Trump Devotees Still “Drinking the Kool Aid” in Obedience to His Orangeness
Jim Jones was a piker. Trump has him totally beat. For every person who listened to Jones and died from cyanide, 438 people died because they listened to Trump and didn’t take Covid seriously
Representative Jackie Speier got it right, and she should know.
Back in 1978, Speier– then a 28-year-old aide to Congressman Leo Ryan – flew down to Guyana to investigate reports that Reverend Jim Jones was stealing money from his parishioners and subjecting them to horrors ranging from rape to beatings and public humiliation to “rehearsals” for mass suicide.
Reverend Jones didn’t take kindly to their showing up and ordered them all killed. Representative Ryan, another aide, and 3 reporters were all shot dead; Jackie Speier was, for 22 hours, left for dead on the airport tarmac with 5 bullets in her.
Fearing that the pilot and some disaffected members of his People’s Temple church who’d escaped would notify authorities, Jones ordered his followers to commit mass suicide by drinking from vats of cyanide-laced Kool Aid. Nobody survived; 913 died, including 304 children, Jones then killing himself with a bullet to the temple.
For those too young to remember, it’s where the phrase “drinking the Kool Aid” came from and its appropriate to the bizarre and sad relationship between Donald Trump and his cult followers. As Congresswoman Speier told The Guardian this February:
“Jim Jones was a religious cult leader, Donald Trump is a political cult leader. As a victim of violence and of a cult leader, I am sensitive to conduct that smacks of that. We have got to be wary of anyone who can have such control over people that they lose their ability to think independently.”
Generally, “drinking the Kool Aid” suggests a person who’s been taken in by fantastical ideas or theories. And Trump has certainly promoted his share of those, from taking Putin’s word over US intelligence about how Trump gained the White House to lies about the crowd size at his inaugural, Obamacare, trade policy, Hydroxychloroquine, Sharpie-altered storms and the “very fine people” among Charlottesville neo-Nazis.
But its Trump’s lies about Covid that genuinely qualify as Kool Aid in the original context of the saying. His followers, from early days to this very moment, are quite literally willing to commit suicide on his instructions.
I realize how tough that sounds, but this is not hyperbole. Dozens to hundreds of Trump followers died of Covid today. Some are dying as you are reading these words. And soon they will begin to die in exponentially larger numbers.
As both the Brookings Institution and Trump’s Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Debra Birx noted, over 400,000 Americans died unnecessarily in the first big wave because they followed Trump instead of the science.
“I look at it this way,” Dr. Birx told CNN medical reporter Sanjay Gupta. “There were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge. All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.”
At the time she told him that, around 550,000 Americans had died of the disease. More Americans have now died unnecessarily of Covid than died in World War II.
Jim Jones, it turns out, was a piker. In terms of the ability to convince his followers to commit suicide on command, Trump has him totally beat. For every person who listened to Jones and died from cyanide, 438 people died because they listened to Trump and didn’t take Covid seriously.
Jones had his lieutenants, and they all dutifully followed him to his death. While the only one of Trump’s top-tier followers who died following his Covid advice was Herman Cain, several others (most famously Giuliani and Christie, but also Trump himself) were only saved from death by extraordinarily expensive just-emerged-and-not-yet-widely-available monoclonal antibody and steroid treatments.
And now, today, all across America Trump devotees who rely on Fox “News,” rightwing hate radio and Trump-humping private Facebook groups are laying down their lives in obedience to His Orangeness. Tucker Carlson and Charlie Kirk are even getting into the act, actively working to discourage college students from getting vaccinated.
The State of Maryland is reporting that 100% of its Covid deaths have occurred among people who are unvaccinated, an experience replicated in hospitals all across the country. The American pool of unvacciated people is largely filled with Trump followers, most who don’t even know that Trump and his family were secretly vaccinated in their last weeks in the White House in January.
And the ones who aren’t getting sick or dying from the Covid Delta Variant are lining up to give Trump the last of their money. As Trump told Chuck Todd on Meet The Press in January of 2016, he considered it a compliment to be compared to PT Barnum, the man to whom is often attributed the famous saying “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
Yesterday, Trump filed a “lawsuit” against Twitter and Facebook. I put “lawsuit” in scare quotes because the basis of it is that:
“Defendant Facebook has increasingly engaged in … willful participation in joint activity with federal actors. Defendant Facebook’s status thus rises beyond that of a private company to that of a state actor. As such, Defendant is constrained by the First Amendment right to free speech in the censorship decisions it makes regarding its Users.”
Claiming that Facebook is now part of the federal government and therefore may not abridge a citizen’s First Amendment right to free speech is such an obvious scam that nobody is taking this seriously. He’ll be lucky if his lawyers aren’t fined or disbarred for writing and filing it.
But Trump doesn’t care because he doesn’t want the lawsuit to actually go to court. That, after all, would expose him to discovery and force him to testify about his role in the conspiracy that led to January 6th. He’s totally betting it’ll be thrown out of court before a single consequential motion is made.
Instead, Trump filed this lawsuit following the classic Jim Jones/PT Barnum strategy: he did it to fleece his followers. And, sure enough, just a few hours after he filed his “lawsuit,” I got an email from Donald. It got right to the point:
Did you watch my HISTORIC press conference?I announced that I am SUING Facebook, Twitter, and Google for unconstitutionally censoring ME and other conservatives around the Nation.
My team is demanding an end to the shadow banning, a stop to the silencing, a stop to the blacklisting, vanishing, and canceling. We will not rest until we’ve achieved a MAJOR VICTORY for the American People.
This will be an uphill battle, Friend, and I cannot do it alone. I need YOU to stand with me and FIGHT BACK.
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Donald J. Trump
45th President of the United States
In much the same way Jim Jones extracted millions of dollars from his followers before exhorting them to die from cyanide, Donald Trump is shaking down his loyal followers with one more scam while watching silently as they and their families become sacrificial lambs on the Covid altar of his twisted ego.
The Delta variant is now burning through Red states and Red counties every bit as relentlessly as the last set of suckers who Trump set up, the January 6th plotters, crashed through police lines at the US Capitol.
And now they’re dying as well.
Jackie Speier, at least, was able to warn the world of what a monster Jones was back in 1978 and the world took her warnings seriously. But Trump, unlike Jones, now has an entire political party and a massive media machine following him to the Kool Aid pails.
Today, Trump has a group of GOP partisans actively working to cause even more Americans to die. About half of the Republicans in Congress refuse to tell reporters (and, thus, their constituents) if they’re vaccinated because they’re hoping things with Covid will get worse so it’ll sabatoge the economy and President Biden will get the blame, thus helping the GOP in the 2022 election.
Tens of millions of Republicans across the country are following them and refusing to get themselves and their families vaccinated.
While only G-d knows how many more Americans will die as a result, it will certainly be more than Jones’ 913.