Drinking the Kool-Aid
"Drinking the Kool-Aid" is a metaphor commonly used in the United States that refers to a person or group holding an unquestioned belief, argument, or philosophy without critical examination. The phrase typically carries a negative connotation when applied to an individual or group. There are two likely sources for the term: the first is the Ken Kesey Kool-Aid Acid Tests of the 1960s. The second source is the November 1978 Rev. Jim Jones Jonestown Massacre, where members of the Peoples Temple committed suicide by drinking a Kool-Aid like drink laced with cyanide.
The Acid Tests were a series of parties held by novelist Ken Kesey in the San Francisco Bay Area during the mid 1960s, centered entirely around the use of, experimentation with, and advocacy of, the psychedelic drug LSD, also known as acid. Kesey, along with the Merry Pranksters, a group of people associated with Kesey, traveled around the United States and held events called Acid Tests, where LSD-laced Kool-Aid was passed out to the public (LSD wasn't illegal in the U.S. until 1966). Those who drank the "Kool-Aid" passed the "Acid Test". These events were described in Tom Wolfe's 1968 book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. However, the expression is never used figuratively in the book, only literally. This source of the phrase may explain why some references to "drinking the Kool-Aid" are not negative, but, rather, refer to enthusiasm for a new idea. Basically, though, the inference can be made that if someone "drank the Kool-Aid" then they are "tripping," i.e., hallucinating and are removed from reality.
Some survivors of the Jonestown incident object to the link between blind faith and the deaths of members of the People's Temple implied by the phrase, because some victims were murdered—forced to drink at gunpoint—rather than being convinced to commit suicide. In addition, Jim Jones had previously had many rehearsals for the event in which the drink contained no poison, which led to cult members believing the drink was harmless on the day that it did contain poison.
Objections notwithstanding, the phrase has been used in a variety of contexts to describe blind, uncritical acceptance or following. This usage began in limited circles in the late 1990s, and reached mainstream use in the late 2000s.
According to scholar Rebecca Moore, early analogies to Jonestown and Kool-Aid were based around death and suicide, not blind obedience. 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."
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."
In 1989, Jack Solerwitz, a lawyer for many of the air traffic controllers who lost their jobs in the 1981 PATCO strike, explained his dedication to their cause in spite of the substantial personal financial losses he incurred by saying "I was the only lawyer who kept the doors open for them, and I thought I'd get a medal for it... Instead, I was the one who drank the Kool-Aid."
The widespread use of the phrase with its current meaning may have begun in the late 1990s. In some cases it began to take on a neutral or even positive light, implying simply great enthusiasm. In 1998, the dictionary website logophilia.com defined the phrase as "To become a firm believer in something; to accept an argument or philosophy whole-heartedly."
The phrase has been used in the business and technology worlds to mean fervent devotion to a certain company or technology. A 2000 The New York Times article about the end of the dot-com bubble noted, "The saying around San Francisco Web shops these days, as companies run out of money, is 'Just keep drinking the Kool-Aid,' a tasteless reference to the Jonestown massacre."
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. Later, commentators Michelangelo Signorile and Bill O'Reilly have used the term to describe those whom they perceive as following certain ideologies blindly. In a 2009 speech, Newsweek editor Jon Meacham stressed his political independence by saying, "I did not drink the Obama Kool-Aid last year."
In 2011, columnist Meghan Daum wrote that the phrase had become "one of the nation's most popular idiomatic trends," while bemoaning its rise in popularity, calling its usage "grotesque, even offensive." She cited, among others, usages by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who said that he "drank the Kool-Aid as much as anyone else about Obama", and Us Weekly magazine, which reported during the short marriage of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries that "Kris is not drinking the Kardashian Kool-Aid."
In February 2011, artist "Ke$ha" released a song called "Blow" in her album "Cannibal". The song contains the lyrics "Drink that Kool-Aid, follow my lead". Given that the song is titled "Blow"(Another name for Cocaine), this may refer the Kool-Aid in the drug sense. It may also refer to the Jonestown cult suicide because of the next line, "Follow my lead" 
Jonestown massacre 
In the Jonestown cult suicide, Jim Jones, the leader of the Peoples Temple, had persuaded followers to move to Guyana and found the commune of Jonestown. In November 1978, faced with exposure of some of his misdeeds, he had the visiting U.S. Representative Leo Ryan killed and ordered the residents to commit suicide by drinking a flavored beverage laced with potassium cyanide. Those unable to comply, such as infants, and those unwilling to comply, received involuntary injections. Roughly 918 people died.
Present-day descriptions of the event often refer to the beverage not as Kool-Aid but as Flavor Aid, a less-expensive product reportedly found at the site. Kraft Foods, the maker of Kool-Aid, has stated the same. Implied by this accounting of events is that the reference to the Kool-Aid brand owes exclusively to its being better-known among Americans. Others are less categorical. Both brands are known to have been among the commune's supplies: Film footage shot inside the compound prior to the events of November shows Jones opening a large chest in which boxes of both Flavor Aid and Kool-Aid are visible. Criminal investigators testifying at the Jonestown inquest spoke of finding packets of "cool aid" (sic), and eyewitnesses to the incident are also recorded as speaking of "cool aid" or "Cool Aid." However, it is unclear whether they intended to refer to the actual Kool-Aid–brand drink or were using the name in a generic sense that might refer to any powdered flavored beverage.
See also 
- "'Jonestown': Portrait of a Disturbed Cult Leader". Day to Day. October 20, 2006.
- Paul McFedries (1998-10-27). "Wordspy article on the expression "Drink the Kool-Aid", October 27, 1998". Logophilia Limited, www.wordspy.com. Retrieved 2008-01-29.
- "Cult's survivors sought in jungle". The Ledger (Lakeland, Florida). 21 November 1978. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
- Holden, Stephen. The New York Times http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/347396/Jonestown-The-Life-and-Death-of-Peoples-Temple/overview
|url=missing title (help).
- Hatfield, Larry D. (8 November 1998). "Utopian nightmare. Jonestown: What did we learn?". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
- 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
- "Criticism of Black Leaders". The New York Times. November 20, 1984. Retrieved March 4, 2012.
- Margolick, David (January 20, 1989). "LAW: AT THE BAR; Lawyer for striking air traffic controllers won back 60 jobs but suffered personal loss". The New York Times. Retrieved March 4, 2012.
- Fishburne, Rodes (April 29, 2000). "The Shadow in Silicon Valley". The New York Times.
- Arianna Huffington (August 16, 2002). "Wacko in Waco". Salon.com. Retrieved August 16, 2011.
- "Feeling Sorry for O'Reilly". Fox News. 2005-09-09.[dead link]
- Finch, Jake (April 1, 2009). "Newsweek editor addresses Reagan Forum". Ventura County Star.
- Daum, Meghan (November 17, 2011). "Don't 'drink the Kool-Aid'". Los Angeles Times.
- , Metro Lyrics, February 24, 2013
- Jargon Madness, Forbes, January 25, 2012
- Eric Zorn (2008-11-18). "Change of Subject, "Have you drunk the 'Kool Aid' Kool Aid". Chicago Tribune, www.chicagotribune.com. Retrieved 2009-08-27.
- Krause, Charles A. (Dec. 17, 1978). "Jonestown Is an Eerie Ghost Town Now". Washington Post.
- Martin Khin (2007-12-19). "Don't Drink the Grape-Flavored Sugar Water...". Fast Company, www.fastcompany.com. Retrieved 2009-08-27.
- Al Thomkins (2003-11-13). "Al's Morning Meeting, "Thursday Edition: Clearing Kool-Aid's Name"". The Poynter Institute, www.poynter.org. Retrieved 2009-08-27.
- Nelson, Stanley (2006). Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple (DVD). Hollywood, California: PBS Home Video. ISBN 14157315279781415731529 Check
- "Guyana inquest".