Jonestown: Debate in ARS

Once again, the aim of this transcription is not only to deepen the theoretical aspect of the issue, but to highlight and illustrate the anti-cult mindset at work. At the outset, a simple sentence: "The anti-cult propaganda resulted in the mutual envenoming that precipitated the Jonestones and Wacos". Note that I do not say here that the tragedy was caused by the anti-cult propaganda, but that it had a part of responsibility in it, together with the cult itself, who remains the chief responsible for it. Observe, however, how anti-cult proponents are completely unwilling to accept any part of responsibility whatsoever, how unwilling they are to be open to the possibility of them having done any mistakes, and how they react violently and try to twist this simple statement in every possible ways to try and dismiss it through grotesque distortions.


Here is my initial post containing the sentence. It is an answer to Keith Wyatt (who, later, in view of the obvious bias of anti-cultists, became a critic's critic as well).

From: Bernie@bernie.cncfamily.com (Bernie)
Newsgroups: alt.religion.scientology
Subject: Re: Hey Bernie stop defending CoS, they have the money to do it themselves!
Date: Fri, 23 May 1997 20:23:40 GMT
Message-ID: <343afcb9.596924960@news.Belgium.EU.net>

kewyatt@teleport.com (Keith) wrote:

Bernie:
Hiya Keith, welcome back to ARS.

Keith:
>Hey Bernie,

[snip]

>They have an army of lawyers defending them they sure don't need me or you.

Bernie:
The real cult apologists are those who do not hesitate to resort
to the same tactics as the cults to achieve their means.

Tell me Keith, if the COS is so obviously off the marks (and I believe they are), why is it necessary for some critics to paint a darker picture than the reality to bring about a reaction? Why is it necessary to portray them as is if they are locking people in basements and torturing them in RPFs, which is an obvious misrepresentation of the COS at large? Why is it necessary to bring in hateful generalizations and distortions instead of rational discussion and factual information?

This has been the behavior of the anticult and resulted in serious violation of human and civil rights as well as to the mutual envenoming that precipitated the Johnstowns and Wacos.

I am not interested to get rid of the cults dictatory only to have it replaced by the anticults one. Criticism against the COS isn't going to be efficient as long as opponents are undistinguishable from what they attack.

Bernie

 

The poster known as "Number 3" (previously known as "h3" and "seekon" and now posting as "Conner") intervenes. Number 3 is an intelligent and often moderate critic, but a typical example of an outsider who in actuality knows little of the inner workings of cults and buys the anti-cult rhetoric by and large.

In this post, first note a classical stratagem of anti-cultists: deride the question back to the McPherson case. One, however, has to stick to the issue raised, which is here the statements of Dennis Erlich that the CoS is "locking people in the basement and torturing them in the RPFs", which was at the basis of this discussion, and that I used as an example.

N3 then goes in the depiction of a black and white situation (patently false as well, but that's another story), where anti-cult proponents are all good and the cults all bad, dismissing the whole background and context of the situation. He then asks me to explain how the ACM caused the situation, which is not what I said at all.

N3 admits Waco to be questionable (unlike some more extreme anti-cultists), but is unwilling or unable to see how the same propaganda was at work in case of Jonestown. This, however, will become clear further on in the discussion.

From: Bernie@bernie.cncfamily.com (Bernie)
Newsgroups: alt.religion.scientology
Subject: Re: Hey Bernie stop defending CoS, they have the money to do it themselves!
Date: Sat, 24 May 1997 21:39:26 GMT
Message-ID: <347c5f9f.659530490@news.Belgium.EU.net>

Bernie:
>> The real cult apologists are those who do not hesitate to resort to the same tactics as the cults to achieve their means.

>> Tell me Keith, if the COS is so obviously off the marks (and I believe they are), why is it necessary for some critics to paint a darker picture than the reality to bring about a reaction? Why is it necessary to portray them as is if they are locking people in basements and torturing them in RPFs, which is an obvious misrepresentation of the COS at large?

Number 3:
> but not in some parts of CoS? like the Sea Org?  what's your theory on the death of Lisa McPherson?

Bernie:
I didn't follow the thread of Lisa McPherson. I provided my own example as above, let's stick to this one - it's a an example of gross misrepresentations aimed at bringing about an irrational and hysterical reaction.

>> Why is it necessary to bring in hateful generalizations and distortions instead of rational discussion and factual information?

> what do you find distorted about the information about Lisa McPherson? at least from a.r.s?

Check the example I provided.

>> This has been the behavior of the anticult and resulted in serious violation of human and civil rights as well as to the mutual envenoming that precipitated the Johnstown and Wacos.

> my, let's see. in Jonestown (named after Jones, not John), a congressman (leo ryan?) visited there to follow up on disturbing reports of human abuse from relatives and friends of the "flock". when he got there, he found that people worked at forced labor, and were subjected to humiliating punishments. the whole place looked more like an armed POW camp than anything else. ryan told the "flock" that anyone who wanted to could leave with him, that he would guarantee their safe passage away from jonestown. most of the flock were too afraid to do so, or perhaps were unable to coordinate with children or loved ones. 12 people, however, did go with ryan. jones sent a hit squad that  fired on the congressman's party at the airport, killing ryan and several others. subsequently, he apparently decided that the publicity that would arise from this would finish jonestown, and he initiated the suicide/murder deaths of everyone. a few did escape to describe the horror, but several hundred people (900?) died, including jones.

> now just how did the anticult (?) cause all of these deaths? by looking into the possibility of abuses? bernie, this is the most blatant propaganda, the biggest lie, i've seen you push. who or what is behind this? are you something other than the lone, concerned netizen you present yourself as?

My assertion is that the type of "information" such as the one I quoted, typical of the anticult, together with the fanatical reactions of the cults, envenoms the situation until it explodes. What you described is only the visible top of the iceberg. You can't dismiss the whole background behind it.

> bernie, i'm really disgusted by this.

Do you have something against an honest criticism that points out to the failings of the groups without necessarily distorting it and envenoming the situation, Number 3?

> while i disagree with your assessment of the waco situation, i will at least admit that there was participation by cult "experts" that could be questioned.

That may be, but I refer more to the general principle as above. Besides, I read a book, long time ago, written by a journalist who accompanied Ryan. He did mention (shortly) the presence of anticults representatives. If I remember correctly, he referred to them as some kind of nuts. I would have to look to see if I still have this book, but it isn't that important. My main point is the general principle of cults/anticults mounting the emotional situation together by a mutual actions/reactions.

Bernie

 

In the following post, N3 tries to justify Erlich's statement that the COS (or the Sea Org) locks people up and torture them, and once again tries to bring McPherson into it. I stick to the point and indicates how Erlich's accusation isn't representative of the COS at all but on the contrary is an example of inflammatory assertions that sustain the cult phobia. I point to the fact that I don't object to examination of possible wrong doing either in the case of McPherson or Jonestown, I only object to to the dishonest and hysterical exploitation that is being made of these events.

As a relatively moderate anti-cultists, N3 acknowledges that there might have been abuses in the past, but comes up with the classical excuse that "we don't do it anymore", still blind to the background and context that really didn't change. I point out to Erlich's statement as an example that is very current.

N3 persistence in portraying my statement as putting all the fault on the ACM, despite my repeated corrections, is a good illustration of how ACM proponents seem to be unable to see nuances and need to portray things in black and white. The same goes on when they mix mind-control with influence, or responsibility with blame (see the mind-control section). 

I also point out how my statement stands on logic and observation alone, even without the need to bring forth specific data. Anyone familiar with the ACM propaganda and the context of violent deprogramming at the time will recognize that this obviously brought a bear to the situation.

From: Bernie@bernie.cncfamily.com (Bernie)
Newsgroups: alt.religion.scientology
Subject: Re: Hey Bernie stop defending CoS, they have the money to do it themselves!
Date: Mon, 26 May 1997 01:27:04 GMT
Message-ID: <33b5e4f8.713413251@news.Belgium.EU.net>

Bernie:
>> What I am saying is that to say that the COS is "locking people in basements and torturing them in RPFs" is a gross misrepresentation of what is going on in Scn at large.

Number 3:
> but it's not a gross misrepresentation of what happens within the Sea Org, is it?

Bernie:
I think it is. The "Sea Org" is not a separate organization from Scn. Sea Org members are "injected" at all levels of Scn. I have been staff in the local org, I was in the European organization in Denmark, and in the European operation center there as well. Both full of Sea Org members. I was in the GO WW in East Grinstead, full of Sea Org members, and I had a lot of contact with staff and student of the nearby Saint Hill Organization, full of Sea Org members. In my five year time altogether, I have never seen anyone locked in basement or "tortured" in the RPF, nor has any of the other ex-members I know. I do think it is a gross misrepresentation, although I don't exclude the fact that it happened (apart from the "torture in the RPF").

>> It's a "picture" aimed at nothing else than to give a dark and distorded conception of the COS and to call for an irrational and hysterical reaction.

> maybe you think it an irrational and hysterical reaction to be concerned about how Lisa McPherson and possibly others could have died while in the care of Scientology. i think it's an exceptionally reasonble concern to ask why and how, and how to avoid doing it again. do you find it all right that people die needlessly?

No. I think it is useful to point out to abuses from the COS and that the necessary measures be taken to avoid their repetition. As I said, I will not comment on something of which I don't have all the data. I stick to the example I provide and repeat: It's a "picture" aimed at nothing else than to give a dark and distorted conception of the COS and to call for an irrational and hysterical reaction.

That's the type of tactics I disagree with, and why I will side against the person who exploit others through such misrepresentations and calls on emotional reaction based on a distorted version of what really happens at large. I know that you fail to see the link between these tactics and how Johnstowns and Wacos are brought about, but it doesn't really matter. Maybe some reader will.

>> It's not the question of whether or not it may have happened occasionally, it's the manipulative way it is being presented.

> what i find manipulative is the way that you try to downplay it, to make the evil the fault (in the case of Jonestown)

I don't downplay it. If it happened, then it should be brought up. I only object to the exploitation that is being made of it to carry a demonized picture of the COS to call on the emotions rather than reason.

>> >> Do you have something against an honest criticism that points out to the failings of the groups without necessarily distorting it and envenoming the situation, Number 3?

>> > how am i "envenoming" anything, bernie?

>> Did I say that *you* were envenoming anything?

> did you read what you wrote?

Yes, and I don't see how it refers to you. I am sorry if maybe I wrote it in such a way that you understand it so.

>> >you reveal yourself as a tool of cultists of some sort, bernie, as someone here to distract honest discussions about cults in general, and the cult of scientology in particular.

>> Are the kind of speculations and accusations you launch against me in this post what you call "honest discussions"?

> no, not particularly, and i apologize for stating it quite that way. but i see you loudly and continuously proclaiming the evils of your "anticult", and ignoring the evils of cults, and how those evils might be addressed.

Since I post to ars, I have largely lost sight of the cult evils, while the biases of the reactions against the COS have become plainly visible to me. In some respect, comparing what I know of my experience in the COS and the way they are being presented/interpretate, the COS crimes look much less important than they used to. As I said in another post, over the time, it had the effect that I lost most of my interest/motivation to criticize the COS at all. So expect me to be even more a "cult apologist" than ever before.

>i can agree that there have been excesses in the struggle against cults. i do not agree that those excesses continue, at least not the ones you describe.

What about the sentence I quote as an example? Do you think it's something of the past?

>i do not agree that the your "anticult" "envenoms" situations as you describe. i find your arguments tedious and misleading, with a volume and stridency all out of proportion to where the true harm to people arises. i am reminded of words recently quoted from Molko, about how cultists and cult apologists will try to do exactly what you are doing - make the "anticult" at fault.

I am between the two, really. I object to the cults, but I do not agree with the anticults. I am not putting all the fault on the anticults (as the cults do), nor am I putting all the fault on the cults (as the anticult does).

It is interesting to see that when I say that the ex-members do have a *part* of responsibility in his involvement, I am accused of "blaming the victim" or "re-victimize" them. It beast me that people are unable to see the nuance. This just indicates to me that they are just in the same cult mindset as thecult-members. Likewise, if I point out to unfair criticism, all of a sudden I become a "cult-apologist". This will just have as an effect to make me more so.

> now i don't know who you are, whether you fall into a camp that i simply call monomaniacs, or whether you are indeed an agent for something. but i have considered your arguments, and i think they are wrong, and i reject them.

OK. That is your right.

>and i really am not interested in trying to argue them, because that plays to your game no matter which you are. although i am sure i will get dragged into one discussion or another.

Fine.

>> > it certainly *is* important. bring out your information, if you have it. although i can't see it really could matter much. the facts of jonestown speak pretty much for themselves, and jim jones created it and its aftermath pretty much without participation from any anticult phantasms you might try to conjure.

>> This is only your assumptions, and a rather blind one at that. I have a different assumption.

> do you have an assumption, or do you have data?

I am mostly speaking in abstract and general terms, from assumptions built over the year through my experiences, observations, and reflections on both side of the issue. I am not very good at (nor have that much time) collecting and organizing data, but if you search for them, I am quite confident that they will confirm what I advance.

> earlier you said you had data. are you now saying you don't?

I could look for the book I refered to, but if you read the paragraph, you will see that I do say that it's only marginal to my argument. I speak about general principles, and what I advance seem pretty logical to me without even having to have all the data (although it would be much better of course): I
just say that a fanatical and dishonest reaction to cults isn't going to produce anything else than catastrophies when clashed against the fanaticism and dishonesty of cults. I really don't see what is so difficult and problematic to comprehend in this statement.

Bernie

 

Even though a general knowledge of the context at the time of Jonestown and logic alone was enough for me to sustain my point, I bump into a document that illustrates what I have been saying. It shows that the ACM was indeed involved and that Ryan was influenced by their doctrine. The document, in fact, goes much further than what I have been saying.

From: Bernie@bernie.cncfamily.com (Bernie)
Newsgroups: alt.religion.scientology,alt.support.ex-cult
Subject: Re: Hey Bernie stop defending CoS, they have the money to do it themselves!
Date: Mon, 26 May 1997 23:21:41 GMT
Message-ID: <33cbff0f.729692793@news.Belgium.EU.net>

Number3:
>> earlier you said you had data. are you now saying you don't?

Bernie:
>I could look for the book I refered to, but if you read the paragraph, you will see that I do say that it's only marginal to my argument. I speak about general principles, and what I advance seem pretty logical to me without even having to have all the data (although it would be much better of course): I just say that a fanatical and dishonest reaction to cults isn't going to produce anything else than catastrophies when clashed against the fanaticism and dishonesty of cults. I really don't see what is so difficult and problematic to comprehend in this statement.

Bernie:
I found some confirmation to my own statement that brings them even further than what I advanced. Looking for documents about conservatorship, which I was sure to have, I hit this television transcripts from a debate that just followed the Jonestown disaster.

"Jonestown and the first amendment: an evaluation of the state department's report on the People's Temple" <no other references but context is clearly television (or radio) debate>

------------- start of excerpt -----------------

[...]

Professor Richardson: I am a theologian and an historian. And I would like to say something about the issue that we're talking about.

[...]

Let's even suppose that there had been certain problems in the last three or four months, certain threats of suicide, certain marks of instability in Jones. Is it the responsible activity of government to go in there in a heavy-handed way and provoke the situation? And, if I may add, taking in NBC cameras with the history of reporting on new religious groups, is about as provocative a thing that you can do. And taking in relatives of people who are trying to bring them out, relatives who are associated with American deprogramming organizations is even more provocative. Right? And, if I might add again, going in there against the advice of the American Embassy officials who knew the situation first hand and warned that it might be dangerous and blow up. What kind of responsible government action is it to go in and blow the thing up? Leo Ryan is not a hero. He is a tragic figure like Jones. In my mind each one is contributory towards the explosion that took place.

I won't talk a lot here about Ryan's long prior involvement with deprogrammers-- that group of people who have been agitating against all new religious groups, for example, Ryan's agitation against Scientology, Ryan's agitation against the Unification Church, and Ryan's agitation against the People' Temple. One wonder whether there isn't something pathological in the man-- madder even than Jones.

Look on page 77 of the State Department report where Ryan suggests that he brings in a clinical psychologist to investigate and examine the members of the Jonestown community to see if they are under mind-control. It says that Congressman Ryan discarded the idea later when such a specialist known to him was not available for the trip. Is there only one reputable, clinical psychologist in America who understands mind-control so that Ryan couldn't find anyone else? The answer is that there is only one clinical psychologist in America who is working with the deprogramming organizations, and that is John Clark. I ask you to find out the name of the person who is not named here, why John Clark couldn't go down there, and why Ryan couldn't find someone else. Is that fair-mindedness? This man was as mad as Jones.

[...]"

-------------------------------- end of excerpt --------------

This position is a bit more radical than the one I advanced, but it proves without a doubt that there are more than speculations behind the fact that both the anticults and the cults contributed to bring about Jonestown.

Bernie

 

N3 only acknowledges that I had some data (something that I didn't even so much claimed nor something that was relevant in the context of my presentation), but he fails to see how it illustrates what I have been saying. In fact, the excerpt I uncovered goes much farther than my own arguments. Nevertheless, N3 keeps on saying that it doesn't show how the ACM had any role in Jonestown (!?!?!). How blind can you get. He also brings up the usual ACM "defense" towards scholars who closely examine ACM's claim: Prof. Richardson is a "cult apologist". Why do ACM proponents require data if it's only to dismiss them without even addressing the issues they raise? Or is "data" only what comes from ACM milieu? He says that the data would need to be double checked, but, as we will see later, he is unwilling to do anything in this direction.

From: Bernie@bernie.cncfamily.com (Bernie)
Newsgroups: alt.religion.scientology,alt.support.ex-cult
Subject: Re: Hey Bernie stop defending CoS, they have the money to do it themselves!
Date: Tue, 27 May 1997 17:21:08 GMT
Message-ID: <33fa1803.749729752@news.Belgium.EU.net>

Bernie:
>> This position is a bit more radical than the one I advanced, but it proves without a doubt that there are more than speculations behind the fact that both the anticults and the cults contributed to bring about Jonestown.

Number 3:
> it proves that you did indeed have some data on the topic.

Bernie:
It proves that my logical assumption reveals to be correct when you dig out for data. Something you omit completely.

> it does not demonstrate that your fabulous "anticult" had any role in bringing about jonestown.

"That... anticult had any role": read it again. Your unwillingness to see the obvious is amazing. Read the part of Ryan bringing relative associate with deprogramming movements, etc, etc. Can you read or do you have such tick rationalization blinders that it escapes you?

The anti-cults organizations were right there with Ryan, and Ryan was actively collaborating with them. Of course you can keep on raving about "my fabulous anticult" and twist things around until you get blue in the face.

> it is kinda interesting data, but it doesn't change the fact that jim jones ran an armed slave camp in guyana, and that he pretty much self-destructed at ryan's visit there. criticising ryan doesn't change that. whatever his associations, ryan's action in going to guyana was not unreasonable.

"Not unreasonable". Nothing will make you change your mind, obviously. You don't find it "unreasonable" to go in there with cameras and hysterical parents. You don't find this a direct provocation that triggered the drama. Of course you don't, you are only looking as far as your thick glasses will allow you. Your assertion is truly disgusting.

>it's not unreasonable unless you think it fine to have people running armed slave camps in the middle of the jungle, that is.

You obviously didn't read the post or you understood nothing from it. Keep on twisting things around until they have such a composure that they will not "disturb" you, Number 3.

> and richardson is so plainly a cult apologist or dupe with a well-prepared DA pack

DA

>that everything he or she said would have to be double-checked.

OK. Then double check it, Number 3, and bring back the result of your findings. Why don't *you* provide some data, for a change?

>i've no doubt that a good part of the facts are true, but there seems to be quite a lot of spin on them.

A good part of the facts are true, Number 3, and it contradicts the earlier assertions you have been making. But I am not expecting you to come back on them anyway, no matter what amount of data I would provide.

Bernie

 

 

To be continued. Much more to come.

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