The 40th Anniversary Of The Jonestown Massacre Is The Perfect Time To Brush Up On How Cults Operate

Jonestown - Wikipedia

By Stella Morabito - Posted at The Federalist:

As horrifying as the Jonestown tape is, it also offers us a stark, invaluable lesson on the weakness of the human mind when it’s put into isolation and subjected to coercive persuasion.

Coercive persuasion has immense power to shape and twist the human mind. We should all know this. Exhibit A is the Jonestown massacre of 40 years ago. It was the largest mass murder of American civilians until the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Yet it’s doubtful we really understand the dangers of the cult mindset or how vulnerable all people are to cult tactics.

If someone commanded you to give your child a lethal dose of poison, you’d probably protect your child and report that homicidal maniac to the authorities. But what would you do if you were trapped in an isolated place for years with hundreds of fellow cultists who complied with the order coming from your venerated leader? And after years of being isolated under that singular influence, you also saw that anybody who hesitated was badgered by him and strong-armed by his armed guards? Then, after the kids were all lying on the ground dead, all of your adult comrades were obeying the final command to commit “revolutionary suicide”?

On November 18, 1978, all of the above happened. Self-styled preacher-prophet Jim Jones gathered members of his cult of the Peoples Temple in Jonestown to give those orders. At a pavilion in that settlement in a Guyanese jungle, they drank from a vat of cyanide-laced punch. (The expression “drinking the Kool-Aid” comes from such actions of blind obedience.)