Reflections on Jonestown
Neo-Neocon reflects on Jonestown on the 30th anniversary:
The first relevant lesson to be learned is the danger of blindly following a charismatic leader. Jones became more deranged later on, but as his congregation grew in the 60s and 70s, he was a respected member of the San Francisco community, with connections to Democratic politicians (I’m not sure there’s any other kind in San Francisco) and a strong reputation for racial equality.
The second lesson is to beware of the trust that gullible and trusting human beings can place in that charismatic leader. Jones required that people give over their lives and their assets when they became followers—a danger sign. Members had varied reasons for joining, but it can probably be safely said that most of them were exceedingly idealistic. According to the testimony of many of the survivors (a small group, but an articulate one), once they realized the true character of the man in whom they’d placed such hope and faith, it was too late. They were in a prison, subject to various forms of physical and psychological torture in Jones’ attempt to control the inmates. And in the final year before the terrible end, the prison we know as Jonestown was at least as isolated as Alcatraz, because it was located in the heart of the Guyanese jungle.