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Don't drink the Kool-Aid

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"Drinking the Kool-Aid" is a Wikipedia:figure of speech commonly used rhetorically by Wikipedia:North American right wingers to attempt to categorize an argument, point of view, or action as harmful, without having to explain why.

Wikipedia's own article on the subject shows the rhetorical push in action. The phrase, it says,

"refers to a person or group holding an unquestioned belief, argument, or philosophy without critical examination."

Nowhere does it say that the phrase is used without proof, to assert a point of view. The article assumes that it is used correctly to describe a dangerous belief. Not content with allowing that the rhetoric's use is by default, substantiated, the article itself goes on to give reasons, as though the phrase itself provided those reasons merely by being used.

"It could also refer to knowingly going along with a doomed or dangerous idea because of peer pressure. The phrase oftentimes carries a negative connotation when applied to an individual or group. It can also be used ironically or humorously to refer to accepting an idea or changing a preference due to popularity, peer pressure, or persuasion."

The phrase derives from the November 1978 Jonestown deaths,[1][2][3] in which over 900 members of the Peoples Temple, who were followers of Jim Jones, committed suicide by drinking a mixture of a powdered soft drink flavoring agent laced with cyanide.[4][5] Although the powder used in the incident included Flavor Aid, it was commonly referred to as Kool-Aid due to the latter's status as a genericized trademark.

According to academician Rebecca Moore, early analogies to Jonestown and Kool-Aid were based around death and suicide, not blind obedience.[6] The earliest such example she found, via a Lexis-Nexis search, was a 1982 statement from Lane Kirkland, then head of the AFL-CIO, which described Ronald Reagan's policies as "Jonestown economics," which "administers Kool-Aid to the poor, the deprived and the unemployed."[6]

In 1984, a Reagan administration appointee, Clarence M. Pendleton Jr., chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, was quoted as criticizing civil rights leaders Jesse Jackson, Vernon Jordan Jr., and Benjamin Hooks by making an analogy between allegiance to "the black leadership" and blind obedience to the Jonestown leaders: "We refuse to be led into another political Jonestown as we were led during the Presidential campaign. No more Kool-Aid, Jesse, Vernon and Ben. We want to be free."[7]

The phrase or metaphor has also often been used in a political context, usually with a negative implication. In 2002, Arianna Huffington used the phrase "pass the Kool-Aid, pardner" in a column about an economic forum hosted by President George W. Bush.[8] Later, commentators Michelangelo Signorile and Bill O'Reilly have used the term to describe those whom they perceive as following certain ideologies blindly.[9]


The phrase has only the name in common with the electric kool-aid acid test.

Drinking Kool-Aid laced with LSD was a ritual in the Acid Tests, a series of parties held by author Ken Kesey in the mid-1960s. Tom WolfeTemplate:'s book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test takes its title from these events.


External links Edit

The phrase ‘drank the Kool-Aid’ is completely offensive. We should stop saying it immediately is a " Post PostEverything blog post / article by James D. Richardson with interesting comments.

  1. Higgins, Chris (8 November 2012). "Stop Saying 'Drink the Kool-Aid'". The Atlantic. http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/11/stop-saying-drink-the-kool-aid/264957/. Retrieved July 22, 2013. 
  2. "'Jonestown': Portrait of a Disturbed Cult Leader". Day to Day. October 20, 2006. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6353579. Retrieved September 4, 2014. 
  3. Paul McFedries (1998-10-27). "Wordspy article on the expression "Drink the Kool-Aid", October 27, 1998". Logophilia Limited, www.wordspy.com. http://www.wordspy.com/words/drinktheKool-Aid.asp. Retrieved January 29, 2008. 
  4. "Cult's survivors sought in jungle". Lakeland, Florida. November 21, 1978. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=zY4sAAAAIBAJ&sjid=9foDAAAAIBAJ&pg=6704,6145800. Retrieved August 16, 2010. 
  5. Holden, Stephen. "Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple". The New York Times. http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/347396/Jonestown-The-Life-and-Death-of-Peoples-Temple/overview. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Drinking the Kool-Aid: The Cultural Transformation of a Tragedy, Rebecca Moore, American Academy of Religion/ Western Region, St. Mary’s College of California, 26 March 2002
  7. "Criticism of Black Leaders". November 20, 1984. http://www.nytimes.com/1984/11/20/us/criticism-of-black-leaders.html. Retrieved March 4, 2012. 
  8. Arianna Huffington (August 16, 2002). "Wacko in Waco". Salon.com. http://dir.salon.com/story/news/col/huff/2002/08/16/waco/index.html. Retrieved August 16, 2011. 
  9. "Feeling Sorry for O'Reilly". Fox News. 2005-09-09. http://www.foxnews.com/story/2005/09/09/feeling-sorry-for-oreilly/. Retrieved February 5, 2015. 

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