Nov 21, 78 • 1430 • 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 211430Z NOV 78
FM ICA
[Listing of agencies receiving copies on PDF]

Sect mass suicide in Guyana

Coverage prominent, with many front-page stories or headlines.

1. Pier Maria Pasinetti from Los Angeles in [illegible name] front page: “Jones seemed to be the grotesque and criminal caricature of those pseudo-religious leaders… depicted by Sinclair Lewis in Elmer Gantry. For years the development of the electronic media has multiplied this type. Jones has two characteristics: fanatic discipline… and his relations with certain manipulators of militant politics. His relations with the blacks seem to have been strategic and manipulative, quite different… from those of his most distinguished victim, Leo Ryan.”

2. Ennio Caretta from La Stampa from New York: “President Carter, [illegible word] by this inhuman episode, was asked to be kept informed of the developments. There are already violent polemics on the sect, on police action towards it, on the true or alleged government responsibilities, on the alienation of the American minorities.”

3. Marino de Medici in Il Tempo from Washington: “About ninety percent of the congregation was colored, the rest was white, people without aspirations or hopes. Blacks and whites were not [illegible word] by a battle against an outside oppressor, which was recently identified with the federal organizations.”

4. John Cappelli in Paesa Sera from New York quotes Mrs. Jones as saying that her husband was an idealist. “According to Mrs. Jones he wanted to get the sect … a Marxist substance.” Cappelli also outlined Ryan’s career, noting that he had worked in black ghettos, and penitentiaries … and in 1973 had interviewed Yasser Arafat.

5. Ammino Tavioli in L’Initia (“An Absurd Escape From ‘Civilization’”). “this is clearly a terrible, macroscopic episode of a broader crisis… It is not difficult to imagine that Jones’ followers were escaping from a society which is freer and more permissive, but at the same time more conformistic, more superficial, and tyrannical. They were looking for equality, fraternity, love. Before there were the hippies, now there are innumerable sects in various countries… They are not only fake or frauds… They exist because they seem to satisfy a thirst for values that consumer societies not only do not satisfy, but ignore and laugh at. The layman, the Democrat, the communist knows that the best way out is not an escape into mysticism and transcendentalism. He knows that in the deadly and bloody end of the People’s Temple there is a severe warning … to those who advance other proposal for the solution of the crisis… Guyana is far away. California is closer, politically and culturally, and yet we feel that this mass suicide concerns us too, the inhabitants of this great village, the world.”

Originally posted on March 5th, 2020.

Skip to main content