Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My Hero: Martin Merzer (With an Honorable Mention to Joseph B. Treaster)


Writing nearly a year after the massive Jonestown death ritual, New York Times reporter, Joseph B. Treaster, in an article, Guyanese Shun Jonestown Horror, has this description of the savage event in the Peoples Temple residence in Georgetown that mirrored the violence in the settlement:
As the men, women and children were dying in Jonestown, a final radio message was reportedly sent to Sharon Amos, one of Jones's principal representatives in Georgetown. With 46 others present in the People's Temple House, she is said to have put down the receiver, taken a butcher knife from the kitchen, walked through a living room filled with friends playing cards and listening to music, beckoned her three children into a bathroom and slit their throats.

The prosecution contends that Mrs. Amos asked Beikman to help her hold the children and then to cut her throat. He is also accused of having attempted to kill Stephanie Jones, a 9-year-old adopted daughter of Jim Jones, who was also in the bathroom and suffered a minor cut on her neck.
Treaster ends his article by quoting some un-ambivalent legal opinion:
Jai Narine Singh, a 70-year-old lawyer who helped frame Guyana's first government in the transition toward independence and who is a member of the defense team representing Layton and Beikman, says he is convinced that neither man will be convicted of murder in Guyana.

"There is no case against either of them," Singh said. "Layton was inside the small plane when the five people were killed outside the larger plane. If they want to prove a conspiracy, they must have evidence of plans or language between the parties, but there is no such thing at all. The only possibility is attempted murder of the three in the little plane."

As for Beikman, Singh said, "there are no witnesses who will testify."

"All of them in the house except the little girl say they didn't see anything," he said. "And her testimony has been destroyed. She's given three different versions of the same story."

The first round of Layton's prosecution has ended inconclusively. After weeks of preliminary hearings, a magistrate ruled that a prima facie case had been established.
Who is paying for this collective legal defense, using the highest-level "team" the country had to offer (Sir Lionel Luckhoo, Guinness Book of World Records holder for his hundreds of consecutive murder acquittals won, who was Jim Jones overt legal representative in the Stoen custody fight, was surely providing his pricy influence in the background.) when supposedly all the Peoples Temple accounts had been frozen, is an interesting question. Since the commune was under a delusion of collective responsibility in the death of Rep. Leo Ryan, perhaps a corresponding responsibility holds that men from rich families like the Layton's share equally with their white-cracker fellow-indictors.

Shooting and wounding people inside the confines of any plane, large or small, is definitely grounds for attempted murder charges, but I can understand Singh's point of view as to there being no obvious motive to any conspiracy here, such as when a victor co-opts the role of the vanquished by destroying himself. However, research turns up plenty of "evidence of plans or language between the parties."

An Associated Press article published on Tuesday, November 21, 1978, by Martin Merzer, seems like a trustworthy early reference--unlike the entirety of Charles A. Krause's work, which when viewed in context with his colleagues' work leaves his contributions looking like the far-out fantasies of Lewis Carroll

In "Cult leader's body found; Soldiers find 12 fleeing sect survivors, Merzer reports information that is clearly being offered voluntarily by his source:
Odell Rhodes, a 36-year-old teacher and one of the camp survivors, told the pool reporters elaborate preparations were made for the mass suicides and killings triggered by Ryan's visit.

Rhodes said the original plan was for all the people in Ryan's main aircraft to be killed by a gunman who would pose as a defector and get on the plane, then kill the pilot, causing the plane to crash.

He said the man got on the secondary aircraft by mistake at the tiny airstrip in the village of Port Kaituma, eight miles south of Jonestown, then started shooting and other armed men on a truck-trailer also opened fire.
Calling Rhodes a "teacher" is a kind description for someone who self-identifies as a two-time loser heroin addict from the streets of Detroit. He seemed to do well supervising arts-and-crafts projects for young people in the commune, but unless we are misled, he wouldn't appear to be connected to any high-level planning initiatives. This is evidence that a conspiracy of planning wasn't afoot, but rather, a conspiracy of storytelling was underway. The lack of guile Rhodes has on display speaks to the totality of the system in which he is taking part, a world order in which the Guyanese legal framework is only window dressing to the behests of centuries-old Imperial masters.

The system I'm talking about is so universal in its conception that the individual players can get very sloppy in their work, since there is never any real consequences in the public realm (which is not to say that there aren't some heavy-duty private contracts enforced) This dynamic can leave observers mystified sometimes, as it was in the case, as bizarre as the so-called suicides themselves  were, which was the sudden, inexplicable doubling in the number when counting the corpses.

Looking at the first four day's worth of news articles it's clear that the Guyanese supervisory authorities hadn't made any rough estimates of what they were facing. In fact, the disparity between the known dead and the several hundreds of "disappeared" cultists was cause for international media speculation.  Merzer is utterly straightforward in his reporting, even when it hints at what was to become the implausible explanation  for the discrepancy:
Several hundred bodies were sprawled around a communal meeting hall, packed so closely together that many had fallen across others who died minutes earlier. Some had embraced as they died.
One wonders if the frenzy of dying cultists convulsing in their cyanide-rictus could leave a scene as he is describing, or if the agency of living hands arranged the scene after-the-fact:
Scores of bodies were virtually in piles outside the hall and in small groups farther away.
Mercer gives a perfect sense of what the job of inventorying the corpses must have been like in real time:
By midafternoon, soldiers reported counting the bodies of 163 women, 138 men and 82 children. A police spokesman said later the toll was 409 as the terrible task continued at the settlement in this small South American country tucked beside Venezuela. He said bodies still were being found.
By mid-afternoon would have been as of Monday afternoon, as the difference between the 383 corpses he listed by age and gender then rose to the 409 dead mentioned in his lead paragraph which was the figure updated that evening. That's when the ongoing task reached its finite end---at least for the next several days--then, without warning or rational explanation, the numbers shot up

Another interesting figure is 12:
By dark, police and soldiers had found only 12 survivors from among the estimated 500-900 who had fled into the bush.
If you count the four who survived at the camp itself, and the three who were absconding with the commune's cash-treasury when they were taken into police custody---and even if you throw in Mark Lane and Charles Garry, who said they tied their underwear to trees so that like a reverse Hansel and Gretel tale they might find their way back to the place of horror, the numbers still don't add up to 12. The several young people who went missing at the Port Kaituma air strip after the attack were said to have been lost for three or four days, so they can't figure into this sum. Is this then a bit of unreconciled data?

The devil is in these sorts of details. Apparently, very little of what we're told is the truth has any bearing on their private experience--and that works in both directions, I dare say. For instance, this is what my bete noir has to say:
Charles Krause, a reporter for the Washington Post who was with the Ryan party Saturday but escaped death, was in a pool of journalists permitted to return to Jonestown with government forces Monday.
He said Jones had been shot in the head and was one of the few to die from a bullet wound. Jones body clothed in black pants and a [...] casual shirt was on a stage of the meeting hall, Krause said.
The part of this transcript I have no difficulty in copying is the "black pants" bit, and in the two color images said to be of Jim Jones below (albeit, after he's been moved from the meeting place stage to the meeting place entryway, Jones is clearly wearing white, tan or khaki slacks. Now, his skin might be described as blackening, but his pants will always be a shade of not-black:



A Spook Who Likes Me slipped the image above into my Google returns. It is too fucking narratively rich! We see white people! We see faces! We see dead little baby boys!

Jones' been pre-Photoshopped with a grimace above, as distinct from his serene closed-mouth shown below, but my, look how good and dark those thick sideburns are! Not bad for a man with no underarm hair!

Look at what a bad job was done with the Tetany of his hands, also known as the "Chvostek sign." The usual effect after death, and I should think it only exacerbated by cyanide, is a pronounced incurving of the hand as the muscles are deprived of calcium, and the extremities draw in, like this:



However, Jones looks like he's throwing gang signs with his left hand, while his right hand looks completely relaxed, I suppose so that it stays in agreement with what we see in the image below.

Images for tetany of the hands




This is a silly, stupid, pathological sort of mistake for a reporter to make. This isn't the women's style section circa 1957, when a description of an outfit leads. It is a gratuitous detail thrown in for verisimilitude, but it is a falsehood, an invention, and an untruth and it is not worthy of the CIA-military propaganda media school that graduated Charles A. Krause just in time for this, his first foreign service gig at the Washington Post.

Lastly, at least for now, is this numerical discrepancy:
Reporter Tim Reiterman of the San Francisco Examiner, a member of the Ryan group and a survivor, said in a copyright story Monday in the Examiner that Layton was one of several supposed defectors Ryan was trying to escort away from the 27,000-acre commune.
And no, I'm not talking about the 3,500-acre leasehold which strangely had an inflated size repeated like the game of Telephone, but that Layton was one of several fake defectors. I'll have to relocate a very early FBI report wherein (supposedly legitimate?) defectors say three of the designated bad guys were on the original trip in the dump-truck out to the air strip, and that included Joe Wilson, the showoff shooter. The narrative apparently got streamlined along the way but this is what got left in the wake.


Whoa, nellie...things have just gotten a LOT more interesting! Look at this article penned by my hero-scribe, published on the same date as his above. Quoting Police Chief C. Augustus, Mercer wrote
"Augustus said there was no evidence of gunshot wounds on the bodies of Jones, his wife or child. 'It appears that they drank some poison,' he said"



November 21, 1978, The Fredericks Post, Death toll in Guyana hits 383, by Martin Merzer,

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) -- Troops swept through a steaming jungle Monday in search of American religious zealots who fled their remote compound and left behind a scene of horror and death -- the bodies of at least 383 fellow cultists, some shot, most apparently poisoned by their own hands in a mass suicide.

Among the bodies found at the camp were those of the sect's fanatical founder, the Rev. Jim Jones, his wife and one of their children, said Police Chief C. Augustus.

Soldiers counted 163 women, 138 men and 82 children among the dead. They all were believed to be Americans. Many reportedly had lined up to take doses of poison from a tub.

The mass deaths apparently occurred about an hour or more after members of the California sect, People's Temple, ambushed a visiting investigative group led by Congressman Leo J Ryan, killing Ryan and four others.

Augustus said there was no evidence of gunshot wounds on the bodies of Jones, his wife or child. :It appears that they drank some poison," he said.

Still unaccounted for were between 500 and 900 of Jones' followers, who fled into the jungle around the agricultural commune, 150 miles northwest of this South American capital.

The killings and mass suicide, triggered by Ryan's inspection visit, apparently were the final cry of a violence-hardened and paranoid group that saw the world closing in.

American lawyer Mark Lane, who escaped from the mass deaths, told reporters of terrifying hours he and another attorney, Charles Garry, spent in the camp and the rainy jungle nearby late Saturday and Sunday.

Lane, a prominent champion of controversial cases and a legal counsel to the sect, said he and Garry
were barred from a mass meeting at the camp, Jonestown, but that they heard residents discussing communal suicide over a loudspeaker. Lane said one spoke of "the beauty of death as part of our struggle."

The cultists reportedly had long considered mass suicide if they felt their sect threatened. Jones and the sect had been under investigation in California before he founded the Guyana camp last year.

Lane said the meeting began at about 5 p.m. Only 40 minutes earlier, a half-dozen sect members ambushed Ryan's group at a nearby airstrip, where they were trying to fly out some disenchanted sect members




November 21, 1978, The Spokesman-Review - Associated Press, Soldiers find 12 fleeing sect survivors, by Martin Merzer,
Tuesday,

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) -- Guyanese soldiers searched through a steaming jungle Monday for hundreds of American religious zealots who fled their remote compound after the suicide-murder deaths of at least 409 fellow cultists.

Some were shot, but most apparently lined up and took doses of cyanide poison mixed in a tub with flavored water. A witness said poison was spoon fed to babies.

Several hundred bodies were sprawled around a communal meeting hall, packed so closely together that many had fallen across others who died minutes earlier. Some had embraced as they died.

By dark, police and soldiers had found only 12 survivors from among the estimated 500-900 who had fled into the bush.

All of the settlers were believed to be Americans, most from California.

Those who were killed or took their own lives perished at about the same time Saturday that enraged members of the sect attacked an investigative group led by Rep. Leo J. Ryan, D-Calif. at a dirt airstrip. They killed Ryan, three U.S. newsmen and a woman from the settlement.

By midafternoon, soldiers reported counting the bodies of 163 women, 138 men and 82 children. A police spokesman said later the toll was 409 as the terrible task continued at the settlement in this small South American country tucked beside Venezuela. He said bodies still were being found.

Also found in the fields, huts and dormitories were 17 shotguns, 14 rifles, seven pistols, a flare gun and large amounts of ammunition, government officials said.

Among the dead were the Rev. Jim Jones, founder of the People's Temple settlement called Jonestown, his wife and one of their sons.

Jones, the offspring of an inter-racial marriage, and his followers, both blacks and whites, established the inland settlement last year. It was carved from the jungle in an isolated

(Continued on page 6)

region 150 miles northwest of Georgetown and 50 miles east of the Venezuelan border.

White House press secretary Jody Powell said President Carter and his wife, Rosalynn expressed their "shock and grief" and Carter certainly is taking a personal interest in the tragedy.

Charles Krause, a reporter for the Washington Post who was with the Ryan party Saturday but escaped death, was in a pool of journalists permitted to return to Jonestown with government forces Monday.

He said Jones had been shot in the head and was one of the few to die from a bullet wound. Jones body clothed in black pants and a [ ] casual shirt was on a stage of the meeting hall, Krause said.

Scores of bodies were virtually in piles outside the hall and in small groups farther away.

Government investigators told reporters Jones apparently had shot himself. They said most of the dead drank the fruit-flavored water spiked with cyanide, but it appeared some had poison injected in their veins while infants were fed the deadly doses.

Jones' wife and son, one of the couple's seven children, died of poison, the investigators said.

In Washington, it was announced that 150 U.S. servicemen are being assembled at various bases to be flown to Guyana and evacuate the bodies.

John A. Bushnell, head of the special State Department task force on the Jonestown tragedy, said the servicemen will fly to Georgetown and then go to Jonestown by helicopters and transfer the bodies back to Georgetown. He reported a group of 29 U.S. military specialists also would be flown in to help identify the dead.

Odell Rhodes, a 36-year-old teacher and one of the camp survivors, told the pool reporters elaborate preparations were made for the mass suicides and killings triggered by Ryan's visit.

Rhodes said the original plan was for all the people in Ryan's main aircraft to be killed by a gunman who would pose as a defector and get on the plane, then kill the pilot, causing the plane to crash.

He said the man got on the secondary aircraft by mistake at the tiny airstrip in the village of Port Kaituma, eight miles south of Jonestown, then started shooting and other armed men on a truck-trailer also opened fire.

In Washington, the White House said American poison experts were dispatched to Guyana to help in the investigation. A U.S. Air Force C-141 transport arrived at Georgetown's airport, and reportedly a C-5A was scheduled to come in to help carry the bodies back to America.

Denying reports that as many as nine suspects had been arrested in connection with the Ryan ambush, Miss Field-Ridley said only one man had been taken into custody -- American Larry Layton, about 32 years old. His hometown was not known, and she did not reveal the charges against him.

Reporter Tim Reiterman of the San Francisco Examiner, a member of the Ryan group and a survivor, said in a copyright story Monday in the Examiner that Layton was one of several supposed defectors Ryan was trying to escort away from the 27,000-acre commune. The land was leased to the organization by the government of this nation on South America's northeastern shoulder.

__________________________________________________________________________________

Boy, they really redid the art direction between these two takes. Why would they crowd out the walkway steps with those three prone corpses under a sheet? And the treats table has disappeared too, he notes with a cluck of his tongue.






October 17, 1979, New York Times News Service, Guyanese Shun Jonestown Horror, by Joseph B. Treaster,

______________________________________________________________________________________

2 comments:


  1. I just invented a new word. Newbicide. Newbicide is what newbies do near the end of the round, when one of the two characters life bars are dwindling or the timer is about to go. It’s basically a “hail mary” maneuver so obvious it’ll never work as long as your opponent doesn’t sneeze at the same time you attempt it.

    These fucking newbicidal fucking cocksuckers on XBL are so fucking pathetic it makes my brain hurt. The most obvious easy to punish bullshit comes flying towards me from full screen and thanks to the fucking delay on our wonderful internet at the moment, I get hit and lose the fucking match.

    God damn these fucking newbie fucking cockstain fucks. I really don’t want to play this game online any more. I don’t feel like I’m learning anything new. Occasionally against the very good players I am. It seems the good players aren’t too fond of newbicide. Even with the lag they tend to keep the game as solid and smart as possible.

    Fucking newb fuckers.

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  2. The information you have been given is incorrect. The two photos being identified as Jones are not Jones. The officials didn't go in and move the bodies around for new photos. They couldnt. Because of the high heat and humidity, the bodies were in extreme stages of decomposition which was one of reasons for the fluctuating body count, but also made it difficult to move the bodies without the bodies falling apart. They eventually had to use 3 (0r 4) snow shovels on each side (my number may be off... going off of memory), lifting all at the same time, in order to lift the bodies into body bags for transport without losing limbs, etc. The bodies were literally liquifying. Also... the photo of the entrance into the pavilion that your source thinks was staged or photo-shopped is simply another entrance to the pavilion. There are multiple color photos available on the web that show this image and angle from further back with all the same people and markers. The true Jones is laying on a pillow at the foot of his chair in the pavilion. He is face up and very obviously has been shot from his left (our right), as evidenced by the staining and matter on the pillow he lays on.

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