40 Years Ago Today

 

File:TuckermanRavine.MtWashington.NH.jpgI was sitting in the little snack bar in the base station of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington (a short mountain, comparatively speaking, but one which has its own set of challenges for climbers), prior to setting out on an expedition with Mr. She, “when our love was young,” as the saying goes, when a shocking newsflash came over the radio: Hundreds of people had died in an impossibly massive murder-suicide event in Jonestown, Guyana.  It was one of those “Where were you when…?” moments.  That’s where I was.

People were flabbergasted. Most of us had no idea what any of it was about. And as the bizarre and gory details came out over the next several days, the story just got stranger and sadder. By the time all the facts were known, over 900 people were dead, a US Congressman had been assassinated, and an ominous, and often flippant new phrase, “he drank the Kool-Aid,” had entered the English Language.

This article provides a fascinating first-person account of Congressman Leo Ryan’s visit to the colony, of his interactions with Jones and his followers, and of the subsequent massacre of Ryan and several others as they were leaving. It’s written by a survivor of said massacre, a congressional aide who was traveling with the group, and who was shot several times herself as the melee progressed. It’s a powerful witness to the situation, as well as a sidelight on how different so many things were, forty years ago today.

I still can’t process the madness and the pure evil of this event. 900 people. Many of whom went willingly and joyfully to their deaths. Many of whom murdered their loved ones, including their children, by forcing them to “drink the Kool-Aid” (not a phrase I’ve ever been able to use myself), or by injecting them with poisons, including cyanide, and leaving them to die prolonged and agonizing deaths. I just can’t process that level of madness and evil. All I can do is pray for the poor, insane, deluded souls, and for those innocents who had no choice. May they rest in peace.

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  1. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Also, a good book on this horror is out now.

    • #1
  2. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Titus Techera (View Comment):

    Also, a good book on this horror is out now.

    Yes.  I haven’t read it, and I confess the first time I came across a review, I was a bit skeptical.  But Jackie Speier’s article (she’s a Democrat Congresswoman) reinforces the connections between progressive politicians like Harvey Milk and George Moscone, and Jim Jones.  (Milk and Moscone, San Francisco Mayor and City Supervisor respectively, were shot and killed just one week after the Jonestown massacre, and the book mentioned covers both events).

    What seeing the book review did do for me though, was remind me that Harvey Milk was assassinated by a disgruntled member of the Board of Supervisors (Dan White), who’d resigned, then wanted his job back, and became bitter and vindictive when Mayor Moscone gave the job to someone else.  White turned up at City Hall and assassinated both Moscone and Milk, on November 27, 1978.

    One thing that was not a factor, or in play at all in Harvey Milk’s death was the fact that he was gay.  But his legend, as is so often the case, says differently.

    • #2
  3. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    It happened my first semester in college. There was nothing other than newspapers and TV/radio, so it was days before the real story came out.

    • #3
  4. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    And with our new media, the only-report-what-serves-the-cause-of-the-progressive-narrative media, I wonder how many things like this, or worse, might occur and we will never know.

    I see that that sounds kind of paranoid. But . . . . these days, I just don’t know.

    • #4
  5. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum
    @

    Amen…Stars and Stripes published a combination retrospective on the events/update on the survivors this past week. Horrifying!

    • #5
  6. The Great Adventure! Inactive
    The Great Adventure!
    @TheGreatAdventure

    Percival (View Comment):

    It happened my first semester in college. There was nothing other than newspapers and TV/radio, so it was days before the real story came out.

    Beginning of my second year.

    I remember the first news reports of this – can still visualize the surroundings of my parents apartment at the time.  I was in the same place some 7 months later when ABC correspondent Bill Steward was shot and killed on camera in Nicaragua.  A few months more and the hostages were taken at the American Embassy in Iran.

    It was not a pleasant time.

    • #6
  7. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    I had just returned from a couple of years of living in Scotland.

    after being challenged constantly about everything from the US’s efforts during WWII, Vietnam and race relations, I was just happy to be home when news of the massacre hit. I lived in San Francisco of and off through the 80s, never heard a word about how revered Jim Jones had been.  Though Milk was a near-deity 

    If memory serves, Dan White employed what became know as the “Twinkie defense” for the murders he committed  

    The 70s … you can keep ‘em. 

    • #7
  8. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Annefy (View Comment):

    The 70s … you can keep ‘em.

    Amen to that.  And it’s not even as if they’re like the 60’s, in that, just because I remember them doesn’t mean I wasn’t there.  Unfortunately.  There were a few good moments though.  And sometimes it’s helpful (to me, anyway) to take off my rose-colored glasses and reflect back on how awful, and stupid, and nasty, other times could be.

    Yes to the Twinkie defense, too.

    • #8
  9. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    For the longest time I thought that Jim Jones was a garden variety religious fanatic.    It was only recently that I came to understand that The People’s Temple was a radical socialist organization and had little to do with any Christian variety that we’d recognize.    The name should have been a giveaway.    “People’s”  is a favorite organisational title of the Left.

    And the Left is want to distance itself from its most violent  practitioners like Jim Jones and Lee Harvey Oswald.    

    • #9
  10. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    She: and an ominous, and often flippant new phrase, “he drank the Kool-Aid,” had entered the English Language.

    Not to mention erroneous.

    The drink was Flavor Aide.

    • #10
  11. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    We studied this (along with the nuclear bombs in Japan, the plague, and other mass deaths in history, it was a strange class) in my freshman year of college, just a few years after it happened.  I still find it just too bizarre to fully understand what happened.  The ability to convince people to commit to self-destructive madness is one of the weirdest side effects of our powerful minds combined with our tendency to want to belong to tribes and cults, no matter what.  What’s more disturbing is that we usually don’t recognize when this tribal blindness occurs.

    • #11
  12. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    I remember the photographs in Newsweek. Thank you for calling attention to this date, which should live in infamy. I caught a short piece on One America News, then checked Ricochet and found your piece. The San Francisco Chronicle was brutally truthful, perhaps because they feel completely safe from any chance of political-social reversal.

    I’ve excerpted several left-of center accounts of the San Francisco Democrats’ connection/complicity in a post.

    • #12
  13. John Peabody Inactive
    John Peabody
    @JohnAPeabody

    Instugator (View Comment):

    She: and an ominous, and often flippant new phrase, “he drank the Kool-Aid,” had entered the English Language.

    Not to mention erroneous.

    The drink was Flavor Aide.

    Call me cranky, but I grit my teeth every time I hear the incorrect flippant phrase. I wonder how the Kool-Aid people have come to terms with their name in this context.

    • #13
  14. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    John Peabody (View Comment):

    Instugator (View Comment):

    She: and an ominous, and often flippant new phrase, “he drank the Kool-Aid,” had entered the English Language.

    Not to mention erroneous.

    The drink was Flavor Aide.

    Call me cranky, but I grit my teeth every time I hear the incorrect flippant phrase. I wonder how the Kool-Aid people have come to terms with their name in this context.

    How pedentic.  Xerox, Kleenex, Cool Aid.  The language is understood whether pedants want it to be so or not.

    • #14
  15. John Peabody Inactive
    John Peabody
    @JohnAPeabody

    kyler (terms with their name in this context.

    How pedentic. Xerox, Kleenex, Cool Aid. The language is understood whether pedants want it to be so or not.

    See (in jest, really!) “cranky”.

    • #15
  16. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Contemporaneous reports indicate that both”Kool-Aid” and “Flavor-Aid” were given out in Jonestown, depending on which was more readily available at any time, and that Flavor-Aid, being cheaper, was generally preferred.  But that’s just another instance of nitpickery here.  The point is that a phrase used so flippantly and casually these days had such a gruesome and nasty beginning.

    There are many such in the English language, but in many cases the passage of time, often hundreds of years, has blunted our sensibilities to the origin.  I can’t help seeing the image of Jonestown, as reflected in the awful photographs of the scene that trickled out in the days afterwards, whenever I hear the “drank the Kool-Aid” phrase.  It’s just not far enough away for me yet.

    • #16
  17. Ansonia Member
    Ansonia
    @Ansonia

    Titus Techera (View Comment):

    Also, a good book on this horror is out now.

    The book is a lot better than “good”. It contradicts and supplements (to say the least) part one of the documentary recently on television in eye-opening, very important,  and extremely well documented ways.

    I wish everyone on Ricochet would make it their business to read the book carefully and review it on Amazon. I get sick seeing only 5 reviews there. The scant number  reminds me of the journalists Flynn writes about who were  deliberately ignored or  censored by the left wing media, or intimidated by Temple goons,  when they did everything they could to expose the People’s Temple while Jim Jones was still in California and stop able through discrediting.

    We need young people to put down their cell phones and think about Jim Jones—not Jim Jones in Guyana, the one worse than Kurtz in  Conrad’s Heart of Darkness—Jim Jones in California. We need them to think about who and what enabled him. More reviews on Amazon would help. Wouldn’t it ?

    • #17
  18. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    John Peabody (View Comment):

    Instugator (View Comment):

    She: and an ominous, and often flippant new phrase, “he drank the Kool-Aid,” had entered the English Language.

    Not to mention erroneous.

    The drink was Flavor Aide.

    Call me cranky, but I grit my teeth every time I hear the incorrect flippant phrase. I wonder how the Kool-Aid people have come to terms with their name in this context.

    To correct the corrector: Flavor Aid

    • #18
  19. Ansonia Member
    Ansonia
    @Ansonia

    She, 

    We don’t know how many of the people went willingly and joyfully to their deaths. On the periphery of the gathering were the true believers, armed with guns and bows, ready to kill those who tried to escape. Then too, of course, the children were murdered first. I imagine once a person squirted poison into his or her own child’s mouth ( figuring, wrongly, that that death would be less painful than the bullet or arrow the murderers were ready to shoot into him) he or she would have no desire to remain alive.

    • #19
  20. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    John Peabody (View Comment):

    kyler (terms with their name in this context.

    How pedentic. Xerox, Kleenex, Cool Aid. The language is understood whether pedants want it to be so or not.

    See (in jest, really!) “cranky”.

    Okay, you got me, I didn’t catch that it was in jest, and then I was the cranky one.

    Am I the only one that has no recollection of a product called Flavor Aid?

    • #20
  21. John Peabody Inactive
    John Peabody
    @JohnAPeabody

    Skyler (View Comment):
    Am I the only one that has no recollection of a product called Flavor Aid?

    It was just a generic knock-off of Kool-Aid. Might not have been available nationally.

    • #21
  22. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Skyler (View Comment):

    John Peabody (View Comment):

    kyler (terms with their name in this context.

    How pedentic. Xerox, Kleenex, Cool Aid. The language is understood whether pedants want it to be so or not.

    See (in jest, really!) “cranky”.

    Okay, you got me, I didn’t catch that it was in jest, and then I was the cranky one.

    Am I the only one that has no recollection of a product called Flavor Aid?

    I have no recollection of it either.  Sometimes, products like that are targeted to specific areas of the country, though, and it’s also possible that its one of those things that is more widely available internationally than it is in this country.

    • #22
  23. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Ansonia (View Comment):

    She,

    We don’t know how many of the people went willingly and joyfully to their deaths.

    No we don’t, and I didn’t specify a number.  But we do know from eyewitness accounts that Jones regularly conducted “drills” where people did not know whether the drink they took was poisoned or not, until he started laughing like a madman and announced that it was just a test.  And that those drills happened over and over again.  And we do know that there was a core group of true believers, whom I would call deluded and mad.  The terms “willing” and “joyful” are, perhaps misleading in the way that I used them, in that I was meaning, that they had subsumed their will in the service of evil and madness in the way that fanatics and lunatics sometimes do.  I expect some of them actually were evil, too.  But I suspect that the majority of them were pathetic, deluded fools who actually believed in Jim Jones and the figurative and literal poison he spread.  Certainly not willing and joyful in the way that a healthy, independent-thinking person would act in the situation.

    On the periphery of the gathering were the true believers, armed with guns and bows, ready to kill those who tried to escape. Then too, of course, the children were murdered first.

    Correct.  Those who had enough wit left to refuse the drink, either had the poison squirted down their throats, were injected with it, or were shot trying to escape.

    I imagine once a person squirted poison into his or her own child’s mouth ( figuring, wrongly, that that death would be less painful than the bullet or arrow the murderers were ready to shoot into him) he or she would have no desire to remain alive.

    It’s kind of you to suppose the capacity for so much rational thought.  I’m not sure.  (Also not sure that a bullet or an arrow properly placed, might not be preferable to death by cyanide poisoning.  But, not an authority on that subject.)  Either way, inhuman, and awful.  Prayers.

     

    • #23
  24. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    iWe (View Comment):
    To correct the corrector: Flavor Aid

    Appreciate that

    • #24

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