Jonestown 2018: The Peoples Temple of California

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Jim Jones and his death cult of social justice warriors had little idea that much of their philosophy would become policy as Sacramento passes out the punch for the Golden State’s accelerating ‘revolutionary suicide’

By Mark Cromer

Maybe Jim Jones should have stuck around after all.

While this year marks the 40th anniversary of the mass murder–suicide by the self-declared socialist revolutionaries that followed cult leader and Bay Area Democratic Party power player Jones into a Guyana jungle where they would murder more than 300 children before killing themselves in an orgy of death that left more than 900 bodies bloating in the sun on a November day in 1978, the core ideology of Jones and his slogan-shouting collectivist cadre survived to now prosper across the very state they had fled for salvation turned savage oblivion.

Much has changed in California since Jones strode the streets of San Francisco in the mid-1970s as a respected reverend whose support was coveted by the liberal establishment’s politicos who were hungry for his community organizing skills and his ability to deploy crowds on demand from a ‘church’ that was far more of a political organization than a theological sanctuary.

In 1975, California’s population numbered about 21 million people, or just about half of the number of humans that have been shoehorned into the state today. Four decades ago, there was still a sense of breathing room that prevailed around California, even to some degree in its great cities along the coast.

But some things in the Golden State indeed look much as they did back in the 1970s, not the least of which is Jerry Brown is still in the governor’s mansion.

As a supporter of Jones in the mid-1970s, Brown and his own band of fellow travelers in 2018 are increasingly sounding more and more like the overlords of the Peoples Temple of California, preaching their own progressive gospel of salvation to the masses while painting any opponents or dissenters—either real or perceived— as well as skeptics and even the merely less enthused as closet racists and crypto fascists seeking to sabotage the glory of their crumbling rainbow state.

Jerry & Jim. Governor Brown and the Reverend Jim Jones in San Francisco, circa mid-1970s.

For all of the times that President Trump has been asked if he disavowed neo-Nazi David Duke, or for that matter all of the times President Obama was asked if he disavowed Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, when was the last time the sitting governor of California was asked if he disavows his political slow dance with Jim Jones? (Note: While there is as of yet no photograph of Trump cavorting or colluding with white supremacist Duke, there is now a very real news photograph of a beaming Obama alongside Farrakhan that was snapped back in 2005. Still, the hectoring of Obama about Farrakhan was and remains, in a word: bullshit.)

Gazing upon the general landscape of California today, Jones would surely be pleased as punch to hear the hallmarks of his old feverish rhetoric not rejected as dangerously manipulative exhortations designed to groom followers and prepare them for violence but is now embraced and employed by public officials in Sacramento and city halls around the state. When Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf denounced recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement actions and declared that Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ lawsuit against so-called ‘sanctuary’ policies in California was an act in furtherance of white supremacy, well she should have had to cut a royalty check to Jones surviving kids for covering their dad’s old siren song.

Though the Democrats are loathe to acknowledge let alone address it in any meaningful way today, lest it raise serious questions about what may actually motivate their social policy initiatives, Jones carried considerable cache with a constellation of Democratic public officials that ranged from Brown in the governor’s office to fabled assemblyman Willie Brown and Lt. Gov. Merv Dymally as well as San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, the pair of public officials that were destined to be murdered in City Hall just days after Jones and his cultists killed the kids and then themselves. Jones work in California also caught the eye and support of black radical Angela Davis, who would later send dispatches of support to Jones during the final days of his jungle apocalypse. And Jones’ street cred amid a then very competitive California political landscape also brought him into the orbit of national party heavy weights like Walter ‘Fritz’ Mondale and First Lady Rosalynn Carter.

San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, Jim Jones and California Lt. Governor Mervyn Dymally, 1976.

Those were days of milk and honey for Jones, but they were not to last.

On August 1, 1977, the watershed bi-monthly magazine New West (Clay Felker’s California sister publication to New York magazine) published an investigative feature story by Marshall Kilduff and Phil Tracy headlined ‘Inside Peoples Temple’ that spelled out the extent of Jones power among progressive circles in California, noting “He is one of the state’s most politically potent leaders” while posing the question “Can you win office in San Francisco without Jones?” (Answer: Not Really)

Kilduff, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, and Tracy, an editor at New West, carefully charted the pervasive reach of Jones from the power center of Bay Area Democrats as it radiated throughout the state, compiling a ‘Who’s Who’ of liberal public officials that came to Jones’ so-called temple to kiss his ring. Then governor Jerry Brown arrived at Jones San Francisco compound to pay a formal homage while Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who himself would come within an eyelash of the governor’s mansion years later, would pay Jones’ LA annex a visit to meet with the Rev and seek his blessing.

“The source of Jones political clout is not very difficult to divine,” Kilduff and Tracy wrote. “He controls votes. And voters.” As to the question of whether a lefty politico could prevail in the city by the bay without Jones blessing, the article quotes none other than Assemblyman Willie Brown, then a Moscone ally, to put it in perspective: “In a tight race…forget it without Jones.” Moscone himself put Jones on San Francisco’s Housing Authority Commission and then maneuvered to ensure Jones became its chairman.

Jones also held court with the law enforcement figures in San Francisco that embraced him, including San Francisco County District Attorney Joe Frietas, who dropped by Jones temple at 1859 Geary Boulevard on one occasion when Jones was leading his followers in what was described as ‘the shit chant’—a mantra in which his congregants were ordered to shout ‘shit’ over and over again as an exercise in humility. Frietas later denied hearing the cultists chant ‘shit’ during his visit.

The New West article was published just seven years after Jones had landed in San Francisco with perhaps a few hundred adherents in tow from Mendocino County. Jones paranoiac proselytizing about the joys of socialism—a common theme from the earliest days of his temple was the claim that Neo-Nazis were poised to seize power in Washington D.C.—raced like a prairie fire out of the radical fringes and into larger circles of the California left. By the middle of the decade Jones commanded more than 20,000 congregants from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

And with a small army of fanatical zealots at his command, the Democratic Party’s ostensibly mainstream politicians concealed any misgivings they may have harbored as they sought friendship and favor with Jones. But even as he was being courted and consulted by powerful elites, the danger signs were already there for all to see, or at least anyone who cared to pay attention.

Kilduff and Tracy’s exposé noted that Jones feverish sermons decrying an inherently evil, racist American system were exalted as unquestionable truths by a congregation that was 80-percent black and one that elevated a white Jones from street preacher into divine prophet.

Yet as Jones clout grew so to did his detachment from reality and it wasn’t long before he was sporting a retinue of armed bodyguards and held his Sunday political rallies dressed up as a church service in a temple that was sealed off to the general public—unannounced visitors seeking shelter in the Lord were not welcome at Jones’ inn. And Jones financial dealings, fueled by the largess of his followers that signed over their property and possessions to him in pursuit of the socialist paradise he promised, generated nearly six-figures a month and according to Grace Stoen, who ran the books for the temple, Jones bragged to her that the move to San Francisco and the temple’s political work would prove to be a jackpot. And after that Los Angeles, which Jones told Stoen “would be worth $15,000 to $25,000-a-weekend.”

And Stoen was no country bumpkin or inner-city hard luck case that latched on to Jones in desperate search for a better life, as Kilduff and Tracy’s feature story points out. A white liberal cut of the classic mold, Stoen’s husband Tim Stoen was a lawyer and another Bay Area power player who became San Francisco County’s Assistant District Attorney under Freitas (the D.A. who never heard the ‘shit chant’ while visiting Jones fortified compound in the city.) Stoen and her husband were part of Jones inner-circle and she told New West that by the time Jones landed in San Francisco and expanding into LA he was already riding around in bus caravans with followers as he made time with liberal politicos, none of whom seemed to notice or care that Jones personal carriage featured an armored plating interior.

Stoen and her husband effectively signed over custody of their son John to the temple just weeks after he was born in the early 1970s by claiming that Jones was the actual father in a signed affidavit, even though he wasn’t. It was an ultimate act of social justice submission—Jones enjoyed being called ‘Dad’ by temple members—but one that proved to be a death sentence for their young child.

Not Elvis. Jim Jones playing Suspicious Minds in his head well after California’s progressive establishment kissed his ring in absolute fidelity. The mass murder was to follow.

On February 19, 1978, nearly nine months to the day before the slaughter unfolded in Guyana, San Francisco County Supervisor Harvey Milk fired off an official letter on county letterhead to President Carter, demanding that Grace Stoen end her efforts to recover her son John from Jones, accused her of blackmail and praised Jones as a father. “Not only is the life of a child at stake,” Milk prophetically wrote even as he bizarrely argued who was endangering it. “[The child] presently has loving protective parents in Rev. and Mrs. Jones.”

Harvey Milk’s official missive sent on Jones behalf to President Jimmy Carter in February 1978. Nine months later, the child Milk vowed was under the guidance of loving and protective parents in Jonestown would be dead, along with more than 300 other children.

Milk went on to inform President Carter that any Congressional or State Department investigation into Jonestown could harm the United States relationship with Guyana—that’s the kind of pull Jones could still effect among his progressive politico friends in California long after he’d left the country. One wonders what Milk thought when he learned that the loving and protective parents he had so admired and written the White House on behalf of had murdered Stoen’s child and more than 300 other kids?

But by the time Kilduff and Tracy had begun investigating Jones and his burgeoning cache among the liberal elite in California, Grace Stoen had fallen out of the command staff of the Peoples Temple as a result of its escalating violent enforcement of its orthodoxy and she cooperated with the reporters for their story. She noted an interesting paradox Jones encountered as his political power mounted in the Bay and LA: the more power he amassed, the more paranoid he was becoming. On his progressive jihad, success for Jones equated neatly with rising fear and hate. Stoen detailed the hyper-regulated schedules of temple members, which Jones had cribbed from North Korean practices with a dash of Maoism thrown in for good measure (interestingly, Jones sided with the Soviets during the Sino-Soviet split and apparently considered Moscow’s brand of Communism preferable, but felt North Korea and China exercised better control over their populations), and this ultimately entailed the classic utility tool of sleep-deprivation salted with constant doctrinal enforcement sessions.

“We were going to more and more meetings,” Stoen told New West. “If anyone was getting too much sleep, say six hours a night, they were in trouble.” She revealed to Kilduff and Tracy that one temple member that was reported for apparently getting too much sleep was vomited and urinated on as punishment—one he submitted to.

That total if not seamless sense of complete obedience to not only their self-declared socialist savior Jones but his rabid political dogma—like rabies, it advances from mild flu-like symptoms to a frothing, hallucinatory state that leads to death—would lead Jones’ cadre to follow him into the jungle of Guyana in order to build their progressive paradise safely away from the scrutiny of either journalists or public officials who could not be politically bought off or cowed by them.

When the exact 40th anniversary of the socialist slaughterhouse of Jonestown arrives on November 18th, America will once again be treated to numerous retrospectives throughout the mainstream media, with the aptly entitled ‘death tapes’ that captured the horrifying final hours of the doomed encampment as the true believers murdered those who refused to literally drink the Kool-Aid before they killed themselves. Despite the frenetic death throes that gripped the compound, the progressive slogan-chanting cultists had dutifully been preparing for it for months; death drills that were dubbed ‘White Nights’ that saw cult members suddenly summoned in the middle of the night to their respective battle station-meets-gravesite in what the collective had actually voted to do if ‘attacked by the capitalist pigs’: revolutionary suicide. Jones dressed it up as something akin to a socialist Alamo and at one point staged a phony six-day ‘siege’ in which he claimed the compound was indeed under assault by imperialist forces that had converged on it. During the fake siege, the social justice allies of the Peoples Temple back in California were raised on the camp’s radio-phone and leftist luminaries like Angela Davis and Huey Newton phoned in exhortations to the cult members to resist the imaginary capitalist pigs surrounding the camp. It’s unclear whether Davis or Newton actually knew the faux battle was a wholly staged event in order to increase the group’s paranoia and improve their readiness to die, but it’s worth noting that even if they didn’t understand what was actually happening on the ground in that Guyana jungle they certainly were onboard with Jones basic political theology and were dead-set in helping him maintain and advance it among his followers. It’s worth noting that neither Davis nor Newton inquired over the camp’s PA system: “Wait a minute, Jim, just what the hell is going on down there? What fascist army do you feel is hiding along the jungle perimeter of your camp? What the hell are you doing?”

Nope.

Instead, the liberation theology icons stirred the collective mania and their madman’s delusions with their mutual exhortations to the Peoples Temple to resist. And in doing so helped prepare them to die.

Jonestown’s final hours were captured in part on film by the television news crews that had flown into Guyana with California Congressman Leo Ryan on a fact-finding mission, one that proved to be a fatal miscalculation by the Bay Area congressman and much of his entourage, as Ryan’s arrival triggered the final chain of events that would lead the Peoples Temple to stage their last stand for revolutionary socialism at Jonestown and forever emblazon their cause in the largest single slaughter of American civilians in the modern era before the September 11th attacks in 2001.

There is footage of Ryan taking the microphone and speaking in the camp’s pavilion, where members sang songs and praised their socialist leader Jones as he sat overseeing the choreographed show from an elevated chair, and it’s a surreal spectacle indeed to listen as Ryan praises the troop and acknowledges that many of the camp’s occupants declared it to be the best thing that had ever happened to them—a line that brought a roaring applause from the progressive parishioners. Surreal because Ryan was less than 24-hours away from being gunned down before he could leave Guyana with a handful of defectors in tow. In all likelihood Jones and his inner-circle had already made the decision to kill the congressman, his aides and the reporters that had accompanied him, and watching the tape one gets the sense that Ryan may well have understood he was neck-deep in serious trouble by the time he picked up the microphone and perhaps was attempting to soothe the homicidal rage that was coursing through Jones and his leadership.

On the other hand, as the New West investigative report had so richly chronicled the year before, much of the liberal establishment’s power players had actively cavorted with and supported Jones and his social justice agenda in return for the ‘boots on the ground’ deployed by Jones highly motivated socialist operation, so it’s also possible that Ryan tragically believed what he heard from the Peoples Temple members he was allowed to speak with and meant what he told the cheering, singing, clapping, dancing social justice cult members, oblivious that he was already marked for death.

If he didn’t understand what was to come during his last night on earth, he surely got a taste of it when he was stabbed as he sought to usher out the few members who decided to make a break for it with Ryan (the immediate aftermath of his stabbing at the camp was also captured by the news cameramen), boarding the stake bed trucks that were to ferry them to the remote Port Kaituma airstrip that was the cult camp’s only real connection to the outside world. The knife-wound was not life-threatening, but it foreshadowed what was coming.

As Ryan and his cohort began their death ride to the airstrip, Jones and his crew initiated the protocol they had so diligently practiced and prepared for, summoning the entire camp into the pavilion for their final act of revolutionary justice. Some members sensed that this time the death drill was for real and attempted to flee into the jungle but were shot down as traitors, others simply sheltered in place and attempted to hide, and there were a handful of survivors. But the vast majority of the more than 900 social justice warriors simply did as they were told and dutifully assembled.

Much of the ensuing mass murder-suicide was captured on audiotape, as Jones clearly intended for his work to be saved for posterity and we should be thankful that his homicidal narcissism led him to record the last hours of his cult’s handiwork, as again it proves quite instructive.

As the tragedy unfolds, Jones holds center stage and in full manic mode swerves in and out of delusionary declarations as his followers can be heard praising ‘Dad’ and thanking him for leading them in their efforts to build a socialist paradise. As the chaotic scene unfolds, cries and shrieks are heard as mothers usher their children up to be murdered, and Peoples Temple member Irene Edwards declares “This is nothing to cry about!” as she thanks “Father” for all he has done, bemoaning how much Jones has “suffered” for his social justice crusade.

In one audio recording among the tapes that were later recovered by the FBI, Jones wife Marceline Jones gushed that the couple’s jungle utopia was the purest incarnation of social justice, a place “dedicated to live for socialism, total economic and racial and social equality.”

Jones takes a moment to reflect on just who the traitors were who attempted to flee the camp with Congressman Ryan, bellowing: “Who walked out of here today? Did you notice who walked out? Mostly white people…Mostly white people walked. I am so grateful for the ones that didn’t.” As the chaos mounts with a cacophony of weeping and wailing and praising audible in the background, Jones returns to rage at the occidentals who dared to try to bail on the Final Act of his socialist death trip.

“It broke my heart, to think that all of this year the white people had been with us, and they’re not a part of us,” Jones says. “So we may as well end it now…It’s all over. The congressman has been murdered.”

As the frenzied cries of the killers and the dying filled the jungle air, Jones declares that death was the only alternate destination if their socialist paradise on earth had failed: “I tell you, I don’t care how many screams you hear, I don’t care how many anguished cries, death is a million times more preferable than another ten days of this life. If you knew what was ahead of you, you’d be glad to be stepping over tonight. Death! Death! Death…Are we black, proud and socialist, or what are we?…Hurry, hurry my children. Hurry!”

The FBI’s transcript of the tape then notes the reaction: ‘Applause.’

It was a response that would be repeated throughout the night of death.

“Where’s the vat? The vat? The vat?” Jones demands at another point on the tape. “Where’s the vat with the green ‘C’ on it? Bring the vat with the green ‘C’ in, please. Bring it in here so the adults can begin.”

By the time morning dawned on November 19, 1978, Jones’ progressive cult had finished with their mass revolutionary murder-suicide pact and other cult members had murdered their children and then killed themselves in the Guyana capital of Georgetown on the same night after being radioed instructions from the Peoples Temple. Jones, it turns out, skipped the Kool-Aid and chose to put a bullet through his head instead. As survivors from both the airstrip killings and those who had escaped the compound eventually struggled their way to safety, the Guyanese government discovered the vast carnage at Jonestown and as the media descended the scope and scale of the psychotic mayhem unleashed by the social justice warriors became gruesomely apparent.

California Dreamin’: The aftermath of more than 900 men, women and children who were murdered or committed ‘revolutionary suicide’ in Jonestown, November 18, 1978.

And as Jim Jones had undoubtedly hoped, it shook the world. Well, for a little while anyway.

As fast as Jones and his Peoples Temple has acquired real political capital in California, in the aftermath of the slaughter in Guyana suddenly it seemed no one really knew him, endorsed him or believed in him. If it weren’t for the photos, the eyewitness accounts and the media reports from the mid-1970s, it’s likely not one member of California’s liberal establishment would have admitted to having ever met the good reverend, let alone bestowed upon him awards, accolades and the high admiration that they in actual fact did. It’s reminiscent of the Manson Family after Charlie got collared, connected and then convicted for the slaughter of Tate-LaBianca. Suddenly LA’s rock establishment didn’t know who the cat was and the few who couldn’t deny it were adamant that they’d only met him in passing and they never liked the little creep. So over time the popular narrative of the rock n’ roll factor of Charles Manson and his Family in Los Angeles 1968-69 was sanded down and reduced to a couple of lines officially noting that Charlie hung out with Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson and recorded a few demo tracks with famed producer Terry Melcher.

But facts have a funny way of remaining resilient.

And the fact is that through Wilson, whom Manson lived with for about six months and hung out with for much longer than that, Charlie was introduced to, hung out, partied and played with a rather stellar constellation of LA’s rock establishment, including not only the Beach Boys (whom hired Manson as a song writer for their Brother Records label) but also Neil Young, John Phillips and David Crosby, to name but a few. Not only did Melcher and the Wilson brothers record Manson repeatedly and the Beach Boys record his ‘Cease To Exist’ for their 20/20 album (retitled ‘Never Learn Not To Love’ and credited to Dennis Wilson, which enraged Manson) which they later played live on The Mike Douglas Show, but Young got Charlie an audition in front of Warner Bros. honcho Mo Ostin. Cass Elliot also listened to Charlie audition his songwriting wares in consideration for her solo record following the breakup of The Mamas & The Papas.

The fact is prior to directing his own mass murder spree, Manson had entrée in LA and among some of its most influential and fabulous scene-makers. But after the gore was cleaned up on Cielo Drive and Waverly Drive and his homicidal hippie ‘Love and Terror Cult’ was at least somewhat under heel behind bars, well, the collective memory of Charles Manson among LA’s rockeratti looked more like something out of a Soviet-era photo retouching lab with Charlie getting the hasty brush out of the viewing stand.

But unlike Manson, Jim Jones wasn’t just making time and music with rockers.

Far more relevantly for where the state stood forty years ago as well as where it finds itself today, Jones wielded a pervasive and very public relationship with powerful politicos across California, summoning public servants to his San Francisco and Los Angeles ‘churches’ where he would barter their power and influence in return for his blessing and access to his organizational street operations. While Manson would go on from his prison cell to loom ever larger as a dark icon of the counter culture from a bygone era, the legacy that Jones left behind has now bloomed like a poisonous flower across the state’s power structures, one that is fed by the same root system that once nourished Jones and his Peoples Temple.

Public universities across the state have in many respects devolved from academic institutions that demanded open discourse and intellectual curiosity among the students to something more akin to Jonestown outlet malls that have been updated for the millennial generation: complete with all the dead-eyed repetition of slogans and social justice virtue signaling, all the hysteria, all the paranoia, all the head-nodding group-think and all the fanatical adherence to a rabid political dogma that holds throughout every intersectional interface they invent that white America is the foundation of all that is wrong and must be destroyed or replaced (or both). But these branch camps for the New Jonestown are no insect-filled shacks built on a swath of land in the middle of a jungle, not at all, for the socialist revolutionary on campus today is committed to pursuing the crusade for justice from decidedly bourgeois campuses that increasingly look more like La Causa by Ritz Carlton Spa & Resort.

As it was in Jonestown in 1978, Hollywood today is dominated by white ‘allies’ of the social justice movement that employ their social media accounts between their eight-figure-a-film paydays to extol the virtues that the Peoples Temple actually lived out to its ultimate finale. Anne Hathaway recently took to Instagram to chastise white America en total about its structural privilege, an indictment she served on people from the blue hills of Kentucky to the blue bloods of Kennebunkport, using both language and logic that was common currency among Peoples Temple members back in the day.

Jonestown Calling: Social Justice Warrior for 2018, Anne Hathaway.

It’s worth noting, however, that unlike the Kamikaze squadrons of Jonestown, Hathaway did not and never will do anything more than post her alleged allegiance to the social justice cause before jetting off to wherever for whatever has caught her fancy for the moment. When Hathaway hit ‘post’ she had paid her dues and done her part by dropping a deuce on white people, for now. As far as her next film role goes, one might expect her to sport a BLM wristband around the set, but in terms of demanding a dramatic narrowing of the wage disparity between her and the 99% of the rest of the production crew, well…not so much.

Among the skeletal remains of the legacy print media throughout the state much of the very premise of the ideological engine that fueled Jones and his followers has not only made its way onto their editorial pages and become enshrined there, but has also become a standard issue filter for what remains of their staff writing journalists, whether or not they actually believe it or are just going through the expected/required motions for the withering payday.

Yet aside from the pillars of academia, Hollywood and the media, perhaps Jones’ greatest legacy is what is carved like granite into so much of California’s governments, from the state house to the county seats to the city halls of its once great cities that punctuate its coastal belt. For it is in these cradles of political power where the Ghost of Jim Jones still resides. With the Republican Party effectively dead in the state for over a decade now, the more than 40 million people that are jammed into California are treated to the Democrats intoning from Sacramento as well as transmission towers in San Francisco and Los Angeles whatever the theological lesson is for the day, even as the infrastructure like the public pension system erodes to the point of total collapse.

While the distinctions are still clear, for now, the similarities are undeniable.

More than a decade into unfettered one-party rule from Sacramento and in the major cities for much longer than that and with social spending at an all-time high, the Golden State is in free fall and the progressives at the power levers have no idea what to do about it. They don’t even have a good idea that won’t work. They’re out of ideas and reduced to, in the finest Jonestown vintage of ’78, chanting their mantras even as tens of thousands of bowel movements explode onto public streets everyday in Los Angeles and San Francisco as the homeless populations grow. If the homeless start raising their fists as they deliver a Number Two special on the boulevards, it’s at least even money that the power players that Jones once swam with will declare such intestinal warfare to be a ‘revolutionary act’ in pursuit of social justice and thus protected—right after they finish ensuring the imminent threat of Ann Coulter is scrubbed from appearing at state funded universities.

So yeah, maybe Jim Jones should have stuck around after all to see how his ideology would play out in the state he succeeded in making much his own before splitting off to play Col. Kurtz in his jungle utopian hell.

But though Jones ventilated his cranium in Guyana, many of his ring-kissers remain in California yet and New West rightly raised the ultimate question about them a year before the massacre.

“Finally, something must be said about the numerous public officials and political figures who openly courted and befriended Jim Jones,” Kilduff and Tracy wrote in the closing of their epic story in New West. “While it appears that that none of the public officials from Governor Brown on down knew about the inner world of the Peoples Temple, they have left the impression that they used Jones to deliver votes at election time and never asked any questions. They never asked about the bodyguards. Never asked about the church’s locked doors. Never asked why Jones followers were so obsessively protective of him. And apparently, some never asked because they didn’t want to know. The story of Jim Jones and his Peoples Temple is not over. In fact, it has only begun to be told.”

Tracy and Kilduff had no idea in that seminal hot August of 1977 just how prescient their words would be. But the story, which prompted Jones to flee California to his jungle redoubt that he had been working on for years by the time he arrived with the bulk of his followers, would not find its ending in the slaughter the progressive prophet would unleash in Guyana.

No, the story of Jim Jones and his homicidal merry band of social justice warriors is still playing out today forty years later.

And one must wonder just how much longer will it be before helicopters enter the airspace above California and capture the vast carnage of the wasteland below.

Indeed, maybe Jim Jones should have stuck around after all.