Step right up, folks, and try your luck at the newest attraction on the Washington Post midway (currently occupying the space where the venerable Washington Post of old once stood). Grab yourself a couple of balls and loosen up that rotator cuff, because it’s time to line up and take turns dropping some poor doof into the digital dunk-tank simply because the Post knows it’ll make for good traffic.
If you thought some dimly lit corner of Blogger — or maybe the front page of Salon — was where random nobodies with personal issues and indignations to work through were supposed to air their grievances, you just don’t understand the intoxicating allure of quick click-bait. Now, if you can string two semi-coherent sentences together that amount to a bizarre demand or bit of cultural criticism that only you would be foolish enough to give a shit about, an outlet as powerful as the Post will gladly give you a soapbox to stand on for a few minutes.
Case in point, James D. Richardson, an Episcopal priest who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area — a conclusion you would’ve reached on your own, even without the bio — who has something he needs to get off his chest. See, Mr. Richardson would like us all to immediately stop using the phrase “drank the Kool-Aid,” because it reminds him of Jonestown.
You’ve probably heard the expression, “He drank the Kool-Aid.”
Arianna Huffington once used it to describe supporters of George W. Bush’s economic policies. Bill O’Reilly said it of his critics (“the Kool-Aid people,” he told listeners, “are going nuts“). In 2012, Forbes called it a top annoying cliché used by business leaders.
There’s a problem with this flip word play though: That expression was born of a nightmare.
That’s how Mr. Richardson’s cloud-yell begins and what follows, I kid you not, is a detailed history lesson on Jim Jones and the 1978 Jonestown Massacre in Guyana. Within this largely Wikipedia-esque narrative it’s revealed that Mr. Richardson is acquaintances with Congresswoman Jackie Speier, who was one of former U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan’s aides during his doomed fact-finding trip to Jonestown, the trip that ended with Ryan and four others being killed by Jones’s acolytes. Speier was shot several times and barely survived.
All of this is absolutely horrific, of course — the shooting, the massacre itself, all of it. No one denies that. But Mr. Richardson seems to think that a very real tragedy is somehow being made light of by a society that now casually tosses around the phrase “drank the Kool-Aid” and that it’s offensive to the victims of the massacre or really anyone who still carries it around as a psychic wound. So, you know, how dare you. “Many of us have not forgotten the nightmare of Jonestown. The rest of you need to clean up your language,” is how he ends his screed.
And with that last bit of scolding by the few of the very many, some Post editor did cartwheels across the newsroom floor, because he or she immediately knew that not only had James D. Richardson written a column whose very existence screamed “click-bait headline” but James D. Richardson himself would be ripped to shreds by dozens upon dozens of little smart-asses in the comment section.
That’s exactly what happened.
This article is a joke right? Tongue-n-cheek article ( can I say that?). We haven’t gone this have over the edge have we? — wolfnotsheep
You said, ‘drank the Kool-Aid’. That’s completely offensive… Crap. I just said ‘drank the Kool-Aid’. That was completely offensive. — Parge
I found the guy shaped as a pitcher of Kool Aid offensive. It reminds me of Jim Jones — jojopuppyfish
Kool-Aid was invented in my hometown in 1927 by a man named Edwin Perkins. His wife Kitty (nee’ Shoemaker) Perkins was a high school friend of my grandmother’s. — Stentor
Oh yeah! — Confusea Cat
Editorially, I think you’re jumping the shark. — jahtez1
thanks to this bit of nonsense..I am going to use the phrase even more. — Johnny Oldfield
Why doesn’t anyone tell Jonestown Jokes? The punchline’s too long. — HarpoDC
What, too soon? — blankcur
When I was in college, we called a mixture of Everclear and kool-aid “Jim Jones Jungle Juice.” We stayed away from it, but encouraged the freshmen to partake. — mc-squared
And saying bless you after someone sneezes was born out of the bubonic plague.. so stop that too. — cmsatown
Why wasn’t there a trigger warning at the start of this article? — markopc
Then we should not stop with this phrase. There are many more phrases with objectionable origins, so please write an article on each one:
-“rule of thumb”: 17th century English Judge Sir Francis Buller allegedly ruled that it was OK for a husband to beat his wife with a stick, given that said stick was no wider then his thumb.
-“bite the bullet”: soldiers having their legs or arms sawn off in the civil war without anesthesia were given a bullet to bite down on to help them not scream in pain.
-“basket case”: refers to how soldiers were carried off the field after losing their limbs.
“nitty-gritty”: apparently a mixed reference to slaves and lice in the holds of slave ships.
“sold down the river”: troublesome slaves were literally sold down the river to southern Mississippi where plantation conditions were reputed to be much harsher than elsewhere.
“peanut gallery”: the upper balcony where black Americans were made to sit in segregated theaters.
There are more, but the list is too long to post. — markopc
Well at least this click bait is advertising pot. — Rudy Wonders …
My Grandfather fought in World War II. According to some, the phrase “the whole 9 yards” comes from when World War II Fighter pilots received a 9-yard chain of ammunition. When a pilot used all of his ammunition on one target, he gave it “the whole 9 yards.” My grandfather’s friend died when he ran out of ammo and got shot down. Therefore, using the phrase “The whole 9 yards” is offensive to me and we should stop using it immediately.
See how ridiculous that is? — eet7e
Thank you for the wake-up call and reminder of the tragic genesis of this phrase. I have used it often in the past, and will stop doing so. — Tony83703
Ironic, you just drank the kool-aid. — Huh??
“Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.” – Mel Brooks — DopplerShifter
The word “the” is offensive to me. everyone stop using it! — NOOP1
Well I was just standing here minding my own business when I read this. I wasn’t expecting it all, and it really knocked me over. Yep, you totally pulled a 9/11 on me! — minted2001
Ok, so here’s the deal: I won’t say “drinking the Kool-Aid” if the Reverend won’t ever say “making a mountain of a molehill” because I once tripped on a molehill and fell and its brings back memories. — SamTheExpat
We should stop telling the tale of the Pied Piper, as the original story refers to child abuse, rape and murder. Or we could have a life. — Crickey7
I came here just for the comments. — KWash39
Man, it’s a good thing no one showed Mr. Richardson this.
Now how about a little something to play us out, eh?
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.