A political activist, a preacher, and a faith healer — or a man who led 909 individuals into a mass suicide, Jim Jones was the leader of the cult called “The People’s Temple.” This cult was an emblem for eliminating all “ism” from society. The People’s Temple was a promise by Jim Jones to surge validation and acceptance among them. Who would have known this would turn into the largest mass suicide in the United States.
When the cult came into being, the US was facing the worst civil turmoil — with marches, hunger strikes, a battle for civil rights, and a war in Vietnam.
Racism, sexism, bigotry, ageism were peaking every day in the States. It was during that chaotic period that Jim Jones rose as the charismatic peace provider with his “People’s Temple.”
He carried out sermons calling out to people for spreading love and positivity. He led his followers to embark upon the journey of socialism and the construction of Utopia. Who would have known that his so-called safe space “The People’s Temple,” would turn into an uncanny cult?
Jim Jones led more than 900 of his followers to commit suicide, rather happily, for him. He brainwashed them and acted as their sole guardian angel. People were truly bewitched by their “Father” and were eager to sacrifice themselves to create a sense of “good” in the world.
Jim was obsessed with revolutionary suicide and was fascinated by a rather morbid idea of preferring suicide over being “murdered.” He, in his own head, was sure that the Government and everyone who did not follow him was his enemy and wanted him dead.
Jones made people kill their own children, he had adults kill themselves, old people, and had people shoot other people for him. He made it all seem like an offering done to achieve something better and made it seem like the ultimate rescue from evil and bad.
Jim Jones along with his followers made their way to Guyana’s jungle, 150 miles from Georgetown to settle down in a remote area to “form” their own paradise on earth, called Jonestown. They believed it was free of every “ism” that was present in the United States.
In The People’s Temple, individuals were treated “equally”, or at least it was a make-believe thing that Jones presented in public — he was an expert at manipulating people after all!
He had people working in agriculture, textile, education, and more. In reality, employees were mistreated, they were prisoners of pain, abuse, and the most atrocious punishments one could think of!
He spared no man, woman, or child. Jones made people believe that this was their Utopia, and frankly when people witnessed a lack of “ism” that they were not used to back in their lives pre The People’s Temple, they truly believed in their “Utopia” created by Jim Jones.
As his followers grew in number, the government started taking an interest in the group. As the media started getting involved in the People’s Temple, numerous pressing accusations started to surface revolving around Jim Jones.
Individuals expressed that there was physical and sexual abuse done to them, moreover children were tortured as well if anyone questioned Jones’s authority.
The tyrant Jim Jones carried out emergency drills in which he would train followers to take their own life.
He would provide them with guns and other weapons and ask the followers to pretend to kill themselves. In addition to that, he even gave them “juice” which was poison, and asked them to drink it! After doing all this, he would propose that this was merely a test of loyalty and to rid the followers of the fear of death. He was determined to invoke feelings of sacrifice among people!
In November 1978, an allegation against the People’s Temple rose among individuals and reached US Representative Leo Ryan (D-California).
People associated with the cult members had asked Ryan to send a delegation to Jonestown to make sure if their friends and family were held at the People Temple in accordance with their will. As Jonestown had cut off all the communication from the outer world, sending a delegation was the only option.
Jim Jones did not let the delegation enter Jonestown
Congressman Leo Ryan along with journalists and a few officials reached Jonestown on November 14th.
However, upon arrival the delegation was kept outside Jonestown by Jim Jones, they were not allowed to enter The People’s Temple. He was obviously petrified that the Government was there to investigate his so-called “Paradise.”
Jones even went to the extent of calling a meeting with his community members and carrying out a sermon to convince his followers that the temple is under attack and they must do whatever is possible to keep Ryan away from Jonestown. They started by signing a petition.
Even with such a strong speech in play — Jones could not accomplish what Hitler tried to do in the Beer Hall Putsch, he could not convince everyone and the government intervened.
This in turn meant that Ryan and his delegates were allowed to enter through the gates of “Paradise”. All the preparations were made in Jonestown, people had to rehearse what they were going to tell the interviewers and how they were going to react to negative questions when probed further about the situation in the town. Jones himself carried out all the drills to prepare his people enough to keep them from blowing his cover.
On 17th November Ryan arrived in Jonestown, Jim Jones’ followers were investigated and they replied exactly how they had rehearsed all the questions.
Later, that day a note was slipped by a resident to Ryan, begging Ryan to take him and his other friends out of Jonestown. Upon pursuing that note secretly, it was found that a dozen people wanted to leave Jonestown desperately. Then on November 18th, Ryan courageously set out from Jonestown along with the cult members who did not want to stay there any longer.
On their way back to the air-strip — a man undercover as a refugee, who worked for Jones, opened gunfire on Ryan and the followers. Several people were shot dead and injured along with the Congressman and other journalists.
After attacking the Congressman Jim Jones instigated the mass suicide
Meanwhile, at Jonestown, Jones gathered his community and told them that Ryan Leo had been killed.
He justified the murder by telling his followers that the Congressman had came there to destroy them and their peace. Moreover, he implied that Congressman was the worst enemy of people at Jonestown. Being the expert manipulator that he is, Jim Jones preached to his followers that they needed to commit suicide before the US government came for them.
He told them vicious fabricated stories about what the government might do to them, once they found out about the death of the congressman in Jonestown. He was a puppet master who was controlling his followers’ strings, convincing them that by committing suicide, they would be sending proof to the people that the people of Jonestown had sacrificed themselves for peace. he made them believe that suicide was their “holy” way out!
Potassium Cyanide was poured into all the followers’ drinks. Children were forcibly injected with the poison and were killed first, followed by the deaths of adults and then the old ones.
In a moment, Jonestown was full of dead bodies sprawled everywhere. A total of 900 people poisoned themselves at the “call” of their “Father” — who was supposed to show them the light at the end of the tunnel. the man who was supposed to bring peace to them took their lives from them. Later that day, Jim Jones killed himself with a gunshot.
An allegedly “peaceful” state which was almost like a summer camp for “isms” victims ended up creating a massacre depicting the worst example of inhumanity and violence. Kind of ironic how Jim Jones set out to create a Utopia after civil riots and killings in the US but ended up doing the exact same thing, maybe even worse — what do you think?
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