-- Film maker Stanley Nelson
Director, "Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple"
It was this kind of outrageous drivel, along with his widely circulated 2006 cult apologist film, that motivated me to create this website four years ago.
Sadly, however, enough of the public got exposed to this propaganda and other apologists' revisionism that the reality of one of history's most destructive cults continues to be muddled. It's been reduced to an overused cliche about the folly of "drinking the Kool Aid."
The cult "delivered" and "that's why they stayed"? So the mass murder final act was just something incidental then, Stan??
Meet two of who may have been the final victims of the "big family's" massacre. This is Jeannie and Al Mills, two cult defectors that miraculously were able to escape the cult in 1974, after they had enough of what Nelson claims was "being a part of something that you feel is bigger than you."
Their luck ran out 15 months after the Jonestown bloodbath, in February of 1980, when some unknown gunman, or perhaps more than one, murdered them execution style. According to the AP report:
Mills and his wife joined the Jones flock in 1969 when the church was gathering strength in Redwood Valley, a peaceful spot tucked away 125 miles north of San Francisco..... At that time, the Mills were Elmer and Deanna Mertle, names they shed after fleeing the church. The hard decision to leave came after watching their 16-year-old daughter, Linda, in 1974, writhe under 75 blows of a paddle — punishment ordered by Jones after Linda apparently embraced a friend that Jones deemed a "traitor" to the church.
That cruelty and The Human Freedom Center, a haven the Mills created to give others a shot at life outside the temple, are described in Mrs. Mills' book, "Six Years With God," which was published last year. Angela Miller, editor of A and W, the New York firm that published the work, said the couple "was positive there was going to be some kind of retaliation" against them, a fear heightened last November as the first anniversary of the Jonestown holocaust approached.
On the last tape recording he made from his "throne" in the steamy agricultural outpost, Jones blamed the visit of Ryan in part on Mrs. Mills. "The people in San Francisco (surviving church members) will not be idle over this. They'll not take our deaths in vain, you know."
Had they lived, Jeannie and Al would surely be stepping up to demolish the grotesque fantasies of Nelson and today's other cult shills. I'm sure of it because I was able to meet and talk with the Mills when they made an appearance at my college about a year before their brutal murders.
They gave a detailed presentation about the dangers of cults and related their harrowing experience in the toxic confines of the Temple. Afterwards, I approached them and introduced myself, and they remembered well my father's attempts to expose Jim Jones in 1972. They were warm, sincere people who now wanted to make a difference in the lives of victims of other cults.
The Mills explained it had indeed been Temple members that burglarized my family home in the fall of that year to search for documents. Equally chilling was Jeannie's telling me how the cultists had concealed themselves in the bushes across the street from our home, spying on us and reporting everything back to Jones.
I was grateful to at last have a solid confirmation of something I already knew. My dad had been in terrible danger. Then one-time top Jones henchman Tim Stoen--now back in his original job as a Mendocino County Asst. DA--had worked on devising various ways to murder my father. In all liklihood, our entire family was in peril.
When the news arrived about the Mills's 1980 execution murders, my mother, father, and two sisters were terror-stricken that, with my father near the top of Jones's "hit list," we all would be some of the next to go. But somehow, the ordeal passed. There were no other reported killings.
Not so fortunate, of course, were the prisoners inside the Temple, who were eventually spirited off and slaughtered in the cult's Guyana death camp. How could people be so obedient and fall prey to this madman calling himself "God"?
These are the real questions to address. This cheap business of simply labeling all these Americans as "extreme crazies that drank the Kool Aid" is as bogus as the fantasy that, hey, the cult really was a modern day Shangri-La, both in California and Guyana. And that, hey, only at the very end did their paradise go up in smoke?
This is unmitigated bunk. Worse, it defiles the memory of those 900 plus murder victims.
As much as the revisionists and apologists want to paint a new portrait, the real picture cannot be changed nor will the reality of how it was engineered ever be ignored. It wasn't due to idiotic excuses about it "giving them what they wanted"--simple fact was they were brainwashed and terrorized into submission.
Renowned Harvard researcher and psychiatrist Robert Lifton (who Nelson, for some odd reason, avoided contacting for his puff piece) is an expert on mind control, what he terms as "thought reform." It was the process practiced by the Chinese communists on American POW's during the Korean War, which Lifton broke down into eight components:
- Milieu Control – The control of information and communication.
- Mystical Manipulation – The manipulation of experiences that appear spontaneous but in fact were planned and orchestrated.
- Demand for Purity – The world is viewed as black and white and the members are constantly exhorted to conform to the ideology of the group and strive for perfection.
- Confession – Sins, as defined by the group, are to be confessed either to a personal monitor or publicly to the group.
- Sacred Science – The group's doctrine or ideology is considered to be the ultimate Truth, beyond all questioning or dispute.
- Loading the Language – The group interprets or uses words and phrases in new ways so that often the outside world does not understand.
- Doctrine over person – The member's personal experiences are subordinated to the sacred science and any contrary experiences must be denied or reinterpreted to fit the ideology of the group.
- Dispensing of existence – The group has the prerogative to decide who has the right to exist and who does not.
"Conditions in the Peoples Temple became so oppressive, the discrepancy between Jim Jones's stated aims and his practices so pronounced, that it is almost inconceivable that members failed to entertain questions about the church. But these doubts were unreinforced. There were no allies to support ones disobedience of the leaders commands and no fellow dissenters to encourage the expression of disagreement with the majority. Public disobedience or dissent was quickly punished. Questioning Jones's word, even in the company of family or friends, was dangerous informers and "counselors" were quick to report indiscretions, even by relatives.
The use of informers went further than to stifle dissent; it also diminished the solidarity and loyalty that individuals felt toward their families and friends. While Jones preached that a spirit of brotherhood should pervade his church, he made it clear that each members personal dedication should be directed to "Father." Families were split: First, children were seated away from parents during services; then, many were assigned to another member's care as they grew up; and ultimately, parents were forced to sign documents surrendering custody rights. "Families are part of the enemy system," Jones stated, because they hurt ones total dedication to the "Cause" . Thus, a person called before the membership to be punished could expect his or her family to be among the first and most forceful critics.
Why didn't more people leave? Once inside the Peoples Temple, getting out was discouraged; defectors were hated. Nothing upset Jim Jones so much; people who left became the targets of his most vitriolic attacks and were blamed for any problems that occurred. One member recalled that after several teen-age members left the Temple, "We hated those eight with such a passion because we knew any day they were going to try bombing us. I mean Jim Jones had us totally convinced of this."
Defecting became quite a risky enterprise, and, for most members, the potential benefits were very uncertain. They had little to hope for outside of the Peoples Temple; what they had, they had committed to the church. Jim Jones had vilified previous defectors as "the enemy" and had instilled the fear that, once outside of the Peoples Temple, members stories would not be believed by the "racist, fascist" society, and they would be subjected to torture, concentration camps, and execution. Finally, in Guyana, Jonestown was surrounded by dense jungle, the few trails patrolled by armed security guards. Escape was not a viable option. Resistance was too costly. With no other alternatives apparent, compliance became the most reasonable course of action."
Jones, as Dr. Zimbardo suggested, did a masterful job of bringing Orwell's nightmare to life and then exterminating the prisoners when time ran out. But during the time they were his cast of hand puppets, the cult master had an apparently hell of a fun time.
And quite the sense of humor, albeit perverse and extremely sadistic, as is usually the case with sociopaths. The following is an actual audio recording from one of "Father Jones's" evening conditioning sessions in Jonestown, about seven months before the apocalypse.
Listening to the assorted cult members coming forward to announce in graphic detail their desires to torture and murder their family members is beyond shocking. Please don't listen unless you have a strong stomach. Even more chilling--horrifying, really--is Jones's ghastly laughter, high pitched like a hyena on helium.
Ask yourself as you hear the evidence: Is this the kind of ambiance found in that former cult member's claim of a "Heaven on Earth"??
The lesson is clear: We either will or will not allow these shameless cult apologists to grind the real truth into oblivion. Hopefully enough will choose the latter as we prepare to remember the dead on tomorrow's anniversary.