Reconstructing Reality

Rebecca Moore

in Controversial New Religions

Published in print December 2004 | ISBN: 9780195156829
Published online May 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780199784806 | DOI:
 Reconstructing Reality

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This essay examines the conspiracy theories that have emerged to explain the mass murder-suicides of People’s Temple members in Jonestown, Guyana, in November 1978. These theories fall into three main categories: those produced by professional conspiracists who tend to see conspiracies everywhere; a subgroup of the professionals, which comprises Internet conspiracy sites; and theories developed by nonprofessionals that concentrate primarily on Jonestown. These theories show that in the absence of a credible narrative, that is, a believable reconstruction of what happened in Jonestown and why, alternative explanations arise. The conspiracy theories attempt to make sense of what appears ultimately senseless: that parents willingly killed their children and their elders, and that they willingly chose a rather painful death. Instead of accepting this possibility, the conspiracy theories provide alternatives that blame conspirators for the deaths.

Keywords: conspiracy theories; People’s Temple; Jonestown; Guyana; Jim Jones; mass suicide

Chapter.  7755 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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