What happened in Jonestown? How could “sensible people” follow the “rantings of a crazed lunatic?” The questions and the simplified answers that are provided by the media coverage of Jonestown and Heaven’s Gate perhaps contributed to their downfall. The feeling of public persecution is a central theme of many new religious movements, and the negative publicity of suicide cults only fuels the fear of other like-minded religious groups. The misleading definitions the media provided for the how, what and why of these new religious movements were symptomatic of the media bias against all such movements. Through examination of the print media response immediately following both mass suicides, I will expose the hollow definitions and explanations provided for tragedies that were much more complex. Moreover, although the Jonestown Suicide occurred twenty years before the Heaven’s Gate suicides in March of 1997, coverage remained ignorant and simplistic of the critical differences between movements, and perhaps exacerbated their cultural alienation.
My research of the media response to the Jonestown suicides concentrates on the coverage of the tragedy in the New York Times because the newspaper is one of the most widely read American newspapers, replete with religion “experts.” Through the coverage in the Times alone, the common response followed a path of initial confusion that eventually led to unoriginal and uncomplicated answers for the how and why these people followed Jim Jones to their death.
The initial coverage in the New York Times exemplifies how the facts of the suicide trickled slowly out of the jungle of Jonestown, Guyana. The day after the suicides, Sunday, November...
... middle of paper ...
...east 900 by U.S., with 260 Children Among Victims at Colony” The New York Times, 26 November 1978, Sec A1.
 Elizabeth Gleick, “Inside the Web of Death” Time (April 7, 1997):28-40
 Howard Chua-Eoan, “Imprisoned by his Own Passions.” Time (April 7, 1997): 40-42.
 Richard Lacayo, “The Lure of the Cult” Time (April 7, 1997): 45-46.
 Harvey Hill and John Hickman and Joel McLendon, “On Religious Outsiders- Cults and Sects and Doomsday Groups, Oh My: Media and Treatment of Religion on the Eve of the Millennium,” Review of Religious Research. 43, no. 1, (2001): 24 (15 pages), 26.
 Stephen J Hedges, “Mass Suicide in California.” U.S. News World Report. 122, no. 13, (April 07, 1997).
Life After Death for Heaven’s Gate.” U.S. News and World Report. 124, no. 12, (March 30,1998).
 Hill, 24.
Hill, 32, 24.
 Hill, 35.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Modern New Religious Movements (NRMs) have been around since the turn of the nineteenth century. Today there are some serious NRMs out there and then some that may just be the fad of the moment . . . like the hemline with not much of a personal commitment. Britannica defines NRMs as “the generally accepted term for what is sometimes called, often with pejorative connotations, a “cult.” The term new religious movement has been applied to all new faiths that have arisen worldwide over the past several centuries.... [tags: Religion, New religious movement]
1165 words (3.3 pages)
- Robert Van Voorst reports, that new religious movements have six essential parts to their development: there is one sole leader in power and they may appear to develop and diminish quickly, they may initially be small in size but can grow to be international movements, they are well developed and organized, they may be initiated in response to an occurrence that took place within the modern world, and lastly, they may differ substantially from the modern world. (336-337) New religious movements in the West can be extensively diverse.... [tags: Religion, Science, New religious movement]
1201 words (3.4 pages)
- John Saliba’s approach to new religious movements is secular (despite his position as a Jesuit Priest) and well rounded. He begins by exploring how new religious movements are viewed today, how they have been reacted to in the past and why that may be. He examines the original definition of the word “cult” as well as the modern derivations of it and how it affects these new religious movements. By considering multiple opinions on new religious movements as well as looking at the historical, psychological, sociological, legal and theological context in which these religions came to be and attract new followers, he is able to advocate for a more open approach to these new religions and offer... [tags: cult, religion, new, movements]
800 words (2.3 pages)
- 1. Introduction The 1970’s brought with it an unexpected rise of new religions movements and most of these had links with Eastern origins. These religions operated on the fringes of the traditional religious institutions were immediately controversial. This controversiality combined with the interest shown in them by especially the educated youth, as well their subsequent conversion to these new alternate religious movements, raised serious concerns with the stalwarts of the traditional value systems and the term brainwashing became the acceptable theory in order to explain the reasoning behind those defecting to these movements.... [tags: religion history, rise of new religions]
2148 words (6.1 pages)
- When looking at new social movements of today, there is not a newness to them, just a different set of claims, making it more so an evolution with a focus on quality of life. Structurally speaking, social movements are the same, there are claim receivers and claim makers that are attempting to change some part of society. Logically, claim receivers and claim makers will change as the times and needs of claim makers change, especially when social movements are successful. Fundamentally, there has been no change in social movements.... [tags: Sociology, Social movement, New social movements]
982 words (2.8 pages)
- In a world where full of choices and competition, it only makes since that religion should be full of options as well. The big three religions in the world were founded well over 1000 years ago, and were born in a much different time period in which people live in today. New World Religions are the missing puzzle piece for some who do not feel at home with the worlds older Religions. New world religions have some benefits as they provide religious practices based out of the modern world. By using science and the study of nature, new world religions help some find religions who do not feel at home with the worlds older religions.... [tags: Religion, New religious movement]
1111 words (3.2 pages)
- Dawson (2010) Lorne Dawson presents a unique perspective on the similarities between New Religious Movements (NRM), which are also known as cults, and radical Islamic groups. Dawson (2010) questions why no dialogue has occurred because of the similarities between the two types of movements. Dawson (2010) stated that individuals that join Islamic extremist groups have the same issues of NRM members who experience a source of deprivation or alienation from the secular world. As with both groups, Dawson (2010) alludes that the deprivation is based on personalization of an issue that could be social, psychological, and moral.... [tags: Analysis, Lorne Dawson]
867 words (2.5 pages)
- The idea of “academic freedom” in American higher education is a fairly new concept. Before a recent change in educational practices, religious ideals were deeply rooted in higher education curriculum. By the late-twentieth century, however, the idea of academic freedom became more prevalent across the higher education community. As a result, the influence of religion played a lesser role in the development of curriculum across colleges and universities as professors seized their newly granted academic freedom.... [tags: influence of religion in curriculum creation]
1052 words (3 pages)
- Introduction: Why do leaders of new religions use the media for recruitment. I argue that through the media, leaders of new religious movements in America are able to market and mobilize their theology in appealing ways in order to recruit new members. Since the spread of new religions in America during the sixties through the eighties there has been extensive research into the appeal of joining such newly established groups. It was at this time that prevalent new religious movements such as The Church of Scientology, The Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (also referred to as Unificationists), and The Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS), which I will focus on in this paper,... [tags: Religion, New religious movement]
1560 words (4.5 pages)
- In the last decades, new religious movements have got the attention of the media, scholars and even followers of established religious organizations. Some of them like Scientology are well known because many famous celebrities like Tom Cruise practice them. Others like Rastafarianism are known because of their strong political and social views. These new religious movements are creating a phenomenon in this modern time, especially in the history of religion. These new movements are often syncretic, “a blend of religions” (Molloy 473).... [tags: Religion, New religious movement]
1304 words (3.7 pages)