Tuesday, March 23, 2010

milk, milk, lemonade

Another interesting snippet on the Today programme this morning: the last segment featured a brief interview with Gregory Zuckerman, author of a book about the global financial crisis, and hedge fund guru John Paulson in particular.

All very dull to me, to be honest, but when John Humphrys questioned why large organisations like the US Government hadn't been as far-sighted as Paulson had been, Zuckerman made reference to them having "drunk the Kool-Aid" regarding the safety of sub-prime mortgages, credit default swaps and all the various other arcane and incomprehensible shuffling around of virtual money that was going on. At this point Humphrys expressed some tweedy codgerish bafflement as to what the phrase meant, and so Zuckerman had to explain it to him.

I found this rather strange as I was under the impression that the expression was pretty widely used to denote blind acceptance of dogma, unquestioning following of leaders, that sort of thing. Examples can be found in these articles about such diverse topics as Hillary Clinton, the Australian army, football in Detroit and the Second Vatican Council.

As the link says the expression originates from the Jonestown mass suicide in Guyana in 1978 when Jim Jones persuaded his followers that the best thing for them to do would be to drink the poisoned Kool-Aid his acolytes had kindly provided in a big metal bathtub, with the inevitable result of over 900 deaths.

I suppose since Kool-Aid isn't (as far as I know anyway) sold in the UK it's more of an American expression, so maybe hanging out on the internet makes one more familiar with these things. John Humphrys and Justin Webb were still chuckling away about it as the programme ended, anyway.

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