In a recent internet conversation, someone used the term multicultural Koolaid and I'm having trouble figuring out what it means.

What does it mean and where did it come from?

The context is a debate on the Internet. Someone responded to a comment of mine by saying “Sorry Brandon, we don't drink the multicult koolaid around here”. I think it has something to do with how someone perceives multiculturalism. I'm thinking it may be related to a political ideology, but I can't be sure.

I can link to my comment and the response but I'd like an unbiased opinion of what the phrase means outside of this conversation. Google searches provided me with little information.

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    You’re going to have to give more context than that. – tchrist Aug 4 '12 at 22:33
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    Did someone happen to use it like, "drinking the KoolAid"? – simchona Aug 4 '12 at 22:34
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    Doesn't seem like a common phrase, because when I google "multicultural kool-aid" the first hit is actually this question, followed by Wikipedia's generic "Kool-aid" entry. And then a bunch of stuff about multiculturalism. I've never heard this phrase before, either. Maybe ask the person who said it what they meant? I'd be interested to know. – WendiKidd Aug 4 '12 at 22:47
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    Updated to provide more context. – Brandon Bertelsen Aug 4 '12 at 23:03
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    Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/38181/… – simchona Aug 4 '12 at 23:07

"Drink the Kool-Aid" comes from the 1978 tragedy at Jonestown, where, at the urging of their spiritual leader Jim Jones, over 900 people drank cyanide-laced Kool-Aid and died. Since that infamous event, the phrase drink the Kool-Aid eventually came to mean to follow someone (or some school of thought) blindly, without question.

Therefore, the word multiculturalism here is just a qualifier; someone could talk about any "flavor" of Kool-Aid they refused to drink.

I've heard this expression used when something was gaining cultural momentum, and one individual wanted to avow that he would not get caught up in the hype. As an example, say that local sports fans are getting excited about a relatively new coach in town – one cynical fan might say, "I'm not ready to drink the Harbaugh Kool-Aid," meaning roughly, "I don't think everything Coach Harbaugh says is necessarily correct."

Conversely, I've heard "drank the Kool-Aid" used to express that someone was ready to take someone else at their word:

"I'm not sure that was such a good trade our team made."
"I don't know – I've drunk the Harbaugh Kool-Aid."

That dialog implies the second speaker is impressed with Coach Harbaugh, and prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt, even if he does have some misgivings about some of the decisions made by the coach.

Whatever comment you made in your debate, someone thought it seemed too "multicultural" (which was perhaps another word for "politically correct?"), and so they used the Kool-Aid reference to express their disapproval, ostensibly on behalf of the rest of the regulars in that forum.

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    Also, surprisingly accurate read in, for so little context J.R.! – Brandon Bertelsen Aug 5 '12 at 3:08
  • To further the cause of nit-picking accuracy, I want to point out that it wasn't Kool-Aid at Jonestown; it was Flavor Aid, a cheaper competitor. In the words of Kool-Aid Man, "Oh yeah!" – Malvolio Aug 5 '12 at 5:17
  • @Malvolio: I'll accept your correction, and say that, in this case, Kool-Aid is being used as a genericized trademark, much like Band-Aid might be, even if the wound was covered by a Curad. Very unfortunate for the Kool-Aid Man, though, to be so closely tied to a tragedy, if in fact he wasn't even there. – J.R. Aug 5 '12 at 9:24
  • Great analysis, and per OP's exact quote, the term multicult adds further imagery since groups buying in to the fanatic leader are often referred to as cults. – bib Aug 5 '12 at 12:05
  • @bib good catch, I totally read over that for a more literal abbreviation of "multicultural" – Brandon Bertelsen Aug 6 '12 at 17:13

"To drink the Kool-Aid" means to unconditionally accept the premises of your community.

By "multicultural Kool-Aid", the speaker is saying that the larger society believes in multiculturalism, but locally, they reject it.

  • +1 Technically correct but the other answerer included a potential origin for the statement. – Brandon Bertelsen Aug 5 '12 at 2:50
  • I actually included the etymology of the phrase, but deleted it on the supposition that it was too well-known to be worth recounting. – Malvolio Aug 5 '12 at 5:15

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