• Steven Heller

Drinking the Kool-Aid

You may not recall where the term for unconditional compliance to a misguided idea or ideology came from, but “drinking the Kool-Aid” originated with the mass suicide by supporters of the self-appointed pastor/leader of the Peoples Temple, Jim Jones. In November 1978 the world was shocked to learn (and see photographs) of 918 church members’ bodies after they drank cyanide-laced Kool-Aid at the direction of their cult leader in Jonestown, Guyana, who shot himself.

A brief online history states: “After relocating to California in 1965, the church continued to grow in membership and began advocating their left-wing political ideals more actively. With an I.R.S. investigation and a great deal of negative press mounting against the radical church, Jones urged his congregation to join him in a new, isolated community where they could escape American capitalism—and criticism—and practice a more communal way of life.

“Relatives of cult members soon grew concerned and requested that the U.S. government rescue what they believed to be brainwashed victims living in concentration camp–like conditions under Jones’ power.” Fearing his community was coming under attack, Jones commanded his faithful to take their lives.

This brochure published before the massacre (and located by Jeff Roth) paints a rosy picture of the freedom and well-being that Pastor Jones promised his flock. It is an eerie reminder that lunacy can be well typeset and designed on a page. Graphic design can always be a weapon of mass delusion.

The deadline for PRINT’s Typography & Lettering Awards has been extended to Dec. 2. Enter today.

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