Monday, May 24, 2010

Hey, who would be crazy enough to defend Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple?

Rebecca Moore, that’s who. Daniel Flynn takes a look at Moore’s bizarre book, Understanding Jonestown and Peoples Temple, over at City Journal.

So, is Moore just another crackpot peddling a self-published screed? Hardly.
It would be tempting to dismiss Moore, who in addition to her latest apologia has authored such titles as A Sympathetic History of Jonestown and In Defense of Peoples Temple. But like the group whose reputation she seeks to resuscitate, Moore does not operate on the margins, however marginal her views. She chairs the department of religious studies at San Diego State. When the subject of Jonestown arises, as it did recently on the 30th anniversary of the events, media outlets solicit her expertise. Stanley Nelson’s PBS documentary “The Life and Death of Peoples Temple,” for instance, featured Moore as a talking head. And she published this latest book not out of her garage but through Praeger, a respected imprint of a major publishing house. However reassuring it is to believe that all cranks are tinfoil-hatted denizens of the furthest recesses of the Internet, the examples of Jones, the darling of the San Francisco power structure, and of Moore, a tenured, media-designated authority, prove that what’s comforting isn’t always what’s true.
There is virtually no concept, ideology or historical incident that is so insane, asinine and bloodthirsty that you can’t find a well-placed intellectual who is willing to defend it. I sometimes feel as though our society would be far better off if we closed half of the colleges and universities and replaced them with plumbing and carpentry schools.


ck said...

You could pretty much end all the majors that don't require college algebra and the world would be a better place.

TimT said...

I opened up my latest copy of the New Yorker last night and saw a letter to the editor from Bill Ayers. And he was whaffling on about terrorism (it was in response to a book review in a previous issue). And, no crap, he was attempting to argue that governments are just as morally responsible as terrorists.

I assume they just put him in there to get other people's attention. Still, it seriously diminishes their moral authority as a magazine.

JeffS said...

Plumbing and carpentry are useful skills with tangible and useful products. Bathrooms, for example.

"Expertise" in "religious studies", not so much.

Paco said...

Jeff: My point, exactly.

Yojimbo said...

Post doctoral work in "forgotten languages" even better.

Of course the Pulitzer people have rewarded so many of these nut cases over the years they should probably establish some sort of Duranty Wing in whatever edifice they hold court in.

Christopher Taylor said...

I think it pretty much is inevitable that lefties try to defend hard left Jim Jones and his communist religious group.

RebeccaH said...

Moore's purpose becomes pretty clear when you read the paragraph describing her sisters' involvement in the People's Temple. She's trying to rehabilitate her sisters' legacy as much as Jim Jones'. It would be interesting to know what family dynamic produced Rebecca Moore and her totalitarian, nutball sisters.

Bob Belvedere said...

The Camp Of The Saints

Michael Lonie said...

"Post doctoral work in "forgotten languages" even better."

Hey, let's not go overboard here on dissing literary pursuits. The decipherment of such languages as Akkadian, Sumerian, and Ancient Egyptian were glorious triumphs of scholarship. Man does not live by bread alone (there is also beer) and there are worthwhile intellectual endeavors that do not necessarily involve carpentry and plumbing, worthy endeavors though those arcane areas of knowledge be.

Besides, if Wronwright did not have that Sumerian translator devised by the International Neocon conspiracy(TM), as well as the Tardis, he would never have been able to get hold of those jars of Sumerian mead.

RebeccaH said...

I have to agree with Michael Lonie. There are good reasons for some to pursue the liberal arts (in full disclosure, I have an advanced degree in humanities, i.e. once known as "arts and letters"). But I achieved that master's degree for my own personal satisfaction, knowing full well it would never make me very much money or contribute to the overall well-being of the world beyond my own small personal sphere (I got a couple of job promotions out of it, and know more unhelpful trivia than average).

Since liberal arts degrees increasingly ignore classical philosophy and Western history in favor of "women's studies", and "ethnic studies", they are fast becoming debased beyond any usefulness at all, and in fact, are even eroding the sciences and techology degrees.

Michael Lonie said...

True enough, Rebecca.

The Uni I'm at (which shall remian nameless) is in the process of revising its Baccalaureate Core Curriculum. Right now students take a smorgasbord of courses; one from column A, two from column C, etc. Of course there are the requisite "Studies" classes. I wrote a outline proposal for a real Core curriculum and gave it to one of the profs on the committee.

Yhe idea waas to make students take several sequences of linked courses, based on a framework of narrative history, but team taught and bringing in art. literature, philosophy etc. as appropriate. The sequences were:

A science sequence of math or logical reasoning, physical science (mainly thermodynamics) and a course in genetics.

Western Civ. From the beginnings up to the end of the "Short Twentieth Century". Six quarter classes.

American Civ. Three quarter classes.

"Eastern Civ." This would be three quarters, one on East Asian civ., one on Indian civ., and one on Islamic civ.

At the very beginning there would be a class on writing, and frequent writing assignments during all the courses.

I'll bet they don't listen to me. Nobody does.