When former presidential candidate Herman Cain became infected with the coronavirus earlier this year, I began to see the similarities between the Trump cult and the Peoples Temple in Jonestown, Guyana, which caused the death of about 900 people in 1978.
Kool Aid and Anti-Maskers
During that terrible event, members of the Jonestown temple so believed in cult leader Jim Jones that they drank poisoned Kool-Aid and followed him in death. Of course, that makes no sense. How could mothers offer their children a poisoned drink? You could also ask, how could people refuse to wear a mask and put their lives in jeopardy in the middle of a pandemic? Cain died, but he wasn’t the only Trumpist who “drank the Kool-Aid” and believed dangerous propaganda.
There have been hundreds of cases of Trumpists who listened to the president’s deranged rantings and refused to wear masks. Many tested positive for the coronavirus. And like Cain, some of them died. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon who should be familiar with how viruses work, also became infected. And up until recently, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was planning an indoor Christmas party with about 900 guests. Not surprisingly, he also tested positive for the disease. Last week, a tweet from the Arizona Republican Party asked members if they were willing to die for Trump.
Nurses have also reported patients who rage at them when they tell them they’re infected with COVID-19 because it “isn’t real.” And in their final moments, when they should be talking to their loved ones, they still claim the coronavirus is “fake news.”
Coronavirus denialism is killing Trumpists
Unfortunately, Trump and the right-wing media are leading some Republicans to their deaths with coronavirus denialism. I really don’t understand this. You would think that with about 300,000 people dead, people would take this seriously. But right-wingers live in an alternate universe with alternate facts. For months, outlets such as Fox News, have spewed denialism. They’ve said the disease was just the sniffles, it’s liberal propaganda or it’s a hoax to bring Trump down.
He’s (Trump) created a cult of personality — and as hard as it is for me to say, he exudes charisma and people want to follow him. When you see the Proud Boys on the street knifing people and inciting violence, it’s a little chilling. This is a political cult. — Rep. Jackie Speier
Meanwhile, FOX News brass told their staffers to work from home since March. But this still goes on. FOX News neo-Nazi Tucker Carlson is urging people not to take the coronavirus vaccine. On Thursday, Carlson called the coronavirus vaccine a “form of social control.”
Many of these right-wing media outlets don’t care about getting it right or saving people’s lives. They’re interested in pushing a right-wing agenda, even if the information they put out is incorrect. And conspiracy theories and right-wing propaganda might be bad for the news, but they’re good for ratings. Newsmax, which used to be a low-rated network, has seen a surge in ratings after it started targeting FOX News’ viewers. But this kind of hermetically-sealed environment has only strengthened the Trump cult and its hold over its adherents.
Similarities between Jonestown and MAGA cult
For Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) the similarities between the MAGA cult and Jonestown are stark.
“I recoiled from the question. I wasn’t prepared to think this was a parallel. Now, four years into this nightmare of melodrama and manipulation, the parallels are pretty clear,” said Speier in an interview with The Daily Beast.
Speier knows firsthand the danger of cults. She was an aide to Rep. Leo Ryan, who went on a mission to investigate abuse claims in the Jonestown cult. Jonestown cultists killed Ryan as he boarded his plane. (Ryan was the second congressman who died in the line of duty.) Speier was shot five times during the attack and survived by playing dead.
Speier also noted the similar financial hold Trump has over his followers. Jones persuaded his cultists to give up their worldly possessions and turn over their Social Security checks. Trump cultists have donated almost $500 million to his campaign to investigate alleged campaign fraud.
“If you’re a true believer, you will show your allegiance, your faith, by providing your worldly possessions to the family,” said Speier. “He’s (Trump) created a cult of personality — and as hard as it is for me to say, he exudes charisma and people want to follow him. When you see the Proud Boys on the street knifing people and inciting violence, it’s a little chilling. This is a political cult. The other is a religious cult.”
Cult expert Steve Hassan has also written about this in his book “The Cult of Trump,” In the book, Hassan said the Trump cult is a political cult/cult of personality. In my interview with Hassan, he said cults use tactics such as “deception, lack of critical information, phobia programming, attacking whistleblowers, for example, ‘the mainstream media is the enemy of the people.’”
Many Trump supporters repeated the same phrase in a recent Pew Survey and said they didn’t trust information from the mainstream media. They get their news from conspiracy peddlers such as Alex Jones and One America News (OAN.)
Jim Jones’ caused 900 deaths. Trump’s bungling of the coronavirus pandemic has killed 300,000. One can only imagine how many of them were MAGA cultists who believed his lies.