There is a popular Donald trump meme that has his head inserted on a portrait of Jim Jones, the cult leader of Peoples Temple in Guyana then. The meme was discussed in a panel discussion on the 40th anniversary of the Jonestown incident. 917 people died on November 18, 1978. They died after drinking a beverage laced with cyanide. They were members of the religious cult led by Jim Jones.
At the panel, the meeting was Yulanda Williams who became a member of the Peoples Temple at the age of 10. She lived in the Jonestown commune before she escaped back to San Francisco. She talked about how Jones’ voice was continually blasted out of strategically placed speakers all through the day.
This is comparable to Trump’s love for manipulating the media and his 24/7 use of Twitter. More scary is the fact that he is the first US President that could broadcast messages to cell phones. Both Jones and Trump are powerful, charismatic white figures who have a lot of lives in their control. Why is this still happening in this present age?
In the 1970s, Jones appealed to people in Guyana with his messages of anti-capitalism, anti-racism, and interracial unity. The Government was socialist in nature, and they had been largely ignored by the United States, China, and Russia. They needed a lot of support, and they turned to Jim Jones for support. The fact that Jim Jones was a multi-millionaire also had a large part to play.
Most of Jones’ followers were Black Americans from San Francisco. The American economy looked bleak for Blacks, the civil rights movement was suffering a backlash and Jonestown seemed like a safe haven.
Jim Jones left San Francisco as he knew that the authorities were coming for him. The cult was being investigated by the Feds as the gathering was similar to a dangerous cult. A magazine was also about to publish an explosive article about him. But Guyana wasn’t really better, and Jones became a drug addicted leader with extreme narcissism.
Rep. Leo Ryan was sent to Guyana to investigate the community. A follower tried to stab the congressman and temple members started to shoot at Rep. Leo Ryan’s delegation. The delegation included a lot of members of the Press and several people including Rep. Leo Ryan was killed.
Jim Jones ordered everyone to commit voluntary suicide as he knew that the end was near. 917 people lost their lives that day as they were surrounded by armed people who forced them to drink the poison that killed them.
A psychologist that studied recordings from Jones thinks that Jones and Trump are highly comparable. They both share the traits of demanding loyalty through threats, retaliation, and degradation. They have both amassed a lot of money and use the money to get out of trouble. They are both known for sexually assaulting women and spreading messages of violence, hate, and fear.
We shouldn’t forget Jonestown in a hurry, and we need to take the lessons we learned from Jonestown to heart, or we risk history repeating itself.