“We’re Not Babysitters!”
Communist ‘Subversion’ in Jonestown and America’s Disillusionment with Détente

by Soh Chuah Meng Esmond

(This paper was written as a research essay for a course in International History of the Cold War in the History Programme of the School of Humanities (SoH) at Nanyang Technological University (Singapore). Comments and questions about this article are welcome at sohcmesmond@gmail.com.)

Introduction

1.1 Context and Research Questions

The term “Jonestown” can be used to refer to two phenomena. The first refers to an agricultural facility in Guyana developed by Peoples Temple, a Christian church that was founded by Reverend Jim Jones in Indianapolis in the 1950s,[1] and that left the United States in the late 1970s to live at that commune.[2] Secondly, the term can refer to the tragic events that took place on November 18, 1978, when the Cold War was in the final months of détente.[3] It began when assassins from Peoples Temple shot and killed five people from an assemblage of approximately twenty people departing from Jonestown.[4] Among the victims was Congressman Leo Ryan (D-Calif.), who, on the urging of the Concerned Relatives, a loose coalition of former Peoples Temple members, family members, and other critics of Jim Jones,visited Jonestown to investigate rumours that the commune’s denizens were held against their will by Jones.[5] Subsequently, 909 members of the Jonestown community who feared reprisals from the US for the murder of the congressman died in a mass murder-suicide ritual overseen by Jones. These murder-suicides caused by the ingestion of fruit punch laced with cyanide, subsequently gave rise to the popular neologism of “drinking the Kool-Aid.”[6]

On this note, the hot dimensions of the Cold War remain,[7] ironically, better documented than instances of cold conflicts that characterised the said period. Indeed, little has been said about the tragedy’s relevance to the swinging pendulum of domestic politics in the US vis-à-vis its main Communist rival, namely the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Departing from the literature that stressed the pivotal role of Jim Jones as a wayward charismatic leader,[8] I will analyse the discourse that was constructed around reports of the November 18 murder-suicides, as well as how these deaths became a catalyst for a departure from left-wing libertarianism towards a more conservative-centred alternative during the Cold War. I thus seek to answer the following questions: How did the Jonestown murder-suicides of 1978 prompt a conservative response to American politics, and how did coverage of the event galvanise a response towards the USSR during the last years of the Cold War under President Ronald Reagan?

1.2 Scope of Essay and Key Arguments

To be sure, I am not furthering a reductionist-deterministic version of interpreting the Cold War in America, where reactions to the murder-suicides in Jonestown had guaranteed the Democratic Party’s departure from political prominence and Reagan’s subsequent presidency. Here, I will examine how Jonestown’s portrayal in American popular culture and history aroused reactions towards a largely-imagined communist contamination of the American way of life. Jonestown makes an excellent case to add to the growing literature of the cultural Cold War, since its legal and political status in Guyana had rejected the typical pigeonholing of organisations into the Soviet-communist and American-democratic dichotomy.

By studying the events after the Jonestown murder-suicides, this essay serves to forward two distinctive, albeit interrelated arguments. Using archival material, autobiographies and newspaper articles contemporaneous with the period, I will show how the Jonestown murder-suicides revived the Lavender Scare during the Cold War, where anti-American communist agents and their sexually-deviant alter egos posed a “security risk” to the lives of Americans.[9] Discoveries of Jones’ assault on the heterosexual American family swung American voters in the favour of a more conservative government who could protect Americans from Soviet advances. The press effectively constructed parallel discourses where similarities in the indoctrination techniques used by Jones were juxtaposed alongside the use of brainwashing techniques the USSR.[10] Thus, descriptions like these, coupled with Jones’ already staunch declaration of support for the USSR, crystallised America’s distrust of the Soviets.

The Jonestown suicide-murders, as I will argue in my second contention, propelled domestic cynicism with left wing libertarianism to the forefront of American domestic politics. Thus, left wing libertarianism should no longer remain tolerated if the American nation was to win the Cold War. The solution thus manifested in the form of Ronald Reagan, who stood in contrast with the lackadaisical attitude adopted by the then-incumbent President Jimmy Carter, whose liberalist administration was accused of substandard performance at home and abroad. Détente took its last breath as Reagan’s rhetoric of an intensified Cold War became a reality.

2. Discourse Construction: How Was Jonestown a Soviet Microcosm?

2.1 Reverend Jim Jones: An American Father’s Shame

Unsurprisingly, the deaths of 918 Americans spawned a media circus.[11] The months following the murder-suicides were marked by numerous journalistic investigations, and most newspaper reports found it noteworthy to dwell upon Jones’ ambiguous sexuality. Even before the murder-suicides, Jones was renowned for being addressed as a “Father,”[12] yet subsequently-confirmed rumours about how he treated his “children” had failed to correspond with the responsibilities of an idealised American dad. Children, for example, were imprisoned in box-like prisons or thrown into wells as a form of harsh discipline[13] until they acknowledged their mistakes to their Father.[14]

Instead of being the most basic social unit that staved off communism from the 1950s to the 1960s,[15] the concept of “home” in Jonestown actively embraced the doctrine of communism amongst its denizens. The destruction of the family meant that the socialist collective – the American antithesis – took a life of its own. And the collective’s displacement of the family, as Jonestown had done, opens a window of opportunity for the abuses of power – be it sexual or institutional.

Jones’ sex-hungry nature was first revealed in a newspaper account of November 27, 1978, which reported how the Temple leader insisted on having sex with the women of Peoples Temple because “Dad knows best.”[16] Men were concurrently emasculated by their Dad, as they were forced to denounce themselves as homosexuals. Their wives were no better off, having to declare to the world that Jones “was the best lover that they had ever been with.”[17] Indeed, defector Debbie Layton confirmed how Jones, her father, had sex with her multiple times, on the pretext of “helping her.”[18] The symbolism of sex, and its respective perversions in Jones’ case served to drive this point home: every aspect of life in Jonestown was managed by an all-powerful “single master” who “reduced the lives of his followers to that of a useful instrument”[19] like in the USSR.[20] This was contrasted with the heterosexual and idealised American family, where sex was not controlled by the state,[21] but determined by couples devoted to the raising of children rather than abusing and conditioning them to communist subservience.

The fact that Jones publicly affiliated himself with the socialist cause even before moving to Guyana, and the press’ consistent branding of Jones as a “communist” or “socialist” after the murder-suicides, did not serve to support his case any further. Debates about subversive Soviet agents who pretended to be nation-loving Americans were also pushed to the forefront of the American public’s understanding of Jonestown. A thinly-veiled reference of Jones was made, for example, to the Rosenbergs who peddled American nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union.[22]

The perversion of gender roles and Jones’ failure to live up to his duties as a father shows most astutely over John Victor Stoen, the subject of the child custody battle that triggered the Jonestown mass murder suicides.[23] The battle over John Victor Stoen was as much a product of how Americans defined a family in contrast with Jones’ perversion of fatherhood. The clash of values was embodied within John’s biological parents Tim and Grace Stoen, in contrast with Jones, although Jones claimed to have fathered the child even after a Superior Court Judge in San Francisco ordered the child’s return to his biological parents.[24] John Stoen died on November 18. His biological parents, in particularly Tim Stoen, who defected from being a once-stalwart defender of Jones, were singled out for being alert and individual in thought, in contrast with the many who chose to die alongside Jones. Tim Stoen, for example, bemoaned about how he was being forced into “a collision course with a man [Jones]” that “[Stoen] was so fiercely loyal to” ever since he realised that he “didn’t like the authoritarianism” enforced by Peoples Temple.[25]

Here, what I wish to drive home was not only the stark contrast between bright, individualistic white Americans versus the many black Americans who died alongside Jones, but the contrasted notions of idealised parenthood in the US as well. The Stoen couple tried to seize their offspring from the clutches of a communist-maniac through their use of American legal institutions instead of Jones’ “tyrannical hold” by fiat.[26] Although John ultimately perished along with the rest of the Jonestown community,[27] the revolution of the entire crisis around the authenticity and potentially life-saving love of his parents contrasted with the abuse that Jones’ communist-socialist children had to endure. The dichotomies of loving-American family versus the amoral-Soviet leaning Jones were constructed and continuously circulated by the American media, a trend that continued until March 1979.[28]

More dramatically, articles devoted their introductions to Jonestown with the image of how Jones insisted that “revolutionary suicide” was the only means for Peoples Temple to make a statement against the imperialist Americans. The mytheme of how mothers were forced to give their crying children cyanide-laced fruit punch before succumbing to the poisoned drink themselves were used as lead-ins to at least six periodicals in the immediate aftermath of 18 November 1978.[29] Hence, the irony of Jones’ claim that he was the only ideal father in Jonestown was not lost upon American readers. This emotional message was hammered home by images of loving mothers and their children dying at the hands of a communist-deviant father. Jones was also imagined to be detached from the chaos, which included graphic descriptions of screaming children who went “into convulsions, their eyes roll[ing] upward…gasp[ing] for breath and then fall[ing] dead.”[30]

Jones’ biological son Stephan Jones, who happened to be away from Jonestown when Jones orchestrated the murder-suicides and who subsequently testified that he “hate[d] this [Jim Jones] because he has destroyed everything I’ve worked for,” drove the following point home:[31] Jim Jones was a morally bankrupt, aspiring communist who undertook actions that were reprehensible even by his own biological children’s standards, let alone the many fictive kin whom he had lured to their deaths. Imagery of this nature would have horrified any American reader, since Jones was already singled out for his egomaniacal and pro-socialist tendencies of “total equality” even before Leo Ryan’s visit.[32] The perversion of Jones’ instincts, and how this concern was presented to the American public, was indubitably a mirror of the earlier Lavender Scare, where deviant Americans were metamorphosed as Soviet insurgents who sought to sunder American unity against the creeping Soviet force. In other words, there were communist demons within America’s midst, masquerading as cults that were deceptively religious and benign, both traits that were hardly associated with communism. Yet, Jones turned out to be the proverbial communist wolf in Christ’s clothing.

2.2 Re-creating the USSR Through Discourse: Brainwashing, Potemkin Villages, Guns and Impenetrable Walls

Images of brainwashing, a core contention in this section, likewise, has been a common trope in the descriptions of the “mind-programming campaign” that Jones had inflicted upon his own children.[33] Arguably, while few direct comparisons made vis-à-vis the Soviet Union were made, the description of methods used by Jones would have rung true with Americans who were already steeped within American representations of brainwashing throughout popular media about the Korean and Vietnam Wars.[34] Descriptions of Jones’ borrowed indoctrination techniques from “other socialist experiments, in China, in the Soviet Union, in Eastern Europe, in North Vietnam” were rampant after the murder-suicides.[35] The New York Times, for example, ran a feature on the extensive list of “thousands of doses of dangerous drugs” found in Jonestown, and corroborated these drugs’ use with survivors who insisted that the “people who wanted to leave were fed drugs,” after which they “lost their desire to leave and no farther behavioural problems were anticipated.”[36] Although the Marxist Jones claimed that religion was the opiate of the masses, he was not averse to using physical drugs to keep his victims in check. The human mind, as these reports implied, was once a bastion of American individualism,[37] was now to be subverted using materialist methods advocated by a prodigious agent of the USSR who called himself Jim Jones.

Sentiments of this idealist nature took on a more material description and subtle juxtaposing of Jonestown as a textbook instance of communist hypocrisy. Jones, in countless depictions after his death, was represented in a mold not unlike Stalin’s own since the days of Kennan’s Long Telegram – paranoid, neurotic, and most importantly, intolerant of dissent.[38] The death of devotee Bob Houston in 1977 after he argued with Jones about socialism – and the concurrent suggestion that Houston was assassinated by Jones’ agents – was a case in point.[39] Ironically, despite claiming that dissidents were free to leave his “socialist paradise,” and Jones’ criticism of the “malicious lies” about Jonestown being home to a cache of “200 to 300 rifles, 25 pistols and a homemade bazooka” maintained by “a squad of 50 armed guards,[40] audio records of the commune’s final moments prove how dissenters who refused to partake in Jones’ poisoned punch were shouted down.[41] The triangulated relationship between Jonestown, a concurrent experiment of fascism and socialism was hardly concealed, and in fact repeatedly peddled by the press.[42]

Accounts of this nature find a psychological and physical counterpart across the Atlantic Ocean in Berlin, where Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev ordered the construction of a wall which cut the city in half as a “defensive” structure that doubled as an “anti-Fascist protection wall”[43]: the physical barrier constrained both defection and the freedom of one’s mind; within their respective confines, one saw no hope from escaping the communist dogma pontificated to them. Jones was no exception to the rule. Jones, for example, relied upon the dense jungles of Guyana as his physical “prison,” which proved to be an indomitable obstacle to potential defectors, although “anyone is free to come and go.”[44] Likewise, depictions of Jonestown’s farce were no coincidence. The Potemkin village with sanitation that can “never be seen in any part of the world, except Switzerland [where] you can eat off the ground” never existed, much less the “consistently high level of medical care” and “substantial nourishing food” found there.[45] Jonestown plainly reflected the chronic shortages of daily consumer goods and freedom found in the USSR’s planned economy under its contemporary leader Leonid Brezhnev.[46] Instead, what one witnessed behind the scenes was a “prison” as rightfully suspected by Leo Ryan and the group of Concerned Relatives that accompanied him.[47] The hypocrisy of freedom as pontificated by the USSR to Western Europeans and Americans, as the press had cleverly done in a roundabout manner, was mirrored in the fiasco called Jonestown.

Anxieties about how the US was replete with communist spies like that of Jones’ own were naturally understandable after the wake of the murder-suicides. This section, however, wishes to point out the discourse that is shaped with an idealised evil in mind – namely, the Soviet Union and all its proxies – notwithstanding the fact that Jones refused to turn to the USSR in a final desperate plea to ensure the safety of his people.[48] Subsequent discoveries of the wills left behind by Jones and his wife Marceline did not help their cause either. The American public would have been shocked that Jones not only sent messengers to deliver $500,000 to the Soviet Embassy in Guyana,[49] but that Jones and Marceline insisted that their properties pass into the hands of the American Communist Party after their deaths as well.[50] Jonestown was an inflexion point for Americans at home, and the Carter administration’s management of the fallout would be one of the many nails hammered into the Democrats’ coffin during the presidential elections of 1980.

3. The Carter Administration’s Missteps: American Weaknesses and Reagan’s Rise

Naturally, the Carter administration’s handling of the suicide-murders did not satisfy Americans who were desperate and angry with their government’s lackadaisical attitude. What the Americans were confronted with was a contradiction of numbers – the final death toll of 918 was underestimated for several days, with the initial body count of 408 rising throughout the week.[51] The bungled actions of the Carter administration’s coordination with its Guyanese counterpart was merely the tip of the iceberg. As Americans looked to their colour televisions and news reports flooded with “dreadful colour pictures (of)…bloated bodies,” horror turned to blame.[52] Leo Ryan, alongside the Concerned Relatives, were once portrayed as suspicious fools who dared to challenge the victimised Jones. Now, they became martyrs and lone voices of truth.[53] Questions then turned to the US State Department: How did Jones’ communist-fascist experiment remain undiscovered for so long?

In response, Graham Hovey painted a picture of an ignorant State Department that was oblivious to the horrific socialist-communist experiment perpetuated under the nose of the American government. In a November 25, 1978 description of the chaos in Guyana, Hovey recognised that the State Department had been keeping an eye on Jonestown’s residents since many Social Security cheques intended for Jonestown’s residents were funnelled into Jones’ custody.[54] However, the US consular official in Guyana, Richard McCoy, insisted that those who were interviewed in Jonestown before the murder-suicides were away from “any buildings and with unimpeded vison in all directions” and provided answers that “were essentially genuine.”[55] The mockery of McCoy’s gullibility – and by extension, the sloppy manner by which the Carter administration staffed its civil service – was apparent.

Four days later, Hovey wrote another article that aroused sentiments of pity for the “thinly spread” and understaffed State Department, while sandwiching accounts of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State’s claim that they “are not FBI agents.” Descriptions of this nature reeked of blame-shifting rather than a recognition of the State Department’s limits.[56] One exasperated State Department official’s subsequent declaration that “We’re not babysitters” did not further their case.[57] The State Department’s substandard surveillance of Jonestown, when juxtaposed alongside the seeming irony that Social Security cheques funded Jones’ socialist-communist utopia,[58] left Americans fuming. Bashing of the lackadaisical Carter administration soon became fashionable.

3.1 Subversion from Within: The Relationships Between American Democracy, The First Amendment and Jim Jones

To add insult to injury, Jones had succeeded in stamping out any over-romanticised notion of the “intrepid reporter” that was part and parcel of American life after Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein had successfully destabilised Richard Nixon in the aftermath of Watergate.[59] Once denied an opinion upon the greatly-secretive and lawsuit-happy Peoples Temple,[60] the press returned with a vengeance.

Following the murder-suicides, much light was shed on the extent of the overlaps between American politics and Jonestown. Intricate networks of support drawn from the upper echelons of American society were laid bare. Harvey Milk, the then-San Francisco Supervisor, assured Carter in February 1978 that Jones was “a man of the highest character.”[61] Subsequent reiterations of Jones’ “remarkable ability to pull out … votes for candidates he favoured” since “he became a powerful force in San Francisco’s politics” in the 1970s must have left Americans discomforted.[62] The prospect of how American political freedom was being diseased from within by the pro-communist Jones would have been unsettling. Carter’s laissez faire attitude towards the countercultures that forced their way to the forefront of American politics since the 1960s was also blamed, with suggestions that “Jonestown seemed to be a logical extension of the civil rights and antiwar battles” that “middle-class, educated whites” had “fought over the last decade.”[63] How could Americans remain convinced that their politicians were fighting against the Soviet Union, if their own leaders and political agendas were entwined with pro-communist cults like Peoples Temple? The Jonestown fallout was thus perceived as a microcosm of the Carter Administration’s failure to assume responsibility for its citizens’ wellbeing.

Certainly, the ability of cults to hide behind the thinly-veiled logic of the First Amendment sent the impression that Carter’s America had gone too far with sympathising with those on the left wing of the spectrum.[64] The First Amendment, which called for the protection of religious associations from state intervention, was also among Jonestown’s many victims. By December 7, 1978, questions over the Carter Administration’s need for “drawing the line” became more prominent. The adults in Jonestown, no matter how seemingly consenting they may have been, were unable to protect themselves, thus the administration should cease being so obstinate about “discourag[ing] intervention based solely on the desire to protect individuals from themselves.”[65] Intervention, should it had happened in the case of Jonestown, was protecting American citizens from communist subversion, instead of a contravention of the individuality of Americans. Worse, the Carter administration appeared willing to give potential Soviet agents the benefit of the doubt while allowing their proliferation, when Carter, assisted by government officials “timid about breaching sanctuaries of religion” reflected “an example of government failure to act.”[66]

3.2 The New Religious Right: “How Are We Cults?”

The nascent Peoples Temple did not seem to have any affiliation for socialism, much less communism. Notes from the 1950s on how the church interpreted the Bible revealed little departure from conventional analyses of biblical scriptures. Peoples Temple was initially committed to a literal reading of the Bible, arguing that there was “no room for contradiction” and “no other logical explanation” for the Genesis’ account of creation.[67] This contradicted not only the materialist dogma of Marxism, but Marx’s scorn that religion was “the opiate of the masses” as well.[68] By 1954, not unlike other facets of Christian evangelism who scrambled to intertwine anti-Soviet propaganda with their own outreach efforts,[69] Peoples Temple equated the “spirit of anti-Christ” with communism, and maintained that the communist party was in fact “the body of the anti-Christ.”[70] Subsequently, Peoples Temple situated their own Christian movement within the anti-communist camp as evinced by a strongly worded declaration that the “entire world will once again be faced” by a strongly-worded ultimatum between “Christ or Barabus, (Christianity or communism).”[71] Clearly, Peoples Temple in its beginning demonstrated little affiliation with then-incumbent left-leaning movements and parties, much less sympathy for communist ideals of any kind. In this manner, Jones cloaked his underlying resentment of an unequal world within the broader nationwide debates over desegregation and civil rights, the latter which have become a staple of the US’ attempt at shedding its hypocrisy of being a bastion for freedom and democracy at home in relation to her foreign policy exploits.[72]

Christian conservatives, who began to organise themselves as the New Religious Right in the late 1970s would be shocked by Jonestown’s fallout,[73] particularly given Jones’ earlier commitment to a Christ-centred ministry. Although Jones had been committed to awakening “The Christ in You” since 1954,[74] his subsequent hijacking of the role of Christ to spread his own pro-socialist doctrines was clearly sacrilegious.[75] Moreover, Jones and Peoples Temple had underscored the ease of twisting Christian doctrines to further Soviet-backed communist-socialist interests rather than America’s anti-communist ends. Accentuating the concern over blurred lines between organised religion and wayward cults became debate-worthy topics after Jonestown. In justifying the lack of intervention, The New York Times mused how Webster’s New International Dictionary “does not distinguish between a cult and a religious sect.” This, coupled with the Carter administration’s opposition of “any broad investigation of such groups on constitutional grounds,”[76] generated new anxieties among the Religious Right, who not only loathed at how the porous divide had conflated their own righteous ways with deviant cults, but the left-leaning government who obfuscated the once-obvious divide as well. Carter, who openly defined himself as a born-again Christian,[77] did not help alleviate his image of post-Jonestown hypocrisy amongst conservatives.

I believe that these contradictions – namely how Jones inverted the tenets of anti-communist Christianity with ease – generated much anxiety amongst the New Religious Right. Concurrently, fears of how Christianity was being besieged needs to be contextualised against the Carter administration’s indecision towards astray cults and the unrelenting communist spectre throughout détente. Domestic religious policy was no longer detached from what was perceived to be a sloppy foreign policy under Carter. Carter’s sin thus extended to his failure to protect the well-being of the Christian conservative movement at home. Moreover, his “poor-to-average job of public speaking, image-making, and articulation of his policies” had clearly failed to inspire confidence in tackling these communist enemies from within.[78]

3.3 The Contrast of Two Fathers: Jim Jones and Ronald Reagan[79]

Indeed, while Jonestown was rarely commented upon explicitly by Reagan,[80] it is not hyperbole to associate Reagan’s ascent to the bully pulpit in 1980 with the sentiments of resentment and frustration directed against the Carter Administration. Jonestown revealed the darker side of communist agents who had infiltrated the heart of American society, in part due to Carter’s inaction. Reagan’s assumption of a Christian identity in American politics since the 1960s, and his conviction in seeing that these ideals gained prominence through “spiritual revival” indubitably comforted the New Religious Right.[81]

The fact that Reagan harped heavily upon the need for the “shared values of family” to be restored in a July 1980 speech served to contrast his brand of American fatherhood against Jim Jones’.[82] While both Jones and Reagan portrayed themselves as avuncular, father-like figures, Reagan did not drive his children to their deaths with a cruel dose of cyanide-laced punch and communism like Jones did. Instead, Reagan promised Americans a self-confident way out of their post-Carter ruts.[83] In the face of undeniable evidence that Jones had been keeping contact with the Soviets while toying with the initiative to move Peoples Temple to the USSR,[84] Americans began to look inward for the forces that allowed pro-communist rot to breed within in the first place. Reagan’s challenge to the “cult of victimhood” and “leftist dissidents” viz. Jonestown, seemed to provide the answer.[85]

Equally noteworthy was Reagan’s self-confidence when he pledged to take the Cold War to the USSR.[86] As Gaddis had noted, Reagan believed that “only by killing détente” could the Cold War end with America’s victory.[87] Since 1975, Reagan predicted the inevitable demise of communism with the faith that capitalism and democracy would triumph, arguing that communism was nothing more than “a temporary aberration which will one day…disappear from the face of the earth because it is contrary to human nature.”[88] The hollowness of Jonestown as an unsustainable communist project thus contrasted with Reagan’s envisioned America, which tolerated neither proxies of nor sympathy for the Soviets. Carter, in “his initial hope to rejuvenate détente,” appeared to be keen on sacrificing American lives to a Soviet enemy that refused to cower.[89] Peoples Temple, which kept correspondence with the USSR and the Second World crystallised America’s darkest fears.[90] Discoveries of this nature could not point to any less obvious conclusion: The US’ greatest enemies took the form of communist agents from within when the USSR could not be subjugated from without. Americans, sick and tired of Jones’ mania, and after attributing Jonestown to Carter’s supposedly over-liberal approach towards forces at home and abroad, would have concurred with Reagan’s assertive posture vis-à-vis the increasingly menacing USSR.[91] Détente was finished with Reagan’s election, and Jonestown had sounded détente’s death knell all the way from Guyana.

4. Conclusion: What did the Russians Say?

Throughout this paper, I have contextualised the discourse of Peoples Temple – and by extension, Jim Jones – within the wider context of the cultural Cold War. Throughout this discourse analysis, I have outlined how the American press concocted striking parallels between Jones’ failed experiment in Guyana with the possibility of Soviet access to American hearts and minds throughout the final years of détente. Subsequently, the lackadaisical effort by the Carter administration – coupled with Ronald Reagan’s portrayal of himself as an antithesis to both Jones and the forces that paved the way for Jonestown to become a reality in the first place – pushed Americans towards the election of Reagan in 1980.

Nevertheless, although the Russians kept in contact with Peoples Temple, few primary sources from Russian archives are accessible or understood by the author of this essay. Future interpretations of Jonestown may want to consider inter-archival research of relevant Russian reactions and interactions with Jim Jones. A greater understanding into how the Russians conceptualised Jonestown’s ambiguous position as a movement largely driven by First World citizens with Second World mindsets in a Third World country may shed further light on the ambiguities of analysing phenomena through the said paradigms. While it is not in this essay’s interest to classify the footloose, transnational and technically-stateless Peoples Temple as a Fourth World phenomenon,[92] this observation may be worth more than a shadow of truth in future studies of the Cold War.

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Notes:

* I am very grateful to the archivists at the Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple Project of San Diego University for providing the bulk of the primary sources necessary for the writing of this essay. I am also very thankful to Sri Amalinah, Valarmathi Mahendran, Tsang Yuk Tim and Tejala Rao for providing helpful comments for an earlier draft of this essay.

[1] John R. Hall, Philip D. Schuyler and Sylvaine Trinh, Apocalypse Observed: Religious Movements and Violence in North America, Europe and Japan (London and New York: Routledge, 2005), 18.

[2] For the most authoritative account of this development, see Deborah Layton, Seductive Poison: A Jonestown Survivor’s Story of Life and Death in the People’s Temple (New York: Anchor Books, 1999), chapters 8-10; and Hall, Schuyler and Trinh, Apocalypse Observed, 28-31.

[3] Détente, in this essay, is defined as “the easing of strained relations” between the US and the USSR during the Cold War, as per Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v. “détente,” accessed May 3, 2018, http://www.oed.com.ezlibproxy1.ntu.edu.sg/view/Entry/51205?redirectedFrom=detente+#eid. In this essay, détente refers to the period between the late 1960s to the late 1970s, as suggested by John Lewis Gaddis, “Grand Strategies in the Cold War,” in The Cambridge History of the Cold War, Volume 2: Crises and Détente, ed. Melvyn P. Leffler and Odd Arne Westad (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), chapter 1.

[4] Hall, Schuyler and Trinh, Apocalypse Observed, 15; and Charles A. Krause, foreword to Seductive Poison: A Jonestown Survivor’s Story of Life and Death in the People’s Temple, by Deborah Layton (New York: Anchor Books, 1999), xix-xxii.

[5] On the Concerned Relatives’ motivations and actions, see Hall, Schuyler and Trinh, Apocalypse Observed, 15-16, 31-42. On Leo Ryan’s motivations, death, and the US Congress’ reaction to his passing, see the extensive list of documents and recommendations detailed in “Government Documents,” Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple [hereafter, Alternative Considerations], https://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=18184.

[6] To be sure, the neologism is a misnomer. Instead of Kool-Aid, the cheaper Flavor-Aid was used in Jonestown. This mislabelling, to the best of my knowledge, began with Charles A. Krause, “Survivor: They Started with the Babies,” The Washington Post, November 21, 1978, a dramatized report of the murder-suicides in Jonestown. On the neologism’s worth, see Rebecca Moore, “Drinking the Kool-Aid: The Cultural Transformation of a Tragedy,” Novo Religio: The Journal off Alternative and Emergent Religions 7:2 (November 2003): 92-100.

[7] Ken Booth, “Cold War Lessons and Legacies,” in Statecraft and Security: The Cold War and Beyond, ed. Ken Booth (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 31-33. For a listing of “hot” events, see the comprehensive monograph by Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), chapters 4 to 9.

[8] This notion has been repeated in almost all the primary sources examined in this paper. On the concept discussed, see James W. Chesebro and David T. McMahan, “Media Constructions of Mass Murder-Suicides as Drama: The New York Times‘ Symbolic Construction of Mass Murder-Suicides,” Communication Quarterly 54:4 (2006): 412-414. Some of the most comprehensive sociological and psychological studies done on the charismatic authority of Jim Jones were contemporaneous with many of the primary sources employed in the writing of this essay outline. Among others, see Doyle Paul Johnson, “Dilemmas of Charismatic Leadership: The Case of the People’s Temple,”Sociological Analysis 40:4 (Winter, 1979): 315-323. Also consider the “charismatic bureaucracy” found in Jonestown as discussed by John R. Hall, “Collective Welfare as Resource Mobilisation in People’s Temple: A Case Study of a Poor People’s Religious Social Movement,” Sociological Analysis 49 (Summer, 1988): 64-77.

[9] As noted by David K. Johnson, The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government (Chicago and London: Chicago University Press, 2007), the first to be compromised by this mentality were civil servants within the American government during McCarthyism. The euphemism “security risk” as used in this point was discussed in David K. Johnson, The Lavender Scare, 5-11.

[10] For a similar approach, albeit one devoted to the study of communications, see the methodology of Danny L. Jorgensen, “The Social Construction and Interpretation of Deviance: Jonestown and the Mass Media,” Deviant Behaviour 3:3-4 (1980): 309-332.

[11] Charles B. Seib, “What the Media Did,” The Washington Post, December 1, 1978.

[12] Layton, Seductive Poison, chapter 4; and “When did people refer to Jim Jones as “Dad”? When did that Start?” Alternative Considerations, https://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=61015.

[13] Layton, Seductive Poison, 74; and Deborah Layton, “Affidavit of Deborah Layton Blakely, RE: The Threat and Possibility of Mass Suicide by Members of the Peoples Temple,” June 1987, Alternative Considerations, https://jonestown.sdsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/04-24-BlakeyAffidavit.pdf.

[14] See the descriptions of the punishments endorsed by Jones in “Suicide Carnage Follows Jones’ Tribute to Death,” Baltimore Sun, November 21, 1978, in The Assassination of Representative Leo J. Ryan and the Jonestown, Guyana Tragedy: Report of a Staff Investigative Group to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives, House Document 96-223, May 15, 1979, 96th Congress, 1st Session (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1979) [hereafter, House Committee Report], 369; and Jeanne Mills, “Real Story Behind the 900 Guyana Suicides,” National Enquirer, April 17, 1979, reprinted in House Committee Report, 518.

[15] Elaine Taylor May, introduction to Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era (New York: Basic Books, 2008), 9-13 and 16-17.

[16] Jon Nordheimer, “I Never Once Thought He Was Crazy,” The New York Times, November 27, 1978, 12; and Mills, “Real Story Behind the 900 Guyana Suicides,” 517-518.

[17] Nordheimer, “I Never Once Thought He Was Crazy,” and Mills, “Real Story Behind the 900 Guyana Suicides,” 517-518.

[18] These examples were interspersed throughout Layton’s memoirs. The most graphic description of Jones’ sexual assault can be found in Layton, Seductive Poison, 74.

[19] Nordheimer, “I Never Once Thought He Was Crazy.”

[20] Consider the role of “sexual authoritarianism” in the USSR throughout the 1960s and 1970s, as detailed by Dan Healey, “The Sexual Revolution in the USSR: Dynamics Beneath the Ice,” in Sexual Revolutions, ed. Gert Hekma and Alain Giami (Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 236-248.

[21] The need for Americans to keep a straight viz. heterosexual citizenship was antithetical to both homosexuality and bisexuality, as noted by Naoko Shibusawa, “The Lavender Scare and Empire: Rethinking Cold War Antigay Politics,” Diplomatic History 36:4 (September 2012): 724-726. Also see May, Homeward Bound, 91-96, on the US’ perception of the ideal heterosexual family during the Cold War.

[22] Nicholas M. Horrock, “Paper Calls Jones Communist in 1950s,” The New York Times, December 20, 1978, 19. For a contextualisation of the Rosenbergs’ role in the debate over “atomic spies” during the Cold War, consider the work by Michael E. Parish, “Cold War Justice: The Supreme Court and the Rosenbergs,” The American Historical Review 82:4 (October 1977): 805-842.

[23] Karen DeYoung and Paul Grabowler, “Suicides Called ‘Punishment,’” The Washington Post, November 27, 1978.

[24] Tim Reiterman, “Jones Temple Asked to Return Child,” San Francisco Examiner, November 19, 1977, reprinted in House Committee Report, 335. On Jones’ vehement denial, see Ron Javers, “Expedition to Reverend Jones’ Refuge,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 15, 1978, reprinted in House Committee Report, 345.

[25] Reiterman, “Jones Temple Asked to Return Child,” 336; and Bob Klose, “People’s Temple in Guyana is ‘Prison,’ Relatives Say,” Santa Rosa Press Democrat, April 12, 1978, reprinted in House Committee Report, 338-339.

[26]Larry Kramer, “Reverend Jones Became West Coast Power,” The Washington Post, November 20, 1978. These contrasts, to be sure, were not only limited to this one single article, although the emotional grasp of the cited source was the most prominent, inter alia. On the ideological positioning of the US as a nation governed by democratic institutions instead of the single-party authoritarianism observed in the USSR throughout the Cold War, see, among others, Westad, The Global Cold War, chapters 1 and 2.

[27] DeYoung and Grabowler, “Suicides Called ‘Punishment.’”

[28] For example, see “Hurry My Children, Hurry,” Nation, March 26, 1979, reprinted in House Committee Report, 512-514.

[29] See, for example, “The Cult of Death,” Newsweek, December 4, 1978, 38-60; Carey Winfrey, “Why 900 Died in Guyana,” The New York Times Magazine, February 25, 1978, reprinted in House Committee Report, 483-494; “Jones’ Suicide Calls, Gunshots Heard on Tape Recording found at Jonestown,” The Baltimore Sun, December 8, 1978, reprinted in House Committee Report, 441-442; and Leonard Downie Jr., “Jones’ Tape of ‘White Night’ Reveals Dissent to Suicides,” The Washington Post, December 9, 1978.

[30] See the ominously-titled article by Krause, “Survivor: They Started with the Babies.”

[31] Jon Nordheimer, “Son Depicts Leader of Cult as a Fanatic and a Paranoid,” The New York Times, November 22, 1978, 1.

[32] For example, see the damning article authored by Marshall Kilduff and Phil Tracy, “Inside Peoples Temple,” New West Magazine, August 1, 1977, 30-38. Also see the Peoples Temple rebuttal in “Peoples Temple Statement in Response to New West article, RYMUR 89-4286-HH-1-C,” Alternative Considerations, https://jonestown.sdsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/03-11-NewWestResponse.pdf.

[33] Klose, “People’s Temple in Guyana is ‘Prison,’” 337.

[34] The contemporaneous literature on this is profuse. Among others, see Raymond A. Bauer, “Brainwashing: Psychology or Demonology?” Journal of Social Issues 13:3 (1957): 41-47; and Albert D. Biderman, “The Image of ‘Brainwashing,”” Public Opinion Quarterly 26:4 (January 1962): 547-563. For commentaries on this topic, see David A. Smith, “American Nightmare: Images of Brainwashing, Thought Control, and Terror in Soviet Russia,” The Journal of American Culture 33:3 (2010): 217-229; Charles S. Young, “Missing Action: POW Films, Brainwashing and the Korean War, 1954-1968,” Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 18:1 (1998): 49-74; and the review article “The ‘Brainwashing’ Dilemma,” by Matthew W. Dune, History Workshop Journal 81:1 (April, 2016): 285-193. I thank Dr. Darlene Espena for providing the initial inspiration for this series of references.

[35] Michael Novak, “Jonestown: Socialism at Work,” American Enterprise Institute 94 (March 1979), reprinted in House Committee Report, 495. See also Louis Jolyon West and Richard Delgado, “Psyching Out the Cults Collective Mania,” Los Angeles Times, November 26, 1978, reprinted in House Committee Report, 75, where an accusing finger was also pointed at China. The “art” of brainwashing in Communist China was a common trope during the Cold War since the 1960s, particularly after the publication of Robert Lifton, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of “Brainwashing” in China (Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 1989). I thank an anonymous source for providing me with the opportunity to peruse this text.

[36] For a detailed description of the medicines and methods used by Jones to unhinge his followers, see “Jones Commune Found Stocked with Drugs to Control the Mind,” The New York Times, December 29, 1978, 13.

[37] Novak, “Jonestown: Socialism at Work,” 496. Similar relationships have also been drawn to the use of drugs amongst the Nazis, who supposedly used mind and body-enhancing drugs to create troops of “super-soldiers” as well. Fears of this nature have distilled into the Cold War world, albeit in the world of American-Soviet competitive sports, as argued by Rob Beamish and Ian Ritchie, “The Spectre of Steroids: Nazi Propaganda, Cold War Anxiety and Patriarchal Paternalism,” The International Journal of the History of Sport 22:5 (2005): 777-795.

[38] Tim Reiterman, “Scared too Long,” San Francisco Examiner, November 13, 1977, reprinted in House Committee Report, 333. On the genesis and development of Stalin’s personality of mistrust and perpetual suspicion, see the study done by Ronald Grigor Suny, “Stalin and his Stalinism: Power and Authority in the Soviet Union, 1930-1953,” in Stalinism and Nazism: Dictatorship in Comparison, ed. Ian Kershaw and Moshe Lewin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 26-52. On George Kennan’s unflattering account of Stalin’s personality in the Long Telegram, see the National Archives and Records Administration, Department of State Records (Record Group 59), “Central Decimal File, 1945-1949, 861.00/2-2246,” reprinted in US Department of State, ed. Foreign Relations of the United States, 1946, Volume VI, Eastern Europe; The Soviet Union (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1969), 696-709. Stalin’s personality would subsequently become the independent variable in John Lewis Gaddis’ post-revisionist synthesis of the origins of the Cold War in We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), chapter one; and The Cold War: A New History (London: Penguin, 2005), chapters 1 and 2 respectively. Also consider the somewhat-eponymous review of Gaddis’ approach by Melvyn P. Leffler, “The Cold War: What Do ‘We Now Know?’” The American Historical Review 104:2 (April 1999): 501-524.

[39] Reiterman, “Scared too Long,” 333; and Kenneth A. Odell, “The Death of Robert H. Houston Jr.,” The Jonestown Report 19 (2017), last modified November 3, 2017, https://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=70570.

[40] On the first comment, see the Klose, “People’s Temple in Guyana is ‘Prison,’” 337. For the second, see Marshall Kilduff, “Grim Report from Jungle,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 15, 1978, reprinted in House Committee Report, 340.

[41] “Death Tape (Q042),” trans. Fielding M. McGehee III, Alternative Considerations, https://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=29079.

[42] See, for example, the study done by Les K. Adler and Thomas G. Paterson, “Red Fascism: The Merger of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia in the American Image of Totalitarianism, 1930’s-1950’s,” The American Historical Review 75:4 (1970): 1046-1064.

[43] On the deployment of armed East Berlin guards which threatened to shoot defectors from the Eastern viz. Communist border of the Berlin Wall, see Frederick Taylor, The Berlin Wall: A World Divided, 1961-1989 (HarperCollins E-Books, 2006), chapter 10. For the euphemism used in this point, see 262.

[44] See, for example, Robert J. Lifton, “The Appeal of the Death Trip,” The New York Times Magazine, January 7, 1979, 26-31; Ron Javers, “People’s Temple Mission,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 17, 1978, reprinted in House Committee Report, 356; and Klose, “People’s Temple in Guyana is ‘Prison,’” 338 for threats. For Jones’ own words as cited in this point, see Charles A. Krause, “Bodies in Guyana Cause Confusion,” The Washington Post, November 22, 1978.

[45] “Charles Garry Visits Jonestown,” The Sun Reporter, November 10, 1977, reprinted in House Committee Report, 328.

[46] The hypocrisy of Jones’ socialist experiment was even more apparent when Jones enjoyed luxuries, such as sugar and a personal refrigerator, that were denied to his followers, as seen in Layton, “Affidavit of Deborah Layton Blakey,” 7-8. This was already a point of contention since the “Kitchen Debate” held between Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev in 1959, as seen in Susan Reid, “Cold War in the Kitchen: Gender and the De-Stalinization of Consumer Taste in the Soviet Union under Khrushchev,” Slavic Review 61:2 (Summer, 2002): 211, 215-216, 242. On the chronic shortages of consumer goods in the Brezhnev era, see Philip Hanson, The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Economy: An Economic History of the USSR from 1945 (London and New York: Routledge, 2014), 87-89, 115-118.

[47] Klose, “People’s Temple in Guyana is ‘Prison;’” and Kilduff, “Grim Report from Jungle,” 340.

[48] See the extensive list of references that Jones had made to the Soviet Union, and his plans for evacuating Peoples Temple there on “What was Peoples Temple’s Plan to move to the Soviet Union?’ Alternative Considerations, https://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=35388. For the final moments of Jones’ claim that the USSR would never accept Peoples Temple after the assassination of Ryan, see “Death Tape (Q042);Excerpts of a Transcript of Tape from Jonestown,” The New York Times, March 15, 2013, 8; and “Hurry My Children, Hurry,” 512-513.

[49] “Soviet Official is Said to Have Met Twice with Top Aides of Cult Leader,” The New York Times, November 28, 1978, 14; and Charles A. Krause, “Cult Leader Earmarked $7 Million for Soviets,” The Washington Post, December 18, 1978. For the most obvious accusation of Social Security Fraud by the press in the aftermath of the November 18 murder-suicides, see Horrock, “Paper Calls Jones Communist in 1950s.” For a retrospective study that rebuts this claim, see Fielding M. McGehee III, “Was there Social Security Fraud in Jonestown?” Alternative Considerations, https://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=35426.

[50] Tim Reiterman, “Jones’ Last Will: Estate to Wife, 5 of 7 Children,” San Francisco Examiner, February 8, 1979, reprinted in House Committee Report, 480-483.

[51] For a chronological analysis of the events that followed the miscalculation of Jonestown’s casualties since November 18, 1978, see David Chidester, “Rituals of Exclusion and the Jonestown Dead,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 56:4 (Winter, 1988): 681-702. Also see Krause, “Bodies in Guyana Cause Confusion;” Rhoden, “Jonestown Explosion May Be Yet to Come,” p.53; and Graham Hovey, “U.S. Says Incorrect Toll of Dead Reflects a Hasty Police Estimate,” The New York Times, November 25, 1978, 1.

[52] Seib, “What the Media Did.”

[53] Judy Kutulas, After Aquarius Dawned: How the Revolutions of the Sixties Became the Popular Culture of the Seventies (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017), 186-188.

[54] For context, see footnote 59.

[55] Hovey, “U.S. Says Incorrect Toll of Dead Reflects a Hasty Police Estimate.”

[56] Graham Hovey, “Consular Officers: Babysitters, Etc. And Confessors, Psychiatrists and social Workers, Official Says After Guyana Criticism,” The New York Times, November 29, 1978, 16.

[57] Hovey, “Consular Officers.”

[58] See footnote 49 for context.

[59] Donald A. Ritchie, American Journalists: Getting the Story (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 291-296; and Jules Archer, Watergate: A Story of Richard Nixon and the Shocking 1972 Watergate Scandal (New York: Sky Pony Press, 2015), chapter 15 and 22. On the term used in this sentence, see 301. Also see the lengthy debate over the role of journalists and Nixon’s establishment as critiqued by Michael Schudson, “Watergate: A Study in Mythology,” Columbia Journalism Review 31:1 (May/June 1992): 28-33. On the growing distrust of the American state among the American public after the Vietnam War under Lyndon B. Johnson and the Watergate scandal under Richard Nixon, see Joseph S. Nye, “In Government We Don’t Trust,” Foreign Policy 108 (Autumn, 1997): 106-108.

[60] This trope has been common in explanations of how Peoples Temple managed to escape the American government’s surveillance. For an instance where Peoples Temple resorted to lawsuits to stifle criticism of the organisation – or more specifically, Jones – see George Hunter, “Ukiah Weekly Target of $5 Million Lawsuit,” Ukiah Daily Journal, August 23, 1977, reprinted in House Committee Report, 327.

[61] Harvey Milk, “Letter of Harvey Milk to Pres. Jimmy Carter,” February 19, 1978, Alternative Considerations, https://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=19042.

[62] Kramer, “Reverend Jones Became West Coast Power,” 361.

[63] Krause, “Bodies in Guyana Cause Confusion.” For a similar sentiment, see Lifton, “The Appeal of the Death Trip,” 31. On the proliferation of counter-culture in the USA from the 1960s to 1975, see Jeremy Suri, “Counter-cultures: The Rebellions Against the Cold War Order, 1965-1975,” in The Cambridge History of the Cold War, Volume 2: Crises and Détente, ed. Melvyn P. Leffler and Odd Arne Westad (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), chapter 22.

[64] For an excellent chronological tracing of the First Amendment’s expansion to include the protection of religious minorities before and during the Cold War, see Hosoon Chang, “The First Amendment During the Cold War: Newspaper Reaction to the Trial of Communist Party Leaders Under the Smith Act,” Free Speech Yearbook 31:1 (1993): 67-79.

[65] For the quote used, see the thinly-disguised complaints by Richard Delgado, “Investigating Cults,” The New York Times, December 27, 1978, 23. Also see West and Delgado, “Psyching Out the Cults Collective Mania,” 274-275.

[66] William Raspberry, “***And What Government Can’t Do,” Washington Post, December 21, 1978.

[67] “Peoples Temple Early Bible Interpretation,” Alternative Considerations, https://jonestown.sdsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/BibleInterpretations.pdf, 1.

[68] See, for example, Dianne Kirby, “Religion and the Cold War – An Introduction,” in Religion and the Cold War, ed. Dianne Kirby (Hampshire and New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2003), 1-22; and Dianne Kirby, “Harry Truman’s Religious Legacy: The Holy Alliance, Containment and the Cold War,” in Kirby, Religion and the Cold War, 77-102.

[69] Fears of the atheist and godless Soviet anti-Christ were not rare amongst religious organisations and denominations in the First World bloc of the Cold War, as seen in Kirby, “Religion and the Cold War – An Introduction,” 1-5.

[70] The Open Door: To All Man Kind 1:4 (April 1956), Alternative Considerations, https://jonestown.sdsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/theopendoor.pdf, 3.

[71] The Open Door.

[72] Doug McAdam, “The US Civil Rights Movement: Power from Below and Above, 1945-1970,” in Civil Resistance and Power Politics: The Experience of Non-Violent Action from Gandhi to the Present, ed. Adam Roberts and Timothy Garton Ash (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009). On how black actors have exploited gaps in the Cold War to further the cause of the Civil Rights at home and vice versa, see Penny von Eschen, Satchmo Blows Up the World: Jazz Ambassadors Play the Cold War (Cambridge. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2006).

[73] For a detailed analysis of the nexus between the rise of the New Religious Right, Carter’s presidency and Ronald Reagan, see J. Brooks Flippen, Jimmy Carter: The Politics of Family, and the Rise of the Religious Right (Athens and London: University of Georgia Press, 2011), chapter 7. Also see John C. Green and James L. Guth, “The Christian Right in the Republican Party: The Case of Pat Robertson’s Supporters,” The Journal of Politics, 50:1 (February 1988): 151 for a brief literature review of what the authors recognised as the new Christian Right as a viable political force.

[74] The Open Door: To All Man Kind. On the selective manner by which Jones used and discredited Christian scriptures, see Kristian Klippenstein, “Excavating Usefulness and Truth: Jim Jones’ Treatment of the Bible and the News,” The Jonestown Report 14 (2012), last modified May 22, 2017, https://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=34280.

[75] Jones’ claim that he was a reincarnation of the Buddha, Muhammad, Lenin and Jesus Christ has been noted in Layton, Seductive Poison, 45, DeYoung and Grabowler, “Suicides Called ‘Punishment;’” and Layton, “Affidavit of Deborah Layton Blakely,” 2-3.

[76] Jo Thomas, “Practices of Cults Receiving New Scrutiny,” The New York Times, January 21, 1979, 1. Also see Carter’s obstinate reaction to Congress’ demand for reform in Jo Thomas, “Some in Congress Seek Inquiries on Cult Activities,” The New York Times, January 22, 2018, 1 the next day.

[77] Jason D. Berggren and Nicol C. Rae, “Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush: Faith, Foreign Policy, and an Evangelical Presidential Style,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 36:4 (December 2006): 611-612.

[78] On the contrasts noted here, see Joe Renouard, “Get Carter: Assessing the Record of the Thirty-Ninth President,” in A Companion to Gerald A. Ford and Jimmy Carter, ed. Scott Kaufman (Wiley-Blackwell: 2015), chapter 27, Kindle Edition. For the quotation used, see Renouard, “Get Carter,” 572. See also Kutulas,After Aquarius Dawned, 179-181; and Dominic Sandbrook, “What Ronald Reagan Knew,” The New Statesman 139:4997 (April 2010): 22-26.

[79] For an alternative approach towards the same themes that I have examined here, see David Chidester, “Saving The Children by Killing Them: Redemptive Sacrifice in the Ideologies of Jim Jones and Ronald Reagan,” Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation 1:2 (Summer, 1991): 177-201, where he juxtaposed Reagan’s rhetorical insistence that Americans would rather die under the banner of democratic-capitalist freedom alongside Jones’ wish that his own ‘children’ perish under Leninism-Marxism instead of living under the quasi-slavery of capitalism.

[80] See Reagan’s comment in Chidester, “Saving The Children by Killing Them,” 177-178; and Reagan’s reference to Jones’ “cult” at a posthumous award ceremony dedicated to Leo Ryan in 1984 in Ronald Reagan, The Reagan Diaries, ed. Douglas Brinkley (New York: HarperCollins, 2007), 282.

[81] On how the Christian right was drawn to Reagan’s rhetoric during the 1980 Presidential elections, see, inter alia, James E. Wood, Jr., “Editorial: Religious Fundamentalism and the New Right,” Journal of Church and State 22:3 (Autumn 1980): 414-417; Arthur R. Miller and Martin P. Wattenberg, “Politics from the Pulpit: Religiosity and the 1980 Elections,” Public Opinion Quarterly 48:1B (1984): 301-317; and Jeffrey L. Brundey and Gary W. Copeland, “Evangelicals as a Political Force: Reagan and the 1980 Vote,” Social Science Quarterly 65:4 (December 1984): 1072-1079. For a contrasting perspective, albeit on a statistical dimension, see Stephen D. Johnson and Joseph B. Tamney, “The Christian Right and the 1980,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 21:2 (June 1982): 123-132. On the quotes used here, see Ronald Reagan, “1980 Replicating National Convention Acceptance Address” (speech, Detroit, July 17, 1980), American Rhetoric, accessed May 3, 2018, http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/ronaldreagan1980rnc.htm.

[82] For a review of the trends that characterised the declining family in the US since the 1960s, see David Popenoe, “American Family Decline, 1960-1990: A Review and Appraisal,” Journal of Marriage and Family 55:3 (August 1993): 527-542; Samuel William Crompton, The Family Values Movement: Promoting Faith Through Action, ed. Tim McNeese (New York: Infobase Publishing, 2008), chapters 4-6.

[83] Flippen, Jimmy Carter, chapters 7 and 8.

[84] See footnote 48 for context.

[85] David Farber, The Rise and Fall of Modern American Conservatism: A Short History (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2010), 161.

[86] Lee Sigelman, Clyde Wilcox and Emmett H. Buell Jr., “An Unchanging Minority: Popular Support for the Moral Majority, 1980 and 1984,” Social Science Quarterly 68:4 (December 1987): 876-877: and Sara A. Mehltretter Drury, “Defining National Security as Peace Through Strength: Ronald Reagan’s Visionary Rhetoric of Renewal in the 1980 Presidential Campaign,” Argumentation and Advocacy 51:2 (2014): 93-95.

[87] Gaddis, The Cold War, 217.

[88] Ronald Reagan, Reagan: In His Own Hand, ed. Kiron K. Skinner, Annelise Anderson and Martin Anderson (New York: Free Press, 2001), accessed May 3, 2018, http://catdir.loc.gov/catdir/enhancements/fy0641/00066304-s.html.

[89] Jaclyn Stanke, “Carter, the Soviet Union, Détente and SALT II,” in Kaufman, A Companion to Gerald A. Ford and Jimmy Carter, 338.

[90] See footnote 59; and Joseph B. Treaster, “Jim Jones 1960 Visit to Cuba Recounted,” The New York Times, March 25, 1979, 41.

[91] This mentality, where Americans turned away from the “weak” Carter to the confident Reagan in the face of a growing Soviet threat abroad and dissent at home has been commented upon by Andrew E. Busch, “The Election of 1980,” in Kaufman, A Companion to Gerald A. Ford and Jimmy Carter, chapter 27, Kindle Edition, 543-544; Gil Troy, A Very Short Introduction: The Reagan Revolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 41-42; and Chester Pach, “The Reagan Doctrine: Principle. Pragmatism and Policy,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 36:1 (March 2006): 80-82. Also see the stinging rebuke of Reagan’s political opportunism by Ken Booth and Phil Williams, “Fact and Fiction in U.S. Foreign Policy: Reagan’s Myths about Détente,” World Policy Journal 2:3 (Summer 1985): 501-532.

[92] For a working definition of the Fourth World, see, for example, the case of nomadic Tibetans in Sulmaan Wasif Khan, Muslim, Trader, Nomad, Spy: China’ Cold War and the People of the Tibetan Borderlands(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015), 2-5.

Last modified on October 19th, 2018.
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