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After piecing together the testimony of Jonestown survivors, Tim Cahill of magazine reported that Jones had become convinced the poor quality rice was the work of the CIA, which was trying to sabotage his great sociopolitical experiment. Here, Cahill wrote, the “patients” were drugged senseless.
Jones, the paranoid father figure, instructed his flock to inform on each other. They emerged “unable to carry on a conversation, their faces blank, as if they had been temporarily lobotomised”.
It was a whole community.” But where revolutionary idealism leads, control often follows.
And these were harsh conditions in which to build a revolutionary utopia.
According to one newspaper, Jones offered his mainly black congregation “opportunities in social justice activism” that were available nowhere else.
The Temple fed pensioners, taught students, and took bus trips to spread the word.
Jones got his disciples to poison their children first – once they had seen their kids die, what would the adults have to live for?
“He would always tout his sexual prowess and talk about how men were homosexuals,” recalled Ms Wagner-Wilson. It wasn’t fun anymore.” And all the time, Jones was convincing his followers to sell their homes and sign over their salaries to his movement. In August 1977, Jones tried and failed to use his local political influence to kill the story. For followers like 17-year-old Jim Jones Jr, this really was going to be a new and better world.