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Don't 'go postal' over 'drinking the Kool-Aid' [Most commented]

November 17, 2011 |  1:04 pm

Jim JonesDon't "drink the Kool-Aid," writes Meghan Daum in an Op-Ed column that urges readers to "ease up on a figure of speech arising from 1978's Jonestown massacre." She writes:

[A]pparently unbeknown to just about everyone who uses the expression, "drinking the Kool-Aid" isn't some kitschy nod to 1970s junk-food or the mind-altering effects of citric acid. It comes from an event that, until Sept. 11, 2001, marked America's single greatest loss of civilian life in a non-natural disaster, the Jonestown massacre.

On Nov. 18, 1978, in a remote Guyana compound, more than 900 members of the People's Temple followed the orders of their leader, Jim Jones, and drank powdered grape punch (actually the cheap Kool-Aid knockoff Flavor-Aid) mixed with chemicals that included cyanide and Valium. So in Jones' thrall were his followers that they poisoned their babies and toddlers first, using syringes to squirt the liquid into the children's mouths. In most cases, death occurred within five minutes.

Critiquing its use in "self-righteous public discourse," she says:

There's something grotesque, even offensive, about comparing public figures or members of opposing political parties or nonviolent activists to followers of a deranged, murderous cult leader. We're not isolated in the jungle; we're drowning in information. We're also knee-deep in round-the-clock analysis and critique of that information.

Unlike cult members, who are programmed to abdicate anything resembling personal opinion, we revere personal opinion and individual action. Granted, that can lead some people astray, but despite all the griping about the manipulations of "lamestream" media and the conspiracies waged by (take your pick) big corporations or big government, we probably drink the Kool-Aid less now than at any time in history.

Readers have jumped on Daum via our discussion board, complaining that she's too politically correct and that her argument is "inappropriate." Really. Reader "conanthebarbie" comes to her defense, though. "I find it incredible […] how many readers over-react to certain subjects and jump to the defensive when they are not being accused of anything.  Perhaps giving in and giving the phrase a break will soothe the overactive and panicky consciences of those commenters.  No one has to know but you."

Here are a few of their harrumphs.

I don't suppose it has ever crossed Ms. Daum's mind that by wagging a disapproving finger at those who use the phrase "drink the Kool-Aid" she isn't in the least making its future use less likely, merely more enjoyable.

There are other common phrases rooted in tragedy besides the one Daum singles out, so let's not go postal.

-- GregMaragos

Wow. Really? I guess you’re not drinking the Kool Aid. Get a life and a sense of context. Morons like you are adding to the already ridiculous list insanely overly politically correct things that we 'aren't supposed to say.' I guess you could say that I'm not drinking your Kool Aid.


How terribly inappropriate.  Shame on you, Ms. Daum.


You took the words right out of my mouth.  (Where does that idiom come from?  Anyone? :)

"Drinking the Kool-Aid" means following a person or ideology so blindly that you would do anything for him/her/it.  It is entirely relevant in today's society, especially since Obama was elected.  Remember all the people fawning and fainting over their "Obamamessiah"?

Ms. Daum, you just don't get it.

--Eric Lee

*For clarity purposes, spelling errors in the above comments have been corrected.


New words to live by

The virtue of 'I don't know'

Let's all get off the term 'on steroids'

--Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: Jim Jones, hours before he and more than 900 of his followers died in Jonestown, Guyana. Credit: Greg Robinson / San Francisco Examiner

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