Publication Date

Spring 4-2024


School of Communication


Communication Studies: Speech Communication


Jonestown Massacre, The Death Tapes, Aristotelian Analysis, cult rhetoric


Speech and Rhetorical Studies


Through the view of the Aristotelian analysis, this research identified how Jim Jones utilized rhetoric to persuade a large group of people. Pre-existing literature in the fields of psychology and communication have closely studied Jones’ manipulation tactics in both his speeches and interactions with his audiences. In addition to his persuasive tone, this study explored and evaluated the appeals of logos, pathos, and ethos tailored in Jim Jones’ final speech, Q042, now commonly coined, “The Death Tapes.” The methodology employed in this study meticulously examined the artifact by listening exclusively through the tapes for each appeal and the impacts of his tone. In their results, researchers found that Jones primarily leaned on emotional and authoritative arguments. Additionally, researchers exposed patterns of emotional appeals that were weaponized to strengthen community loyalty within Jones’ cult. The research team suggests that future research ought to examine others cult speech structures for similar appeals. In order to better understand cult mentality and unconscious human reasoning, it is imperative that persuasive communication be evaluated for its manipulative potential. Through the application of the Aristotelian analysis, this research suggests that Jones’ rhetoric was not strong solely because of its controlling techniques but because of its logical, emotional, and authoritative persuasive appeal.