Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Jonestown: The World's Biggest Mass Suicide

Some of this material is extraordinary. The final crisis was triggered by the visit of a US Congressman- and he came with a entourage of journalists, photographers and cameramen. There is extensive coverage of the love-in between the Congressman and the cultists on the evening before the weirdness kicked off and film of Jones the next morning as his personality slides like melting cheese in the face of hostile interviewing. We see the congressman leaving the compound with blood on his shirt and there's even footage- apparently shot from behind the wheel of the grounded plane- of Jones' heavies opening fire at the airport. Back at the compound someone- perhaps Jones himself- had left a tape recorder running- so we can hear him preaching and pleading- whining even-  as his followers drink the poisoned kool-aid and collapse around him.

Over 900 people died.

Jones had some attractive ideas- he was an integrationist and a Christian socialist- but the seeds of weird were there from the start. A childhood friend told a story of him killing a cat so he could give it a proper funeral. He was a blandly handsome  man who dyed his hair- and wound up looking like a cross between Timothy Dalton and Colonel Gadaffi.  He needed his people as much as they needed him and got to fuck the prettier ones- male and female- as he chose. He kept them docile with hard work, sleep deprivation and constant propaganda. He couldn't bear it when any of them left him. By the end- when he was running a police state at Jonestown- he had his recorded voice- high on drugs and booze and paranoia- bursting out of loud-speakers in the middle of the night . His followers were idealists, communards, nice, good people; they wanted to build a better world. And narrowly they did. Jonestown- hacked from the jungle, self-sustaining- was a miracle as much as it was a nightmare.

I came away feeling that if I could only understand what had happened with Jones and his followers I'd have a handle on the whole human condition.

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