Thursday, April 05, 2007

Follow Your Leader: White Nights at Jonestown

Even within confined barracks at the Virginia Military Institute where I was a young cadet, word of the mass "Revolutionary Suicide" at Jonestown spread quickly. I've been hooked on the radical nature of People's Temple ever since. The first lesson seemed to be -- question all authority at every level and, if you must and can, run for your life! I left VMI the following spring and transferred to Chapel Hill. The young ones at Jonestown had not been so lucky.

On Monday, April 9, 2007, PBS will air Stanley Nelson's Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple (2006) as part of its American Experience series. PBS will release the DVD (with extras, including additional footage) on April 10. The documentary was shown at the Detroit Institute of Arts last weekend, but I missed it.

Apparently, Nelson (along with writer Marcia Smith) wanted to explore the origins and drawing power of Peoples Temple, which began in a way that fostered civil rights, racial/class integration, and hope for the downtrodden as well as a vehicle for leader Jim Jones (5/13/1931-11/18/1978). Seeing how they trace the arc of Jones and his Peoples Temple from Indiana to California to the final act in Guyana will be fascinating.

Today's Rune: Flow.

Birthdays: Algernon Charles Swinburne, Booker T. Washington, Spencer Tracy, Bette Davis, Gregory Peck, Stanley Turrentine, Michael Moriarty (from Detroit), Lana Clarkson.

Beware of White Nights! Avoid poisoned Flavor Aid and pet foods, Dick Cheney and Baghdad -- when possible!


Charles Gramlich said...

I heard that Jones got heavily into drugs that began to fuel his paranoia, but that in the early days he had some good things to say about people living together. As with everything, you have to take the good and leave the crap behind.

JR's Thumbprints said...

I'll definitely be watching this on PBS.

Johnny Yen said...

From what I understand, he preached a great message when he was in Oakland. I guess he was proof of the truism that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Lana said...

I saw this special a few weeks back & was absolutely fascinated. I was a little young at the time to realize what was going on, but now I'm horrified. As Jonny Yen commented; absolute power corrupts absolutely.
I've seen the dangers of "charismatic leaders" first hand & was fortunate enough to aid in getting one of them put back in jail (where he came from.)