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Cleopatra7 posted a topic in CultsThese days, my main fundie interest is Jonestown/Peoples' Temple, even if this group wasn't fundie in the traditional sense of the word. One resource that FJers might be interested in are the Edith Roller journals, which are an account of life in Jonestown/Peoples' Temple by a white woman in her sixties who was a college professor before moving to Jonestown in January 1978. Roller died in the mass suicide/murders of November 18, 1978, but her journals were recovered by the FBI. Through a FOIA request by the Jonestown Institute, the journals have been transcribed and put online: http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=35667 These are a truly fascinating account of how one particular individual experienced life in Jonestown/Peoples' Temple, not through the lens of November 18, but as someone who was invested in the vision of Jonestown as a living community. She goes into a great deal of detail about what she did, who she talked to, what she ate, and what time she went to bed. The journals end after August 1978, and it's not clear why. Jonestown survivors have said that conditions in the community became more dire around this time, so it's possible that Roller didn't have time or resources to keep writing. It's also possible that further entries could have been stolen from someone within the community or they could still be classified by the FBI. What we do have is a great primary source about life in Peoples' Temple/Jonestown that is really unparalleled. However, once you start reading, we may have to send the rescue ferrets, because they're engrossing.
Cleopatra7 posted a topic in CultsYesterday, I saw a really great documentary called “Jonestown: The Women Behind the Massacre” that has now become my new favorite on this subject. It’s based on Mary Maaga’s book, “Hearing the Voices of Jonestown,” which focuses on the role of the educated white women who made up Jim Jones’ inner circle (I also highly recommend this book, though it is a bit academic), and Maaga herself appears in the film as an expert. The film focuses on the three women who were closest to Jones and probably played the largest role in planning and executing the massacre: Carolyn Layton, Jones’ favorite mistress, Maria Katsaris, Jones’ second favorite mistress, and Annie Moore, Carolyn’s sister and Jones’ personal nurse. Jones’ legal wife Marceline is also discussed, though it seems like she was more of an enabler of Jones’ excesses than someone who directly planned the massacre (not that this wasn’t bad too, since Marceline played good cop to Jones’ bad cop and kept a lot of people in the Temple that way who would have otherwise left). One thing I like about this film is that it doesn’t treat Jones as this big bad who brainwashed almost a thousand people to passively “drink the Kool-Aid.” Jones himself was so doped up on drugs by the end that it would have been easy for Layton, Katsaris, and Moore to override any plans for suicide/Murder. Instead, they shared and enabled Jones’ pathological thought patterns and made them into a reality. Without these women and others in the leadership circle deciding to put the plan into action, the “revolutionary suicide” idea would have remained just that, an idea in Jones’ fevered brain. Another plus is that this is the only documentary on Jonestown that gets into the John Victor Stoen custody case which is absolutely vital to understanding why Jones and his inner circle felt so besieged: https://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=30909 Not only was the custody case draining Jonestown of badly needed resources, but the possibility of sending John back to his legal parents would have emboldened any outsider wanting to remove a child or adult from the community. Jones and his inner circle preferred to kill John and everyone else in Jonestown rather than allow the Stoens to “win” in any form of fashion. Basically, if you want a though provoking film that takes a feminist lens towards the Jonestown tragedy, I can’t recommend this film enough. I saw it on demand from A&E, though I’m not sure about its availibity outside of the US or if it’s on streaming services.
Cleopatra7 posted a topic in CultsA pastor associated with the Disciples of Christ, the denomination Jim Jones was associated with, plans to resurrect People’s Temple in the 39th anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre: http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=70319 Basically, he wants to continue the good things the Temple did (eg anti-racist activism, helping the poor and marginalized) but without all of the internal pathologies that led to the horror of November 18, 1978. The new People’s Temple will also be rooted in traditional Christianity, and not the quasi-communist personality cult the original had devolved to by the time of the move to Guyana. I don’t know how successful he’ll be, but we definitely need some people working for justice in this country. With everything that has happened politically in this country over the past year, I’m really understanding why so many black people and progressive whites thought going to Jonestown would be a solution to their problems.
Cleopatra7 posted a topic in CultsToday is the 38th anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre, which claimed 918 lives, most of whom were black women and children. Before 9/11, Jonestown was the largest single loss of American life that was not related to a natural disaster. As horrible as this incident was, I want to highlight a woman who is generally overlooked by books and documentaries on Jonestown, and was one of the few unambiguous heroes on that day. Christine Miller was a black senior citizen and the only person we know of who fought against the destruction of Jonestown on November 18, 1978. Here are some articles about her: http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=32381 http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=30294 http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=31907 On the infamous "death tape" that you can find online, Miller can be heard verbally sparring with Jones about the folly of destroying the community they worked so hard to build, using past statements Jones himself had made about relocating Jonestown to Russia and the recklessness of suicide to bolster her argument: http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=29081 (transcript of the "Death Tape") Eventually, Miller was shouted down by the other members of Jonestown, and she would die with the rest of them. A handful of eyewitnesses that managed to escape later claimed that Miller was held down and injected with cyanide by force. In fact, injection marks were found on a number of the bodies found at Jonestown, which would indicate that many residents did not willingly "drink the Kool-Aid." However, the forensic investigation into Jonestown was performed so shoddily that we will probably never know the truth (this article delves into how the bodies of those who died at Jonestown and the families that were left behind were treated disrespectfully by the US government: http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=16585). In any case, I think Miller is an example of standing up for what's right, even in the face of certain death and community disapproval. It's quite possible that Miller spoke for many Jonestown residents who didn't want to die, but were too afraid to go against the collective will. If the "death tape" is any indication, it doesn't seem like anyone else vocally spoke out against Jones' claim that killing the children was the only way to save them. Even if Miller died ignominiously in the jungle as a "Kool-Aid drinker," she at least died trying to save the members of Jonestown who couldn't speak for themselves.
Given how often references to "drinking the kool-aide" are used on this site, I thought it might be helpful to provide some information on the original kool-aide drinkers in People's Temple/Jonestown: http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/ (link, not broken because it's a scholarly site that would welcome more attention) A part that might be of particular interest to FJers is the memorial page list of those who died, complete with stats and memories by those who knew them: http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=690 There are also primary documents, articles, and other essays about Jonestown/People's Temple. Why am I posting this? Although we talk a lot about how religious fundementalism robs people of their independent thought, it can happen in any movement. I think that everyone has a weakness that a criminal personality can use for his/her own ends. For many people, this is just sex, money, or power but it can be patriotism, anti-racism, or other forms of idealism. Many of the people in People's Temple were attracted to it because it seemed to be tackling racism, classism, and sexism head on. Unlike VF or Gothardism, which condemns most followers to a joyless, impoverished existence, People's Temple provided followers with actual material benefits (including housing, medical care, food, and clothing) and a supportive social circle. I see a lot of myself in the idealistic young people who went to Jonestown thinking they were going to build a new society free of the prejudices of American society. Lots of people were taken in by Jim Jones, including Roselyn Carter and Harvey Milk, honestly, if I was alive then and living in California, I probably would have joined People's Temple because it was saying all the things that appeal to my progressive sensibilities.