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30 th Anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre

Original post made by Jane, Professorville, on Oct 25, 2008

We are coming up to the 30th anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre.Web Link

It was one of the largest such mass suicides in history, and the greatest single loss of American civilian life in a non-natural disaster until the incidents of September 11, 2001.
One of those dying at the nearby airstrip was Leo Ryan, who became the first and only Congressman murdered in the line of duty in the history of the United States.
The impact on the Bay Area was profound. Much has changed.

30 yrs is a long time, looking back, what have we learned since then?

Comments (29)

Posted by tj
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2008 at 10:49 am

What was amazing to me was the support he got from leading politicians at the time.

They and the press blocked and diverted attention from his criminal associates and illegal activities. He was clearly a sociopath but was a very charismatic speaker.

Unlike most other figures deemed as cult leaders, Jones was able to gain public support and contact with prominent local and national United States politicians.

For example, Jones and SF mayor Moscone met privately with vice presidential candidate Walter Mondale on his campaign plane days before the 1976 election and Mondale publicly praised the Temple. First Lady Rosalynn Carter also personally met with Jones on multiple occasions, corresponded with him about Cuba and spoke with him at the grand opening of the San Francisco Democratic Party Headquarters where Jones garnered louder applause than Mrs. Carter.

In 1976 Willie Brown served as master of ceremonies at a large testimonial dinner for Jones attended by Governor Jerry Brown and Lieutenant Governor Mervyn Dymally and other political figures.

At that dinner, while introducing Jones, Willie Brown stated "Let me present to you what you should see every day when you look in the mirror in the early morning hours ... Let me present to you a combination of Martin King, Angela Davis, Albert Einstein ... Chairman Mao."
Harvey Milk, who spoke at political rallies at the Temple, and wrote to Jones after a visit to the Temple:
"Rev Jim, It may take me many a day to come back down from the high that I reach today. I found something dear today.
I found a sense of being that makes up for all the hours and energy placed in a fight.
I found what you wanted me to find.
I shall be back.
For I can never leave."

Posted by peter s
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 25, 2008 at 5:36 pm

I remember that era well.

There were many charming orators in EST, Life spring etc, etc selling hope and change.

Jim Jones was a heart a Stalinist, but he had an very manipulative approach to race and religion, a lot of powerful politicians and media types.

Could it happen again ---- Now?

Posted by but seriously
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 25, 2008 at 7:27 pm

Your linking Obama with a sociopathic mass murderer is grotesque and offensive.

Posted by Pass the Koolaid
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 25, 2008 at 7:27 pm


It is happening again. The play book is almost identical, but the scope is national...

Think, charismatic leader, preaching salvation in the face of (economic) disaster. And all with no basis in reality.

Will it end in a national Koolaid-fest?..... Only time will tell.

Posted by tj
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2008 at 8:19 pm

The parallels are disturbing, Werner Erhart, Jim Jones, the politics of hope and change.
It is a valid question, we have been fooled before.

Posted by Peter
a resident of another community
on Oct 25, 2008 at 9:34 pm

Ah, another pitiful attempt to distort reality. Nice going guys, keep up the useless work.

Posted by OPinion
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 25, 2008 at 9:46 pm

Actually, if you read the link to Jim Jones there are many similarities
to Obama.

The same charm and great public speaking, the same appeal to race.

Very weird.

I wish I had known this before, Peoples Temple was when I was a child, I never read the history till now.

So many Democratic politicians were involved, amazing history but it rings true for today

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 25, 2008 at 9:48 pm

Wow, you guys are more than a little kooky, ya know?

The black helicopters will be here any minute to take you to Alaska and a nice underground bunker.

Posted by john
a resident of Ohlone School
on Oct 25, 2008 at 10:00 pm


I usually agree with you but this time I feel you are ignoring important historical facts, the Obama campaign is more and more like a cult, very like Jim Jones in his SF days.

The histories are strangely similar.
I keep an open mind and this analogy sounds valid to me, hopefully with a different outcome

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 25, 2008 at 10:24 pm


No, the histories aren't strangely similar. I lived in the Bay Area at the time. Jim Jones' People's Temple and Barack Obama's get-out-the-vote operation really, really aren't the same thing.

And these aren't "important historical facts"--this is an attempt to make an analogy that doesn't hold up under scrutiny.

Does Obama run a religious cult? No.

Does Obama display signs of paranoia? No, though McCain does.

Does Obama try to isolate people in his get-out-the-vote operations?
No. His field operations, by the way, have been much more accessible to the press than McCain's.

If you think there's any similarity between enthusiasm for a candidate and the cult mentality, then you don't know a lot about cults.

I'll tell you what *is* beginning to worry me though--the levels of hysteria and rage I'm seeing on the right. I hope some nutjob doesn't try to shoot Obama as a result.

Posted by john
a resident of Ohlone School
on Oct 25, 2008 at 10:37 pm


Sorry. you made the the wrong call, according to DR Singers criteria Obamasas regime is in fact a cult.

Posted by but seriously
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 26, 2008 at 7:57 am

you people are scary. I agree with OP -- my one concern about Obama's becoming president is that some complete wacko right winger fringie might try to assassinate him.

Posted by but seriously
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 26, 2008 at 8:03 am

Because you all bring this up, I am posting here the criteria for a dangerous cult that Dr. Singer enumerated. They do NOT apply. Obama is attempting to bring back a culture of inclusiveness to the United States, where most of the population is not dienfranchised economically and politically. Stop your disgusting smear tactics.

1. The cult is authoritarian in its power structure. The leader is regarded as the supreme authority. He or she may delegate certain power to a few subordinates for the purpose of seeing that members adhere to the leader's wishes and roles. There is no appeal outside of his or her system to greater systems of justice. For example, if a school teacher feels unjustly treated by a principal, appeals can be made. In a cult, the leader claims to have the only and final ruling on all matters.

2. The cult's leaders tend to be charismatic, determined, and
domineering. They persuade followers to drop their families, jobs, careers, and friends to follow them. They (not the individual) then take over control of their followers' possessions, money, lives.

3. The cult's leaders are self-appointed, messianic persons who claim to have a special mission in life. For example, the flying saucer cult leaders claim that people from outer space have commissioned them to lead people to special places to await a space ship.

4. The cult's leaders center the veneration of members upon themselves. Priests, rabbis, ministers, democratic leaders, and leaders of genuinely altruistic movements keep the veneration of adherents focused on God, abstract principles, and group purposes. Cult leaders, in contrast, keep the focus of love, devotion, and allegiance on themselves.

5. The cult tends to be totalitarian in its control of the behavior of its members. Cults are likely to dictate in great detail what members wear, eat, when and where they work, sleep, and bathe-as well as what to believe, think, and say.

6. The cult tends to have a double set of ethics. Members are urged to be open and honest within the group, and confess all to the leaders. On the other hand, they are encouraged to deceive and manipulate outsiders or nonmembers. Established religions teach members to be honest and truthful to all, and to abide by one set of ethics.

7. The cult has basically only two purposes, recruiting new members and fund-raising. Established religions and altruistic movements may also recruit and raise funds. However, their sole purpose is not to grow larger; such groups have the goals to better the lives of their members and mankind in general. The cults may claim to make social
contributions, but in actuality these remain mere claims, or gestures. Their focus is always dominated by recruiting new members and fund-raising.

8. The cult appears to be innovative and exclusive. The leader claims to be breaking with tradition, offering something novel, and instituting the only viable system for change that will solve life's problems or the world's ills. While claiming this, the cult then surreptitiously uses systems of psychological coercion on its members to inhibit their ability to examine the actual validity of the claims of the leader and the cult.

Posted by Francesca
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 26, 2008 at 10:53 am

That description perfectly fits Obama and his advisers, Ayers and Rev Wright as well as the operations of ACORN.
Community organizers, like Jim Jones , learned to apply some of the techniques of the human potential movement and Maoist indoctrination to build commitment, Obama and ACORN do the same.

Posted by peter s
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 26, 2008 at 11:08 am

Listen to this:

“Practically all people live in a world of contradictions. They espouse a morality which they do not practice.… This dilemma can and should be fully utilized by the organizer in getting individuals and groups involved in a People’s Organization. It is a very definite Achilles’ heel even in the most materialistic person. Caught in the trap of his own contradictions, that person will find it difficult to show satisfactory cause to both the organizer and himself as to why he should not join and participate in the organization. He will be driven either to participation or else to a public and private admission of his own lack of faith in democracy and man.”[78]

Whose words? Saul Alinsky, as quoted hereWeb Link

Alinsky, Wright, Ayers are Obamas gurus, ACORN are his storm troopers.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 26, 2008 at 11:47 am

Francesca, John (latest version of the same old troll--ya gotta get over my kids' school), I pity you if you believe any of your self-inflicted propaganda.

but seriously listed Singer's criteria. If you weren't so afraid you'd actually pay attention to the Obama campaign and you'd see that it's a pretty normal campaign--just much better organized and focused than the last couple of Democratic presidential campaigns.

Obama's focus on speeches has been on the voters--the middle class--that is one of the things that gave him the edge in the debates. That and the fact he was far from being a high-energy demagogue in them. He came off as low-key, slightly boring in fact.

Rabble-rousing where you demonize people who aren't part of your group? Nah, we know that's not Obama.

It's you guys. It's Sarah Palin. This is the sort of thing that's driving some conservative Republicans to say that they're voting for Barack Obama.

Colin Powell decided to endorse Obama because he saw a picture of a mother mourning her son--a Muslim-American who died in Iraq. Powell wants an America where it's accepted that Muslims can be good Americans and, yeah, that a Muslim could be president. Instead we've got a situation where a Muslim middle name is political cannon fodder. Obama's Christianity is doubted even as he's simultaneously attacked for his choice in ministers. (Ya gotta pick one or the other guys.)

David Frum is voting for Obama because he thinks Sarah Palin is a disaster and that while Obama's too much of a liberal, he doesn't want someone with such questionable judgment as McCain.

Ken Adelman (a major Iraq hawk) has similar reasoning.

Frum and Adelman aren't huge Obama fans and they worry about his liberalism and his lack of experience--does that sound like members of a personality cult to you?

It's simple, really, the country is in enough of a mess that these highly partisan guys can't afford to indulge their partisanship at the presidential level this time around. McCain's flip-flopping and Palin's arrogant ignorance scares them a lot more than Obama's exotic name and inexperience.

It's a question of temperment. McCain can barely contain his anger, while nothing seems to upset Obama's equilibrium. Obama's actually the opposite of a cult leader in that he prizes rational thinking and decision-making.

Posted by Samuel
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 27, 2008 at 10:04 am

There are indeed strong elements of s cult in the Obama, Ayers, Wright Acorn regime an a strong state of denial about this by both followers and the MSM.

This was much more publicly evident in the early rallies with public trance like phenomena. The regime has played this down since then.

One thing I find interesting is Obamas psychological profile.

Abandoned by his father, step father and mother all by the age 10 yrs. Such a history often means a form of charming sociopathy that we see in Obama.

The thought of him as Commander In Chief, is both frightening and a joke.

Posted by but seriously
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 27, 2008 at 10:25 am

Well, Samuel, looks like you and Perspective and a few others are going to sit by, quietly (or not so quietly) frightened, while the rest of the country attempts to work together salvaging what is left. Frankly, since a whole lot of people (like, at least half of the country) has had to sit around for 8 years watching everything most precious about America (civil rights, opportunity for everyone) go to hell in a handbasket, take your turn nail biting for awhile. You'll have a lot less company than the anti-Bush continugent has for the last 8 years.

Posted by The Real Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 27, 2008 at 10:38 am

Samuel--thanks for a great laugh on a slow news day--it is so amusing to read these last minute attempts by McCain/Palin acolytes to smear Obama. It is interesting to see what happens to some people when desperation sinks in. Enjoy the next four years, Sam

Posted by too close for comfort
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 27, 2008 at 2:15 pm

"I'll tell you what *is* beginning to worry me though--the levels of hysteria and rage I'm seeing on the right. I hope some nutjob doesn't try to shoot Obama as a result."
OhlonePar, you're too close to reality on this one. AP just reported that the ATF says it has disrupted a skinhead plot to assassinate Obama and kill 102 black people. Scary stuff.

Posted by Mary
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 27, 2008 at 3:46 pm

The skin head thing was probably just talk, however the Weather Underground under Obamas close friend Ayers did kill people and planned to kill many many more,
Rev Wrights friends in the Nation of Islam have similar plans,
and Angela Davis you has just left UC Santa Cruz was a militant member of the Black Panthers who killed 100s.

So I would be more concerned about what left wing radicals have planned based upon their history.

Posted by but seriously
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 27, 2008 at 4:26 pm

"Rev Wrights friends in the Nation of Islam have similar plans"

Please cite your source for this claim, in which you imply that Nation of Islam has a plan in place to attempt to assassinate McCain and take out a bunch of whites in the process.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 27, 2008 at 9:44 pm


"Just talk" when the guys were arrested trying to break into a gun shop?
And already possessed several illegal arms.

"Just talk"--on how to shoot a bunch of kids and then cut off the heads of several more--before trying to kill a presidential candidate.

My. God. Just talk? Like the Oklahoma City bombing?

You should be deeply ashamed of yourself. Seriously.

Too close for comfort,

I don't like being right about this. But given the nature of the posts I see here--people just irrational with rage and paranoia--why wouldn't there be some more extreme cases out on the fringe somewhere.

Only takes a few loons.

Posted by Gene S
a resident of Ohlone School
on Oct 28, 2008 at 1:13 am

The cult like nature of the Obama regime is disturbing precisely because of the denial it involves.

There have been close to 400 murders in Chicago so far this year, it is worse than a war zone, Obama has done nothing about it and said nothing about it.

It is all very well to talk about change and hope, but where are the results in tour own back yard? that is what counts.

Posted by but seriously
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 28, 2008 at 9:16 am


Is Schwartzenegger personally responsible for fixing the high crime rate in Oakland, specifically? Why would Obama be responsible for fixing the crime rate in Chicago -- why is that not, in your view, the job of the mayor?

Posted by Garon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 28, 2008 at 9:31 am

Mary--the question is what did McCain/Palin know about the skin head plot. They need to be questioned about it and the public needs to know if they were palling around with skinheads. If they were they are toast

Posted by tj
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 28, 2008 at 10:06 am


The fact is that Obama has associated for years with violent racists, Wright ( supports the nation of islam ) ans Ayers and anti American terrorist.

Re murder in Chicago, if Arnold had come to power in Oakland, been part of the Oakland political machine, been active with people like the black panthers to limit police action (obama and ayers)

then of course you woulds hold him accountable for fixing the murder epidemic, obama is no better than dellums.

Posted by Garon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 28, 2008 at 10:16 am

TJ--no the facts are that many news agencies have looked into the supposed Obama/Ayers link and they have all concluded that they were never close--you and others still are trying to beat that dead horse--good luck. As for Wright--do you have any proof that he is a violent person?
Meanwhile we have McCain associating with Cuban-American terrorists, Palin associating with separatists
what did McCain/Palin know about the skin head plot against Obama? The voters need to know--this is a real event--not the made up Ayers/Obama crap that you have been spreading

Posted by sara
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 28, 2008 at 11:29 am

Even David Duke endorses Obama.

Skin heads are part of the national socialist movement also.

I can not understand why they would oppose another socialist, Obama is not a communist.

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