Edward Lai Harner, Edward Harner
Andrea Harner
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April 18, 2007

Seductive Poison by Deborah Layton

Seductive Poison is a must-read. It's a first-hand account of a former People's Temple member and Jonestown survivor. The most interesting aspect of this tale is the rise of this church/socialist group as a byproduct of the times. For most of the members, the organization's lure was its stated commitment to eradicating racism, sexism, classism, but most emphasis was on the shameful racism of that time. Consequently the majority of membership were black Americans and the group was able to enjoy some political protection. Its pretty clear that the same message now would not carry the same weight and therefore the time capsule quality of the group is historically fascinating. Other aspects of the book cover the socialist camp and Jim Jones, the deluded, paranoid, tyrannical, megalomaniac leader and these are less gripping only because they are traits and tactics employed by every other despot who has blighted our history. Since no one knowingly joins a cult but cults continue to exist and proliferate today, what was most salient to me was the realization that it's almost too easy to conduct such horrific social experiments (Zimbardo!). In addition to the blatant tragedy of 1000 people getting murdered, is the countless families destroyed for the false promise of a larger, better family.

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