Prof. Kelly Nelson
Mon & Wed 8:35-10:00
In November 18, 1978 a mass suicide occurred in Guyana, South America. More than a thousand people died, 276 were children. This mass suicide was led by the guy named Jim Jones; or known by his followers as “Reverend” or “Father”. We don’t know and we will never know if Jones had all this planned from the very beginning, from the moment he opened his Temple in San Francisco. But what we do know is that it happened, this guy; this one guy accomplish what he wanted all along. He killed all those people without having any mercy. And why is that?
We can say that this guy had all the characteristics of a leader. He was manipulative, authoritarian, “god-like”, and most importantly; he had charisma. He used all of these characteristics in his favor and managed to have all these people follow him all the way to death. He convinced his followers that there was an outside threat, that the government was “out to them”.
This mass suicide started when Congressman Leo Ryan went to the town to pay a visit and see the conditions in which these people were living. Jones felt threaten, he felt like the government was trying to get inside the town to mess up his people. After the Congressman’s visit, Jones started having the “White Night” event; which was him (Jones) waking up the people in the town late at night with speakers and telling them to grab a weapon and be prepared for the attack; an attack that would never come.
Jim Jones had all these people isolated, brainwashed, sleep and food deprived, financially dependent and surrounded by armed guards during the time they lived in Guyana with him. All these are factors very important in Jones’ plan to construct reality and accomplish “groupthink”.
The everyday process of making the people believe all this and making them live in all those horrible conditions are a description of the symbolic interaction; an everyday interpersonal interaction. Jones status and...