Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Those Who Do Not Remember the Past are Condemned to Repeat It.

The sign above was hanging over Jim Jones' seat on that fateful day in 1978.  This image -- sometimes expanded to show a pile of bodies beneath it -- was a fixture of news coverage of the event.  It was shown without explanation or context because it is unknown exactly how it fit into Jones' "apostolic Socialism" or how it figured into Jonestown's "revolutionary suicide."  The People's Temple's theology was an evolving one, changing over time but retaining the dual focus on radical politics and Jones' cult of personality.  One wonders what explanation, if any, Jones offered his followers for the quote's prominent placement in their commune.

The sign takes on a deeply ironic note for those who peel back the layers of the Jonestown story to see the curious links beneath the surface.  Jones' life was riddled with intelligence ties -- CIA operatives were present at the time of the suicide -- and Jonestown has the appearance of an intelligence operation.  By the start of the People's Temple's migration to Guyana in 1976, the Church Committee had revealed the CIA's domestic spying and assassination programs, the FBI's COINTELPRO campaign against radicals and minorities had been exposed, and the publishing of the CIA's Family Jewels in 1974 revealed a litany of crimes committed in the name of national security.  By 1978 all of this had been wiped from the American public's memory, however, so few were able to connect the dots between the horrible things the government had already admitted they'd done to Jonestown.

Regardless of how Jones presented the quote to his followers, there remains more than a little truth to the statement.  It is ample justification for being a researcher like myself.  It is the answer to the question, "Why does it matter who killed JFK/RFK/MLK?"  The answers to these questions have incredible relevance to our world today.  The only way to understand how we got to where we are -- and how we can fix it -- is to continue to search for the answers to these questions.

How we got here
The Warren Commission Report is one of the most analyzed documents of the twentieth century.  Believers and skeptics alike have dissected every page of the WC Report, selecting the parts which support their personal theories.  One of the most overlooked portions of the Report begins on page 454 of the Report itself, the "Recommendations" section. 

The first four recommendations and several thereafter deal directly with the legal ramifications of the assassination and how the President's safety would be ensured in the future.  Recommendation Five -- Preventive Intelligence -- is the one that fundamentally changed the shape of American society.  The recommendation called for broader surveillance of any group or individual the government perceives as a threat and increased Federal involvement in local law enforcement, which began the "federalization" of the police that has come to fruition in the past decades.  Beginning on page 464, the Commission recommends a single-source database of intelligence information to be used between all agencies and local law enforcement.  Although the Warren Commission technically had no legal standing in the government, according to the June 28, 1970 edition of the New York Times, this recommendation was "widely cited in the government as the authority for citizen surveillance."  This was just four years after the Report had been published.  And now, fifty years later, few could argue that the Warren Commission's call for a unified database of intelligence data on private citizens hasn't been realized. 

Those Who Do Not Remember the Past are Condemned to Repeat It
Since 2008, the NSA has secretly planted devices in over 100,000 personal computers. These devices can be accessed via radio waves and were apparently placed at random.