Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) is an interesting bundle of contradictions. She established her political career as a survivor of the 1978 Jonestown Massacre, where she was shot five times and left for dead. This ordeal spurred her to not only become a cult watchdog, but to run for political office.
Speier was sexually harassed as a Congressional aide, which spurred her to lead the charge of #MeToo to address the sexual harassment in the Capitol and the military. Speier says she was traumatized again on January 6, which has now made her a full-on activist, determined to uncover white supremacy and extremism in the military.
The Guardian did an in-depth interview with Speier where she compares Jim Jones to Donald J. Trump:
Jim Jones was a religious cult leader, Donald Trump is a political cult leader,” Speier told the Guardian. “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.”
Speier also expressed this opinion back in December of 2020, when she sat down with The Daily Beast to promote her memoir, Undaunted: Surviving Jonestown, Summoning Courage, and Fighting Back:
The ability of Trump to raise over $200 million since losing the election for dubious legal costs should raise alarm bells, says Speier. “He’s created a cult of personality—and as hard as it is for me to say, he exudes charisma and people want to follow him,” she says. “When you see the Proud Boys on the street knifing people and inciting violence, it’s a little chilling. This is a political cult. The other is a religious cult.”
I will not make light of the horrific ordeal Speier went through, or the way it has shaped Speier’s perspective. However, it doesn’t mean it has shaped her in positive ways or even that she has gained enough healing where she can be an agent of help or healing for others. From this current push to rout out so-called white supremacy and extremism among the military ranks to her legislative advocacy and votes over her 7 terms in Congress, it appears to be the exact opposite. It seems to me that Speier is using her unresolved pain to chase after bogeyman that fit the political narrative, then enact legislation and greenlight measures that will harm our military ranks and create division, rather than unity in our nation.
If this 2018 piece on the 40th Anniversary of Jonestown is any indication, Speier is still a very tortured woman.
From ABC7 News in San Francisco:
The massacre in Guyana affected Speier’s life in many ways. She’s living with two bullets and shrapnel in her body. And she lives with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
Jennings: “Do you ever have moments of PTSD from those dark days?”
Speier: “I do whenever there’s a 21 gun salute, or when fireworks go off or a particularly loud sound of some sort, car backfiring.
Speier says Jonestown taught her that we have to be suspicious of groups that operate in secrecy, while claiming the first amendment right of freedom of religion. They need to be reported if they commit crimes.
“I’m a Roman Catholic and I look at the Catholic Church and how they allowed these priests who were pedophiles to just be recirculated into another parish when they had an obligation to go to law enforcement and didn’t,” she said.
Speier has become fearless after surviving her near-death experience. She said: “Had Jonestown not happened, I don’t know that I ever would have run for public office.”
Maybe she should not have, because from where I sit, Speier looks to be as much of an extremist as those she claims she wants to stop.
Since 6 January, Speier has used her political muscle as a member of the House armed services and intelligence committees to press for urgent reforms designed to shore up protections against white supremacist and extremist violence. Last month she wrote to Joe Biden and his newly confirmed defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, calling for a “new sense of urgency” following the “appalling events at the Capitol”.
In her letter, Speier told the president and defense secretary that she had become “increasingly alarmed” about the connections between violent extremist groups and military personnel. She warned them that current efforts to contain the problem were “insufficient to the threat from these extremist movements”.
My provision to make violent extremism a military crime was blocked by Trump. DoD & the fed government aren't screening servicemembers & others w/sensitive roles for white-supremacist & violent-extremist ties on social media. This must change NOW. We can't risk another Jan 6. pic.twitter.com/7vrMxI7QNC
— Jackie Speier (@RepSpeier) February 1, 2021
Again, let’s go back to perspective. BLM and Antifa spent the entire Summer of 2020 wreaking havoc across major cities in our nation. The chaos, destruction, and actors were quite obvious to anyone with eyes to see. But Speier has a sense of urgency about white supremacy and the military? If she truly cared about extremism and charismatic cult leaders, shouldn’t those groups and the people who lead them also be examined?
Perspective is a funny thing. I seem to remember a certain charismatic leader who won the presidency twice, except he happened to be a Democrat. The “Cult of Obama” existed, and children were wrapped into the indoctrination as this video from 2009 shows:
San Francisco Gate columnist Mark Morford blissfully wrote this paen to our 44th President to describe how there is an “otherness” about Obama, and that he was not like us:
Here’s where it gets gooey. Many spiritually advanced people I know (not coweringly religious, mind you, but deeply spiritual) identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment. These kinds of people actually help us evolve. They are philosophers and peacemakers of a very high order, and they speak not just to reason or emotion, but to the soul.
And this was just one of the glowing, dribbling, sycophantic pieces written between 2008 and 2016 about Barack Obama.
So by Speier’s metric,
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.”
Benghazi, Ferguson, Fort Hood, Pulse Night Club, Sandy Hook, all happened under Obama’s charismatic presidency. When was Speier warning us about this political cult leader?
If Speier has such a sixth-sense for charismatic leaders and their control over people, why did she not warn about Bernie Sanders and his Bernie Bros.? The Daily Beast warned about them:
Sanders is grappling with how to channel the best parts of that support—the engine behind his massive rally crowds and commensurate fundraising numbers, and as he is sequestered on Capitol Hill for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump—while discouraging a toxic wedge of fandom that threatens to distract from his campaign and turn off potential supporters.
The intensity of the largely social-media-driven attacks by Sanders’ fans has risen sharply in recent weeks, as polling in early states has tightened among the top tier of Democratic candidates and just as Sanders himself has pointedly avoided engaging with even the most direct attacks on his candidacy.
Was Speier sending off missives to then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or former President Trump about this form of extremism, and that Sanders had all the markings of a political cult leader?
And what was her take when a Bernie Sanders supporter shot, and severely injured Rep. Steve Scalise?
Scalise, then-House majority whip, was one of the injured at a mass shooting at a practice for the 2017 annual congressional baseball game in Alexandria, Virginia. There were no fatalities beyond the shooter, however Scalise, some congressional aides and two police were wounded with non-life-threatening injuries. James Hodgkinson, 66, was arrested at the scene and died from injuries sustained as he was apprehended.
Prior to the shooting, Hodgkinson asked then-Representative Ron DeSantis of Florida if the team practicing were Republicans or Democrats. Hodgkinson was described as a supporter of Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. Reporters discovered social media posts and letters Hodgkinson sent to a local newspaper, including some posts demanding then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton drop out of the race.
Speier’s horrific experiences from Jonestown did indeed shape her perspective, and it’s horrifically skewed. Her opinion on political cult leaders and extremist behavior is neither foresight or insight; it’s simply a form on monomania.