Drinking the Kool-Aid: A (Partial) 2012 Directory

The expression “drinking the Kool-Aid” is now deeply embedded into American slang – often as throwaway and/or commonly-understood lines in sports, business, and popular culture – with upwards of a dozen references appearing on news feeds every day. Especially in political arena, the saying has become increasingly weaponized, as partisans on all sides use it to disparage the intellectual capacity and discernment of their opponents.

Nevertheless, there have been several serious considerations of the phrase in several commentaries during the past year, including:

“Drinking the Kool-Aid” in context

Who are the Kool-Aid Drinkers Now?
by Szandor Blestman, Blitz, 26 May 2012

This feature-length discussion of the role of government and corporate media – considered from a libertarian point of view – begins with the origin of the term and continues that it “has become synonymous with people who trust the sources of their information without question. I will stretch this out a bit and make the claim that Kool-Aid drinkers are those who trust anyone or any institution without question and do as they are told because of that trust. Drinking the Kool-Aid kills. It zombifies the human being and removes its ability to blossom into an independent, thoughtful, free living organism able to determine its own fate. It removes free will. It turns a person into a robotic entity that will follow the will of its master right up to the point where its master causes its self destruction. So, who are the Kool-Aid drinkers today? Who are the next in line to have their strings pulled right up to the point where they self destruct?”

Daughter: I lost my mother to ‘cult-like’ religious order
by Dennis Magee, Waterloo Cedar Falls (Iowa) Courier, 16 January 2012

“No matter how the situation at Buchanan Abbey plays out, Bobbie Fleming predicts no winners and less joy. Roseanna Gevelinger is lost to her. She will remain out of reach, whatever happens to Ryan St. Anne Scott. Gevelinger is Fleming’s mother. She also is Scott’s faithful follower.… Gevelinger, now in her mid- to late 80s, connected with Scott at a ‘traditional’ Roman Catholic community in North Dakota, according to Fleming. ‘I’ve always felt it was very much cult-like,’ she said of Scott’s religious community. ‘My mother would literally drink the Kool Aid for him.’”

Cornel West keeps the faith for Occupy Wall Street
by Sally Quinn, Washington Post, 10 November 2011

“On Faith Editor Sally Quinn recently spoke with author, professor, critic and civil right activist Dr. Cornel West to discuss the Occupy Wall Street movement, and other issues of faith and politics. One exchange follows:

SQ: Does the sadness and greed that you see ever rock your faith?

CW: Oh sure. I think every rich faith should have a demon of doubt, as TS Eliot used to say. I think that to be a good Christian is to be a God-wrestler, like Jacob in the 32nd chapter of Genesis. You’re wrestling with God all the time. It’s not an accident that the most profound critique of Christianity was written by a Christian named Dostoyevsky. And that critique ought to be a constant companion for every Christian, even as in the end you still make the leap of faith, in the language of Kirkegaard, and hold on for dear life. I think there’s a big difference between drinking the Kool-Aid and being washed with the blood. You don’t want to drink the Kool-Aid of the world.”

Derivatives, Extensions, and Variations of a Familiar Phrase

Athlete Spotlight–Lee Lark
by Morgan Doyle, The Corsair (Santa Monica College, California), 22 November 2011

In the course of a conversation with basketball player Lee Lark, the interviewer asked what his coach’s favorite phrase was. The answer: “’Drink the Kool-Aid.’ This means for the team to play hard every practice and every game, in order to get something more out of our hard work, besides winning that particular game or doing something great in the particular practice. It means the give-your-all for the final product, which after the season would be to get a scholarship, for example.”

Kool-Aid and Kulture

Candy conundrum: How should Wrigley handle Skittles’ link to Trayvon Martin killing?
by Candice Choi, The Chicago Sun-Times, 15 April 2012. Also here.

It could’ve been Starbursts, Twizzlers or Sour Patch Kids. But when Trayvon Martin was fatally shot, he happened to be carrying a bag of Skittles, a product of Chicago-based Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company.…

Skittles isn’t the first popular food brand to find itself at the center of a major controversy. The term “don’t drink the Kool-Aid,” has its origins in the 1978 mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana, where Reverend Jim Jones led more than 900 members of the Peoples Temple to drink a grape flavored drink laced with cyanide.

The powdered mix used to make the concoction was actually the lesser known Flavor Aid, based in West Chicago. Even so, executives at Kraft Foods Inc., which owns Kool-Aid, decided to let the matter go, rather than set the record straight. “It would be like spitting into the wind at this point — it’s just part of the national lexicon,” says Bridget MacConnell, a Kraft spokeswoman. “We all try to protect the value of our brands. But this one just kind of got away from us. I don’t think there was any way to fight it.” MacConnell added that Kool-Aid remains a popular drink and that the Jonestown tragedy has not overshadowed the brand.



And Finally…


An iconic photo of Jim Jones from the final day appears on a “Happy Birthday” greeting card, with an invitation to “Have Some Koolaid” as the message inside. The card – which sells for $5 – includes a packet of KoolAid as an enclosure.