Arguement on Jonestown Death as a Mass Suicide

Topics: Jim Jones, Jonestown, Leo Ryan Pages: 6 (1972 words) Published: February 1, 2013
Argument of Jonestown Death as a Mass Suicide
The Jonestown Massacre, which had a death toll of 918 people (Rosenberg, 2003), can in the main, be regarded as mass suicide or what in the words of the founder Jim Jones was termed “revolutionary suicide”. This is because all but one of temple members, Christine Miller, supported Jones’ suggestion of “revolutionary suicide” (Jonestown Audiotape, 1978). Jim McElvane, a former therapist, assisted Jones by arguing against Miller's resistance to suicide, stating "Let's make it a beautiful day". This statement was followed by applause from Temple members. In addition to Jim McElvane, several other temple members gave speeches praising Jones and his decision for the community to commit suicide (Jonestown Audiotape, 1978). Some instances that preceded the ugly event and suggest it as mass suicide include; i. White Nights: “revolutionary suicide” rehearsals

A Temple defector Deborah Layton recalled that after work, when purported emergencies arose, the Temple sometimes conducted what Rev. Jones referred to as "White Nights". During such events, Jones would sometimes give the Jonestown members four choices: (i) attempt to flee to the Soviet Union; (ii) commit "revolutionary suicide"; (iii) stay in Jonestown and fight the purported attackers or (iv) flee into the jungle. On at least two occasions during White Nights, after a "revolutionary suicide" vote was reached, a simulated mass suicide was rehearsed (Layton, 1998). Deborah Layton described the event in an affidavit: "Everyone, including the children, was told to line up. As we passed through the line, we were given a small glass of red liquid to drink. We were told that the liquid contained poison and that we would die within 45 minutes. We all did as we were told. When the time came when we should have dropped dead, Rev. Jones explained that the poison was not real and that we had just been through a loyalty test. He warned us that the time was not far off when it would become necessary for us to die by our own hands" (Affidavit of Deborah Layton, 1998). From the above statement culled from Affidavit of Deborah Layton, it is evidently clear that Temple members are fully aware that a time will come when it will become necessary for them to die by their own hands. Although, they were not told when or how the “suicide” will occur (Rosenberg, 2003). ii. Notes from non-surviving residents of Peoples Temple

Notes from the non-surviving residents of the Peoples Temple suggest that the event at Jonestown was a mass suicide. Similar to the “suicide note” usually written by individuals that commit the anti-social act, notes found at the scene of the event in Jonestown suggest it was mass suicide. Found near the body of Marceline Jones (wife of Jim Jones) was a typewritten note, dated November 18, 1978, signed by Marceline Jones and witnessed by Annie Moore and Maria Katsaris, stating: I, Marceline Jones, leave all bank assets in my name to the Communist Party of the USSR. The above bank accounts are located in the Bank of Nova Scotia, Nassau, Bahamas. Please be sure that these assets do get to the USSR. I especially request that none of these are allowed to get into the hands of my adopted daughter, Suzanne Jones Cartmell. For anyone who finds this letter, please honor this request as it is most important to myself and my husband, James W. Jones (Letter from Marceline Jones, 1978). Annie Moore left a note, which in part stated:

"I am at a point right now so embittered against the world that I don't know why I am writing this. Someone who finds it will believe I am crazy or believe in the barbed wire that does NOT exist in Jonestown." Moore also wrote, "JONESTOWN—the most peaceful, loving community that ever existed." The children loved it. So did everyone else." The last line, Moore wrote "We died because you would not let us live in peace." in different color ink (Last words – Annie Moore, 1978). iii. Leo Ryan...

References: Catherine Wessinger (2000) "How the Millennium Comes Violently: From Jonestown to Heaven 's Gate" ISBN 978-1-889119-24-3, p. 31-34.
Dawson, Lorne L. (2003). Cults and new religious movements: a reader. Wiley Blackwell. pp. 194. ISBN 1-4051-0181-4. 
Annie Moore (1978) “Last Words from Annie Moore” Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple
Layton, Deborah (1998) Seductive Poison. Anchor, 1998. ISBN 0-385-48984-6. p. 53. Retrieved from on 24th October, 2012.
Layton, Deborah (1999). Seductive Poison. Anchor, 1999. ISBN 0-385-48984-6. p. xix (Krause forward) Retrieved from on 24th October, 2012.
Marceline Jones (1978)."Letter from Marceline Jones” Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. Jonestown Project: San Diego State University.
Pear, Richard. "State Explains Response to Cult Letters." Washington Star News. November 26, 1978.
Reiterman, Tim and John Jacobs. Raven: The Untold Story of Rev. Jim Jones and His People. Dutton, 1982. ISBN 0-525-24136-1. p. 485.
Rosenberg Jennifer (2003) “The Jonestown Massacre” retrieved from on 24th October, 2012.
Tajfel, H
Time Magazine, "Mass Suicide at Jonestown: 30 Years Later", 2008. Retrieved from on 24th October, 2012.
Useem Bert (1998) “Breakdown Theories of Collective Action” Annual Review Sociology 1998. 24:215.
Useem B. (1997). “The state and collective disorders: The Los Angeles riot/protest of April, 1992. Sociology Forces 76:357 -77
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