Note: This article was originally published in the Winter 2013 San Francisco Herald.
In 2005 I was emailed a submission for the Herald reminding all us of us what a tragedy (or rather, act of evil) the 1978 Jonestown Massacre was. It made an impression, bringing back memories of the Seventies, a decade someone once summed up as the Hangover from the Sixties' Party. Though “Drink the Kool Aid” was routinely used in popular lexicon (even though the cult followers really drank poison-laced Flavor Aid), the actual massacre wasn't. Odd, really, as it was the largest single loss of American civilian life in a non-natural disaster until the events of September 11, 2001.
The author of the submission was Tom Kinsolving, son of Lester Kinsolving, the journalist who warned the Bay Area about Jim Jones, the diabolical cult leader of the Peoples Temple, until it was too late.
Shortly after the email Tom, his sister Kathleen, and I think their father (I could be wrong) flew out from back east to attend Berkeley Rep's production of a play about Jonestown. I didn't attend the play, but I went with them to a Q and A event made up of journalists who covered the Peoples Temple in the Seventies. After the panel answered a few questions, implying the local press tried doggedly to expose Jones, Tom politely called out from the audience that their answers weren't true, and backed his assertions with old newspaper clippings, telling them that they “blew it.”
The journalists onstage were left speechless. One even hung his head in apparent shame.
Below is a very interesting article Tom and his sister Kathleen wrote about what really happened, and how the powers-that-be let it happen for their own benefit. It should put to rest any of the “Jim Jones was a nice man until he went crazy near the end” nonsense, or the usual Your Hit Parade-type countdown of trite conspiracy theories.
Madman in Our Midst: Jim Jones and the California Cover-up
By Kathleen and Tom Kinsolving
Jim Jones sermon clips
Audio from the Peoples Temple
Jim Jones' vulgar rantings
Recording of Jim Jones' last words
Most recordings just cover the last five minutes or so of his farewell. This one is longer.
KQED report 2 days after the massacre
Willie Brown summed up the Peoples Temple as another organization that could “deliver bodies” – an interesting way to put it. Yes, Jones had a knack for getting people to show up at the rallies of politicians who supported him. Also interviewed is Al Mills, a Peoples Temple defector whom host Belva Davis mentions was under police protection at the time. In 1980, he and his wife Jeannie, along with their 16-year-old daughter Daphene, were murdered in their Berkeley home. Police originally suspected assassins from the Peoples Temple. In 2005 they arrested Al and Jeannie's son Edward Mills, who was 17 years old and in the house the night of the murders. The charges were dropped and the case remains unsolved.
Tapes and transcripts from the Jonestown Institute
I originally included the Jonestown Institute link as it seemed very informative. Then I read Tom Kinsolving blast it on his Jonestown Apologists Alert Blogspot.
Stanley Nelson, who survived the Jonestown Massacre (and whom Kinsolving considers a Jonestown apologist) made this movie...
Lester and Tom Kinsolving confronted Mr. Nelson at a screening of his movie...
HE'S ABLE – Peoples Temple Choir
It would be nice to think - when we see what happened to the unfortunate souls who bought Jim Jones' Social Justice Snake Oil - that something like this could never happen again. But if Jones was alive today can you imagine how many Occupy protesters would join the Peoples Temple?###