with a gun it might be expected that Jones would be more confrontational in his last address. However, there is the possibility that Jones’ lack of assertiveness could be explained by the threat having been in Jones’ potential in commanding armed guards. Perhaps the more possible explanation could still be that the absence of assertive language is a testimony to the years of manipulative conditioning where such strong language was not needed because the authority had already been firmly established.
The purpose of this study is to learn what can be said concerning manipulative discourse on the basis of the Death Tape. It was assumed from the beginning of the study that the Death Tape can be considered as a manipulative text because of the outcome of the speech. This study has sought to find general characteristics in the speech by using discourse analysis. The hypothesis was that by studying the typicalities of the text something general could be suggested concerning manipulative discourse.
To dissect the text and find feasible objects of study, James Paul Gee’s theory of discourse analysis was adopted. The theory gives tools to analyze a text from many standpoints. The standpoints are called building tasks. Five of Gee’s six building tasks were applied to the Death Tape in order to pinpoint typicalities in the text. In the following the results of the analysis are brought together and a sketch of manipulative discourse is created. Thus far much of the analysis has been very descriptive, in this chapter the intention is to bring the findings together. In the following the list of Gee’s building tasks is presented one more time in the order that the tasks are in the analysis chapter:
- • World building task
- • Activity building task
- • Relationship building task
- • Political building task
- • (Semiotic building task)
- • Connection building task
The point concluded in this study is that typical to Jim Jones’ discourse is redefinition. Almost every building task inquiry supports this claim. Many interesting facets could be pointed out about Jones’ discourse but redefinition can be seen as the main finding of this study. In the following the analysis is brought together from the angle of redefinition.
In the first analysis section the question was asked as to what can be learned about the world that Jones builds in his speech. What are the values and realities that seem to be present to the speaker? What was learned is that Jones presents a very strong contrast between the movement and the surrounding world. It could be called us versus them mentality. It is evident from the speech that Jones creates and had created a very hostile image about the surrounding world. The hostility in Jones’ discourse is personified in children. Throughout the speech there are remarks about how, if they would not hurry, that the hostile forces would come and kill their children. Along with Jones’ definition of the world as a hostile place goes Jones’ definition of the ideal of peace. Throughout the speech Jones connects peace with death, because according to him the only peace that the movement could ever achieve was the peace in death. In this way Jones has redefined the world for the movement and created a reality that became lethal for 909 people.
In Jones’ world relationships are redefined as well. In Jones’ discourse people are not seen as individuals but as part of a single entity, more specifically Jones’ person. Jones seems to create a relationship structure that very much resembles a common messianic pattern found in religions. The death of Congressman Ryan is defined as an act that would agitate the surrounding world’s aggression towards the movement. Jones however does not allow that any single person should bear the responsibility for the death but that he himself should bear it. While he takes on the messianic role he also insists that the people of the movement could not detach themselves from what had happened either because their lives were part of his. Again, the pattern of redefinition can be seen in the structure of relationships.
The observation concerning the typicality of redefinition is further corroborated by the intertextuality building task. There are not very many intertextual references in the text to outside sources. Jones never uses intertextuality to derive authority. Rather he uses intertextual references to invoke something familiar. Jones’ use of Bible references seems to be a way of gathering momentum in his speech. Bible verses act as punch lines rather than points where further authority is derived from. Reference to the movie I will fight no more forever likewise seems to act as an illustration more than anything else. Furthermore, the reference to Huey Newton’s concept of revolutionary suicide is yet another redefinition. Jones’ use of the term was very different from Newton’s. The lack of authoritative intertextuality indicates that Jones did not need any enforcement by an outside authority but he himself acted as the authority and therefore had the ability of doing the work of redefinition.
Quite surprisingly, it was observed that during the speech Jones is not quite as assertive as might be expected from the movement’s history. He does not use aggressive or threatening language except on few relatively minor instances. This serves to show that Jones’ authority did not need to be established during the last speech but the establishing was something that had happened already long before the speech. This goes to suggest that there is very little anything new introduced in this speech, which was confirmed by McGehee. In the same way that Jones’ authority had already been defined, probably everything else mentioned above had been defined already as well.
What should be highlighted from the perspective of activity building is the activity of rationalization which could as well be seen as definition. The activity of rationalization is the process where all the years of manipulative conditioning and redefinition are brought to the decisive action. As Christine Miller tries to dissuade the proposed plan, Jones is able to bring down each of the arguments with a logic that had been established in the past.
This study hardly presents anything new to the study of the Peoples Temple movement. What its merit however is that it shows how linguistic manipulation can be studied by using the tools of discourse analysis. For further study, an interesting object might be the notion of redefinition. I would dare to make an educated guess that similar work of redefinition could be found from the speeches of other cultish movements.
While this study shows redefinition as something ill and manipulative, an interesting study could be conducted to define what is pathological redefinition and in contrast what kind of redefinition is appropriate. After all, the very process of learning bases on a person finding new meanings, definitions and redefinitions. Intuitively, based on this study but without further evidence it might be proposed that the outcome of the redefinition and the intention of definer might be important entities in differentiating between pathological and appropriate redefinition.
In conclusion, the validity of this study is evaluated based on the four principles that Gee’s discourse analysis theory provides. discourse analysis can be seen as a highly subjective science. Gee observes however that it is possible to make statements concerning a conducted study as to its validity based on these principles of validity. The four principles are listed below and each one of them will be briefly revisited as well as applied to this thesis.
- (1) Convergence
- (2) Agreement
- (3) Coverage
- (4) Linguistic details
In an analysis of the length of this thesis many observations are made. The principle of convergence posits that if a discourse analysis is to be valid conclusions should not be made from stray observations. Rather a valid analysis is able to support a conclusion from many different angles. In terms of convergence this study can be seen as valid because almost all of the building tasks draw the same conclusion that central to Jim Jones’ Discourse is redefinition. The world building task and the relationship building task form the core of Jones’ redefining work. While core redefinitions are within only these two categories all of the other three categories corroborate this conclusion.
The second principle of validity is the principle of agreement. A study can be deemed invalid if other similar studies do not reach similar conclusions. At this point other discourse analytical studies have not been made about the Death Tape. Thus this aspect has to be left for evaluation to consequent studies.
The third principle of validity is the principle of coverage. Coverage means that the conclusions should be applicable to similar contents. It was already suggested in the discussion chapter that it would be interesting to see if redefinition is something typical to for example the speeches of the Heaven’s Gate movement where a similar mass suicide took place. Again, at this point it is not possible to evaluate the validity of coverage but it is a matter that would be an interesting object of study.
Lastly and most importantly, the validity of an analysis should be evaluated by the quantity of linguistic detail. In this sense this study can be considered successful. In the analysis section every observation in supported by quotation from the text. The scope of this study did not permit for more syntax level study with which some of the observations could have been even more clearly seen. Rather this study had to be limited to a more macro-level scale. For further study, a point of interest might be to take for example just one of the building tasks and show how exactly on the syntactical level Jones makes his definitions. It would be interesting for example to study the dynamic of the whole congregation as Jones is defining his “messianic” relationship to the congregation.
Concluding this study, it can be said that new information was discovered. Central to Jones’ Discourse is redefinition. It will be interesting to see whether more discourse analytical approaches will emerge to either corroborate this study or to challenge it. Likewise it will be interesting to see whether the discoveries of this study can be seen in other materials as well.
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Carter, T. (2012). Murder or Suicide: What I Saw. Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. Jonestown Project. San Diego State University.
FBIAP. FBI Audiotape Project. Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. Jonestown Project. San Diego State University. http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=27280 (Accessed: 1.2.2013).
Gee, J. P. (1996). Social linguistics and literacies: Ideology in Discourses. 2nd ed. Taylor & Francis. London
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Jonestown FAQ. What are White Nights? How many of them were there? (Accessed 18.02.2013).
Judge, J. (1985). The black hole of Guyana, footnote 185. (Accessed: 18.02.2013).
Kittredge, R., Lehrberger, J. (1982). Sublanguage: Studies of language in restricted semantic domains. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
Layton, D. (1999). Seductive Poison. A Jonestown survivor’s story of life and death in the Peoples Temple. New York: Anchor Books.
Lindsay, R. (1978). How Rev. Jim Jones Gained His Power Over Followers. New York Times, 26 November.
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McGehee, F. (2001). Commentary on Q 042. Jonestown Project. San Diego State University. (Accessed: 13.02.2013).
Moore, R., Pinn, A., Sawyer, M. (2005). Demographics and the Black Religious Culture of Peoples Temple. Peoples Temple and Black Religion in America. Bloomington: Indiana Press University.
Nelson, S. (2006). DVD: Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples. Artefact Films.
Transcript of Recovered FBI tape Q 042. Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. Jonestown Project. San Diego State University. (Accessed: 1.9.2012).
Transcript of Recovered FBI tape Q 048. Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. Jonestown Project. San Diego State University. (Accessed: 2.10.2012).
Transcript of Recovered FBI tape Q 134. Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. Jonestown Project. San Diego State University. (Accessed 20.2.2013).
Transcript of Recovered FBI tape Q 622. Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. Jonestown Project. San Diego State University. (Accessed 20.2.2013).
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Scollon, R. (2001). Mediated Discourse: The Nexus of Practice. London: Routledge.
Wise, D. (N/D). Sex in Peoples Temple. Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. Jonestown Project. San Diego State University. (Accessed: 31.1.2013)
Yates, B. (2008). The Many Meanings of Revolutionary Suicide. Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. Jonestown Project. San Diego State University.
Zane, M. (1998). Surviving the Heart of Darkness: Twenty years later, Jackie Speier remembers how her companions and rum helped her endure the night of the Jonestown massacre. San Francisco Chronicle Nov 13.
1) Jones: How very much I’ve tried my best to give you the good life.
2) Crowd: Response
3) Jones: But in spite of all of my trying, a handful of our people, with their lies, have made our life impossible. There’s no way to detach ourself from what’s happened today. Not only are we in a compound situation, not only are there those who have left and committed the betrayal of the century, some have stolen children from others, and are in pursuit right now to kill them, because they stole their children. And we– we are sitting here waiting on a powder keg. I don’t think it is what we want to do with our babies. I don’t think that’s what we had in mind to do with our babies. It is said by the greatest of prophets from time immemorial: “No man may take my life from me; I lay my life down.”
4) Crowd: Response
5) Jones: So to– to sit here and wait for the catastrophe that’s going to happen on that airplane– it’s going to be a catastrophe, it almost happened here. Almost happened– The congressman was nearly killed here. But you can’t steal people’s children. You can’t take off with people’s children without expecting a violent reaction. And that’s not so unfamiliar to us either, if we– even if we were Judeo-Christian– if we weren’t Communists. The world– the kingdom suffereth violence and the violent shall take it by force. If we can’t live in peace, then let’s die in peace.
6) Crowd: Applause
7) Jones: (Weary) We’ve been so betrayed. We have been so terribly betrayed.
Music and singing
8) Jones: But we’ve tried and as Jack Beam often said– I don’t know why he said it– I just know (unintelligible word) Jack, he said if this only works one day, it was worthwhile.
9) Crowd: Applause
10) Jones: Thank you. (Tape edit) Now what’s going to happen here in a matter of a few minutes is that one of those people on that plane is gonna– gonna shoot the pilot. I know that. I didn’t plan it, but I know it’s going to happen. They’re gonna shoot that pilot, and down comes that plane into the jungle. And we had better not have any of our children left when it’s over, because they’ll parachute in here on us. (Pause) I’m going to be just as plain as I know how to tell you. I’ve never lied to you. (More emphatic) I never have lied to you. I know that’s what’s gonna happen. That’s what he intends to do, and he will do it. He’ll do it. What so being so bewildered with many, many pu– pressures on my brain, seeing all these people behave so treasonous– there was too much for me to put together, but uh, I– I now know what he was telling me. And it’ll happen. If the plane gets in the air even. (Pause) So my opinion is that we be kind to children and be kind to seniors and take the portion like they used to take in ancient Greece, and step over quietly, because we are not committing suicide. It’s a revolutionary act. We can’t go back. They won’t leave us alone. They’re now going back to tell more lies, which means more congressmen. And there’s no way, no way we can survive. Hmm?
Voice too soft
11) Jones: Anybody. Anyone who has any dissenting opinion, please speak. (Pause) Yes. You can have an opportunity, but if our children are uh, are left, we’re going to have them butchered. We can make a strike, but we’ll be striking against people that we– we don’t want to strike against. And what we’d like to get are the people that caused this stuff, and some– if some people here are p– are prepared and know how to do that, to go in town and get Timothy Stoen, but there’s no plane. (Pause) There’s no plane. You can’t catch a plane in time. He’s responsible for it. He brought these people to us. He and Deanna Mertle. The people in San Francisco will not– not be idle over there. (Pause) They’ll not take our death in vain, you know. Yes, Christine.
12) Christine Miller: Is it too late for Russia?
13) Jones: Here’s why it’s too late for Russia. They killed. They started to kill. That’s why it makes it too late for Russia. Otherwise I’d said, Russia, you bet your life. But it’s too late. I can’t control these people. They’re out there. They’ve gone with the guns. (Self-evident tone) And it’s too late. (Pause) (Weary tone) And once we kill anybody– at least that’s what I’ve always– I’ve always put my lot with you. If one of my people do something, it’s me. (Pause) And they say I don’t– I don’t have to take the blame for this, but I can’t– I don’t– I don’t live that way. They said deliver up Ujara, who tried to get the man back here. Ujara, whose wi– mother’s been lying on him and lying on him and trying to break up this family. And they’ve all agreed to kill us by any means necessary. You think I’m going to deliver them Ujara? Not on your life.
14) Crowd: No.
15) Jones: No.
16) Ujara [Don Sly]: Is there any way that if I go that it’ll help us?
17) Jones: No. You’re not going. You’re not going.
18) Crowd: No.
19) Jones: You’re not going. I can’t live that way. I cannot live that way. (More emphatic) I’ve lived with– for all, and I’ll die for all.
20) Crowd: Applause
21) Jones: I’ve been living on a hope for a long time, Christine, and I appreciate– You’ve always been a very good agitator. I like agitation, because you have to see two sides of one issue, two sides of a question. But what those people are gonna get done, once they get through, will make our lives worse than hell. They’ll make us– make the rest of us not accept it. When they get through lying. They posed so many lies between there and that truck that we are– we are done-in as far as any other alternative.
22) Miller: Well, I say let’s make an air– airlift to Russia. That’s what I say. I don’t think nothing is impossible if you believe it.
23) Jones: How are we going to do that? How are you going to airlift to Russia?
24) Miller: Well, I– Well, I thought you– they said if we got in an emergency, that they gave you a code to let them know.
25) Jones: No, they didn’t. They gave us a code that they’d let us know on that issue, not us create an issue for them. They said if we– if they saw the country coming down they agreed they’d give us a code. They’d give us a code. We– you can check on that and see if it’s on the code. We can check with Russia to see if they’ll take us in immediately, otherwise we die. I don’t know what else you say to these people. But to me, death is not– uh, death is not a fearful thing. It’s living that’s cuts ya.
26) Crowd: Applause
27) Jones: I have never, never, never, never seen anything like this before in my life. I’ve never seen people take the law uh, and do uh– in their own hands and provoke us and try to purposely agitate murder of children. There is no– Christine, it’s just not– it’s just not worth living like this. Not worth living like this.
28) Miller: I think that there were too few who left for twelve hundred people to give them their lives for those people that left.
29) Jones: Do you know how many left?
30) Miller: (Casual) Oh, twenty-odd. That’s– That’s a small (Jones speaks over)
31) Jones: Twenty-odd, twenty-odd.
32) Miller: Compared to what’s here.
33) Jones: Twenty-odd. But what’s gonna happen when they don’t leave? (Pause) I hope that they could leave. But what’s gonna happen when they– when they don’t leave?
34) Miller: You mean the people here?
35) Jones: Yeah. What’s going to happen to us when they don’t leave, when they get on the plane and the plane goes down?
36) Miller: I don’t think they’ll do that.
37) Jones: You don’t think they’ll go down?
38) Crowd: Murmurs
39)Jones: I– I wish I could tell you were right, but I’m right. There’s one man there who blames, and rightfully so, Debbie Blakey for the murder– for the murder of his mother– and he’ll sh– he’ll stop that pilot by any means necessary. (Pause) He’ll do it. That plane’ll come out of the air. There’s no way you can fly a plane without a pilot.
40) Miller: I wasn’t speaking about that plane. I was speaking about a plane for us to go to Russia.
41) Jones: How– (Sighs)
42) Crowd: Stirs
43) Jones:– to Russia? You think Russia’s gonna want– no, it’s not gonna, it’s, it’s, it’s– We’re not, uh– You think Russia’s gonna want us with all this stigma? (Pause) We had– we– we had some value, but now we don’t have any value.
44) Miller: Well, I don’t see it like that. I mean, I feel like that– as long as there’s life, there’s hope. That’s my faith.
45) Jones: Well– someday everybody dies. Some place that hope runs out, because everybody dies. I haven’t seen anybody yet didn’t die. And I’d like to choose my own kind of death for a change. I’m tired of being tormented to hell, that’s what I’m tired of. (Pause) Tired of it.
46) Crowd: Applause
47) Jones:– twelve hundred people’s lives in my hands, and I certainly don’t want your life in my hands. I’m going to tell you, Christine, without me, life has no meaning.
48) Crowd: Applause
49) Jones: I’m the best thing you’ll ever have. I want, want, I have to pay– I’m standing with Ujara. I’m standing with those people. They’re part of me. I could detach myself. I really could detach myself. No, no, no, no, no, no. I never detach myself from any of your troubles. I’ve always taken your troubles right on my shoulders. And I’m not going to change that now. It’s too late. I’ve been running too long. Not going to change now.
50) Crowd: Applause
51) Jones: Maybe the next time you’ll get to go to Russia. The next time round. This is– what I’m talking about now is the dispensation of judgment. This is a revolutionary– it’s a revolutionary suicide council. I’m not talking about self– self-destruction. I’m talking about what– we have no other road. I will take your– your call. We will put it to the Russians. And I can tell you the answer now, because I’m a prophet. Call the Russians and tell them, and see if they’ll take us.
52) Miller: I said I’m not ready to die. But I know (unintelligible)
53) Jones: I don’t think you are. I don’t think you are.
54) Miller: But, ah, I look about at the babies and I think they deserve to live, you know?
55) Jones: I– I agree. But they– But don’t they also they deserve much more, they deserve peace.
56) Crowd: Right.
57) Miller: We all came here for peace.
58) Jones: And we’ve– have we had it?
59) Miller: No.
60) Jones: I tried to give it to you. I’ve laid down my life, practically. I’ve practically died every day to give you peace. And you still not have any peace. You look better than I’ve seen you in a long while, but it’s still not the kind of peace that I wanted to give you. Uh– A person’s a fool who continues to say that they’re winning when you’re losing. (Pause) Win one, lose two. What? (Pause) I didn’t hear you, ma’am. You’ll have to speak up. Ma’am, you’ll have to speak up.
61) Woman: (Unintelligible)
62) Jones: That’s a sweet thought. Who said that? (Pause) C– Come on up and speak it again, honey. Say what you want to say about (unintelligible) is taking off. No plane is taking off. (Pause) It’s suicide. Plenty have done it. Stoen has done it. But somebody ought to live. Somebody– Can they talk to– and I’ve talked to San Francisco– see that Stoen does not get by with this infamy– with this infamy. He has done the thing he wanted to do. Have us destroyed. (Pause)
63) Miller: When you– when you– when we destroy ourselves, we’re defeated. We let them, the enemies, defeat us.
64) Jones: Did you see– did you see, “I will live to fight no more forever?”
65) Miller: Yes, I saw that.
66) Jones: Did you not have some sense of pride and victory in that man? Yet he would not subject himself to the will or the whim of people who tell– that they’re gonna to come in whenever they please and push into our house. Come when they please, take who they want to, talk to who they want to– does this not living? That’s not living to me. That’s not freedom. That’s not the kind of freedom I sought.
67) Miller: Well, I think where they made their mistake is when they stopped to rest. If they had gone on, they would’ve made it. But they stopped to rest.
68) Jim McElvane: Just hold on, sister, just hold on. We have made that day. We made a beautiful day, and let’s make it a beautiful day. That’s what I say.
69) Crowd: Applause
70) Jones: We will win. We win when we go down. Tim Stoen has nobody else to hate. He has nobody else to hate. Then he’ll destroy himself. I’m speaking here not as uh, the administrator, I’m speaking as a prophet today. I wouldn’t have set in this seat and talked so serious if I didn’t know what I was talking about. Has anybody called back? The immense amount of damage that’s going to be done, but I cannot separate myself from the pain of my people. You can’t either, Christine, if you stop to think about it. You can’t separate yourself. We’ve walked too long together.
71) Miller: I well know that. But I still think, as an individual, I have a right to–
72) Jones: You do, and I’m listening.
73) Miller:– to say what I think, what I feel. And I think we all have a right to our own destiny as individuals.
74) Jones: Right.
75) Miller: And I think I have a right to choose mine, and everybody else has a right to choose theirs.
76) Jones: Mmm-hmm.
77) Miller: You know?
78) Jones: Mmm-hmm. I’m not criticizing (unintelligible)– What’s that?
Unintelligible woman’s voice
79) Jones: That’s today. That’s what 20 people said today. We’re alive.
80) Miller: Well, I think I still have a right to my own opinion.
81) Jones: I– I’m not taking it from you. I’m not taking it from you.
82) McElvane: Christine, you’re only standing here because he was here in the first place. So I don’t know what you’re talking about, having an individual life. Your life has been extended to the day that you’re standing there, because of him.
83) Jones: (Unintelligible word) I guess she has as much right to speak as anybody else, too. What did you say, Ruby? Well, you’ll regret that this very day if you don’t die. You’ll regret it if you do, though you don’t die. You’ll regret it.
84) Lue Ester Lewis: (Unintelligible) You’ve saved so many people.
85) Jones: I’ve saved them. I saved them, but I made my example. I made my expression. I made my manifestation, and the world was ready– not ready for me. Paul said, “I was a man born out of due season.” I’ve been born out of due season, just like all we are, and the best testimony we can make is to leave this goddamn world.
86) Crowd: Applause
87) Lue Ester Lewis: You must prepare to die.
88) Miller: I’m not talking to her. Will you let– Would you– would you let her or let me talk?
89) Jones: Keep talking.
90) Miller: Would you make her sit down and let me talk while I’m on the floor or let her talk?
91) Jones: How can you tell the leader what to do if you live?
92) Crowd: Stirs
93) Jones: I’ve– I’ve listened to you. You asked me about Russia. I’m right now making a call to Russia. What more do you suggest? I’m listening to you. You’ve got to give me one slight bit of encouragement. I just now instructed her to go there and do that.
V out here. They’ll torture some of our childroices
94) McElvane: All right now, everybody hold it. We didn’t come– hold it. Hold it. Hold it. Hold it.
95) Jones: Let (unintelligible word– “law”?) be maintained.
96) Jones: To lay down your burden. I’m gonna lay down my burden. Down by the riverside. Shall we lay them down here in– by Guyana? What’s the difference? (Pause) No man didn’t take our lives. Right now. They haven’t taken them. But when they start parachuting out of the air, they’ll– they’ll shoot some of our innocent babies. I’m not lying– I don’t wanna (unintelligible), Christine. But they gotta shoot me to get through to some of these people. I’m not letting them take your child. Can you let them take your child?
97) Voices: No, no, no, no.
98) Woman 2:– gonna die?
99) Jones: What’s that?
100) Woman 2: You mean you want us to die– (Jones talks over)
101) Jones: I want to see–
102) Crowd: Shouting
103) Jones: (Pleading) Please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please.
104) Woman 3: Are you saying that you think we could have smaller blame than other children were?
105) Jones: John-John–
106) Woman 3: Because if you’re saying–
107) Jones: (Unintelligible name), do you think I’d put John’s life above others? If I put John’s life above others, I wouldn’t be standing with Ujara. I’d send John out– out, and he could go out on the driveway tonight.
108) Woman 3: Because he’s young.
109) Jones: (Defensive) I know, but he’s no– he’s no different to me than any of these children here. He’s just one of my children. I don’t prefer one above another. I don’t prefer him above Ujara. I can’t do that. I can’t separate myself from your actions or his actions. If you’d done something wrong, I’d stand with you. If they wanted to come and get you, they’d have to take me.
110) Man 2: (Weepy) We’re all ready to go. If you tell us we have to give our lives now, we’re ready– at least the rest of the sisters and brothers are with me.
111) Jones: Some months I’ve tried to keep this thing from happening. But I now see it’s the will– it’s the will of Sovereign Being that this happen to us. That we lay down our lives in protest against what’s being done. That we lay down our lives to protest in what’s being done. The criminality of people. The cruelty of people. Who walked out of here today? Did you notice who walked out? Mostly white people.
112) Crowd: Stirs
113) Jones: Mostly white people walked. (Pause) I’m so grateful for the ones that didn’t– those who knew who they are. I just know that there– there– there’s no point– there’s no point to this. We have– We are born before our time. They won’t accept us. And I don’t think we should sit here and take any more time for our children to be endangered. Because if they come after our children, and lu– we give them our children, then our children will suffer forever.
114) Miller: (Unintelligible)?
115) Jones: I have no quarrel with you coming up. I like you. I personally like you very much.
116) Miller: People get hostile when you try and–
117) Jones: Oh, well, some people do– but then, you know, yes– yes, some people do. Put it that way– I’m not hostile. You had to be honest, but you’ve stayed, and if you’da be– you wanted to run, you’d have run with them ‘cause anybody could’ve run today. What would anyone do? I know you’re not a runner. And I, I would– I’d– your life is precious to me. It’s as precious as John’s. And I– and I don’t– what I do I do with weight and justice and judgment. I’m– I’ve weighed it against all evidence.
118) Miller: That’s all I’ve got to say.
119) Jones: What comes now, folks? What comes now?
120) Man 3: Everybody hold it. Sit down.
121) Jones: Say it. Say. (Unintelligible word, repeated three times). What’s come. Don’t let– Take Dwyer [Richard Dwyer, U.S. Embassy official] on down to the East House. (stumbles over words) Take Dwyer.
122) Woman 4: Everybody be quiet, please.
123) Jones: (Unintelligible)– got some respect for our lives.
124) McElvane: That means sit down, sit down. Sit down.
125) Jones: I know. (Pause) (Groan) I tried so very, very hard. They’re trying over here to see what’s going to– what’s going to happen in Los Angel– Who is it?
126) Jones: Get Dwyer out of here before something happens to him. (Pause) Dwyer? I’m not talking about Ujara. I said (Emphatic) Dwyer. Ain’t nobody gonna take Ujara. I’m not lettin’ ‘em take Ujara. (Pause) Gather in, folks. It’s easy, it’s easy. Yes, my love.
Tape silence for several seconds
127) Woman 5: At one time, I felt just like Christine felt. But after today I don’t feel anything because the biggest majority of people that left here for a fight, and I know, it really hurt my heart because–
128) Jones: Broke your heart, didn’t it?
129) Woman 5: It broke my heart, to think that all of this year the white people had been with us, and they’re not a part of us. So we might as well end it now because I don’t see–
130) Jones: It’s all over. The congressman has been murdered.
Music and singing
131) Voice: It’s all over.
132) Jones: Well, it’s all over, all over. (Pause) What a legacy, what a legacy. What the Red Brigade doin’ one bit that made any sense anyway? They invaded our privacy. They came into our home. They followed us six thousand miles away. Red Brigade showed them justice. The congressman’s dead.
133) Jones: (Speaks authoritatively) Please get us some medication. It’s simple. It’s simple. There’s no convulsions with it. It’s just simple. Just, please get it. Before it’s too late. The GDF [Guyana Defense Force] will be here, I tell you. Get movin’, get movin’, get movin’.
134) Woman 6: Now. Do it now!
135) Jones: (More excited) Don’t be afraid to die. You’ll see, there’ll be a few people land out here. They’ll– they’ll torture some of our children here. They’ll torture our people. They’ll torture our seniors. We cannot have this. Are you going to separate yourself from whoever shot the congressman? I don’t know who shot him.
136) Voices: No. No. No.
137) Jones: Just speak their piece. And those who had a right to go, and they had a right to– How many are dead? (Pause) Aw, God Almighty, God Almighty. Hmm? Patty Parks is dead?
138) Woman 7: Some of the others who endure long enough in a safe place to write about the goodness of Jim Jones.
139) Jones: I don’t know how in the world they’re ever going to write about us. It’s just too late. It’s too late. The congressman’s dead. The congressman lays dead. Many of our traitors are dead. They’re all layin’ out there dead.
140) Jones: Hmm? I didn’t, but– but my people did. My people did. They’re my people, and they– they’ve been provoked too much. They’ve been provoked too much. What’s happened here’s been to– basically been an act of provocation.
141) Woman 8: Want Ted? If there’s any way it’s possible to, uh, have and to give Ted something to take, then I’m satisfied, okay?
142) Jones: Okay.
143) Woman 8: I said, if there’s anyway you can do before I have to give Ted something, so he won’t have to let him go through okay, and I’m satisfied.
144) Jones: That’s fine. Okay, yes. Yes. Yes.
145) Woman 9:– and I appreciate you for everything. You are the only– You are the only– You are the only. And I appreciate you–
146) Crowd: Applause
147) Jones: (Urgently) Please, can we hasten? Can we hasten with that medication? You don’t know what you’ve done. (Pause) And I tried.
Tape edit. Applause, music, singing. Tape edit
148) Man: Wesley [Breidenbach] told me there were two GDF not to–
149) Jones: They saw it happen and ran into the bush and dropped their machine guns. I never in my life. (Pause) But there’ll be more. (Pause) (Tape edit) You got to move. Are you gonna get that medication here? You’ve got to move. Marceline? You got forty minutes.
150) Maria Katsaris: You have to move, and the people that are standing there in the aisles, go stand in the radio room yard. Everybody get behind the table and back this way, okay? There’s nothing to worry about. Every– Everybody keep calm and try and keep your children calm. (Pause) And uh, all those children that help, let the little children in and reassure them. (Pause) They’re not crying from pain. It’s just a little bitter tasting. It’s not– They’re not crying out of any pain. Annie McGowan, can I please see you back–
151) McElvane: Things I used to do before I came here. So let me tell you about it. It might make a lot of you feel a little more comfortable. Sit down and be quiet, please. One of the things I used to do, I used to be a therapist. And the kind of therapy that I did had to do with reincarnation in past life situations. And every time anybody had the experience of it– of going into a past life, I was fortunate enough through Father to be able to let them experience it all the way through their death, so to speak. And everybody was so happy when they made that step to the other side.
152) Jones: (Unintelligible)– to do, but stop that way. It’s the only way to step. (Microphone off briefly, unintelligible word) But that choice is not ours now. It’s out of our hands.
Children crying in the background
153) McElvane: If you have a body that’s been crippled, suddenly you have the kind of body that you want to have.
154) Jones: Somebody give them a little rest, a little rest.
155) McElvane: It feels good. It never felt so good. (Unintelligible word), may I tell you. You’ve never felt so good as how that feels. (Pause)
156) Jones: And I do hope that those attorneys [Charles Garry and Mark Lane] will stay where they belong and don’t come up here. (Pause) What is it? (Pause) What happened? What is it? (Pause) They what? (Pause) All right, it’s hard but only at first– only at first is it hard. It’s hard only at first. Living– when you’re looking at death, it only looks– as uh, living is much, much more difficult. Raising up every morning and not knowing what’s going to be the night’s bringing. It’s much more difficult. It’s much more difficult.
Crying and talking
157) Irene Edwards: (Joyous) I just want to uh, say something for everyone that I see that is standing around and– or crying. This is nothing to cry about. This is something we could all rejoice about. We could be happy about this. They always told us that we could cry when you’re coming into this world. So when we’re leaving, and we’re gonna leave it peaceful, I think we should be– we should be happy about this. I was just thinking about Jim Jones. He just has suffered and suffered and suffered. We have– We have the honor guard, and we don’t even have a chance to (Unintelligible word) got here. I want to give him one more chance. There’s just one more thing I want to say. That’s few that’s gone, but many more here. (Unintelligible) That’s not all of us. That’s not all yet. That’s just a few that have died. I tried to get to the one that– there’s a kid over there (unintelligible) I’m looking at so many people crying. I wish you would not cry. And just thank Father. (Unintelligible) I been here about–
158) Crowd: Sustained applause
159) Irene Edwards: I’ve been here ah– one year and nine months. And I never felt better in my life. Not in San Francisco, but until I came to Jonestown. I had a very good life. I had a beautiful life. And I don’t see nothing that I could be sorry about. We should be happy. At least I am. That’s all I’m gonna say.
160) Woman 11: (Weepy)– good to be alive today. I just like to thank Dad, ‘cause he was the only one that stood up for me when I needed him. And thank you, Dad.
161) Woman 12: (Unintelligible word) I’m glad you’re my brothers and sisters, and I’m glad to be here. Okay.
162) Jones: (Pleading) Please. For God’s sake, let’s get on with it. We’ve lived– we’ve lived as no other people have lived and loved. We’ve had as much of this world as you’re gonna get. Let’s just be done with it. Let’s be done with the agony of it.
163) Crowd: Applause
164) Jones: It’s far, far harder to have to walk through every day, die slowly– and from the time you’re a child ‘til the time you get gray, you’re dying. (Pause) (Tape edit) Dishonest, and I’m sure that they’ll– they’ll pay for it. They– They’ll pay for it. This is a revolutionary suicide. This is not a self-destructive suicide. So they’ll pay for this. They brought this upon us. And they’ll pay for that. I– I leave that destiny to them.
165) Jones: Who wants to go with their child has a right to go with their child. I think it’s humane. I want to go– I want to see you go, though. I– They can take me and do what they want– whatever they want to do. I want to see you go. I don’t want to see you go through this hell no more. No more, no more, no more. (Pause) We’re trying. If everybody will relax. The best thing you do is to relax, and you will have no problem. You’ll have no problem with this thing, if you just relax.
166) Man 4: (Unintelligible phrase) A great deal because it’s Jim Jones. And the way the children are laying there now, I’d rather see them lay like that than to see them have to die like the Jews did, which was pitiful anyhow. And I’d just like to– to thank Dad for giving us life and also death. And I appreciate the fact of the way our children are going. Because, like Dad said, when they come in, what they’re gonna do to our children– they’re gonna massacre our children. And also the ones that they take captured, they’re gonna just let them grow up and be dummies like they want them to be. And not grow up to be a socialist like the one and only Jim Jones. So I’d like– I’d like to thank Dad for the opportunity for letting Jonestown be, not what it could be, (Emphatic) but what Jonestown is. Thank you, Dad.
167) Crowd: Applause
168) Jones: It’s not to be afeared. It is not to be feared. It’s a friend. It’s a friend (Tape edit)– sitting there, show your love for one another. (Tape edit) Let’s get gone. Let’s get gone. Let’s get gone.
169) Jones: (Unintelligible word) We had nothing we could do. We can’t– we can’t separate ourselves from our own people. (Pause) For twenty years laying in some old rotten nursing home.
170) Jones: Taking us through all these anguish years. They took us and put us in chains and that’s nothing. This business– that– that business– there’s no comparison to that, to this. They’ve robbed us of our land, and they’ve taken us and driven us and we tried to find ourselves. We tried to find a new beginning. But it’s too late. You can’t separate yourself from your brother and your sister. No way I’m going to do it. I wi– I refuse. I don’t know who fired the shot. I don’t know who killed the congressman. But as far as I am concerned, I killed him. You understand what I’m saying? I killed him. He had no business coming. I told him not to come.
171) Woman 13: Right, right.
Music and crying
Tape edit. Long pause follows
172) Jones: (Pleading) I, with respect, die with a degree of dignity. Lay down your life with dignity. Don’t lay down with tears and agony. There’s nothing to death. It’s like Mac [Jim McElvane] said, it’s just stepping over into another plane. Don’t be– Don’t be this way. Stop this hysterics. This is not the way for people who are Socialists or Communists to die. No way for us to die. We must die with some dignity. We must die with some dignity. (Pause) We will have no choice. Now we have some choice. (Tape edit) Do you think they’re gonna stand– allow this to be done and allow us to get by with this? You must be insane. (Pause) Look children, it’s just something to put you to rest. (Tape edit) (Despairing tone) Oh, God.
173) Jones: Mother, Mother, Mother, Mother, Mother, please. Mother, please, please, please. Don’t– don’t do this. Don’t do this. Lay down your life with your child. But don’t do this.
174) Woman 14: We’re doing all of this for you.
175) Jones: Free at last. Peace. Keep your emotions down. Keep your emotions down. Children, it will not hurt. If you’ll be– if you’ll be quiet. If you’ll be quiet.
Music and crying
176) Jones: It’s never been done before, you say. It’s been done by every tribe in history. (Emphatic) Every tribe facing annihilation. All the Indians of the Amazon are doing it right now. They refuse to bring any babies into the world. They kill every child that comes into the world, because they don’t want to live in this kind of a world. So be patient. Be patient. Death is– I tell you, I don’t care how many screams you hear, I don’t care how many anguished cries, death is a million times preferable to ten more days of this life. If you knew what was ahead of you– if you knew what was ahead of you, you’d be glad to be stepping over tonight. Death, death, death is common to people. And the Eskimos, they take death in their stride. Let’s be digni– let’s be dignified. (Reprimands) If you’ll quit tell them they’re dying– if you adults would stop some of this nonsense. Adults, adults, adults. I call on you to stop this nonsense. I call on you to quit exciting your children, when all they’re doing is going to a quiet rest. I call on you to stop this now, if you have any respect at all. Are we black, proud, and Socialist, or what are we? Now stop this nonsense. Don’t carry this on anymore. You’re exciting your children. No, no sorrow that it’s all over. I’m glad it’s over. (Tape edit) Hurry, hurry, my children. Hurry. All I think (unintelligible) from the hands of the enemy. Hurry, my children. Hurry. There are seniors out here that I’m concerned about. Hurry. I don’t want to leave my seniors to this mess. (Pause) Only quickly, quickly, quickly, quickly, quickly. (Tape edit) Good knowing you. (Pause) No more pain now. No more pain, I said (unintelligible). No more pain. Jim Cobb is laying on the airfield dead at this moment.
177) Crowd: Applause
178) Jones: Remember the– this– the Oli– Oliver woman said she– she’d come over and kill me if her son wouldn’t stop her? These, these are the people– the peddlers of hate. All we’re doing is laying down our life. We’re not letting them take our life. We’re laying down our life. Peace in their lives. We just want peace.
179) Man 5: All I would like to say is that my, uhm– my so-called parents are filled with so much hate–
180) Jones: (Clapping in reprimand) Stop this, stop this, stop this (unintelligible word). Stop this crying, all of you.
181) Man 5:– hate and treachery. I think you– you people out here should think about how your relatives were and be glad about, that the children are being laid to rest. And all I’d like to say is that I thank Dad for making me strong to stand with it all and make me ready for it. Thank you.
182) Jones: All they’re doing is– All they do is taking a drink. They take it to go to sleep. That’s what death is, sleep. (Tape edit)– of it. I’m tired of it all.
183) Woman 15: Everything we could have ever done, most loving thing all of us could have done, and it’s been a pleasure walking with all of you in this revolutionary struggle. No other way I would rather go to give my life for socialism, communism, and I thank Dad very, very much.
Woman 16: Right. Yes. Dad– Dad’s love and nursing, goodness and kindness, and he bring us to this land of freedom. His love– his mother was the advance– the advance guard for socialism. And his love and his principles (unintelligible) will go on forever unto the fields of–
184) Jones: Where’s the vat, the vat, the vat? Where’s the vat with the Green C on it? Bring the vat with the Green C in. Please? Bring it here so the adults can begin.
185) Woman 16: Go on unto the Zion, and thank you, Dad.
186) Jones: (Unintelligible) Don’t, don’t fail to follow my advice. You’ll be sorry. (Tape edit) You’ll be sorry. (Tape edit)– if we do it, than that they do it. Have trust. You mu– You have to step across.
187) Jones: We used to think this world was– this world was not our home– well, it sure isn’t– We were saying– it sure wasn’t. (Pause) He doesn’t want to tell me. All he’s doing– if they will tell ‘em– assure these kids. Can’t some people assure these children of the relaxation of stepping over to the next plane? They set an example for others. We said– one thousand people who said, we don’t like the way the world is. (Tape edit) Take some. (Tape edit) Take our life from us. We laid it down. We got tired. (Tape edit) We didn’t commit suicide, we committed an act of revolutionary suicide protesting the conditions of an inhumane world.