Rep. Jackie Spier, Jonestown Survivor Who Has Experience With Megalomaniacs, Calls Trump a 'Political Cult Leader'

Illustration for article titled Rep. Jackie Spier, Jonestown Survivor Who Has Experience With Megalomaniacs, Calls Trump a 'Political Cult Leader'
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Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California, was at the Capitol on the day of the insurrection, where like her fellow lawmakers, she was forced to hide in fear for her life.  This isn’t the first time her life’s been threatened by strangers motivated by a megalomaniac, Speier tells The Guardian. In 1978, Speier was traveling to Jonestown with Congressman Leo Ryan as part of a congressional investigation into the cult. Speier, the congressman, and the people they were traveling with were shot at by Jim Jones’ followers on the tarmac in Guayana. Speier was shot five times and left on the tarmac for almost a full day before help arrived, “As a victim of violence and of a cult leader, I am sensitive to conduct that smacks of that,” she said.


Speier adds the clincher that she believes that Jim Jones and Donald Trump are not as far apart as one might think. “Jim Jones was a religious cult leader, Donald Trump is a political cult leader,” she told The Guardian. “We have got to be wary of anyone who can have such control over people that they lose their ability to think independently.” Speier referred to the events at the Capitol as “group think” and warned that if enough people can be convinced to act on the singular idea of overthrowing the government, something is amiss.

Since her near-death experience in the ‘70s, Speier has been actively working to create more strict regulations around dismantling white supremacist groups and violent extremist groups who have a habit of recruiting former military members with combat experience. As far as Donald Trump who is arguably the figurehead of some of these groups, Speier argues that Trump knew all along who he was speaking to and what he was saying. “Donald Trump had a code for talking to these groups. ‘There’s good people on both sides,’ ‘We love you,’ ‘You’re special.’ He recognized that they were valuable to him, and they recognized that he could amplify their recruiting,” she says.

Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, which includes a charge of inciting insurrection, is still underway.

Some other fun news you might have missed today:

  • Marjorie Taylor Greene allegedly fucked a “tantric sex guru.” Allegedly! [Daily Mail]
  • Mike Pompeo has really expensive taste in pens. [NBC]
  • Under the Biden administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development will “begin investigating complaints of housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.” [Politico]


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I was too young for Jonestown and didn’t know much about it, but a couple of months ago I read a book called The Road to Jonestown by Jeff Guinn (very good; recommend for people who want a relatively complete picture of what happened, though the last few chapters are almost unendurable to read). Spier is right, and the religious vs. political distinction isn’t even important. Weak-minded people are out there, for whatever reason, and they need someone to lead them. Maybe some of them get picked up by good causes and leaders, but boy are they easily manipulable tools for grifters and crazies (Jim Jones was both). I had no idea that Jackie Spier was one of the people left on that tarmac. She must be tough as hell.