My parents should have better regulated my television viewing habits.
In their defense, most of the damaging images that I witnessed did not come from fictional shows or movies, instead they came from what might have been considered a safe source in the late 1970s: the news.
My fear/fascination with nuclear war is attributed to a news report that I saw at age eight. At around the same time, I witnessed another disturbing set of news, namely the events of Jonestown.
For the uninitiated, Jonestown was an American settlement in Guyana founded by preacher Jim Jones. Jones was the founder of The Peoples Temple, a sort of Christian apostolic sect for socialism with strong ties to Communist leaders. In 1978, the residents of Jonestown committed mass suicide by drinking Kool-Aid laced with cyanide out of metal tubs. I can still remember the footage of entire families with their arms around each other, dead and face down in mud. There were a total of 909 people who died there, making it the largest single loss of American life due to an unnatural event until 9/11.
These TV images stayed with me and while I'm not altogether well-versed on the subjects of Jim Jones or The Peoples Temple, I had always considered the Jonestown incident to be yet another example of the dark and ugly underside of religion and cult leaders, up there with Heaven's Gate and the David Koresh group out of Waco. Now, after a little bit of curiosity and surfing about, I have found that there is a sizable body of researchers who contend that the whole incident was the result of CIA orchestration. That, in my opinion, brings it into the realm of this blog.
As the conspiracy theory goes, the Jonestown event was the result of CIA experimentation with truth serums and mind-altering drugs, not unlike what the Agency was proven to have done with MKULTRA and LSD. Additionally, such an occurrence with a socialist-based organization in a nation like Guyana would go a long away towards discrediting the regime and socialist institutions overall. At the same time, the CIA would supply Jonestown with enough drugs, money, and weapons to hopefully win over the locals to the way of the good ol' U.S. of A. Face it, it would fit the CIA pattern.
At the time, The New York Times did quite a few investigative stories on Jonestown. Here are a few of the issues in which they appeared:
- New York Times, November 25, 1978
- New York Times, December 14, 1978
- New York Times, December 12, 1978
- New York Times, November 26, 1978
In one of these reports, the NYT spoke with Dr. Leslie Mootoo, a Guyanese coroner who was the first medical official on the scene in Jonestown in the aftermath of the deaths. He and his staff examined over 100 adult victims. Dr. Mootoo claimed that these victims had been injected with cyanide in areas of their bodies that they could not have reached without assistance, e.g. between the shoulder blades. They also encountered several gunshot victims and a few victims of crossbow bolts whose wounds were consistent with those of someone trying to flee. It is thought that these people were killed by the so-called "Red Brigade," a paramilitary group charged with the security of Jonestown. It is also speculated that the men in this cadre were operating under a sort of mind-control.
Despite the law in Guyana mandating an autopsy for all of these victims, the U.S. government maintained that it was apparent that every one of them died of suicide and that all bodies would be swept up and brought back to the United States. The U.S. military went in and that's just what happened. A bit reminiscent of JFK's body being whisked out of Dallas before an autopsy could be conducted as required by Texas law.
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