Theory and Analysis on Jonestown Documentary This documentary examines the infamous religious cult formed by a charismatic preacher named Jim Jones and his promise to bring a world of economic and racial equality. His promise led to the largest mass murder suicide in history. This documentary covers the events that lead to an abrupt awakening to the media and to the world of the people who joined the Peoples Temple ,following how Jones first started from Indiana to California and lastly to their deaths in Guyana in November 1978 killing over 900 people.
The film starts of with Jones, history and his unhappy childhood. He was often describes an eccentric child that was obsessed with religion and death . His desire for social injustice by befriending people of color and different people religion causing his community to turn against him and his family. The result made him to eventually move ,where he grew interested in becoming a Pentecostal minister to further expand his social goals and administering the city of Indianapolis first integrated church.
Even though he grew to be a preacher he had no training to become one he based most of his teachings on a his own religious and socialism philosophies. He developed the Peoples Temple in Indiana in the mid 1950s teaching apostolic socialism. After receiving numerous criticism for his integration views he moved the Temple to California in 1965. In California the Temple the church grew in people and becoming more active in their political views. Then around the 1970s the organization grew into San Francisco as well as was thought as the promised land.
The temple members in San Francisco were expected to live in a communal lifestyle. All the money was to be donated formally from the desperate, the working adults were to give 25 percent of their wages and some just gave all their property. The temple also enforced physical discipline, later on the disciplinary actions where emerged to physical abuse. The temple had a governing body called the Planning Commission which involved sessions in which members where called on to the floor and would be emotionally dissected.
On the floor other members would accuse of them indiscipline actions which would be considered improper to the temple. The temple also would ask the adults to sign contracts that would confirm of them doing crimes and wrongdoings against the U. S government, being involves in terrorist acts and raping their own children. If they any of these members tried to leave, Jones would try to blackmail them on relinquishing these statements. Jones publicly grew with the media and the political movement . Several newspaper would praise Jones leadership and the temples reform for peace.
In 1977 Jones and his followers prepared for an immediate action to establish a agriculture project in Guyana. They chose Guyana because of their socialist politics, and their creeping fascism. It was also easier for Jones to obtain influence and protection because the country was small and poor. In 1978 when the California Congressman Leo Ryan when to Guyana to see how people in Jonestown where doing and to interview its people. After been reportedly threaten by a temple member during his visit he decided to cut his trip and return back with some of the residents who decided to leave.
As they boarded the plane, a group of Jones guards tried killing the congress man a many others. Upon Jones and his followers learning this they acknowledged that the congressman murder would make it unbearable for them to live in peace. The Peoples Temple was to be preserve as church in Guyana so they made their ultimate sacrifice. Jones followers of 912 died of drinking toxicated cyanide. They would ultimately presume how you join a cult and you can never get out is either you stay as one or you die as one.
As a social psychologist you would look at the mass suicide into two groups one that Is in compliance and the others that grew in acceptance to the suicide as being a revolution. Jim Jones ability to determine what his followers wanted to hear and giving it to them in a simple way for them comprehend and believe it that’s where persuasion comes in. The ability for a leader to spread such an emotional and a sense of acceptance to some of these lonely and depressed people that are looking for enlightment. Some of these messages where influenced by the peripheral route to persuasion.
Since most of his followers where influenced by this route it was because as I heard when him speak in audio he spoke fast when he was preaching in the temple another reason was because some people where in need of thinking diminishing common sense. Its easier to persuade an adolescent and early adult hood under 25, with some of these young adult being less educated in a time period especially for African Americans that where mostly indoctrinated into the cult. Mostly because Jones was an activist on interracial and since African American been into a history of segregation .
Jones since most of them where drawn to Jones soulful preaching style. Another race that was easily influenced as well were whites middle class being more vulnerable to being indoctrinated because they are stereotyped as being trusting ,lacking the street smarts. He used themes of socialism, equality and political activism. Using these tactics to recruit these young white men. Jones used the foot in the door phenomenon which involves getting a person to agree to large requests by having the person agree to a small one.
He use this phenomenon when in theory in California when he told his followers to drink some kool aid and then he told their was poison in the drink and in matter of seconds they were going to die. When everyone was screaming and crying frightened by Jones and what he was capable of even though their wasn’t really poison it was just a loyalty test. Eventually even after this request and since most of the people would acknowledge that this test would eventually be proven real the next time they did the same. The loyalty just shows since they already laid their trust in him it was already a part of his credibility.
During the time era this happen also the United States was going through so many political reformation shifting from World War 2 to the Cold War. In that time America was going through a struggle with political activism with our fellow American people scrutinizing freedom and equality. This is the important era that probably fascinated Jones since his interest in Communist grew in favor of the Soviet Union, the works of Stalin. During the Cold War era is was economic competition for the United States promoting liberal democracy and capitalism.
While the Soviet Union promoted communism and a planned economy, indeed this is what Jones was fascinated about. He promoted his socialism ideas and political views to his cult that they felt so fond of the Soviets too. In the end the true story of how a man came to power prove to be a communism rise for obliterating success. As fear was the ultimate weapon of cults and dictators. It doesn’t matter which one out weighs the being torture as the greatest fear or the other terrorism. What proves to be that matter is that a cult or dictatorship have the ultimate power when ruling people with fear.