Sunday, October 2, 2016

the last book I ever read (American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst, excerpt fourteen)

from American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin:

Back in the winter of 1974, the Reverend Jim Jones showed up at the China Basin warehouse and asked to distribute the food. Spooked by Jones’s air of menace, the proprietors of the People in Need program declined his services. But Jones’s fanatical dedication and that of his followers to a kind of ersatz socialism made them a disciplined and powerful force in San Francisco politics. Jones mobilized the largely African American flock in the Peoples Temple to elect George Moscone mayor of the city in 1975. Then, the following years, Jones was privately courted by Walter Mondale, the Democrats’ vice presidential candidate. Rosalynn Carter met with Jones after she became First Lady. At a testimonial dinner, California’s governor, Jerry Brown, said Jones “became an inspiration for a whole lot of people. He’s done fantastic things.”

Still, there were always hints of darker forces at work in the People Temple. Some members died under mysterious circumstances, and others reported that Temple leaders pressured them into sexual relationships. Former followers contacted journalists, who began describing the Temple as a cult. Under new scrutiny, Jones complained about government conspiracies. Press coverage turned more critical in 1977 as members told reporters of kidnappings, extortion, and abuse by church leaders, including Jones himself. Earlier, Jones had rented thirty-eight hundred acres of land in the small South American nation of Guyana for use as an agricultural outpost. As pressure on the church mounted, Jones began demanding that his followers pick up stakes in San Francisco and move there. Hundreds of his acolytes and their families streamed into Guyana, and they founded a rugged community that they called Jonestown.

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