17 November 2008

Jonestown Massacre: Spreading the Hate in '78

Almost 30 years ago was when 900+ members of the People's Temple cult, led by the vile Jim Jones, committed "revolutionary suicide" by ingesting cyanide-laced Kool Aid in Guyana. Today, Tim Reiterman writes of how Jonestown thugs shot at him when he came with a team of reporters and Congressman Leo Ryan to investigate the cult. Ryan has been the only congressman to die in the line of duty, as he was not as lucky as Reiterman. Interestingly, many big-wig politicians in the Bay Area supported the sexual abuse and fraud of Jim Jones prior to the mass suicide, including former SF mayor, Willie Brown, who said "Jim Jones is a rare, rare specimen. Jim Jones is a symbol of what we all ought to be about. . . Jim Jones is, in my opinion, a true human being. The U.S. government even dispensed welfare and social security checks to the cult's members so that it could stay afloat. How could we have been so fucking stupid to support these people?

Like Hitler said, people are more willing to fall for a big lie than a small one, and this is a tragic event in American history that shows how economically depressed people can succumb to mass hysteria. Fortunately, easy access to information has kept cults like the Church of Scientology on the defensive, but I fear the tough times ahead might make Americans more ready to fall victim to a demagogue.