Jonestown massacre; Jim Jones; Peoples Temple; Willie Brown
Update - May 23, 2009 - see the end of this post for the story of Harvey Milk's role in the Jim Jones political machine and the death of at least one of Jones' victims.
I saw the PBS American Experience documentary on the Jonestown massacre this week. [Debbie Schlussel earlier commented on a History Channel documentary that was probably better.] I found the documentary noteworthy for a few simple reasons. Without going into the entire history of the cult and the murders of 900+ people, I want to point out some similarities that emerge between Jim Jones' cult and the modern left.
As most of you know, Jim Jones founded his own "church," built a following and isolated his congregation from the outside world. Jones built this church in the 1960's and 1970's after moving to the northern California/San Francisco area. According to the PBS documentary, Jones became very influential in San Francisco politics during the 1970's as a result of the large number of loyal volunteers he could command from the ranks of the Peoples Temple.
Jones with Mayor Moscone and Walter Mondale
Jones exercised an iron will over the cult. Members sold their homes and donated the proceeds to the Temple and Jones. Other allegations much more tawdry were discussed on the PBS program. During the late 1970's, some members quit or tried to quit the cult. They tried to raise a public outcry against Jones and his cult in order to free their own family members from the clutches of the cult.
Willie Brown(l) and Jim Jones(r) at 1976 testimonial dinner for Jim Jones
But Jones and his cult were protected by Jones' political influence within the Democratic establishment of the San Francisco area and the local media:
But if, by the late '70s, Jim Jones was insinuating himself in the San Francisco power structure, there were questions beginning to be raised about some of the less savory goings-on inside the Peoples Temple. Throughout 1977, Jones allies in high editorial positions in the local media thwarted attempts to investigate. Nor was it editors and publishers alone who caviled before Jones. Political allies such as Mayor Moscone, Assemblymen and future mayors Art Agnos and Willie Brown, and others worked behind the political scenes to protect Jones and the Peoples Temple.
When he started to feel the heat of scrutiny, Jones was able to move the Peoples Temple to Guyana virtually lock, stock and pulpit. Perhaps worst of all, he was able to escape with hundreds of mostly black children, and the wards of various Bay Area social services agencies initially delighted to turn them over to foster parents within the Peoples Temple. Virtually all shared the fate of their parents and guardians.
Today, Willie Brown refuses to discuss Jones.
The PBS film pointed out that Jones would often frighten his followers with stories that his enemies were coming to kill their children. At other times, he would have his loyalists place children into a dark well, whereupon he would tell the children that there were monsters in the well. [In fact, it was Jones' own loyalists who were grabbing at the children from the bottom of the well in order to add to the terror.]
So we see in Jones and the cult several of the most important characteristics of the American left:
1) Paranoid rantings worthy of the tinfoil hat brigade;
2) Protection by a symbiotically intertwined media;
I have mulled over this post for the last two days. For years we have heard the left compare Bush to Hitler, etc. I really had to satisfy myself that, by comparing the left to Jones, I was not simply repeating the leftist tactic of comparing a political opponent to a random evil person. But I am comfortable with my analogy in this post despite the leftist tactic of Bush/Hitler association. I know that Bush and Hitler have nothing in common. I know that the Hitler accusation is simply a convenient tool that the left has used against every Republican for decades.
But Jim Jones actually was a real leftist. He was committed to socialism and the Democrat candidates who took control in San Francisco in the mid-1970's. More importantly, the tactics Jones used on his own flock are very reminiscent of the statements that the extreme left uses today. Jones kept his people in a state of fear about the outside world. Are Jones' statements any more ridiculous than Rosie O'Donnell's rantings about 9-11 being an inside job? Or Al Gore's theory that the Earth is going to get hot and melt icebergs in the North Pole that will one day flood the world?
O'Donnell and Gore and Moveon.org and the Kos Kidz lack one thing that Jones possessed - power. While the left possesses much power in America (and in the West) today, they do not exercise the type of absolute power that Jones exercised over his people. Jones' word was the word of god as far his people were concerned.
Absolute power changes people. With no restraints on one's actions, those actions become not only abusive, but bizarre.
In ancient Rome, the first five years of Nero's reign were relatively normal and benign. The bizarre sexual behavior, the enforced sycophancy and the murderous, random persecutions did not begin until later - after Nero's power over the known world had a chance to condition his mind.
For all we know, Jim Jones might never have dreamed of mass murder when he began his "ministry." In the 1950's, he might have been horrified at the thought that he would one day kill 900+ people (or even that he would take hundreds of people to a different country, isolate them and frighten them into submission). But that scenario became plausible as Jones' power grew.
There is no doubt that the left in this country has become bizarre and power hungry. They advocate more power over our children with federal programs and controls. They advocate a federal government takeover of the entire health care system throughout the nation. They have created bizarre double standards of political correctness, under which millions of Americans cower in fear of saying the wrong words or telling the wrong joke or offending the wrong people. They have created a climate of fear in which public officials, businesses, advertisers and ordinary people hesitate to use words like "Christmas" or otherwise acknowledge the Christian faith that has guided Western Civilization for almost two millenia. These are only a few examples.
When Rosie O'Donnell rants about 9-11, or when Al Gore shouts to screaming audiences, or when the leftist thugs e-mail death threats to conservative bloggers, or when race hustlers force authorities to prosecute innocent people, they may not be winning new converts or making friends among average Americans, but they are energizing their base. They are keeping their faithful in line. Every PC prosecution, every false accusation, every weird theory, every violent act, etc. rallies the uncritical leftists, confuses the adolescent who is new to politics and ratchets up the emotions of their uncritical masses so that they cannot see their way clear to escaping the ideological Jonestown that the left has created.
The one question we should be asking is, "What will happen should the leftists ever achieve complete power?" What will happen when the left controls all branches of government and the government programs have become so large and all encompassing that the normal constitutional limits on power have become meaningless? What will happen when the electoral crisis towards which the left is driving us finally destroys all confidence in the very concept of elections or the regular, peaceful transfers of power on which this country has depended to maintain our freedoms for generations.
If the hardcore left ever achieves total power in the ruins of our Republic, can we count on Al Gore to be a better person than Nero or Jim Jones? Do we honestly want to find ourselves at the mercy of Rosie O'Donnell or Michael Moore with no escape except through a vat of flavor-aid?
If the Democrat politicians of the past could be so enamored of Jim Jones [as Exile has pointed out]. . . :
Who Is This Man?
- Walter Mondale, as a United States Senator, invited him to a meeting on his campaign plane.
Mondale also wrote to this man, "Knowing of your congregation's deep involvement in the major social and constitutional issues of our country is a great inspiration to me."
- Willie Brown, eventual Mayor of San Francisco, introduced him as a combination of Martin Luther King, Angela Davis(!), Albert Einstein and Chairman Mao.
He met personally with Rosalynn Carter, Jimmy Carter's wife. He later wrote to her professing his "deep appreciation for the privilege of dining privately with you prior to the election."
- Senator Mike Gravel (D - Alaska) said that this man was "almost too good to be true."
- Congressman Don Edwards (D - California) wished that "there were more like the people" of this man's "church".
- Vice President Hubert Humphrey said that this man "is testimony to the positive and truly Christian approach to dealing with the myriad problems confronting our society today."
- Joseph Califano, Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under Jimmy Carter wrote to him saying, "Knowing your commitment and compassion, your interest in protecting individual liberty and freedom have made an outstanding contribution to furthering the cause of human dignity."
. . . then how do we expect today's leftists to exercise greater restraint with their own movement and with their own power?
update - May 23, 2009
Now that some Californians have proposed creating a holiday for Harvey Milk, it is important to remember his role in the Jonestown murders. Daniel Flynn has written specifically about one of Jones' child victims and Milk's role in aiding Jones against that victim.
Nine days prior to Milk’s death, more than 900 followers of Jim Jones—many of them campaign workers for Milk—perished in the most ghastly set of murder-suicides in modern history. Before the congregants of the Peoples Temple drank Jim Jones’s deadly Kool-Aid, Harvey Milk and much of San Francisco’s ruling class had already figuratively imbibed. Milk occasionally spoke at Jones’s San Francisco–based headquarters, promoted Jones through his newspaper columns, and defended the Peoples Temple from its growing legion of critics. Jones provided conscripted “volunteers” for Milk’s campaigns to distribute leaflets by the tens of thousands. Milk returned the favor by abusing his position of public trust on behalf of Jones’s criminal endeavors.emphasis added
“Rev. Jones is widely known in the minority communities here and elsewhere as a man of the highest character, who has undertaken constructive remedies for social problems which have been amazing in their scope and effectiveness,” Supervisor Milk wrote President Jimmy Carter seven months before the Jonestown carnage. The purpose of Milk’s letter was to aid and abet his powerful supporter’s abduction of a six-year-old boy. Milk’s missive to the president prophetically continued: “Not only is the life of a child at stake, who currently has loving and protective parents in the Rev. and Mrs. Jones, but our official relations with Guyana could stand to be jeopardized, to the potentially great embarrassment of our State Department.” John Stoen, the boy whose actual parents Milk libeled to the president as purveyors of “bold-faced lies” and blackmail attempts, perished at Jonestown. This, the only remarkable episode in Milk’s brief tenure on the San Francisco board of supervisors, is swept under the rug by his hagiographers.
Read the whole thing.
There will be no day set aside to remember John Stoen. Is it too much to ask that we refrain from desecrating this child's memory by naming a holiday in favor of the man who aided his murderer?