ABC and Jonestown

October 18, 1998

I just finished watching ABC's one hour special on Jonestown (one month before the 20th anniversary.) ABC spent a small fortune on it.

Maybe you saw it too.

The theme: Jim Jones' sons remember their father. "The sons of Jim Jones come face to face with the demons of their past." (No, I'm not kidding.)

What you don't know is that Kenneth Wooden, former Chicago Sun Times writer and author of "Children of Jonestown" and Nathan Landau author of "Heavenly Deceptor" spent HOURS with the producer, as did I, informing her that Jonestown had its roots in the corrupt political culture of San Francisco.

As unbelievable as this may seem to people who don't know the facts, Jones was an absolutely mainstream figure in San Francisco politics who received outspoken support from the Chronicle, the Examiner, The San Francisco Bay Guardian, Willie Brown Jr., Art Agnos, the then Chief of Police, the District Attorney - you name it, they were behind him.

In fact, anyone who opposed Jones in San Francisco during the 1970s was threatened with violence by the "church" - which in San Francisco was already an armed camp - and socially and politically ostracized.


Jones' "ministry" made a lot of money and he distributed it widely. He also contributed the services of his flock to any politician who asked for them.

Willie Brown served as a broker for these services and was responsible for Jones' appointment to the San Francisco Housing Authority Commission, a position Jones used to attract members. (This went on at the very same time official San Francisco was destroying housing in the Western Addition neighborhood and displacing hundreds of low and moderate income blacks and their businesses, all with the cooperation of Assemblyman Willie Brown.)

ABC's question: "How did one deranged man get so much power?" Their answer: "His charisma."

"Sometimes the greatest tragedies begin with just one incident."

Yeah, right.

Jones' psychosis was well known in SF. He was involved in the torture and sexual abuse of children and others. He was involved in all kinds of financial frauds including stealing social security and other government support checks from his members, the elderly, the disabled, and the young. The church would cash members' checks and these members "under the church's care" would get to sleep ten to a room, work day and night, and live on peanut butter sandwiches and the like seven days a week in exchange.

And no one in SF touched Jones. In fact, official San Francisco bent over backwards to protect him. He did eventually leave town, but only when outsiders, New West Magazine published in New York, came in and finally blew the whistle.

How did Jones and company get away scott free with hundreds of blatant criminal acts in San Francisco?

He produced money and votes. That was good enough for the likes of Willie Brown, George Moscone, Art Agnos, and others who supported him.

The ABC producer of tonight's special was briefed on all of this - it's matter of public record, not opinion - and said that the SF part of the story, long untold, was going to be featured.

It wasn't.

What happened?

I was told by author Nathan Landau that he was told that "pressure" was put on ABC management not to get into the San Francisco story and, in their typically craven way, ABC news changed their angle and delivered this evening's "bubble gum" version.

Now you know what millions of people were actively prevented from learning tonight. This was ABC's conclusion at the end of their bizarre "trip down memory lane": "We should remember and learn from the terrible loss."

I agree.

At least 287 of the people who were murdered in Guyana were children and San Francisco's "politics as usual" made it all possible. The people who warned about Jones were ignored and marginalized by official San Francisco. Twenty years later, nothing has changed here. In fact, many of the very same people involved in making the Jonestown Massacre possible are still in power.

Ken McCarthy
Brasscheck (formerly E-Media)

E-Media was a San Francisco-based Internet consulting company established in 1993. It sponsored the first conference devoted exclusively to the subject of commercial uses of the World Wide Web and produced the first book published in Japan on the same topic.

In response to widespread concerns about fraud and an accompanying cover up in a 1997 San Francisco election, it produced

Another project, documents a pattern of premeditated violence by the SFPD against political opponents of Willie Brown which appears to be ordered and coordinated by the Chief of Police and his senior staff.

Brasscheck has also volunteered its services to produce a web site for Chinese prisoner of conscience Wei Jingsheng and is the sponsor of the official George Seldes Online Archive.

For information about abother "mass suicide" that ABC and the rest of the US news media either bungled or deliberately distorted, see Brasscheck's report on Heaven's Gate. Like Jonestown, it was the one of the most covered stories of its time (ex. on the cover of Newsweek two weeks in a row), yet the reporting was so innaccurate and lacking in basic common sense as to defy belief.