Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jonestown Massacre: A 'Reason' to Die


Twenty-one years have passed since the tragedy of "Jonestown" occurred and still many wonder at how it came about. For many, the possibility that one man could manipulate so many people to such a great extent is incomprehensible. They look to a variety of sources to explain the apparently unexplainable, in a vain attempt to satisfy the need for understanding. Unfortunately, the processes that had been at work in the People's Temple for many years, ultimately leading to the mass suicide and murders of 913 of its members, are not unique to this particular group. We are social creatures who need to feel that we belong to something greater than ourselves and rely heavily upon the approval of others to measure our worth. Such a situation leaves us vulnerable to others, quickly changing our viewpoints to fit in with those around us, denying our own instinctive values and beliefs when faced with the conflicting views of others. People such as Jim Jones, driven by their own insatiable need to be accepted and loved, have an instinctive knowledge of the weaknesses of others and how to manipulate them to their own advantage.

Whether "Jonestown" was the result of some heinous experiment in mind control or not, cannot be fully determined one way or the other without stronger evidence, but the cloud of mystery will continue to hang over the incident until all of the documentation collected during the investigations have been revealed. At the time that it released its report, the US State Department chose to withhold over 8000 documents pertaining to "Jonestown" for a number of years. After many legal battles, it was determined that these documents should be released. Perhaps, as the information in these documents becomes available some of the mystery will be solved.



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