CNN hosts get incredibly overwrought about Republicans underplaying the January 6 riot as a tourist visit that got out of hand. But they have no resistance whatsoever to comparing January 6 to 9/11. Then on today's Reliable Sources, host Brian Stelter trotted out the Jonestown massacre of 1978, where about 900 members of the People's Temple committed a mass suicide under orders from Jim Jones. Hard-core MAGA fans apparently would do that for Trump.
Stelter introduced liberal Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who was on the scene when Rep. Leo Ryan and four others were murdered on an airstrip by Jones cult members. Stelter introduced the interview:
STELTER: These citizens in other countries sometimes email me, and say you know why doesn’t the American media just call out Trump for what he is? Call Trump fandom for what it is? Sometimes they use the word "cult." I know that’s a sensitive word, doesn't come up a lot in American news coverage, so I wanted to put it to an expert, an unfortunate expert.
Congresswoman Jackie Speier started out her career in politics working for a lawmaker. She was on a fact-finding mission to Jonestown. She sadly knows firsthand the weight of that word: Cult. She was able to escape with her life. Others were not able to that day. So I wanted to hear her thoughts about the comparison, the notion of the cult of Trump, especially in the light of January 6 and the mass delusion that led to a riot of lies on Capitol Hill. When I brought this up with her, she did not mince words.
“The only difference between Jim Jones and Donald Trump is the fact that we now have social media” – @RepSpeier. @BrianStelter brought guest onto @ReliableSources to equate “Cult of Trump” with Jim Jones and the Jonestown massacre. pic.twitter.com/JmUqAOvWtQ— Brent Baker (@BrentHBaker) August 1, 2021
That's why he wanted her on. He wanted unminced smears. Speier uncorked it alright:
SPEIER: There’s no question that you could compare Jim Jones as a charismatic leader who would bring his congregation together, force them to do things that were illegal, and then took 900 of them into the jungles of Guyana, where over the course of time he then convinced them they should die. I ‘ve never been able to say they committed suicide because I don't think they were in control of their faculties, to be quite honest with you.
So you look at Donald Trump, charismatic leader, who was able to continue to talk in terms that appealed to those who were disaffected, disillusioned and who were looking for something, much like those who became part of Jim Jones's congregation, the people's temple. They were lost souls. And the only difference between Jim Jones and and Donald Trump is the fact that we now have social media, so all these people can find themselves in ways that they couldn’t find themselves before.
Well, there's social media -- and that Trump hasn't talked his followers into a mass suicide!
There's this added outrage: the People's Temple were a force in liberal Democrat politics. As Daniel Flynn wrote for National Review, "Willie Brown, who would become the speaker of the California State Assembly and then mayor of San Francisco, compared Jim Jones to Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi." He campaigned with Rosalynn Carter. But maybe 35-year-old Stelter has zero memory of this, and somehow can't Google it.