Peoples Temple in the News 2016

Thirty-eight years after the deaths in Guyana, Peoples Temple and Jonestown continue to make the news on a regular basis, this year more often than not in the context of the national elections, both in comparisons between candidates and in the familiar Drinking the Kool-Aid references. The tragedy made news separately a few times in the past 12 months, however, the most important including:

Jackie Speier Wounded in JonestownJackie Speier, the aide to Leo Ryan who accompanied him to Jonestown and who herself was wounded in the gunfire that killed him, was profiled in both a newsfeed and as a blog for Roll Call, a news source for Capitol Hill insiders and staff. An interview with Ms. Speier – who has since been elected to Congress from her boss’ district – appeared in November 9, 2015 edition of The Trace.

Ms. Speier also described her Jonestown experience during a sit-in for gun control advocates in her home district during the congressional recess of July 2016. “I’m the one member of Congress that’s been the victim of gun violence,” she said. “I know what it’s like to live with that experience my entire life.”

The remarks follow her participation in a similar sit-in on the House floor in late June, which lasted 25 hours and in which 170 Democratic lawmakers participated. “I brought a bullet, labeled ‘evidence,’” Speier tweeted from from the house floor during the sit-in. “It was taken from my body. I know what it feels like to be shot.”

This past year also saw the publication of an interview given by Richard Dwyer to the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training in 1990. Dwyer, the Deputy Chief of Mission for the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown, also accompanied Ryan and was also wounded, although not nearly as severely as Ms. Speier. The interview was summarized in the November 18, 2015 edition of The Huffington Post.

Jonestown in commentary

From Jim Jones and the People’s Temple to Fetullah Gülen and his terror-cult
Daily Sabah (Istanbul), August 30, 2016

While conceding that Jim Joes and Fetulla Gülen “are from completely different branches of different religions, Jones being Christian, Gülen a Muslim, … they both carry an eerily similar agenda. For one thing they were both religious leaders and founders of their very own cults. Both men also used their charisma as head religious figures to attract people who were vulnerable or disenfranchised from society for various reasons.” The column then continues to mark other similarities, but ends up focusing on the main difference: “Jones didn’t order his followers to infiltrate the state instiutions of an entire government – he simply ammased a few thousand vulnerable followers. Gülen’s aims, on the other hand, are the take over of the whole of Turkey … posing much more danger than Jim Jones ever did.”

Things Worse Than Ignorance
By James Wanliss, March 26, 2016, “The Right Opinion,” The Patriot Post

In a column describing “something worse than ignorance, and that is unwarranted fear,” the author cites the example of the people of Jonestown as “Those who think each fire alarm might be real are in genuine emotional distress.

“In 1978 Jim Jones convinced over 900 members of his socialist People’s Temple to commit mass suicide in the jungle of Guyana. Jones’s idealism was a large part of what made him so lethal. He really believed his propaganda. It was regular for Jones to play his emergency recording at the Temple compound, “White Night! White Night! Get to the pavilion! Run! Your lives are in danger!” The People’s Temple teaches us something about the danger of being in a constant state of tension, afraid that the end of the world may come at any moment.”

The Insanity Of Jewish Philanthropy Funding Hamas
By Daniel Greenberg, Front Page Mag, February 9, 2016

In an opinion piece criticizing the Jewish Community Federation for its support of the American Friends Service Committee in San Francisco – which in turn, according to the article, supports anti-Semitic groups – the author compares such organizations to Peoples Temple.

“Aiding those who want to kill you or those who want to help kill you is suicide. Anyone who aids their own killers is by definition insane and their arguments and justifications should be viewed as the ravings of the utterly unhinged who have chosen to commit suicide and want to take everyone else with them.

“The insane can have great charismatic powers of persuasion. Not everyone who drank the Kool-Aid at Jonestown was crazy. But those who had a choice, chose to participate in homicidal and suicidal insanity. The Jewish Anti-Israel left is just Jonestown on a multinational scale. Their Kool-Aid is routed through a sophisticated network of NGOs and delivered to students on campuses around the world.

“But for all the cleverness and sophistication, the billionaire funders and policy papers, the front groups and brand names, it’s all just a Jewish Jonestown with a much better marketing campaign.”

The Jonestown Massacre – November 18, 1978
by Marilyn Armstrong, Serendipity, 18 November 2015

Terror, born in hatred and nurtured by evil, doesn’t always come from somewhere else. We grow our own bad guys, too.” This brief history of the Temple, while adding little new information, was posted, as the writer says, “given recent events, … to remember where hatred leads.

Jonestown in Guyana

Jonestown Remembered: The Legacy of Jonestown
by Eric Banks, Kaieteur News, 18 November 2015

This article offers a Guyanese perspective on the Jonestown story, 37 years after the deaths.

Church used by American death cult leader Jim Jones to reopen in Guyana
Caribbean 360, 18 November 2015

Originally posted on October 20th, 2016.

Last modified on May 16th, 2020.
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