George Orwell warned us against trafficking in familiar expressions that substituted for thought. “Drinking the Kool-Aid” exemplifies the perils of uninformed repetition of slurs.
My student Jessica Erickson pointed out that this morning’s New York Times <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/03/world/americas/03jonestown.html> offers the perhaps trivial corrective that Jim Jones and his agents mixed cyanide with Flavor Aid, not Kool-Aid. “Drinking the Kool-Aid,” like so many hackneyed phrases, begins in misstatement of the historical record. See as well <http://kevfu.wordpress.com/2009/04/13/drink-the-kool-aid/>.
Perhaps more important, the cliché makes no sense. One who had drunk poisoned whatever-ade would be dead. Jim Jones manipulated his followers one last time into drinking the Flavor Aid. His followers then died. If Jim Jones’ parishioners continue in lockstep devotion to any set of beliefs, they do so out of mortal sight.
Indeed, Bill O’Reilly’s “Kool-Aid Alerts” reverse the sequence of events. Jim Jones’ flock believed and, trusting, drank and died. Mr. O’Reilly clearly means that a herd has drunk and as a result has been imbued with some belief that Mr. O’Reilly would caricature.
The next time someone refers to drinking Kool-Aid, please refrain from telling them that they have drunk Mr. O’Reilly’s Kool-Aid. Not only should you not wish them mentally dead, but you also should not presume that Mr. O’Reilly passed on the less expensive Flavor Aid.