‘Revolutionary Suicide’

Thirty years ago today: the Jonestown mass murder. Last week, the San Francisco Chronicle posted an MP3 of what I guess is popularly known as the Jonestown death tape. I listened this morning for the first time. Three things I wasn’t ready for: the fact that just one of the 900 people who were about to die is heard resisting Jonestown leader Jim Jones and trying to talk him out of the course he had decided on; Jones’s lisp; and the funerary music playing in the background throughout the proceeding. The recording is 44 minutes and 29 seconds long. The final two minutes are silent except for the music and what may be a distorted voice on a shortwave radio in the background. Jones’s final recorded words:

“… Take our life from us, we laid it down, we got tired. We didn’t commit suicide. We committed an act of revolutionary suicide protesting the conditions of an inhumane world.”

Here’s the tape, by way of the Internet Archive:


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