The New York Times is the Baron von Munchhausen of news sources.
Exhibit #6,759,382,901 is the following story, reprinted in the Times, detailing mass murderer Jim Jones’ unrealized plans to deploy suicide bombers and hijack and crash planes into targets in San Francisco. Suicide bombers, hijacked planes . . . in the 1970’s? By a revolutionary communist who decried Western capitalism as the sources of all evil? Jones was clearly emulating or coordinating with other radical terrorists of the day.
So one might expect some reference to the PLO hijackings, or the assassination of the Israeli Olympic Athletes, or the bombs set by the FALN, or the Weather Underground, or the Red Army Faction, or the Black Panthers, or any of the other communist revolutionaries who were setting bombs and hijacking planes at the same time when communist revolutionary Jones was planning to set bombs and hijack planes.
One would be incorrect. The Times article identifies only one inspiration for Jones’ murderous intentions: religion.
On Jim Jones’ Agenda, A Prequel to Sept. 11
By SCOTT JAMES
Published: August 12, 2011
Twenty-five years before the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, a religious extremist plotted to hijack a commercial airliner — filled with 200 or so unsuspecting passengers — and deliberately crash it.
The target was San Francisco. And the would-be perpetrator was not a jihadist, but the man who would become one of history’s more infamous villains: the cult leader Jim Jones of the Peoples Temple, whose headquarters was then on Geary Boulevard in San Francisco.
With the hijacking plot, described in a coming book and recently confirmed by a former Peoples Temple leader, Mr. Jones is said to have wanted to cause death on a scale that the world would not soon forget. He called it “revolutionary suicide,” a warped vision of religious martyrdom . . .
I hate to side with Jim Jones here, but when Jones talked about “revolutionary suicide,” he actually meant revolutionary suicide, not religious martyrdom. Sure, like most cult leaders, he used the trappings of religion (except when he didn’t), but what he preached was “apostolic socialism,” which he specifically presented to his followers as the antidote to religion. And he convinced his followers to kill themselves (those who weren’t murdered by others) not by promising paradise but by telling them that they should choose death over violent persecution by America.
Jones was an atheist, card-carrying member of the Communist Party who split with the CPUSA only when they grew a little sour on his lifelong personal hero, Joseph Stalin. He hobnobbed with other communist radicals like Angela Davis; broke bread with militants from the Nation of Islam, and lifted the term “revolutionary suicide” from Black Panther Huey P. Newton, who lost family members at Jonestown. Jones called Jonestown the “purest communist” settlement on earth, and after he forced the mass suicide/homicide of more than 900 of his followers, he left documents deeding his and their assets to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
In other words, he worshiped Joseph Stalin, not Jesus Christ. Literally. And he was not shy about saying so.
Yet the Times mentions none of this. Jones is briefly labelled a “cult leader,” and then the writer simply starts referring to him as a religious leader, using terms such as “church members,” “church records,” “flock,” and “congregation.” In reality, Jonestown was named “The People’s Temple Agricultural Project,” an obvious bow to Stalin, and it was structured on North Korean work farms. So why doesn’t the reporter even seem to think to call it what it was: a communist labor camp?
Why would the Times scrupulously avoid so many facts? Take your pick:
There is the paper’s own shameful coverup of Stalin’s crimes, perpetrated by their Moscow Bureau Chief Editor, Walter Duranty. Who wants to mention Stalin as Jones’ primary influence and raise all that embarrassment and kerfuffle, when you can just vaguely point at the Bible-thumpers and hope Jim Jones’ Wikipedia entry is down for the day?
There is the Times’ current agenda to disassociate terrorism from Islam by emphasizing the religion of non-Islamic terrorists, even if they aren’t motivated by religion, like Timothy McVeigh, or if they’re motivated by some other belief system, like Jones. Thus Jones becomes a psychotic “religious extremist,” not a psychotic communist extremist.
Then there is the desire to protect the reputations of prominent Democratic and Liberal politicians, some still in office, who tumbled all over themselves doing favors for Jim Jones in the 1970’s. So embarrassing are these ties that the Jim Jones story has long been stripped of its prominent main actors, people like Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, then-and now-California Governor Jerry Brown, and gay icon Harvey Milk.
Jones was everywhere during the Carter administration, a sort of Forrest Gump-meets-Charles Manson. Who wants to remember this? He was an important San Francisco political appointee and election activist who showed up in an array of important people’s rolodexes.
High-ranking politicians turned a blind eye to his passion for Stalin and Kim Il-Sung as they shuffled aside the increasingly troubling reports emerging from the People’s Temple Agricultural Project in Guyana.
The Times article is a reprint from The Bay Citizen, and it is fair to suggest that the reporter is speaking to a San Francisco audience familiar with Jones’ real identity. But that doesn’t justify running the piece in a national paper while retaining the shorthand that he was a mere “religious extremist.”
You have to look elsewhere to find facts. In City Journal, Daniel Flynn writes:
Jim Jones was a power player in Bay Area politics and thereby a player in national Democratic Party politics. Local politicians and activists benefited from the slave labor that he could provide on little notice to people political rallies and hand out campaign literature. In gratitude, [Mayor George] Moscone appointed him chairman of San Francisco’s housing authority and Willie Brown likened Jones, a man who would eventually kill more African-Americans than any Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard, to Martin Luther King, Jr. First lady Rosalyn Carter and her husband’s running mate, Walter Mondale, both met with the cult leader.
In another article, Flynn describes the particularly close relationship between Harvey Milk and Jones:
Before the congregants of the Peoples Temple drank Jim Jones’s deadly Kool-Aid, Harvey Milk and much of San Francisco’s ruling class had already figuratively imbibed. Milk occasionally spoke at Jones’s San Francisco–based headquarters, promoted Jones through his newspaper columns, and defended the Peoples Temple from its growing legion of critics. Jones provided conscripted “volunteers” for Milk’s campaigns to distribute leaflets by the tens of thousands. Milk returned the favor by abusing his position of public trust on behalf of Jones’s criminal endeavors.
“Rev. Jones is widely known in the minority communities here and elsewhere as a man of the highest character, who has undertaken constructive remedies for social problems which have been amazing in their scope and effectiveness,” Supervisor Milk wrote President Jimmy Carter seven months before the Jonestown carnage. The purpose of Milk’s letter was to aid and abet his powerful supporter’s abduction of a six-year-old boy. Milk’s missive to the president prophetically continued: “Not only is the life of a child at stake, who currently has loving and protective parents in the Rev. and Mrs. Jones, but our official relations with Guyana could stand to be jeopardized, to the potentially great embarrassment of our State Department.”
The abducted child died at Jonestown despite his biological parents’ efforts to save him, efforts personally derailed by Harvey Milk. Daniel Flynn calls this “the only remarkable episode in Milk’s brief tenure on the San Francisco board of supervisors . . . swept under the rug by his hagiographers.”
To summarize: in their desire to slot Jim Jones into the “non-Islamic religious terrorist” column, the Times artfully manages to avoid any mention of Jones’ revolutionary ambitions, his violent peers, his communist beliefs, his political enablers, or his recruiting methods, which ran heavily to racial and gender themes. What is left to talk about when you are trying so hard to avoid mentioning anything? Well, there are feelings. A former Jones follower shares her bad poetry with the reporter, who is moved to link to it. You can’t learn about Jones’ ties to the Carter administration by reading the Times, but you can read this:
I have a right to live without guilt and shame
I have a right not to be exploited by others for their personal or financial gain
I have a right to be loved and love again
–Terry Buford O’Shea
To paraphrase the Times’ editorial policy, who could disagree?
The link to O’Shea’s versifying is something called Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & People’s Temple, which is a project of the Jonestown Institute of the Department of Religious Studies at San Diego State University.
The Times shows little curiosity about the Jonestown Institute, treating it like an ordinary academic department. And perhaps at San Diego State University it is an ordinary academic department, though elsewhere, publications bearing titles such as A Sympathetic History of Jonestown and In Defense of Peoples Temple might raise eyebrows. Department chair Rebecca Moore, author of these books, is described by Daniel Flynn as a well-placed apologist, not for Jim Jones specifically but for his vision of communist paradise and for Jonestown itself, despite the violently enforced brainwashing that preceded the colony’s final bloody day. Not coincidentally, Moore lost two sisters who were high-ranking colleagues of Jones and thus helped shape the colony’s totalitarian controls and its brutal end. Now she is engaged in a mission, underwritten by San Diego State, to rescue Jonestown from its critics.
Daniel Flynn devastatingly describes Moore as “a concentration camp warden’s kin putting the best face on his work.”
On-line, San Diego State’s Jonestown Institute offers syllabus suggestions for teaching students about Jonestown in “non-judgmental” ways. They also publish scores of documents found at the colony after the massacre, including organizational charts imagining ambitious Agricultural Five Year Plans and Business and Industry schemes ranging from running a cassava mill to opening a nightclub to sell beer to the Guyanese (who “love to party”). There is the eerily common utopian colony fantasy of achieving financial solvency through the production of small toys and sewn objects, and many notes regarding strategies for avoiding taxation by the Guyanese government. The Guyanese surely saw in Jonestown the sort of cash cow Jim Jones saw in the U.S. taxpayers, who were unknowingly subsidizing Jonestown through the colony members’ welfare and foster care benefits, funneled to Jones through his San Francisco political allies.
The Jonestown Institute describes this systematic welfare transfer scheme as a form of “helping” Jonestown members who had been traumatized by “all of the ills” of America society, and they systematically bury or deny other facts about conditions at the colony prior to its fatal denouement.
In turn, The New York Times describes the Jonestown Institute as a mere academic institution.
And so, the whitewash continues.