To Drink the Kool Aid

Image from The Atlantic

In 1977, a man named Jim Jones persuaded almost 1000 of his followers to move to South America and build a commune. In 1978, he convinced 2/3rds of those followers to commit suicide and to murder those who tried to refuse, including the children.

Charismatic? Hell, yes.

Persuasive? You bet. He promised his followers all sorts of wonderful rewards for standing beside him. Convincingly.

He knew how to read his followers. He knew what buttons to push to win their loyalty. He knew what promises to make to keep that loyalty, up until the bitter end.

Not only did he persuade them that he was the only person who could lead them to the promised land, HE BELIEVED THAT AS WELL.

His grandiose delusion was real to him. So much so that when even the threat of being exposed as anything less was introduced to him, when the press visited Jonestown…he shot himself in the head. But that wasn’t enough for him. He had to destroy it all— him and every reminder of him. Facing reality is, for someone with a cluster B personality disorder, unbearable. Deep inside they know they are anything but who they claim to be, but they would rather die than be exposed publicly.

Jim Jones was a malignant narcissist. Most cult leaders are. They have nothing invested in their ‘following’ beyond seeing it as an extension of themselves. They would rather destroy each and every member than save a single one. They tell their followers the next life will be better than this horrible world (that hasn’t accepted their madness). Jim Jones left a recording before he shot himself. The last thing he said?

“We didn’t commit suicide, we committed an act of revolutionary suicide protesting the conditions of an inhumane world.”

A few months before the Jonestown Massacre, Jones orchestrated a test run, passing out kool aid he said was laced with cyanide, and instructing his sheep to drink away this life. The drink was not laced, but he now knew who his most loyal followers were and how to manipulate them to carry out his final plan.

The fact was that he was about to be confronted for murder, and he wasn’t going to go out like that. Dying was preferable to admitting fault. Also notice the wordplay going on here: We didn’t commit SUICIDE, we committed AN ACT OF REVOLUTIONARY SUICIDE.

Being confronted about their actions; the possibility of suffering legal consequences and worse, the shattering of their fragile egos…this has preceded tragic events ever since there were people, but particularly so with charasmatic megalomaniacs like Jones.

People like David Koresh. Ted Bundy. OJ Simpson.

and more than a few politicians and celebrities, who I’m not going to bother to name, because I don’t want to be accused of comparing them to Donald Trump.

What Trump managed to do, in my very humble opinion, was not to “put his thumb on the economic pulse of middle America; plus, he figured out the solutions these people wanted to hear about, and gave them to them.”

So much as he learned how to “read the room” — which can be a wonderful ability when used to actually uplift that room — and figure out how to TELL PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANTED TO HEAR…

I doubt that actually giving it to them matters very much to him at all. Cluster-B’s will say whatever they have to say to get what they want in the moment that they want it. 5 minutes later when they want something else, they have no problem completely disregarding what they said previously if it is in conflict with what they need to say now.

so continuing this on the next section…

I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but I know I want it to be spelled right and punctuated correctly. I guess that’s something.

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