The Leader Doesn’t Drink The Kool-aid

Linda Sharp
13 min readAug 23, 2023

He is facing 91 felony charges in five indictments. He is surrendering himself in Georgia tomorrow — arrest, mug shot, bond. He continues to spew on Truth Social, essentially telegraphing his every intent, ALL CAPS rants directed at those who seek to hold him accountable, not-too-subtle directives to his easily led followers about violence.

He is the victim, we (liberals, the Deep State, Sleepy Joe, Jack Smith, Fani Willis, Target Pride displays) are the danger. His doltish clan, constantly fed the narrative of us vs them stand ready to do his bidding, no matter what he asks.

They have forsaken relationships, been cut off from friends, children, grandchildren. They spend their money on bedsheet sized Trump flags for their vehicles and porches. They buy anything he sells them — so easily separated from their dollars as they seek the constant approval of their MESSiah. They cannot be swayed by rational discourse, facts are anathema to their world building in which what they are told to believe is gospel. They do as they are told, threatening anyone who is party to justice, who has had a hand in grand juries, fact finding, prosecution.

They will not be deterred, no sacrifice will make them reconsider, they are so far in that allowing even the slightest sliver of doubt causes them such painful cognitive dissonance they must stay the course.

They are a cult. Trump is their Jim Jones.

Watching their behaviors over the past 8 years, since he slithered down his gold plated escalator and began gathering his children via openly racist diatribes, the parallels between Trump and Jones, MAGAts and Peoples Temple congregants are more than just a passing similarity. The roadmap is the same. The behaviors identical. The suspension of actual reality in favor of buying wholesale what some loudmouthed, charismatic blowhard preaches is spot on.

The circular feeding of delusions. Trump provides them a pig trough of lies, grandiosity, victimhood, and promises. In turn they regurgitate their belief in all of it back to him and he grows in his own delusions and belief in his power.

Jones did the same. He crafted a world in which he was god; a world in which only he had the answers, could save them from outside forces; a world in which only he told them the truth; a world in which they were the chosen, the righteous, the ONES.

And when threatened with exposure, ratcheted up the lies, propaganda, rhetoric. It ended in unfathomable death, covering the floor of a jungle like a colorful handmade quilt.

It was many years ago that I did a deep dive here for those unfamiliar with the story of Jones and Jonestown. I ask that you read it, share it, look hard at not just the similarities, but the seamless overlap. If the stories were a Venn diagram, it is almost a perfect circle.

It is no secret that human beings hunger for meaning in their lives, want to belong, to feel important, to be seen. But like Jonestown, MAGAts have taken this natural human impulse to extremes. The deluded belief that they are so much more important, have inside information, are chosen? It leads nowhere good.

And in the end, their leader — who knows it has been a bullshit grift all along; who has used them to his own end$; who has led them to a “promised land” of misery, isolation, and regret — will not join them in their end. He will watch as they drink the Kool-aid. He will watch as they poison their children. He will watch as they lose everything, right down to their last breath. But he will not drink it with them.

Watching them writhe in cyanide induced agony, Jones opted for a bullet to the head. Not even by his own hand, mind you. That’s right, MAGAts. Trump has been filling your cups for years, but in the end, the leader doesn’t drink the Kool-aid.


June 12, 2020

A few weeks back I was Facetiming with my daughter and the phrase “Drinking the Kool-aid” came up. In her lifetime, it has always just been there — a phrase for “buying in” or the “wholesale abdication of your own agency” (if we’re being wordy).

As we talked, I explained how that phrase did not exist until 1978. I mentioned the name Jim Jones and Jonestown. She had never heard of either. Not surprising. Schools don’t teach it in history class, and she was not born until 1993. Even though I had only been 12 at the time of the horrific mass suicide in Guyana, I well remember the pictures on the nightly news and splayed across the front page of my mom’s National Enquirer.

It was a lot for a 12 year old to see, let alone internalize. But after sharing the story with my daughter, I have been doing a deeper dive into the way the Peoples Temple and Jim Jones came to be — reading survivor accounts, stories from defectors, watching the documentaries available.

It may seem that there is a casualness with which MAGAts are compared to Jonestown disciples and Trump to Jones himself these days; how the “drinking the Kool-aid” term is thrown around, but when you compare the two cults — yes, MAGAtry is a cult — the comparisons are not just apt, they are eerie. And given the latest from Trumptown? The waiver for his upcoming rally? The one where all attendees give up the right to hold Trump liable if they contract COVID and die? Well…

To quote the sunglassed charlatan, Jones, “Gather round my children…”

Jim Jones was a complex creature. A loner as a child and teen, kind of an oddball. While his peers played games, he held funerals for roadkill. Not much in the way of familial affection or attachment. Always looking for ways to get attention, Always searching for his place. In his quest, he attended myriad churches — Southern Baptist, Pentecostal, and on and on. And he became enthralled with the ease with which the pastors controlled the attention of the congregants, how they lifted them up, how they preached fire and brimstone and salvation. Most of all, he noted the devotion of the gathered to the ministers.

He noted that very much.

So it was not surprising when he decided to launch his own brand of ministry, not affiliated with any denomination. And on the surface, at least initially, there was good reason for the attention he garnered, the people who were attracted to his message. He preached inclusivity at his church in Indianapolis. His pews contained people of all walks of life, all shades of skin, and financial strata. He preached a ministry of social justice. Remember, we are talking about the 1950s — that was radical stuff, especially coming from a white man’s mouth.

As his popularity grew, he wanted more and bigger. After all, attention and power and acceptance are heady things to a thirsty soul like his. Or Trump’s.

The Peoples Temple moved to Ukiah, California, then as it grew Jones opened up shop in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Word spread about this firebrand preaching (as opposed to anything Trump preaches) equality for all, acceptance, and socialism in which all worked for all. “I love socialism, and I’m willing to die to bring it about, but if I did, I’d take a thousand with me.”

He preached those words from the pulpit roughly two years ahead of the massacre.

As his profile grew, politicians began to take note and curried his favor. Considering how many of his flock were Black people, politicos understood the importance of courting him. In fact, when Rosalyn Carter was campaigning with Walter Mondale in San Francisco, Jones not only met with her, but supplied congregants to enhance the number of people who turned out. Rosalyn even visited the Peoples Temple and spoke from the pulpit once.

That’s heady stuff for an insatiable attention whore. And so the church grew. And with its growth, his power grew. And we all know what absolute power does.

Congregants worshipped him. Congregants would never question him. Congregants accepted any malfeasance or rumor, quickly casting it aside. Soon, they were giving up everything they owned to Jones. They were signing blank pieces of paper on which murder, rape, pedophilia confessions would then be typed. Jones soon controlled them, every aspect of their lives. In return, he gave them a great show. Preaching profanity and brimstone, he gave them faith healings, stories of the Promised Land, where only he could lead them.

As he consolidated his power, beatings became commonplace. Even the slightest transgression could find someone being made to fight another congregant much larger and stronger. The crowd lapped it up, and the crowd — not wanting to be targets themselves — circled the ranks even tighter and worshipped him even harder.

Only HE would tell them the truth about the world. Only HE could save them. He knew how to play on their fears, how to stoke the fires of their own insecurities. And it worked.

Right up until a big expose’ came out about him and his church, interviews and details provided by defectors who had had enough, some willing to even leave their children behind with a brainwashed spouse in order to escape.

Once that story hit, other news outlets came sniffing around and he knew his time was limited. So he sent congregants to Guyana to begin building Jonestown. They did. His followers gave him everything they had. Money from jobs, deeds to their homes, everything. Including their absolute, blind faith.

He told them Guyana was a moderate 72 degrees with no mosquitos or snakes. That they were going to a beautiful commune, lush and fertile — they would all grow their own food. Truth? Guyana is in a jungle, it is miserably humid and hot, prime ground for snakes and mosquitos. And that food they would grow? As letters from congregants reveal, “Nothing grows and they’re starving. He has this inner circle that goes out and begs for food or gets rotting food from the market and brings it back to Jonestown. It was a big façade.”

But they would not know that until they were there. So little by little, parishioners were secreted out of the country from myriad airports so as to not raise suspicion as to where they were heading, or why the Temple was draining of bodies. They simply disappeared. There would soon be nearly 1,000 souls in Jonestown. And Jonestown could not truly accommodate or feed them all.

But they believed only him, and only Jones was able to protect them, to save them from invisible outside forces. He lied, he cajoled, he pulled stories out of his ass and preached them as gospel truth in the Jonestown Pavilion. Punishments were severe, compliance was mandatory and often at the end of a rifle. His sexual peccadilloes were well known. He imposed celibacy for all but him. Insisted he was the only heterosexual one among them. He took wives from husbands, husbands from wives, children from parents. Unopposed. After all, the brainwashing and desperation at that point were severe — the damage was done.

All the while they subsisted on milky rice, he indulged himself on food, cold Coca-Cola, drugs. Sound familiar? Up, down, up, down. And those sunglasses he always wore? They hid the rheumy, red, weepy, drug induced pie plate pupils behind them.

His mantra was the same as Trump’s. Only listen to me. I am the only one who will tell you the truth. Through loud speakers strung throughout Jonestown, he would ramble through the night, often incoherently. Regularly he would have the entire congregation turn out to the pavilion in the middle of the night — code words WHITE NIGHT — by some accounts there were upwards of 100 of these White Nights in which he would warn of an impending attack by outside forces that would take their children, kill them all. Other times they would all take turns at the microphones expressing their love, their dedication, their willingness to die for him. Still other nights, they rehearsed for the ultimate White Night in which they would all commit “revolutionary suicide” together.

His power over them was everything to him and he was determined to hold onto it no matter what.

But then a congressman from California, spurred on by letters of concern and visits from fearful constituents who had lost family members to the cult, decided to take a news crew to the jungle and check things out.

Congressman Leo Ryan was hands on, having once spent a week on death row in Folsom prison to better be able to speak to the conditions of prisoners and the need for reforms. So a trip to South America to check on the well being of American citizens was in his wheelhouse.

But to a rapidly unraveling Jones, it was a shot across the bow. Ryan arrived with a news crew, journalists, his assistants (including now Congresswoman Jackie Speier), family members seeking relatives. What Ryan found was a mixture of people swearing they loved it, and people shoving secret notes in the hands of his contingent begging to be rescued. The following day, he left with 16 of them, so many that Ryan radioed to request another plane, and that betrayal was too much for Jones.

He sent lackeys to follow them to the airstrip where they opened fire, killing Ryan, and four more, wounding the others who only survived by crawling into the jungle brush.

Back at Jonestown, Jim Jones called them all to the pavilion to let them know the congressman had been murdered, that they would soon be set upon, that it was time for them all to go. Revolutionary suicide time.

But for anyone who has listened to the recordings from that day (there are many and easily found online), it is much more accurate to call what took place a mass murder. It is very clear that while there were many who walked willingly up to get their cup of cyanide laced Flavor Aid, the vast majority were forced, held down, injected. The children, nearly 300 of them, were first to die. Parents force fed them the potion, babies had it squirted into their mouths.

As they lie weeping together on the ground, convulsing from the poison, Jones was shot in the head (his pet monkey, Mr. Muggs, also met that fate). A bully, who in the end, showed himself for what all bullies are at heart — cowards. They died in agony, he took the easy way out.

When it was over, more than 900 people lay dead, 307 of them under the age of 17. Their loyalty to Jones was their undoing.

During all of my reading, watching, listening about Jones and the Peoples Temple dead, I have stopped myself many times wondering just how weak minded, easily led, gullible and desperate a person has to be to buy into this kind of apocalyptic rambling? How so many freely gave up their own agency to one man who commanded them to close themselves off from loved ones, facts, reality? How stupid is a person to see beatings, hear bullshit, know in their gut something is waaaaay off, yet still find themselves literally drinking the Kool-aid in the end?

Unkind questions? Perhaps. But it is difficult to look at the facts of their fall and not ask them. To not see their path being walked by the MAGAtry today. I can almost understand how once congregants arrived in Jonestown, even the disillusioned and those who evolved to disbelievers stayed. They had no options. In a foreign country, relieved of their passports, no money, miles and miles and miles of jungle surrounding them. Leaving was simply not possible. But MAGAts? All it takes is admitting you were wrong, SO, SO, SO VERY WRONG.

Looking out over the landscape of our nation, the adulation heaped upon Trump by his unquestioning believers, the fears he plants and plays upon, the manipulation he uses to control them, it has been little surprise that they completely ignore every fact, finding, data point, and word of caution about COVID-19. How they completely buy into his alternate reality even though we live in a time where we all have a computer in our pocket filled with the answers to everything we may ask. How they eagerly attack anyone who disagrees with or calls out their Dear Leader. How they are afraid to question anything he does, says, any malfeasance to which he gets up. Adultery? Pfft. Porn star? Meh. Emoluments abuse? Boring. Money grifting for decades? Sorry, busy looking the other way. Blatant racism, open bigotry and phobias of all ilk? Preach, Donnie, preach!

It is all sad and predictable. They will, like the congregants of Jonestown, follow his lead, no matter where it may ultimately take them. Trump knows this. And this is his power source. This is how he feeds his ego, his emptiness, his desperate need for attention. For those signing the waiver for Tulsa and his other upcoming rallies — a waiver that openly absolves Trump from anything to do with COVID related damages or death that may result — it seems that the grave may well be their final destination, too.

He has been preparing this Kool Aid for years now. And they are lining up in Trumptown to get their cup.



Linda Sharp

Author, columnist, blogger. Don’t Get Me Started and Transparent Trans Parent blogs