Sunday, September 16, 2007
Misconceptions About Jonestown
We've all heard about the cyanide in the Kool Aide and how cult leader Jim Jones somehow convinced 918 people to commit suicide. Thats not what went down. I saw this interview with one of the four survivors of the tragedy on TV last night. This man, Tim Carter, had some crazy shit to say.
A quick history of Jonestown: The Peoples Temple gained popularity in San Fransico in the early 70's. Jim Jones preached love, leftist politics, and multi-racial community living. Jones was white, many of his congregation was black. The Temple grew to have thousands of members and in 1977 he took a thousand of them to live in Guyana on a huge plantation he had bought. They were going to start the perfect harmonious community. Apparently it was for a year until things began to change. Jones' mood and outlook became darker and more paranoid, probably due to his swelled ego and pharmacutical dependency problem. He used fear and other brainwashing tactics to control his congregation. He would send his minions into the jungle to shoot guns over Jonestown then tell his people that attackers were trying to invade them.
In 1978, a US congressman came to visit and found some of the members were being held there against their will. He took them and tried to leave. As they boarded a plane to take them out of the jungle, Jones' people opened fire, and killed the congressman and three others. Quickly, before the news spread to his people, Jones gathered everyone in the pavillion where he gave his sermons. As over 900 people gathered, armed guards surrounded them. He brought out a huge bucket of grape Flavor Aid laced with valium and cyanide, some cups, and syringes. Jones started preaching that "they had lived" and this was to be a "revolutionary act" and "hurry up before they come."
The usual story is the people lined up and drank one by one, dieing. Acorrding to Tim Carter, that was not the case at all. He had sensed early on something was wrong and went back behind the pavillion and heard Jones telling one of his inner circle to make the poison taste less bitter. In earlier sermons, Jones had brought out wine and various beverages and told people to drink it. After everyone had, he lied and told them it was poison. It was some kind of ritual/control tactic he used and in those cases no one died.
Carter started running around looking for his 3 year son and his wife. Before he could comprehend what was happening people started foaming at the mouth and dying violent agonizing deaths around him. Jones decided that children were to be the first to go, all 227 of them. As Carter started to panic while looking for his family, he turned to his left and saw poison being squirted into his sons mouth. He lost it as he screamed at his wife for letting it happen. He turned to Jones and asked him 'Why?" His screams turned to "I love you" as she took the poison. They died in his arms as he wept.
Some drank the poison willingly, those that refused were held down and injected or shot by guards. A lot of people lost the will to live after there children were killed. They used syringes to squirt the poison into the mouths of babies. The elderly were helpless to escape and recieved injections. 3 or 4 escaped into the jungle.
Jonestown is generally remembered as a mass suicide, in reality, it was a mass murder. I have trouble getting my head around the fact his actually happened. Imagine being there and seeing that go on around you. Absolutely mind boggeling.