I don’t usually go in for conspiracy theories, but this one has always intrigued me. So much doesn’t add up:
-Why did initial reports refer to 408 dead bodies when there were in fact more than 900?
-How do you get 900 people, at least most of them sane, to voluntarily commit suicide? And why did most of the dead die from injection if there suicide was voluntary?
-Why did Jones specifically mention “Get Dwyer out of here” and why did Dwyer go through the pockets of the dead on the runway?
-Was Jim Jones a loose-cannon CIA agent when he was in Brazil (where according to his reports he lived in poverty on rice and beans while according to other reliable reports he lived in a large house with servants and always had money)?
-What about Ryan’s visit made Jones give the go ahead for the real White Night?
Any thoughts, comments, or suggestions for further reading?
To be honest I don’t think there was any conspiracy outside of what Jones wrought upon his followers.
Initial reports are always wrong. Most cases they are over estimates (Like The World Trade Centre or the Katrina victims) Someone made a mistake. Don’t forget Jonestown wasn’t exactly next door to anything and those who came across the site could have easily missed those under other bodies or on the edges of the compound.
Mass suicide is not unique to Jonestown. If people are conditioned to believe that death is preferable to capture they will chose one over the other.
There was also a culture of Death created in Jonestown. They were constantly told that dying for principles was important.
With no outside voice of reason or any dissent allowed the group began to feed on its own parinoia and reaffirm Jim’s Bizzare requests.
I’d like a cite for that. It was my understanding that those who dies either drank the laced juice or were shot if they refused.
The section on the tape has Jone’s repeat that command a few times as if answering someone who was confused by the request. Jone’s by this time was already in deep mental decline and may have mistaken Another person for Dwyer.
Someone has spectulated that it may have been Charles Garry (A temple Attourney) As eyewitnesses state that the only peopel sent to the East House (As Jones on the tape orders Dwyer to be sent) were the two Attournies. Garry was a white middle aged man who could have been mistaken by Jones in his delusional state.
From the tape:
Obviously the person he is ordering doesn’t know who he is refering to.
Simple. He ordered the attack on Ryan’s plane. He would never have gotten away with that and he would have lost Jonestown. In his own demented paranoid mind it was better they all died under his guidence.
Bear in mind that evidence is seldom perfect, and minor (sometimes even major) discrepancies can almost always be found in any account of current and/or historical events. A favorite debating tactic of many conspiracy theorists (as well as “scientific” creationists and holocaust deniers) is to give minor discrepancies and faults in the available evidence far greater weight than such faults deserve in an attempt to discredit the conventional or mainstream accounts of such events.
I’m not sure about the rest, but I heard an audio recording of Jones on some documentary of the event during the massacre that makes it pretty clear that many of these 900 did not voluntarily die, and were murdered. I think it’s pretty well established that many did commit suicide, and many of those “helped” the rest.
When news of Jonestown hit, U.S. SouthCom (my headquarters) rushed a couple of Special Forces teams down there from Fort Amador as soon as we could get diplomatic clearances. They were to provide security.
A call went up to XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg to provide a Graves Registration platoon, which was down there very fast. The SF came up on satellite to report of the huge disaster down there.
A great emphasis was placed on getting an exact body count. (For some reason.) The platoon found bodies buried under other bodies in large piles. It was a mess. The estimates we were running up to the NCA kept going up and up.
People at the Pentagon were screaming at us to get the count nailed down. Much excitement.
The Green Toupees did not help matters when they repeatedly kept stuffing the body of a pet gorilla the headjobs killed into body bags and try to evac it on the flights running up to New Jersey.
In any case, there was no coverup at that point at least.
As for Jim Jones in Brazil. He was never short of cash. In California he shook down the poor to support his lifestyle. I suppose he did the same in Brazil.
Not all great and horrible events have great and horrible causes. Sometimes people just go nuts.
I was riveted to this whole event when it happened, and I thought the movie was very good (Powers Boothe, right?). But I’m really foggy on the details of it now. I don’t remember anything about anyone dying by lethal injection. I, too, would be interested in additional reading on this event.
There were lots of children there, too (2 or 3 hundred). Presumably many of them were ‘helped’ to suicide by their parents or other adults. And the number of children could have confused the initial body count (body counts being notoriously difficult to pin down anyway). I wouldn’t call either of these things (body count confusion or evidence that some people were assisted to ‘suicide’) signs of a conspiracy or coverup.
I’m from Redwood Valley, the site of Jones’s last church in the US. The church was well known there. The school bus drove by it every day – in fact, some kids who eventually died in Guyana went to high school with me, although I only knew them by sight. SOme of the kids seemed devout and would talk openly about their church and the church’s beliefs. One girl who was in a class with me, actually stood up the day before they left and said goodbye and told us why they were going – to build a Utopian society and await the end of the world, which they were expecting to take place anytime. Other kids were just there because their parents were. My brother was reasonably tight with a couple of boys from the church. Tight enough that, when plans were being solidified for the church to move to Guyana, Troy knew that these boys didn’t want to go. They even discussed a plan for the boys to run away and come live secretly in Troy’s treehouse, so they wouldn’t have to leave. They weren’t afraid (or never told Troy they were afraid) of being killed; they just didn’t want to leave the country. Anyway, nothing ever came of these plans – the People’s Temple kids was pretty tightly locked down and Troy was only able to see these boys at school. The names of Troy’s friends were on the death lists, as were the names of some of the kids from my own class. Troy hasn’t ever (I don’t believe) looked into it any further to determine whether or not his friends were among the fishy suicides that appeared to have been assisted, but he has always said he was sure they wouldn’t have killed themselves if they’d known what they were doing.
I can’t answer any of the questions in the OP, but for those who wanted further reading on Jonestown, the afore-mentioned Deborah Layton wrote a great book called Seductive Poison about her experiences in the cult. (IIRC, she escaped just before the mass suicide, but some of her relatives were involved.)