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NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When U Can’t

Jonestown_TIME

 

FRESH AIR: On Nov. 18, 1978, an itinerant preacher, faith healer and civil rights activist named the Rev. Jim Jones led more than 900 of his followers to kill themselves by drinking cyanide-laced Flavor Aid at their Jonestown settlement in the jungle of Guyana. Nearly 40 years later, questions still linger regarding the Jonestown massacre and the man who inspired it. Journalist Jeff Guinn details how Jones captivated his followers in his new book, The Road to Jonestown. He calls Jones a the-road-to-jonestown-9781476763828_hr“tremendous performer” who exhibited “the classic tendencies of the demagogue.” Guinn says Jones, who founded Peoples Temple church, would take current events and exaggerate them to create a sense of fear and urgency. He drew his followers to Guyana by convincing them that America was facing imminent threats of martial law, concentration camps and nuclear war. After claims of abuse in Jonestown surfaced, Rep. Leo Ryan, D-Calif., came to Guyana to investigate. A number of Jonestown residents sought to return to the U.S. with Ryan, but others opened fire on the delegation, killing the congressmen and four others. The mass suicide followed. Guinn says the lessons of Jonestown still resonate today. “Jim Jones epitomizes the worst that can happen when we let one person dictate what we hear [and] what we believe,” he says. “We can only change that if we learn from the past and try to apply it to today.” MORE

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