ACM Involvement in the Jonestown tragedy

Prof. Richardson

Television debate transcript
Circa 1979/1980

I spent some time in alt.religion.scientology arguing that the Jonestown tragedy was brought about not only through the madness of Jones, but through the disastrous effect of the anti-cult movement as well. My arguments were based on the knowledge of the general ambiance of cult phobia around this period and on logic. Anti-cultists in the newsgroup refused to even acknowledge the possibility of their camp having done anything wrong, and managed to make a completely grotesque rendition of my own arguments afterward. However, I bumped into the following document while I was searching for something else. It is an undated transcript of a television debate that took place in the immediate aftermath of the Jonestown tragedy. It sustains rather clearly my arguments. It shows that Ryan was in contact with anti-cult proponents and was strongly influenced by their invectives. At a later stage, I am going to post the debate too, which in itself is highly instructive regarding anti-cult proponents' prejudices and irresponsible blindness.


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.


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