Sunday, November 9, 2008
Now The Really Big Question: Will MSNBC Honestly Bear "Witness To Jonestown"?
Tonight, on network television, we're going to once again be served another purported slice of the real story of the People's Temple.
This month, after all, is a banner anniversary--the 30th--of the November, 1978 Jonestown Massacre in a South American jungle. So a retrospect of this so very, very avoidable tragedy is more than appropriate.
The only question, of course, again is: Will our Big Media finally, at long last, tell the whole truth this time? Or will MSNBC's "Witness To Jonestown" special turn out to be just another truncated tale, with the same old media smokescreen covering up their shameless sloth and cowardice that let Jim Jones get away with mass murder?
Even worse, will it be a companion piece to Director Stanley Nelson's scandalous 2006 cult apologist mockumentary, "The Life and Death of Peoples Temple"?
This is not to say it might not have valuable components, featuring credible interviews with survivors, including the very significant ex-Temple insider, Terri Bufurd. But what really concerns me have been some of the remarks by "Witness To Jonestown" producer/writer Stephen Stept.
"And what is a cult anyway?" writes Stept in the MSNBC website, "Even former members disagree on whether that 'four-letter word' applies to Peoples Temple."
Quite astounding. That's just exactly the bunkum we've been getting for years and years from Official Jonestown Apologist Rebecca Moore.
She's more than qualified for the job, as the sister of two Jonestown mass murderers as well as daughter of one of that "four-letter word's" most ardent propagandists.
"That's a term [cult] we use to describe groups we don't like," Moore told the Sacramento Bee in 2002. "But it's so loaded with negative connotations. If we label something a cult, then we don't make any effort to understand it."
Of course, Professor Becky. She currently uses the San Diego State Univ. Religious Studies Department to promote--not cults, mind you--but what she and her nationwide network of academic cronies like to call "New Religious Movements" (NRM). Scientologists. The Moonies. The Children of God (reported to be child abusers.)
My question is: Who did the Good Professor spend more time lecturing the joys of cult life to, Director Nelson or Producer Stept?
On the other hand, there's always the chance that Stept didn't bother with Rebecca Moore or take seriously her landmark book, "A Sympathetic History of Jonestown," which has countless gems such as, "....Peoples Temple followed a long tradition common to other groups trying to forge a new society."
A long "tradition"? Say, like, attacking five year-old children with cattle prods, and dunking them at the bottom of a well?? Then again, Jim Jones lived and breathed like a good Stalinist, so sure, that would make perfect sense.
So stay tuned tonight, 9:00 p.m. EST, to see if MSNBC finally fesses up the WHOLE story, including how their former San Francisco affiliate station KRON promoted this sadistic cult in the early 1970s, and the way the San Francisco Examiner ran away from Jones and his law suit blustering enforcer, Tim Stoen.
The Santa Rosa Press Democrat is virtually the only newspaper decades later to finally tell the authentic story of the Temple cult's terrorizing of Redwood Valley, California, in the 1960's and early 70's.
Will MSNBC have the guts and honesty to do the same tonight, as the Press Democrat did five years ago with this report?
FRIENDS' WARNINGS IGNORED
by Mike Geniella
Nov. 16, 2003
Twenty-five years have done nothing to diminish the anger of Brenda Ganatos and Nancy Busch.
The two women still get fighting mad about how Mendocino County officials and the local news media, and later their counterparts in San Francisco, turned a blind eye to the Rev. Jim Jones and his Peoples Temple. Jones arrived in Mendocino County in 1965, and he and his followers quickly infiltrated the local political and government establishments.
Temple members worked at every level of local government, from the Social Services Department to the District Attorney’s Office. Jones was to repeat the pattern on an even grander scale when he moved on to San Francisco in the early 1970s.
“We can live with ourselves today because we know we did everything we could to try and stop this madman,” Ganatos said.
“Frankly, I still don’t understand how all those people who should have been concerned and weren’t can look themselves in the mirror today,” adds Busch.
Ganatos first learned of Jones and his Peoples Temple when some followers from Indiana moved in next door in the late 1960s.
“They were lovely people. I liked them, and helped get them settled,” said Ganatos.
But by 1970, Ganatos began to take note of persistent rumors about misconduct at the Redwood Valley church.
Ganatos went into action after hearing a story about a 4-year-old boy named Tommy. On a “survival training” camping trip, Jones allegedly forced the boy to eat his own vomit after he became ill at dinner.
“That was it. I couldn’t handle any more of these stories without doing something,” Ganatos said.
Ganatos and Busch organized about a dozen friends and co-workers into a group called “Concerned Citizens.”
The group began to plead with local and state law enforcement agencies and government officials to take notice of the many concerns that were being outlined to them by neighbors and former temple members. They included a litany of incidents at Jones’ Redwood Valley church, including armed guards, beatings, sexual abuse and financial wrongdoing.
Ganatos and Busch say they were rebuffed at every level of law enforcement, government, and the news media.
“We were dismissed as busybodies and kooks,” said Ganatos, a retired telephone company supervisor who now lives in Oregon.
Busch, who still lives in her Ukiah home, believes she was frequently put under surveillance by Jones, and said it wasn’t easy to be among the few who were publicly questioning a man so eagerly accepted by community leaders and the local political elite.
“We kept being reminded what good deeds Jones was doing on behalf of the poor and the elderly, and how he was so informed that a local judge decided to name him foreman of the county grand jury,” recalled Busch.
Finally, in 1972, a San Francisco Examiner religion writer — the Rev. Lester Kinsolving — took notice of Ganatos and Busch and their citizens’ group.
Kinsolving, working with an Indiana reporter who also was investigating Jones, soon wrote the first published stories in Northern California about a man he dubbed the “messiah from Ukiah.”
The response from Jones and Temple members was swift. They threw up a picket line around the Examiner building, and Jones’ lawyers threatened legal action. Four more Kinsolving articles were shelved.
It wasn’t until publication in 1977 of a damning article in New West magazine that media attention was revived in Jones and the temple’s surging influence in San Francisco politics.
“By then it was too late. The wheels were already in motion,” said Ganatos.
After the Jonestown mass murder-suicide in 1978, Ganatos and Busch received calls from reporters around the globe inquiring about the information they had gathered.
“It probably wasn’t very smart, but I used to snap at them and say, ‘Where were you then?’” Ganatos recalled.
How about that. These Redwood Valley residents fought to stop the cult LONG before the "Concerned Relatives" ever started making waves. Now what do you think are the odds that you'll hear even one word mentioned tonight, or any night, by our MSNBC about the valiant fight by the "Concerned Citizens"?
I'll predict it may have something do with them being rebuffed by not just all levels of local law enforcement and government, but just by a wild coincidence, our courageous, crusading media!
Anybody taking bets out there??
The horrendous consequences of our law enforcement, government, and media officials doing NOTHING--except backing up Jones as they were all backing away--until it was too late are all too obvious, as much as the disgrace of this California power elite in its attempt to keep it covered up.
Ponder this reality. Be devastated by the unbearable grief in this preview of "Witness To Jonestown." Know that it was all completely preventable.
Then dry your tears. Get angry.