Saturday, March 6, 2021

We're Running Out of Kool-Aid




How many times have you heard the phrase “drinking the Kool-Aid,” used in reference to otherwise perfectly ordinary folk showing cult-like blind obedience to a preposterous, possibly dangerous, cause or purpose driven by charisma in lieu of reality.


On November 18, 1978, James Warren Jones, leader of the Peoples Temple in Jonestown, Guyana, ordered all of his followers to commit “revolutionary suicide” by swallowing a grape flavored powdered drink laced with cyanide and a tranquilizer.  The actual brand was Flavor-Aid, but Kool-Aid was better known and thus is forever linked to the largest pre-9/11 single day slaughter of Americans.   Nine-hundred-eighteen (918) died that day, one third of them minor children.


The slaughter followed shortly after Leader Jones ordered his followers to murder a US Congressman who’d come to Jonestown to investigate human rights abuses within the cult and planned to leave Guyana with several of its members pleading to escape. Three journalists and one escapee died that day along with Representative Leo Ryan.   


For followers who saw drinking the Kool-Aid as a step too far, it was too late to walk away.  Those who refused to drink were injected with poison, those who tried to run off were shot.  Jones himself died not by suicide by drink, but by a bullet to his head.


Against that background I’m sure everyone can conjure up an example of similar dynamic forces at work in the world today. For my money, I point to the seventeenth letter of the alphabet, and say “Q” no longer summons up thoughts of the genteel Quartermaster character in James Bond films, but instead the fiercely aggressive loyalty shown by so many to the anonymous (and many think non-existent) Q of QAnon. 


The cult is back in play, big time–not that it’s truly ever gone away.


A modern-day example is now playing upon the main stage in Greece.

What’s consumes the Greek news cycle these days is a hunger strike by a 63-year-old prisoner, Dimitris Koufodinas, a galvanizing figure to both the left and the right. His strike began on January 8th and is now into its 57th day. 

Koufodinas is serving eleven life sentences for his role as one of the top assassins for Greece’s most notorious and violent homegrown Marxist-Nationalist terrorist organization, 17 November–which took its name from the final day of the student uprising leading to the overthrow of Greece’s Military Dictatorship (1967-1974).

17 November managed to operate undetected for close to thirty years, assassinating 23 prominent people in more than one hundred attacks—starting with the assassination of the CIA’s section chief in Athens.  But their primary targets were prominent members of Greece’s establishment, and they got away with murder, kidnapping, and robbery.  Their reign of terror conveniently came to an end when Greece was under terrific pressure from the worldwide community to guarantee a terrorism-free 2004 Olympics.

Koufodinas initiated his hunger strike to protest his transfer in December 2020 from an Athens prison to one in central Greece. The former ruling government party had moved him to a low security facility and allowed him a half-dozen furloughs from prison. He wants the current government to afford him the same treatment, and his attorneys argue that to do otherwise violates his rights as an inmate.

Koufodinas' demands have been backed by near-daily public protests in Athens and other Greek cities, at times numbering in the thousands, but a recent opinion poll suggests that nearly 70% of Greeks oppose his demands.

Buildings that house offices of government departments and politicians have been vandalized and targeted in arson attacks by Koufodinas supporters. Authorities have since increased security at potential police and government targets in preparation for possible violent reprisals if Koufodinas dies.

The son of one of 17 November’s victims has asked Koufodinas’ supporters to join him in urging Koufodinas to stop the hunger strike and instead press his claims in court. But the son points out that those supporters “do not seem to want him to stop. They appear to have something else in mind,” and notes, “We regret that terrorism has become a subject of political confrontation once more, because this is what it’s all about,”


Yesterday, the hospital treating Koufodinas announced he’s in kidney failure.


The situation is now critical.


In every way, and everywhere.


PS. Thanks to The National Herald for its reporting that I consulted in connection with this post.

Coming April 6th...



  1. It seems to be a daily occurrence now that something happens that you couldn't use in a book because no one would believe it.

  2. So true, Michael. On the other hand, I just completed Kaldis #12 with a premise that would have been called preposterous but for all that we have been through!