Nov 21, 78 • 0913 • USICA

[Editor’s note: This cable represents a daily news bulletin from the International Communication Agency for November 21, 1978. Only the portions related to the Guyana tragedy are reproduced below.]

[Listing of agencies receiving informational copies on PDF]

O 210913Z NOV 78
FM International Communication Agency/Berlin
[Listing of agencies receiving copies on PDF]

German TV review for Nov 20, 1978

West German TV

The suicide of 400 members of the quote Peoples Temple church unquote in Guyana, and growing tension between Germany and Yugoslavia dominated last night’s news.…

The mass suicide in Guyana

Both channels main news open with reports on the event and covered extensively with NBC films the murder of Congressman Ryan. Other films provided detailed information on Jim Jones and his church in Guyana and San Francisco.

On Channel Two’s main news desk [illegible word] Washington said: Quote This mixture of religious mania, crime and politics is not completely unusual in this country, only its dimensions had not yet reached those of this story of horror. Among the great number of religious groups in this country are many strange words, and once in a while and occurs that faith turns into religious mania and into crime. Self-appointed Bishop Jim Jones, leader of the quote Peoples Temple church unquote was such a good orator that politicians took advantage of the radiation of his personality. He found supporters among the poor because they thought he would give them heaven on earth. Unquote.

Channel One’s Peter Merseburger (Washington) reported mainly factually on Jones background in San Francisco, emphasizing his support for the poor and underlining the fact that the bishop’s influence to help San Francisco Mayor Moscone win the elections. In an interview Moscone discussed positive attitudes of Jim Jones. Merseburger also reported on rumors about black male in the religious group and mentioned Jones’ efforts to maintain discipline on the farm in Guyana. Merseburger summed up his report by saying: quote Jones obviously had hypnotical powers [ illegible word] his community submitted meekly to his leadership. Unquote.

Channel Two’s second news also opened with reports on the event and had [illegible name] comment on an American documentary film on Jones and his church. The film emphasized Jones’ political influence in California, and the fact that he went to Guyana because of rumors about blackmail. In an interview, Karl Gunther Rini (Rome, Italy) asked Jesuit father Michael Campbell Johnson, who had visited the farm in Guyana, for an explanation for the suicides. In his view the members of the group were fanatics who stood under heavy psychological pressure. In addition, the living conditions in the jungle evoked fears of Ryan’s visit.

Channel One’s second news reviewed the events, and anchorman Alexander von Bernstein observed that these sects did not only exist in America but also in the Federal Republic since various links connect them worldwide, and worried [illegible word] founded groups to fight the sects.

Originally posted on March 5th, 2020.

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