These after-effects are not so obvious now, because the social attitudes born in reaction to that event have been “normalised” – drummed in through mass media repetition, permeating into our values and collective consciousness, reflexively altering how we view the world, even as the origins of this mindset are obscured or forgotten.
Because of its profound impact, it’s important to question how the Jonestown story has been told, and retold. Those who are familiar with Jonestown generally only know the official story, which has been repeated two-dimensionally again and again by the mainstream media, like an urban legend: 900 plus “mindless” people were “brainwashed” into committing group suicide through drinking cyanide-laced Kool-Aid on command, under the charismatic “mind control” influence of Jim Jones. This story is turned into a moral fable peppered with ominous warnings about “another Jonestown” as if it were a template others are bound to emulate, with the threat of brainwashing from deviant groups presenting a mortal danger to society.
This perception lives on even as the story of Jonestown becomes an obscurity. Its tragic impacts are perhaps best demonstrated in the fatal siege of the WACO ranch, where members of another Christian commune lost their lives after they were raided by militaristic law enforcement who surrounded their premises, discharged flash grenades and bullets, with a fire resulting and most of the community dying inside. In that incident, Jonestown was foremost in mind, and its story used as rhetorical fodder to fuel a lethal and unnecessary military-style operation. Although the passage of time may have lessened the paranoia that prevailed during the siege of the WACO ranch in 1993, there is no denying that the influence and folklores born from the Jonestown tragedy still live on in the public consciousness.