Reed Irvine - Editor
|December 1978, Part A|
JONES: CHRISTIAN OR COMMUNIST?
People all over the world are horrified and puzzled by the Jonestown, Guyana atrocity. Questions are being asked: Who was the Rev. Jim Jones? What kind of religion did he teach? Why did he order the murder and suicide of over 900 of his followers? The answers provided by most of our media during the week following the news of the murder of Congressman Leo Ryan and four others in his group at the Kaituma airstrip have been confused, inaccurate and misleading. Our media have concealed, misrepresented, or downplayed the key element in the philosophy of Jim Jones. He was a long-time dedicated Marxist communist who admired totalitarian communist dictatorships such as the Soviet Union and Cuba so much that he built one of his own in Guyana. It was tiny, with fewer than 1,000 inhabitants, but it had many striking resemblances to the dictatorships it was modeled after. The inhabitants were not free to leave Jonestown. Those who tried to escape were severely punished. Family members were kept in Jonestown as hostages to enable the dictator to exert control over those who were on the outside. The inhabitants were cut off from free communication with the outside world. The news they got was filtered through the dictator. They were subjected to the constant blare of exhortations and instructions by loudspeaker, one of the techniques of the Chinese communists. They were forced to attend lengthy meetings, listening to the political harrangues of Jones, after having worked ten to twelve hours in the fields. This is another technique of the Chinese communists. They were trained in what to say to visitors and were as adept as the Chinese, and Soviets in pulling on a good show and concealing the harsh reality. They were not permitted to own any substantial personal property, making them totally dependent on the dictator for their subsistence and survival. They were in mortal fear of the dictator's armed guards and "hit squads," which they believed would track them down and murder them if they should leave. They were punished if they complained about food or living conditions, and they were afraid to express dissatisfaction even privately. There was no religious observance in the community, apart from the obeisance to the all-powerful dictator, Jones. The workers were poorly fed, poorly housed and overworked, while the dictator lived in luxury. The settlement could not deliver the standard of living promised to the inhabitants, and it relied heavily on external contributions.
The evidence that Jim Jones was a Marxist communist does not derive solely from the fact that he established a communist settlement in the Marxist state of Guyana. Jones made no bones about the fact that he was a Marxist. His wife, Marceline, in an interview given to the New York Times in 1977, said that when Jones was 18 years old, his idol was Mao Tse-tung. She said his goal was social change through Marxism. The Chicago Tribune on November 22, quoted a former follower of Jones, Mrs. Wanda Johnson, as saying: "He told us on many occasions he was the reincarnation of Lenin. He told us this time he would be successful in installing a socialist state in America." She also said that on several occasions Jones spoke of killing then President Nixon or kidnapping the children of any public figure if he felt it would bring about a socialist form of government in the United States.
The Tribune was the only paper of several that we examined that made any mention of this important revelation by Mrs. Johnson. The Washington Post and The New York Times on the previous day did mention the reincarnation-of-Lenin claim, using a soft version, and giving it no prominence. Both of these papers ignored the charge that Jones was willing to kill the president and kidnap children of public figures to bring about socialism. However, The Times did say on November 21 that Mrs. Johnson had revealed that Jones' inner circle had signed statements saying that they were willing to kill their enemies, including government officials and all former members.
Both of these papers described the suicide drills that Jones put his followers through. The Post's account included this paragraph: "According to former cult member Tim Stoen, Jones frequently put his congregation through tests. 'He would pass around a brown liquid,' Stoen said in a West Coast television interview telecast yesterday (November 20) and tell everyone to drink it. After they drank it, he would tell them they would die in about an hour. Meanwhile, he would ask them to stand up one by one and tell the group why they were proud and honored to die for socialism'." (Washington Post, 11/21/78, p. A 15) The Times gave a different version of Stoen's statement, which was not as strong, but it was in the lead paragraph of a page-one story. It said: "He has mass suicide drills, where he tells all the people, hundreds of people, to drink a certain drink, and he says, 'That's fatal. You're all going to die in 45 minutes. I want to see how you feel about dying for socialism'." Jonestown was described as "an experiment in socialism where money, power, and elitism had been eliminated." In her 1977 interview with The New York Times, Mrs. Marceline Jones described her husband's aim as "a Marxist social group," and she said that was what he was building in Guyana. Despite all the evidence that Jones was a Marxist and admirer of the Soviet Union and Castro's Cuba, reporters not only avoided calling him a communist, but also went out of their way to qualify his socialism with adjectives such as "utopian," "quasi-religious," and "agrarian." We could find not a single article in the mass media that probed into Jones' Marxist beliefs and connections. All the remarks we have cited above were only passing references in articles devoted to other subjects. Articles were written about his religious background and activities, which, as we shall see, were phoney and were simply a means to his political ends. The tragedy spawned articles on unrelated cults, on the psychology of mass suicide, on Jones' sex life, on political figures who were connected with Jones or had written letters commending him. But there were no articles on the ideology which was his main inspiration, communism.
It is not clear why editors should conceal the fact that Jones' newspaper, The People's Forum, was full of praise for communist regimes. Why should it have been a "no-no" to mention that in 1977, the Rev. Jones went to Cuba specifically to meet with Huey Newton, the leader of the far left Black Panthers? The People's Forum of March 1977, reported that Jones was ecstatic about conditions in Cuba. He reported that the standard of living was "fantastic." Jones told his followers that the Cuban people were enthusiastic about the way Castro was running things. The people had total freedom, he said. The Washington Post had these quotes. It never reported them. The media quoted Jones' personal physician and strong supporter, Dr. Carlton Goodlett, without mentioning his long record of involvement in communist causes, including membership on the presidium of the World Peace Council, a Kremlin front. Some, but by no means all, papers did identify Jones' two lawyers, Charles Garry and Mark Lane as left-wing radicals. The New York Times reported on November 21 that Garry once took the Fifth Amendment and refused to say if he was ever a member of the Communist Party. It said that Garry had described himself as a radical and that he had had among his clients the leaders of the Black Panthers. The Times noted that Lane was also a radical and that he is a leading proponent of the theory that there was a right-wing conspiracy behind President Kennedy's assassination. Having been told nothing about Jones' fondness for the Soviet Union and Cuba, many people were probably puzzled by a UPI dispatch that was published in some papers on November 25. It told of a discussion that preceded the suicides at Jonestown. According to one of the survivors, one woman spoke up saying that suicide was not the only option, that they could go to the Soviet Union or Cuba. She was shouted down. This was followed by an even greater surprise the following day. Three survivors said that Jones' mistress had ordered them to deliver a suitcase containing $500,000 and a letter to the Soviet embassy in Georgetown, Guyana, after the suicides. They said they turned it over to Guyarian authorities. It was also revealed that Jones himself had talked of emigrating to the Soviet Union, telling his followers that it was the promised land. He had discussed with a Soviet diplomat the possibility of moving his followers en masse to the U.S.S.R.
Before he was exposed before all the world as a thief, sadist, satyr, dictator and mass murderer, Jim Jones was one of the darlings of the left. Guyana released a list of 38 prominent Americans who had allegedly written endorsements for Jim Jones. This list included first lady Rosalynn Carter, Vice President Mondale, HEW Secretary Joseph Califano, Mervyn Dymally, lieutenant governor of California, five members of the U.S. Senate, eleven members of the House of Representatives, the mayor of San Francisco and one former mayor of that city, and the mayor of Gary, Indiana. Some on the list say they can't remember writing the endorsements, and the letters have not been produced except for a handwritten "Dear Jim" note to Jones from Mrs. Carter. It is possible that some of the endorsements were forged by Jones himself. But there can be no denying that Jones vas very well connected politically, with his friends ranging from Communist Party leader Angela Davis to Rosalynn Carter, who met Jones during the 1976 presidential campaign. A benefit for Jonestown featuring black comedian Dick Gregory, California state assemblyman Willie Brown, Mark Lane and Charles Garry was to have been held in San Francisco on December 2. The theme was "A Struggle Against Oppression." Needless to say, the dinner was cancelled. The politicians and the ideologues of the left quickly went to work to disassociate themselves from Jones. In the case of Stalin, there is no way to obscure the fact that the mass murderer was a communist. But most people bad never heard of Rev. Jim Jones, and, with the cooperation of the media, it was possible for attention to be diverted away from his dedication to communism.
This was made easier by the fact that Jones himself had for years been masquerading as a Christian and a man of God. He was an ordained minister of the Disciples of Christ denomination, which has around 1.3 million members. But he had been exposed as a religious faker by Rev. Lester Kinsolving in eight articles written for the San Francisco Examiner in 1972. (The Examiner ran only four of them, capitulating to pressure from Jones and his followers.) Kinsolving exposed the fact that Jones claimed to have literally resurrected more than 40 people, that his service featured the beating of children and forced public confessions of non-existent sins, fake faith healings, and the regular use of a Marxist song book. Mrs. Jim Jones told The New York Times in 1977 that her husband had decided when he was 21 years old that the way to achieve his Marxist goals was to mobilize people through religion. "Jim used religion to try to get some people out of the opiate of religion," she said, adding that he had once slammed a Bible on the table and said, "I've got to destroy this paper idol!" (New York Times, 11/26/78, p. 20.) The Times informs us that Jones "was openly contemptuous of religion among his associates." (New York Times, 11/21/78, p. A 16). But he used religion to entice new recruits and to deceive naive outsiders. After the victims were hooked, he used sex, blackmail, intimidation and psychological dependence to manipulate them. At Jonestown, where there were no outsiders to be deceived, there were no religious services or discussions of religion. (Washington Post, 11/25/78, p. A 3.) Jones had so corrupted people who were once good Christians that they would commit adulterous or homosexual acts with him or others on his command. They would even commit murder at his command, even the murder of their own children, as we now know. Religion was nothing but a cover for Jones' communist ideology, but most reporters, like a pack of greyhounds, went chasing after the fake rabbit. CBS News takes the prize for this most asinine performance on November 22:
Walter Cronkite: At the end, cult leader Jim Jones was described as a drug-crazed, paranoid, power-hungry fascist, but what of this man whose ultimate command led his flock to mass suicide. Betsy Aaron reports. Betsy Aaron: It was called the People's Temple, but it was really Rev. Jim Jones' temple. Jim Jones was the reason people came, looking for love and for God. Jim Jones: Now as we reedirate. God is love. Love is a healing remedy. Let us believe, let us believe. Aaron: A kind of intense warmth emanated from this man. His message was traditional and positive. It was the gospel of Jesus. Jones: I love you. The people love you, and most importantly, Christ loves you. Aaron: He gave hope to the poor. He gave help to the infirm. There were doubters who questioned his cures, but to his congregation the power of God was present in Jim Jones. The program went on to show one of Jones' fake faith healings, the curing of a supposedly lame woman. No question was raised about the authenticity of the cure, although it is known that these cures were staged by Jones and his cohorts. This irresponsible reporting gave rise to reactions such as the one expressed in a letter in The Washington Post on November 26, which said: "In Guyana, organized religion once again has dropped its mask of benignity and revealed its ugliness." It also led columnist Max Lerner to write in The New York Post of November 26: "But Jones' followers were simple people, eager for a belief that would link them to a purer, more primitive Christian faith... They were a community of the faithful, a republic of the innocent." A note from one of these "innocents" found on Jones' body said: "I fear that without you the world may not make it to communism." The ideology of Jonestown was communism, not Christianity, but the media have obscured rather than explained that fact.
While the media scrupulously avoided calling Jones a communist, which he was, there was a rush to label him a fascist, which he was not. Walter Cronkite mentioned that he had been described as "a power-hungry fascist." Mort Sahl, an erstwhile nightclub comedian who presides over a radio talk show in Washington, D.C., came out with this beauty on November 24: "The exercise in Guyana was a fascist exercise, no matter what the label on the can. Socialists don't do that." We have not as yet been able to ascertain whether Mr. Sahl applies the fascist label to such states as the Soviet Union, Cuba, Red China, Vietnam and Cambodia, or whether he is simply unaware of the close resemblance of Jonestown to those societies. Charles Krause, the Washington Post reporter who accompanied the Ryan party to Jonestown, seems to share Sahl's view that "socialists don't do that." In an article published on November 22, he tells of Jones' son, Steven, being asked (presumably by Krause) "if Jonestown had not been an experiment in fascism--with its armed guard and other means of preventing people from leaving--rather than an experiment in socialism." Steven Jones reflected the same point of view, replying, "My father was the fascist. Jonestown was and still could be beautiful." On November 22, NBC News aired a half-hour special television report on Jonestown. It never once mentioned socialism, Marxism or communism, even though the title was, "Jonestown, November 1978: How Could It Happen?" At the very beginning, narrator Edwin Newman said: "James Warren Jones, better known as the Rev. Jim Jones, to some, he was a powerful spiritual leader, a good man. At various times he said he was the reincarnation of Christ and Lenin." That was as close as NBC got to suggesting that Jones may have been a man of the left. Without identifying Carlton Goodlett as a supporter of many communist causes and a member of the presidium of the Soviet-sponsored World Peace Council, NBC put him on the program to tell of how Jones helped the poor and downtrodden. He said that he told the members of the black religious community that there was a message to be learned "from the type of Christianity this man is speaking." Having neglected to tell its viewers that Jones' group was a communist group in action, NBC put on a Dr. Frederick Hacker, who said, "I believe these sects and cults are really mini-fascist organizations in action. They use terroristic means of intimidation in order to force their members to adopt a certain philosophy, a certain way of life, and a certain thinking." Some writers were a little more subtle in their efforts to work the transfer of the negative association to something other than communism. Max Lerner, in addition to falsely portraying Jones' followers as simple Christians, evoked the Hitler image: "Jim Jones mastered the art of conditioning his followers to obedience. He did it with a devilish ingenuity, as Hilter did it with millions, as Manson did it with his own little cult." Robert Geline of the Time-Life News Service, in an article in The Washington Star of November 26, said this: "Paul (a member of the Jonestown commune) remembers that Jones used to preach on the evils of Nazi Germany and show films of the concentration camps on the settlement's sophisticated closed-circuit TV system. Incredibly, while this 'teaching was going on, the communers would salute Jones at the beginning of each mass meeting with an upraised right arm ex- tended, fist clenched. They did everything but shout, 'Sieg Heil'." Mr. Geline surely knows that the upraised clenched fist is the communist salute, not the Nazi. This clumsy effort at transfer fails, at least with those readers who know what the clenched fist salute signifies. But as with the transfer of the negative reaction to religion or other religious groups, the transfer from communism to fascism met with some success. The Washington Post on November 26 ran two letters to the editor drawing parallels between Jones' followers and the Nazis. No letters were published which even mentioned that the group was Socialist, Marxist or communist.
On November 24, CBS News aired a half-hour special, "The Horror of Jonestown," in which the question "why" was repeatedly asked with no satisfactory answer being supplied. It was similar to the NBC production in that it never brought up Jones' Marxism. Nor did it challenge the sincerity of his religious professions. Like NBC, CBS News looked to psychologists to provide answers, rather than to experts in totalitarian societies. Not having asked the right questions, it is not surprising that the networks and the rest of the media have not come up with any satisfactory answers. An important question that no one has asked is whether or not the Jonestown commune was succeeding. All the propaganda out of Jonestown said that everything was going great, but the evidence of the survivors does not support that. The people worked 10 to 12 hours a day on a meager subsistence diet. Some have said that the dogs ate better than the people. Meat was served only when outside visitors came. Housing was deplorable, with 14 people, including married couples, crowded into a room 12 x 20 feet. They had zero privacy. Jones deliberately tried to destablize families, encouraging husbands and wives to live separately and promoting adulterous relationships. This was no Eden. Without coercion it would crumble. Jonestown was a failure and no one knew it better than Jones. He had too big an ego to accept defeat, and the mass suicide offered a way out. If everyone died, Jonestown would be forever shrouded in mystery, with people asking why it happened and never being quite satisfied with the answer. Its darkest secrets would remain hidden. Why did the followers go along? Some thought as Jones did. Those who differed obviously saw no hope of saving themselves by resisting. With the guards training their guns on them, they were no doubt right.
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Far too few people know that this was a Marxist communist operation, and far too many have been taken in by the efforts to transfer the negative associations elsewhere. We strongly suggest that you utilize the information in this AIM Report to write letters to editors, beginning with your local papers, to set the record straight.
SUPPLEMEMT AIM REPORT December I, 1978
This issue of the AIM Report is devoted entirely to a story that is still on the front pages as we go to press--the Jonestown tragedy. Our analysis is based on the coverage of the story that we have seen through Monday, November 27. It is likely that new revelations will alter the picture somewhat by the time this issue of the AIM Report is printed and put in the mail to you. On the evening of November 27, for example, NBC and ABC told on their evening news programs of the note that was found on the body of Jim Jones, written by one of his followers, that said: "I fear that without you the world may not make it to communism." That was the first mention of the word "communism" that we had seen in the national media in connection with Jim Jones and his group. We changed the copy that was already set in type to fit it in. But as more information is revealed about documents found at Jonestown and about the stories of the survivors, it is quite possible that the media will have to drop the pretense that Jones and his followers were dedicated Christians with a tinge of "utopian socialism." If they don't I hope you will help us prod them into facing reality.
WE MENTION IN THIS ISSUE A SERIES OF EIGHT ARTICLES THAT LES KINSOLVING WROTE back in 1972 for the San Francisco Examiner exposing the Rev. Jim Jones as a faker and a charlatan. That preceded the expose in New West magazine by five years. Les Kinsolving is editor of Washington Weekly, the very lively supplement to the Fairfax (Va.) Globe and the Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Silver Spring (Md.) Advertiser. I know that many of you, especially those who live in the Washington area, are familiar with Washington Weekly. The next issue of it will contain a lot of Les Kinsolving's material on Jim Jones and on the way the news media on the West Coast knuckled under to him. The San Francisco Examiner, a Hearst paper, ran only four of the eight articles Les wrote about Jones. They killed the series and ran a laudatory article about the faker after being threatened with lawsuits and after 150 pickets from the People's Temple began parading around their building. The San Francisco Chronicle was even more weak-kneed. They ran only stuff that Jones liked, and they accepted a cash award from him for their defense of "freedom of the press." Their defense of freedom of the press did not include condemning Jones for having caused the Examiner to kill the Kinsolving series that exposed Jones.
The San Francisco Chronicle passed the cash that it got from Jones on to Sigma Delta Chi, the journalism fraternity. When Kinsolving told officials of Sigma Delta Chi that the money was tainted they responded, in effect, that they would not look a gift horse in the mouth. The man who gave that response was Ralph Otwell, editor of the Chicago Sun-Times and one of the judges of journalistic ethics on the National News Council.
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I HAD INTENDED TO INCLUDE IN THIS ISSUE OF THE AIM REPORT A REVIEW OF A NEW book that is due to be published in the first week of December by Maurice Stans entitled The Terrors of Justice. That got squeezed out by the demands of the story on Jim Jones, but we will see that it gets into the next issue. But I want to tell you a little about this book now, because I think that many of you will want to read it, and we want to offer it to you as a premium to go with gift subscriptions to the AIM Report.
The AIM Report makes an excellent gift for the relative or friend who has everything--and also for those younger relatives who know everything. To encourage this kind of gift-giving, we are going to send you FREE a hardback copy of The Terrors of Justice by Maurice Stans, a book that will retail for $10.95, with every gift subscription or renewal of the AIM Report at the standard rate of $15.00 per year.
Now let me tell you just a little about the book and about Maurice Stans, the author. Mr. Stans was Secretary of Commerce under President Nixon. He had served as Director of the Bureau of the Budget under Eisenhower, and he was chairman of the campaign fund raising committees in the Nixon campaigns of 1968 and 1972. Prior to entering public service, he had a highly successful career in the field of accounting.
Stans was an able and honorable public servant, and as a campaign fund raiser he had no peer. I have to confess that before I read his book about all I could recall was that his distinguished career had been clouded by charges that came under the general heading of "Watergate." Those charges related to alleged illegalities in both the raising of campaign contributions and the use made of them.
Experienced as I am in media hatchet Jobs, I was shocked when I read The Terrors of Justice to see how unfair and even cruel the media had been in building up that cloud that for so long hovered over Maurice Stans and his family. I was equally shocked to learn how the machinery of justice was misused and abused by those who were determined to try to pin something on Stans. In the end they failed and the media and the prosecutors ended up with egg on their faces. To avoid threatened continued harrassment, Stans did plead guilty in March 1975 to five technical campaign financing misdemeanors, non-willful violations of the law. In a different climate, they would not have been pressed--as, indeed, similar violations were not pressed against other campaign fundraisers.
The book documents a serious case of unjust persecution by the media, and it cleared up the murkiness in my mind about an aspect of Watergate that is not very well known. It is a record that ought to be set straight, and I am glad that Maurice Stans has taken the time and trouble to do it in this fine book.
I hope you will take advantage of this generous offer and give the AIM Report and The Terrors of Justice to those deserving relatives and friends for Christmas. We can't promise delivery of the book by Christmas but we will notify recipients of your gift. And being full of the Christmas spirit, we will throw in a free copy of Kae Lucas' new fruitcake cookbook, FESTIVE FRUITCAKES (a $3.95 value) for every two gift subscriptions you send in. Use the coupon below. Attach an additional sheet for the names and addresses that you want the gifts sent to.
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