Whirled Musings

Across the Universe with Cosmic Connie, aka Connie L. Schmidt...or maybe just through the dung-filled streets and murky swamps of pop culture -- more specifically, the New-Age/New-Wage crowd, pop spirituality & religion, pop psychology, self(ish)-help, business babble, media silliness, & related (or occasionally unrelated) matters of consequence. Hope you're wearing boots. (By the way, the "Cosmic" bit in my moniker is IRONIC.)

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Whirled wars

Warning: This post is a long and winding road, as mine sometimes are. I could have either condensed it greatly or published it in several parts, but I thought, what the heck, just get it over with in one fell swoop. So you know the drill: if you're prone to screen fatigue, print it out and take it into the "reading room." Or just peruse a few segments if you don't feel up to making your way through the whole thing. You won't hurt my feelings a bit. ~CC


Can you believe it's been nearly a month since I've published a real post here? Do not fret, Dear Ones; although the year is coming to an end (and already has, for my friends on the Other Side of the globe), my Whirled is not, as much as some folks might wish that to be the case. I have simply been busy with other matters of consequence. A couple of clients who had put their projects on hold during the Great Recession of '09 have recently taken them off hold, and they now want the projects done yesterday. That's a good thing, and believe me, if Ron and I could travel back in time in order to get the projects completed yesterday, we would. But we're doing the next best thing and putting our noses to the grindstone now. New clients have emerged as well, and in addition, Ron and I have been in talks with a couple of colleagues regarding plans to expand our business and explore new ventures. And then this major holiday came up...well, actually, it's still going on.

All in all, I've been too preoccupied to indulge very much in my hobby of "snarking lividly," as one of my detractors put it not long ago, though I have been participating on a few other forums. (If you're interested, I've mostly been hanging around "The Pyre" and Salty Droid's blog, as well as Duff McDuffee's and Eric Schiller's party, and Cassandra Yorgey's place too. I've also been enjoying Terry Hall's Bizsayer blog. Terry, by the way, is married to Amy, an ex-employee of James Ray International.)


If you've been hanging around these blogs, you know it's been a veritable sh-t storm lately, as my pal at The Pyre noted a while back. The Pyre has done a terrific job of documenting some of these matters, as have the Droid, Duff and Eric, Cassandra, and Terry. The big news of the moment is that Duff has been on the receiving end of intimidation efforts by Secret star and former James Arthur Ray joint-venture partner Bill Harris, of Holosync infamy (and of course I will have more about that later on, but scroll down to "The hustledorks circle the wagons" if you can't wait).

On second thought, in the spirit of the holidaze, scratch that sh-t storm metaphor. It has been one big happy snowball fight here in the blogosphere.

To add to the lively fun, I've recently been pelted with a few snowballs myself, and I truly hope you will pardon me for going on about myself, but I am a narcissist, as you know. In fact, I've been dodging snowballs from both sides in the New-Wage wars. Although I've discussed some of this on other forums, I'm thinking that a recap here is also in order – not merely to rehash some silly and perhaps pointless online battles, but to summarize a few issues these conflicts are bringing to the surface. These are issues that affect all of us, no matter where we are on the belief (or non-belief) spectrum. It goes without saying, but in light of current issues I feel compelled to say it anyway, that this blog post reflects my interpretation of events. Maybe you'll find something of value here for you as well.

Revenge of the snargets
Earlier this month one of my minor snargets (snark targets) wrote a blog post in which he criticized the critics of the self-help industry. Before I go any further let me make one thing clear: I refer to him as a minor snarget not to diminish his importance in the big scheme of things, but merely to indicate that he has not been a frequent subject on this blog.

Minor Snarget has referred to some critics as "haters," and it appears that I am one of those "haters." On a Twitter post he wrote some weeks before the blog post, he had defined those "haters" as "a bunch of losers who got their noses out of joint over The Secret and can't get over it."

Though his blog post was not only about critics, it was clearly a reaction to said critics' increasingly pointed Tweets and blog posts, some of which were about him. Accordingly, he let us have it with both barrels, and mounted a spirited defense of the selfish-help industry in the process. He expressed disdain for the alarmists in the news media, saying they are using the James Ray sweat lodge tragedy to indict the entire industry. He implied that everyone who criticizes James Ray or the self-help industry wants to put an end to the entire industry just because some folks died at one little event.

In a special rant section in his original post, he said he understands the motives of the news media and their need to engage in what was once commonly known as "yellow journalism," because they are, after all, primarily concerned with ratings and money. More puzzling, he wrote, are the "pro-bono" critics, the snarky bloggers such as yours truly – those "haters," in other words. He went to some length to rant about me, though he didn't mention me by name. He called me "a first-rate writer with a second-rate mind," and went on to describe me as incoherent and incapable of logic. He claimed that my blog is full of inaccuracies and that I'm wrong more often than I'm right, though he provided no examples.

He also puzzled over why I – and other critical bloggers – spend so much time snarking and criticizing when most of us aren't making any money from this activity. He said we are all snarking in a vacuum anyway, since it is clear that we have very few readers. He based his judgment about our dearth of readers on what he imagines our collective Twitter following to be, falsely claiming that among all of us we barely have 200 followers on Twitter. He also falsely claimed that all we do is Tweet and blog about how our lives suck. I can only suppose that he deliberately wrote those untruths partly because he was trying to get back at me for what he seems to think are intentional untruths here on my Whirled. (I'll address that point below.)

He added that we pro-bono critics hate people who have money because we don't have any ourselves, that we have no useful tools to make our lives better, and that we don't want anyone else to have those tools either.

Part of the remainder of the post was dedicated to explaining the real value of self-help, which, Minor Snarget noted, is an individual judgment each of us has to make for ourselves. He devoted a bit of time to justifying what many people perceive as exorbitant fees charged by some self-help gurus. He scoffed at the media and critical bloggers who seemed shocked that people paid nearly $10,000 to attend the fatal sweat lodge event. Minor Snarget explained that high fees for events are justified by the experience and expertise of the events' leaders. He reminded his readers that the sweat lodge was but one portion of a five-day event.
He mentioned that billionaires such as Sir Richard Branson would laugh in your face if you tried to offer them so paltry a sum as ten grand for even a few hours of consultation. He added that he would pay ten grand to spend a few days with someone like the Dalai Lama. In other words, when you're in the presence of greatness, ten grand is nothing compared to what you're getting in return. That amount or much more can be a real bargain if you're getting what you need from an event.

He added that his own consulting fee is now a thousand bucks an hour. This, he explained, is due to his years of experience and study, plus his success at helping numerous other people start businesses of their own, plus the fact that he has read a bunch of books over the years. For good measure, he also threw out some somewhat condescending lessons about business, such as the eye-opening fact that "in business, we keep score with dollars." He implied that this is a concept the critics are too dense to get.

Despite the condescension and obvious anger in his post, there were some basic points on which I agreed with him. I disagreed with him on numerous details, of course, but I felt we could have a civil exchange about all of it anyway, so I decided to join in the discussion on his blog. Ron did too. (Here's a link to Ron's blog, by the way.) All of the comments preceding ours had pretty much been favorable to Minor Snarget, with some commenters tsk-tsk'ing over the terrible things the critics were saying about poor James Ray. Ron and I were the first dissenters, apparently, and it was clear from the beginning that our input was not welcome. Although we were civil, Minor Snarget repeatedly shot us down, attacking our personal and professional credibility.
He questioned our qualifications to express an opinion about "his" industry. He challenged us to list all of the great products we've created, the implication being that because we are not actively churning out bestselling self-help products, and don't have a bunch of bestselling books on Amazon, we know nothing about the industry and are therefore not qualified to judge it.

He did not question the qualifications of those who agreed with him, though none of them seemed to be Amazon bestselling authors either. He simply agreed with them and congratulated them for their insightful comments and evolved way of looking at things.


He said any putz can tear stuff down, but he, on the other hand, is working to build things and make the world a better place, and he suggested we do so too.
In the end, he declared victory by virtue of having "proved" that Ron and I are incapable of creating anything of value.

He was similarly dismissive of anyone else who expressed a dissenting opinion about his piece, including one of my regular readers, Dave, an admitted non-fan of self-help. I was moved that Dave, who is currently risking his neck every day in Afghanistan, would take the time to defend my blog. Dave's remark wasn't only about me, though; he also summarized the points that bug him most about self-help gurus, including his opinion that they sell half-truths and shortcuts more often than not. Minor Snarget was having none of it. He lashed out at Dave as well, saying Dave doesn't know him or his work and was apparently basing his own opinion of Minor Snarget on what he'd read on my blog. He added that Dave's comment was yet another example of what the anti-critic rant was all about in the first place.

Admittedly, Minor Snarg was probably letting out years of pent-up anger, not only for my occasional potshots at him but also for my more frequent ones at his buddy and business partner – let's just call him Major Snarget* – who took him under his wing a few years back and saved him from a life of being broke. One would expect such loyalty, especially since Major Snarget probably believes he can't afford to sully his own name by getting down in the trenches with those filthy critics. I speculate that to some degree, Minor Snarg was simply running interference for his bud.

But he also seemed enraged about what I and others have written about him. While I haven't criticized his primary enterprise of coaching online entrepreneurs, and I actually agree with him on many matters (including politics and social trends), and think that he is a talented writer, musician, and photographer, and have even had friendly exchanges with him in the past, it is also true that I've devoted a bit of attention to a couple of his products that I think are quite silly. He markets them as joint-venture deals with Major Snarget, and I am sure they make up a minuscule portion of Major and Minor Snargets' respective and collective income stream. But apparently the stuff I wrote about these products got under Minor Snarg's skin.

That said, Ron and I weren't the only ones who thought he was unnecessarily rude in his comments to us and others who disagreed with his take on critics. That's not the way I treat people who take the time to comment on my blog, even if they've said snarky things to or about me in other forums. I may sometimes be a bit curt or snarky to them, but I generally end up apologizing even for that (though not always). At any rate, I am never abusive or outright rude to them, at least by my standards. But who said everyone has to follow the same rules I've set for myself? Besides, in fairness, Minor Snarget did mention on his blog that he had told his

therapist...I mean, his meditation mentor...that this is not his incarnation for sainthood. Well, then, that excuses it.

Moreover, he thinks I have been unnecessarily snarky for several years and that he has been more than patient. He accused me of writing with "ill will" and indulging in "character assassination" of his bud, Major Snarget. He suggested that I should remember I am writing about real people, and should therefore be more empathetic and "mindful" in my writing. He also claimed that I am "inciting" others to write negative blogs about his buddy and others in the industry.

My first thought upon reading the incitement claim was that in his opinion, nobody reads my blog anyway, except perhaps for those other critics whom no one reads either, so why is he so concerned? At any rate, one of the bloggers whom he claimed I was "inciting" addressed that point by stating that the "incited" blog was inspired by Major Snarget (and to a lesser degree Minor Snarget), not by moi.

In the days that followed publication of his confrontational blog post, as the discussion grew to what seemed to be an unprecedented number of comments for his blog, Minor Snarg also created a counter-blog to my little Whirled, apparently for the sole purpose of humiliating and completely discrediting the critics. I believe his plan was to crush me first, since I'm the easiest target, and then go after the rest. He also created a couple of Twitter accounts to have a little fun with the "haters." While he was at it, he locked out his main Twitter account so critics couldn't get as easy access to his immortal Tweets as before. And he Tweeted about hiring lawyers and private detectives to help him deal with the critics. "I'm rich; I can afford it," he boasted.

A few days later, however, he deleted the part in his blog post that contained his rant about me. He also deleted all of the dissenting comments – not just mine and Ron's – and his own responses to same. His explanation to someone who asked about the disappearing comments was that he had tried an "experiment" on his blog and it didn't work, so it was back to the regularly scheduled programming. My sense is that he either realized on his own, or was reminded by his buddy Major Snarget, that the rancorous discussion made both of them look pretty bad, while giving those pesky critics unnecessary publicity. Besides, there were fine cigars to be smoked, good Scotch to be consumed, and new ventures to be planned.

In the time since then, however, Major Snarget has written several posts on his blog, explaining why all of the critics of the selfish-help/New-Wage industry are wrong. Here is Cosmic Connie's capsule summary of his critique of the critics:
Critics of the self-help and personal growth industry are all under the delusion that money is evil, and are beating up on those who have money because they harbor these false ideas about wealth. But in reality those they criticize are all about love and Spirit and all of that good stuff, which the critics would be able to clearly see if only they weren't so blinded by their own false beliefs. (Fortunately, Major Snarget sells an expensive program to help people "clear" such beliefs. He links to it several times in every one of his blog posts, and there's a link on every page of his new free e-book, which he seems to have created for the sole purpose of marketing the pricey program.) In addition, Jesus, Mother Teresa, Buddha, and a few famous churches would all agree that money and marketing are always good. Money is Spirit; there is no distinction, so there is nothing wrong with making tons of money, especially since the snargets are making the world a better place in the process. Nor is there anything wrong with using some of that spiritual energy known as money to buy expensive cars and houses and such. So in reality, the critics have no basis for their criticism.
I'm oversimplifying, of course, but not by much.

In one post, Major Snarget went on a bit about how history rarely remembers the critics, who are doomed to obscurity, whereas the targets of their criticism will no doubt be remembered forever, because they are doing important things with their lives. (So there, you critics.) He also suggested that engaging in criticism is keeping the critics from their true calling. A couple of points he didn't mention: (1) Not everyone is a fame-whore; though fame is a form of currency these days more than ever, not everyone aspires to be "wealthy" in that way, and many folks, including me, don't give a hoot if history remembers them or not; and (2) As the blogger on The Pyre implied, there's always the possibility that some folks' true calling is parody, satire, or even...gasp...criticism – even if they're not currently getting paid handsomely for their efforts.

It's probably all moot anyway, for it seems to be back to bidness as usual with the snargets and their buddies, who, last time I checked, were indeed still sitting around puffing on pricey cigars, plotting new ways to separate people from their money, and congratulating themselves for being masters of their little corner of the Universe.

That's how it looks to me, anyway. Your perceptions may vary.

And now a few words from the other side...
An anti-New-Wage blogger who had once been sort of an ally, but whose politics as well as his views on the evils of New-Wage culture are a bit too radical even for me, recently published a blog post about what a complete and utter hypocrite I am. One big point of contention is that I live with and deeply love Ron, and my detractor has issues with Ron. Not the least of his issues is that Ron has long been a student of a form of Buddhism, and the blogger despises Buddhism as well as most other flavors of religion and spirituality. Since I've frequently snarked about the McSpirituality factions of the New-Wage industry, my detractor wonders why I continue to tolerate Ron, whom he has called a "faux-Buddhist" (as if he is in any way qualified to know a "real" from a faux-Buddhist). In addition, since Ron and I ghostwrite, edit, and design books, and in the course of our years in business have worked on numerous self-help or spiritual titles, he accused us of knowingly running a scam and helping "scumbags" make money off of others.

I should note that he had previously published a derogatory post about Ron and me, but in this latest one he really went to town. What set him off was that I made the mistake of mentioning his name recently in a post dedicated to another one of my frequent and recent snargets, a notoriously deceptive but very successful marketer who has actually served prison time for fraud. Angry Blogger said I was using that guy's name to discredit him.

Actually, I wasn't. My reason for mentioning him in my post was simply to illustrate that not only politics, but commerce, makes strange bedfellows, as the old saying goes. Angry Blogger pretty much places New-Wagers in the same category as the liberal left, and he hates both, for he feels they are destroying our culture. My point was that the hustler extraordinaire who was the real topic of my offending blog post has somewhat invalidated the belief that New-Wage is inexorably tied to the liberal left. Said hustler
seems on the one hand to pander to the conservative/anti-government paranoia crowd, but he is also catering increasingly to New-Wagers and the Law of Attraction crowd, who are indeed traditionally more likely to be political liberals. His appeal to both factions is that he is trading in "forbidden" information that "they" don't want the rest of us to know about. Naturally, his real agenda is capturing as large a market as he possibly can, so politics and belief systems don't matter nearly as much as having a valid credit or debit card and possessing the ability to sign up, wittingly or unwittingly, for automatic-billing schemes.

Angry Blogger himself is another illustration of "strange bedfellows," though in his case it's more related to politics and belief than to commerce. He's a right-winger who, unlike most right-wingers in the US, also happens to be an atheist. However, he is also anti-New-Wage to the extreme, which has led to what seems to be an uneasy alliance at best with some Christians who agree with his political opinions and/or his anti-New-Wage views. He has acknowledged the oddity of his alliances, explaining to me in the discussion accompanying his blog post that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

I responded that while this may work for the short term, it doesn't bode well for the future of the "friendship" once the common "enemy" has been properly smitten. He replied that he simply doesn't feel nearly as threatened by the Christian Right agenda as by that of the New-Wagers and the liberal left. He thinks the Christian Right is about preserving America, while the liberal left/New-Wagers are all about tearing it down. I'm the opposite; I feel more threatened by the Christian Right than by the New-Wagers. I would have suggested that we simply agree to disagree on that point, but in previous exchanges he had made it clear that "agreeing to disagree" is for wimps.


Although the point I was trying to make in my discussion with him was that things are not all black-and-white, he declares that they are all black-and-white, at least to those few who can see the world as clearly as he. There is good and there is evil and there is no in-between. He truly seems to believe he is fighting the good fight, and he says it will be a fight to the death. And not only was he angry that I had mentioned his name in conjunction with the notorious marketer, but he said that I, by refusing to acknowledge that all self-help/New-Wage is patently evil, am simply playing dumb. He speculated that this is either to preserve what he imagines to be my source of income, or to protect my relationship with Ron, or both.

This conflict could have gone on indefinitely, but I did a little blog sanitizing of my own, for the sake of restoring some peace. I simply deleted his name from the offending post, as well as two comments about him in the discussion section. After all, my big issue was and is with the actual subject of my blog post, not with him. As wrong as Angry Blogger is about Ron, and as much as I disagree with his politics, I also feel he's right about some, though not all, of his observations about New-Wage culture.** In the end, he made what I feel was a wise decision to remove his entire blog post.

Cognitive dissonance and me
I suppose by now it's pretty clear that I've received criticism from more than one faction in the belief spectrum. This could mean I am doing something very wrong and am indeed an incoherent hypocrite. Or it could signify that I'm just doing my job as a pot-stirrer. Or it could simply be an indication that I have mood swings and feel strongly about something one day, and not so strongly the next, and that I am always weighing my own beliefs and thoughts, and that this blog is an expression of all that stuff.

The one factor that both Minor Snarget and Angry Blogger have in common is that they have, in their own ways, suggested that I must surely be suffering from some form of cognitive dissonance, and that my writing reflects it. Take Minor Snarget, for example, who, as I noted above, has written that he believes the media are using the James Ray sweat lodge tragedy to try to destroy the entire industry. Not only does he feel that is unfair, but he also feels the critics are wasting their time, as neither James Ray nor the victims can hear us. He recommended that instead of playing judge, jury and jailer for James' gang, we devote our time and energy to worrying about and working to change real problems in the world, such as AIDS or genocide.

He even noted that he himself has participated in sweat lodges and wasn't harmed. He said that James Ray has led sweat lodge ceremonies at previous events and nobody died. He added that some of the folks "popped out" of the fatal sweat lodge "feeling just fine."

Increasingly, such declarations seem callous or just plain absurd to those who have really been following this story, particularly as more and more information comes to light about the October 2009 Sedona tragedy and previous James Ray events. This recently released affidavit for a search warrant is just one example of many. Although this document was released a couple of weeks after Minor Snarget wrote his blog post, a great deal of similar information had already been made public. Most people who have been following this story are well aware that there were problems at previous James Ray sweat lodges too.

Despite his ludicrous sweat lodge statements,
however, there were some points on which I agreed with Minor Snarget regarding the media hysteria, and in my first comment to his post, I tried to express those points of agreement as well as the points of disagreement. Here's what I wrote, in part:

As for your larger points about the fear-mongering in the wake of the James Ray debacle, I completely agree with you that the talking heads have jumped on this story because it is sensationalist, and they're out for ratings. After The Secret came out, they were all over it, mostly in a positive way, for the first few months. Then when the waves of criticism hit, they took that and ran with it. Now comes the Death Lodge, and they're on that as well, playing up the tragedy from every angle...

Even so, the James Ray incident *was* a real tragedy. Moreover, I think it is disingenuous to try to dismiss the incident as just one extreme exception in a generally benign industry. There are some real issues and hard questions about the industry that I think need to be openly discussed, and "Sweatgate" brought some of these issues out into the open.

Personally, I don't advocate more laws. My general position is that there is already too much government interference in business and other aspects of our lives, and we don't need more policing. We do need to do a better job of teaching critical-thinking skills, and exercising those skills. We also very much need the free exchange of information, and yes, that includes criticism.

Minor Snarget replied that my comment was well-written but "perfectly incoherent" as usual, adding that my remarks didn't sound as if they came from the same writer who had gone on about "Death Ray" on my own blog. I responded that I do indeed have mixed feelings about certain aspects of this case, adding that I have used my long "Sweatgate" post to provide links to differing opinions on James Ray, and while most of them are anti-Ray, not all of them are. (And by the way, I don't advocate more laws and regulations governing the selfish-help industry. I have been consistent on this point throughout.) But those points of agreement were irrelevant, and the conversation rapidly deteriorated as Minor Snarget turned his focus on attempting to discredit Ron and me. His main point seemed to be that Ron and I are ignorant of our subject matter and therefore have no right to criticize it. End of story.

Though Angry Blogger and Minor Snarget are united in their annoyance with my apparent inconsistency, they couldn't be more different in their respective attitudes towards the self-help industry. While Minor Snarget thinks the industry creates enormous value for its producers as well as its consumers, and that for the most part the critics have their heads up their asses, Angry Blogger thinks the industry is made up of killers – of whom he feels James Ray is one, but far from the only one
as well as liars, thieves, sociopaths, psychopaths, and two-bit con artists.

Even if people don't end up dead, or even if marriages or other relationships don't break up because of the influence of some self-help guru, the industry is still harmful, he believes, because it forces its ludicrous and sometimes destructive ideas on our culture, often in insidious ways, and because, at best, its very survival depends upon persuading people to waste billions of dollars every year.

I realize that in most cases, whether or not folks are "wasting" their money or their time is their call, not yours or mine, and this is another point on which I essentially agree with Minor Snarget. (Of course this does not take into account instances in which people are coerced into purchasing products or participating in self-help activities, e.g., by bosses, teachers, parents, or other authority figures.) At any rate, I am simply explaining Angry Blogger's opinions of self-help. His opinions were formed by some harrowing personal experiences with some New-Wagers, as well as his own observations of New-Wage culture. He believes he is one of the few people who can clearly see what is going on, and he told me that by being even marginally involved in the industry, through having had self-help or spiritual authors as clients, I am participating in evil.


Got a gripe? Get in line.
It will probably come as no surprise that the two bloggers mentioned above are not the only folks who have criticized me. In the time since I first created The Whirled in late July of 2006, I've been lambasted at various times for being too skeptical or snarky, and for not being skeptical enough. Publicly and privately, I've been called stupid, naive, hypocritical, inconsistent, lame, incoherent, incapable of critical thinking, uneducated, unevolved, too willing to criticize things I don't understand, rage-filled, hate-filled.... and on and on and on. And those are just the criticisms I can publish. The others are random obscenities and death threats that, in my opinion, add nothing to the conversation.

Truth is, although I lean towards snarky more often than not, I do occasionally vacillate on some issues. This has been the case for many years, since long before I began writing this blog. And I generally am willing to listen to "the other side," allowing people who disagree vehemently with me have their say here, though I haven't and won't become a mouthpiece for them myself. (Apropos of hearing from the other side, I've recently spent nearly six hours talking on the phone with a self-help "insider" who is or has been very close to some of my major snargets, and I will be posting about those conversations soon.)

Regarding that accusation that my blog is fact-challenged: I never knowingly publish falsehoods, and with rare exceptions, such as this post, I provide links to all of the material I write about, so people can read it in context and make up their own minds. If I get a fact wrong, or if I make a wrong guess or speculation regarding something that is verifiable, anyone who notices it and doesn't like it is always free to inform me, and I'll publish a correction or retraction. I have always been pretty honest about being a lazy researcher at best when it comes to this blog – which is, after all, a hobby, not my livelihood – and I appreciate your help if you want to take the time to offer it.

More often than not, though, I get comments from people who say I'm spot-on in my observations and opinions. "Well, of course, Cosmic Connie; you're preaching to the choir here," you protesters might be saying. Perhaps, but some of those choir members have had some eye-opening personal experiences of their own with some of my snargets, not to mention years of experience in and around the self-help industry. In most cases, that's why they joined the choir in the first place.

Can the snark survive outside the "vacuum?"
Now we're getting to the part that's less about me and more about other folks. One point I hope to make with this rather long and convoluted piece is that critics of the self-help/New-Wage industry are not a tiny little group of broke, envious, uneducated losers, and they cannot be dismissed as easily as the gurus might wish.

First off, contrary to Minor Snarget's above-quoted Tweet, it's not just The Secret that has us "losers" up in arms. I don't think even he believes that, but that's the way he explained it to one of his followers on Twitter. Even I, with my second-rate mind, have been a critic of New-Wage culture since long before The Secret was, as I like to say, a gleam in Rhonda Byrne's third eye. The same is true of many other critical bloggers. The Secret merely brought much of what we've been satirizing and criticizing more into the mainstream.


Secondly, the criticism against self-help is not solely confined to a small group of "haters" on Twitter – again, contrary to Minor Snarg's claims. When Minor Snarg thinks of critical blogs he may be thinking of my Whirled, The Pyre, Salty Droid, Cassandra, and Terry Hall. He probably figures we are pretty easy targets (well, except for The Droid, who has legal expertise on his side, and doesn't hesitate to bite back).

But I wonder if Minor Snarg or his eager followers have ever so much as glanced at SHAMblog, written by Steve Salerno, author of a well-researched 2005 book called SHAM: How The Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless (again, a pre-Secret work). Actually it was my discovery of and participation in SHAMblog that first inspired me to start Whirled Musings back in 2006.

I wonder too if Minor Snarg has taken the time to read the considerable research of tireless reader Chris Locke, who runs the Mystic Bourgeoisie blog. I don't always agree with the way Chris connects the dots, but his research is impressive and he is a wickedly entertaining writer when he really gets going, and I can't wait for the book version of Mystic B, which he assures me he is working on.

Then there's Jody Radzik's Guruphiliac blog. Jody generally deals with the Eastern gurus, but he has done his fair share of criticism of some of the Western/faux-Eastern New-Wage gurus as well.

I've already mentioned Duff McDuffee and Eric Schiller's Beyond Personal Growth blog. But I'm mentioning them again because these guys are about as far from "haters" as anyone I can think of, and their knowledge of the personal-growth industry and its products is both deeper and broader than my own. This is not to say that I am ignorant of the self-help industry, as Minor Snarget claimed – far from it. I'm simply saying that on their blog, Duff and Eric are not casual snarkers as I so often am. Yet you don't see them with their noses up the hustledorks' arses.

And there's Steven Sashen, who has fielded some of the same criticism I have. Some say he's playing both ends against the middle because, they say, he has a finger in the New-Wage pie, and yet he has a critical (and very funny) blog, the Anti-Guru Blog. Some have criticized me for quoting him rather than snarking about him. It doesn't bother me. Steven is clever and funny and he probably knows enough dirty little insider secrets to put a few gurus out of business if he were so inclined. But I suspect that he'd rather just be clever and funny, and here's yet more evidence of that.

And there is Skeptico's blog. I've had my differences with Skeptico (see the link in the PS below), but we've worked them out. I enjoy his blog. He takes no prisoners. (By the way, on his December 29 post he makes it clear that Minor Snarget isn't the only one who's gotten a bit snippy at the critics. Deep-Pockets Chopra has too.)

Last but far from least is Respectful Insolence, a thoughtful and well-researched blog written by an M.D. who goes by the name of Orac.

All of these writers and many more are, in their own way, a part of the growing wave of dissent against New-Wage/selfish-help/McSpirituality.

Most of the bloggers listed above probably aren't nearly as easy to target as I am, so it could be a while before Minor Snarget gets to them. And, interestingly enough, not all of these folks are on Twitter. (By the way, Salty Droid, whom I mentioned a couple of times earlier, says he has been banned from Twitter. Even so, he seems to have a rapidly expanding audience.) Together all of the bloggers mentioned here have a pretty broad readership, and an influence that reaches far beyond that of my little Whirled.***

The hustledorks circle the wagons
It seems clear that many of the hustledorks and New-Wage leaders are now on the defensive. They're not just annoyed; some are scared that their source of income might dry up. The bad publicity surrounding the James Ray incidents is indeed shedding new light on the industry as a whole, and even if this doesn't result in crippling laws and regulations, it is raising more questions and perhaps inspiring more folks to examine the industry with a more critical eye than before.

Threatening critical bloggers with "defamation" seems to be more popular than ever these days. Minor Snarget is certainly not the only one who's been rattling the legal sabers, threatening to go after the Pyre blogger and other critics. As I mentioned above, another of my allies, the aforementioned Duff McDuffee, has been threatened by Bill Harris, star of The Secret and perpetrator of that Holosync gimmick. As I also noted above, Duff is pretty much into personal growth himself, much more so than I, but he's fed up with the New-Wage hustledorks too. (He was one of the participants in Minor Snarget's discussion, and has respectfully participated on Major Snarget's blog as well, but has had his comments summarily dismissed and "blessed" by the Major.)

Bill Harris took umbrage at a post Duff wrote,
"The Hollow Sink of Push-Button Enlightenment," in the wake of the James Ray debacle. As participants in James' Spiritual Warrior event were required to invest in the Holosync system, and as Holosyncing was apparently a big part of the Spiritual Warrior event, this was a very timely article. In addition, Duff has tried Holosync and has discussed it with others who tried it. In his opinion, it's way over-hyped and over-priced. Bill didn't like that opinion one bit, and sent Duff a cease-and-desist, along with threats of further legal action. You can read all about it here, in this piece by Duff's co-blogger, Eric Schiller.

Apparently Bill is worried about his pristine reputation being compromised by Duff's opinion piece. In an email to Duff he summarized the unpleasant ways in which Duff's life would be changed if Bill chose to pursue a lawsuit. Eric pointed out something that perhaps Bill hadn't considered:

What Bill Harris does not realize is that Duff McDuffee (and I for that matter) have zero monetary assets to speak of. Additionally, if Harris does actually bring suit against Duff, we will do everything in our power to make it as public as possible. This publicity would negate the whole point of a defamation lawsuit in the first place, the preservation of the “public image” that Harris’ seemingly holds so near and dear. Finally, Harris will have to prove in the court of law that he does not use manipulative marketing techniques and that his “holosync” program does exactly what he says it does. We are confident that Harris would not be able to prove either of these things in any manner enough to satisfy a federal judge.
If you follow the link above and read the comments to Eric's post, you'll see that Duff has a lot of supporters (as well as a persistent detractor or two). And if you follow this link, you'll see what Salty Droid has to say, in his own inimitable way, about Bill Harris' lame attempt to silence Duff. And do follow that link. Salty Droid is always a fun read, and his Photoshopping is hilarious.

Speaking of someone who has been on the Droid's radar (and mine, too, for nearly three years), Aussie Secret star David Schirmer is a legal saber-rattler too. In March of 2009 David, who has been accused of and is apparently still being investigated for various wrongdoings in Oz, effectively put a chill on some of his critics on Twitter by threatening to sic "a top defamation barrister" on them. They took their critical Tweets down and issued identical apology Tweets: “I unreservedly apologise for posting any tweets directed towards @davidschirmer that have been proved wrong."
Some even canceled their Twitter accounts.

I've heard that other New-Wage gurus have been issuing legal threats as well, though I'm not at liberty to share details right now.

Certainly the gurus have a right to protect their own interests, and if someone is deliberately spreading lies about them they have a right to act. And certainly bloggers have a responsibility to both their readers and their subjects to be as accurate as possible when reporting facts. (Opinion and satire are other matters entirely.) But if you're a New-Wage guru, hollering "Defamation!" whenever a critical blogger calls you a name or criticizes your product doesn't serve anyone except the lawyers, and it makes you look like a doofus.

Yet there has been a concerted effort of late to silence the critics. Well, guys (and gals), it's too late; the word is out. The critics have your number. Silence one, and three more will pop up.

Okay, we're back to talking about me now.
As for me, my Whirled just keeps turning.
It has been a contentious few weeks in my corner of the blogosphere, but ya know what? I'm grateful for all of it, because it has given me yet another opportunity to re-examine my beliefs (or lack thereof), as well as my motives. Yes, really. I'm not so arrogant as to believe that there aren't lessons for me everywhere. Smart people learn more from critics than from the folks who love them, after all. I have actually mulled over the question of whether I do indeed create value, a question we all need to ask ourselves at various times in our lives. However, I was reminded once again, even as I was mulling, that "value" is in many ways a subjective judgment – which, as it happens, was one defense of the self-help industry offered by the very guy who told Ron and me that we are incapable of creating anything of value.

The various discussions have also given me another opportunity to think about whether I really am suffering from cognitive dissonance, something I've pondered at different times for many years, since long before I even knew what a blog was. And yes, sometimes I do feel conflicted about seemingly contradictory things in my life. Most of us do, if we're honest. I've sometimes wondered if I am being a little dishonest by working with self-help or spiritual or inspirational authors, when I snark so much about the culture from which they spring. Yet the truth is that I do enjoy some books in these genres, and most of the clients we have dealt with have been genuinely nice people who seem to want to help others. I make no attempt to hide my hobby blog from anyone, and you could say it serves as a screening device to help weed out the types of clients who would not be a good match for Ron and me. (I should add that Ron and I have turned away many more projects in this genre than we've accepted.)****

For the most part, I'm pretty comfortable with having mixed feelings about lots of things and few pat answers for anything.

Finally, the discussions in which I've been involved have served as a reminder to me that I do not always err on the side of kindness, empathy, or "mindfulness" (which, let's face it, means different things to different people, whether or not they are schooled in mindfulness meditation or whatever). It occurs to me that perhaps some of the people I've snarked about simply got their feelings hurt by my snarking, and maybe that's what their real issue is. That said, I cannot promise at this point to set a new course for kindness and gentleness. I sometimes feel I am being too kind anyway, and that I am wisely erring on the side of restraint if not kindness. And, obviously, when people end up dead, injured or scammed because of some New-Wage guru, kindness and gentleness towards that guru are not the first priority. Everyone deserves compassion, but I guess I'm not enough of an evolved being to have as much sympathy and empathy for James Ray at this point as I do for the families who had to deal with newly empty places at their holiday tables this year.

However, where my own snarks about certain subjects are concerned, I have taken the time to consider the hurt-feelings factor. Let's just say I'm taking it under advisement.

I'm wondering if some of the snargets and "critic watchers," or their followers, have been using these online discussions as opportunities to re-examine their own motives and practices. No doubt several of their recent blog posts were influenced by these conflicts as well as by the growing wave of criticism in the larger world. It's far more likely, however, that the conflicts have only strengthened the snargets' resolve to keep on doing what they're doing, and believing what they're believing. That's what it's looking like to me right now, based upon various Tweets and blog posts I've glanced at recently.

I am sure that to a certain degree all of us who were either involved in or have witnessed these recent conflicts have used the experience to justify our respective choices to think and do whatever it is we're thinking and doing. Some would call it rationalization. Whatever you call it, it seems to be what we human animals do, more often than not, in order to keep ourselves marginally sane in an insane world. I'm not excusing it, just stating an observation. Besides, I often suspect that we're all just fooling ourselves about being even marginally sane.

However it all plays out in the year to come, I hope all of you are having a happy holiday and that your new year is just grand – and that even goes for those of you who don't like me. To my friends on the road, and you know who you are, I wish you a safe trip and a joyful arrival at your destination. To those who like me, thank you for the support. To those who don't like me, thank you for the lessons.

And to all of you... hey, you're welcome.

PS ~The links below might provide a little more insight into the "incoherence" of your hostess. Those of you who have been with me a while have no doubt read all of these posts, but those who are fairly new might want to take a look at some of them. I'm thinking I should incorporate some of the points in the posts into a FAQ page for this blog.
And here are a couple of posts about some of the criticism I've received from different fronts in the war between belief and disbelief. As I mentioned above, I've since worked out my differences with Skeptico, the guy in the "not-so-skepchick" post. However, after a brief email exchange, I never heard back from the "hell hath no fury" correspondent. I either shook up his world or set him more firmly on the path he was already on. Either way, I am confident I provided value for him.

PPS added in 2010: My conversations with self-help insider Peter Wink (alluded to in my post above) also touch on some salient issues.

  • Conversations with Peter Wink, Part 1
  • Conversations with Peter Wink, Part 2
  • Whither Wink Wednesdays (or, Wink Wednesdays withered?)
  • Conversations with Peter Wink, Part 3
  • * Re Minor Snarget and Major Snarget: Again, this is not a value judgment. The monikers are simply an allusion to the fact that I have snarked about one of these gentlemen much more frequently than the other guy.
    ** I should note that Angry Blogger is not representative of skeptics in general (and, by his own admission, has been banned from some skeptical forums). I simply consider him to be an extreme case of anti-New-Wage sentiment.
    *** Some might think that when listing critics I am overlooking Barbara Ehrenreich, whose recent book, Bright-Sided: How The Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, had a few New-Wage gurus and their followers up in arms. Many dismissed the book as the work of someone who has lots of rage issues, and some even suggested that was why she contracted cancer. I am definitely a fan of Ehrenreich's work and I enjoy her blog, but I didn't list her with the others because she doesn't confine her commentary to New-Wage/selfish-help matters. (Of course it could be argued that Orac doesn't either, but he has discussed some of the New-Wage gurus, such as Deepak Chopra, at length, so I included him on the list.)
    **** I was a writer, editor and author's advocate before I was a snarky blogger, and believe it or not, I even tried to be an author's advocate of sorts for Major Snarget when I noticed a borderline-insulting author's biography on the web site of the publisher of one of his recent books. It was lifted straight from a particularly unflattering incarnation of the man's now-defunct Wikipedia page. Why would a publisher allow such a thing? I wondered. Does this publisher or his webmaster dislike Major Snarg that much? Since Major Snarg had put me on his spam blocker, I couldn't send an email to him, so I sent one to his assistant. There was no response so I sent another one. There was still no response, and the entry stayed on the web site for several more weeks. Finally I sent an email to someone else in Major Snarg's circle of influence, and the entry was corrected not long after.

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    Thursday, December 24, 2009

    I'm still here...I'm just in a holidaze

    I just wanted to pop in on this merry Christmas Eve and let you know, in case you were concerned, that my Whirled is still turning. Yes, it's been nearly three weeks since I've posted, and right now I am kind of preoccupied with some holiday-ish stuff, but don't worry, I haven't forgotten you, Dear Ones. I hope all of you are having a delightful holiday, and I'll be back soon... perhaps even as early as Boxing Day.

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    Friday, December 04, 2009

    Illuminutty: the secret brotherhood of the chronically gullible


    "I have free rein. I can sell whatever I want because I'm protected by the First Amendment. I can sell a book that says the moon is made of cheese, and it should be protected by the First Amendment."
    ~Kevin Trudeau,
    quoted on Mitch Lipka's WalletPop blog
    Note: I have modified part of this post slightly since I first published it on December 4. In this piece I quote from the sales pages for Kevin Trudeau's "Your Wish Is Your Command" CD set, but some of the copy on the pages has changed in the two weeks since I first wrote the piece. Some of the items I quoted are no longer on the pages. But trust me, I didn't make them up. Just to make things easier, I'll write my annotations about the changing ad copy in this pretty color. And I might as well add this little disclaimer now: All of the sales copy I quote in this piece is subject to change, as is everything on the Interwebs. I cannot guarantee that it will still be there as I quoted it by the time you follow the links, should you choose to do so.
    ~CC, 18 December 2009

     
    Kevin Trudeau's stories just keep getting better and better. So you thought that Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale's various versions of his success story were entertaining? Well, Joe has nothing on True-dough, who recently revealed to Mr. Fire and friends at a private dinner in Wimberley, Texas, that the real secret to True-dough's success is his membership in... are you ready for this?....a secret society called The Brotherhood. (This may or may not be The Brotherhood Kevin is talking about. I'm too lazy to really research it. But that's not the main point of this piece anyway.)

    I have to wonder what True-dough will come up with next: perhaps the revelation that he has been receiving coded messages from the Pleiades since he was a child? Or that he discovered a lost tribe of sparkly blue people during his world travels, and they are the ones who truly possess the wisdom of the ages, which they taught to him and him alone? (He can always accuse James Cameron of stealing his idea.) Or maybe the startling confession that when he was in prison in the 1990s, someone slipped him some ancient secret scrolls from the Lemurians who dwell beneath Mount Shasta? (Actually, when he was in prison he did meet a guy, a former cocaine dealer named Jules Lieb, who became a joint-venture partner with him after the two men got out of da joint. Said JV was a company called Nutrition for Life, for which he and Jules were later sued by the State of Illinois for operating an illegal pyramid scheme.)

    Actually, True-dough has been telling some form of the "secret society" tale for a few years now, at least since 2006 if not before, as evidenced on this piece on Dr. Stephen Barrett's Quackwatch site. But it was only recently that True-dough revealed his secret society connections to Mr. Fire, who then eagerly shared it with his mailing list.

    Anyway, I digress. The story True-dough tells really doesn't matter any more. He clearly believes that from a First-Amendment standpoint it doesn't matter if he tells the truth or not, and from a marketing standpoint "truth" is apparently even less important. It appears that no matter how outrageous his tales become, people will still line up to give him their money. And he knows it.

    Increasingly, lesser but endlessly ambitious hustledorks are grabbing on to his coattails as well, hoping to get a huge piece of a half-baked but nevertheless heartily substantial pie. Regarding True-dough's present big scheme, well, don't say you didn't see this one coming. I know I did, as far back as January of this year, and then again in July. And by late November, the signs were unmistakable (okay, on those last two links you'll have to scroll down a little to get to the truly relevant part). Then just yesterday, the aforementioned Joe Vitale sent a breathlessly excited message to his email list.*
    From: Joe Vitale
    Date: Thu, Dec 3, 2009
    Subject: Learn the Law of Attraction secrets "they" don't want you to know

    Over the past few months, I've been getting to know bestselling author and marketing legend Kevin Trudeau.
    You've probably seen his famous infomercials for his books, including Natural Cures "They" Don't Want You To Know About, More Natural Cures Revealed, Debt Cures, and The Weight Loss Cure. He is also a multimillionaire who started from scratch.
    Recently we got together for dinner here in Wimberley, TX at my private club, and I asked him how he became so wealthy and successful at such a young age - in such a short amount of time. (I was not going to let this opportunity pass me by without draining him of every bit of knowledge I could get out of him.)
    What he said next almost floored me. He said, and I quote, "I follow a set of success secrets I learned at a young age while I was in a secret society called 'The Brotherhood.' Once I learned these success secrets, the law of attraction started working for me. These are secrets that are not available to the general public."
    I was wide-eyed at hearing this.
    Now, if you've been reading Joe's stuff for any length of time, you know that he's quite often wide-eyed, astonished, riveted, hypnotized, floored, or similarly overwrought, and on more than one occasion has gotten so excited over a product or a person that his hands shake. He's a pretty excitable guy overall, almost pathologically so, and his livelihood depends upon his infecting his followers with that pathology as well.

    But this time...wow. This. Is. Beyond. Exciting.

    What is truly exciting about it from Joe's perspective (and interesting from my own perspective) is that it represents a further fusion of the New-Wage/McSpirituality bidness and traditional hucksterism. True-dough really seems to be attempting to bring Joe into his schemes, and Joe is only too glad to be a part of it all. Using one of his favorite copywriting tools, the bulleted list, he explains the allure of Kevin's secrets.
    Kevin said these secrets are so powerful, that he used them to attract:
    And much more!
    Well, I can create bulleted lists too, and here are some items Joe forgot to add to the list of things Kevin has attracted:
    But never mind all that. I'm sure Kevin himself would say that it's all good for business, especially that last item. And indeed, he has long used his battles with the government as a marketing tool, as I've noted here before.
    Excitedly, Joe continues in his email message:
    [Kevin] then told me that he recently started doing something he's never done before ---- teaching a select few people the money attracting and success secrets he learned from "The Brotherhood" and other secret societies.
    These are the exact same secrets only known by world leaders, celebrities, business leaders, royal families and other secret society members.
    These are money attracting secrets that have never been told before - until now.
    Next he reached into his briefcase and gave me a gift - a bottle of reusable laxative pills.
    Ha, ha, just kidding about those reusable laxative pills. That's another story. What True-dough really gave Mr. Fire was...
    ...a set of his 14-CD program new called -"Your Wish Is Your Command". [link provided]
    The program comes in two parts.
    1. Your Wish Is Your Command/How To Manifest Your Desires
    2. How Anyone Can Make Millions/The Money Making Secrets "They" Don't Want You To Know About
    Kevin told me that "Your Wish Is Your Command" contains a 2-day weekend lecture he gave a few months ago to an invitation-only audience. Each attendee paid over $11,000 to attend and hear these secrets. (!)
    I took the program home and listened to all 14 CDs over the next few days. I took pages and pages of notes and learned money making technique after money making technique. Techniques I never heard before or even knew existed. And the beauty is that not only do you learn the secrets - you will also hear Kevin's amazing rags to riches story - AND you will learn ALL of his money attracting secrets (which he will walk you through step-by-step). Secrets never released before to the general public.
    Once you know these closely guarded secrets, you too can learn to become a millionaire, improve your health, experience quality business & personal relationships, influence others, and live the life you've only dreamed of.
    I don't want to give away too much here as it is better that you hear all about "Your Wish Is Your Command" directly from Kevin.
    To learn more about "Your Wish Is Your Command" and get it for a ridiculously low price, go here -- [link provided again]
    Love,
    Joe

    Oh, my, yes, you can just feel the love from Joe. But Kevin is full of love too, and in case you have any doubt whatsoever about his altruistic motives, here's Joe again:
    PS - Kevin is making these money attracting secrets available to you for next to nothing compared to what they're worth. I mean seriously next to nothing! He's also only releasing a limited amount of Your Wish Is Your Command programs. So see below to learn more -- [link provided yet again]
    PPS - Kevin will also give you a personal invitation to join him in a "member only" wealth club that could allow you to personally meet and be mentored by some of the most successful people in the world. Don't miss this once in a lifetime oppourtunity [sic].[link provided once again (in keeping with Mr. Fire's hypnotic formula of repeating a link several times within a message)]
    So what's in it for Joe? Rest assured that he has no interest in the scheme whatsoever.
    Note: I'm not in business with Kevin and I'm not an affiliate for his program, but I *do* personally endorse his audio cds. Get them.
    Not in business with True-dough? Uh-huh. 



    I don't know much about Internet affiliate schemes, but each of those links Joe provided in his email contain an extension that I'm guessing is an identifier telling Kevin that the person was referred by Joe. If you leave off the extension entirely, you'll get to a similar but not identical page [I previously wrote that you will get to the same page, but that was incorrect.] So it's not beyond the realm of possibility that Joe is getting some sort of consideration for driving traffic to Kevin's site. Moreover, if I know anything about Joe's M.O., he doesn't do a mass mailing unless there is something in it for him. Maybe his working relationship with Kevin is structured in such a way that Joe can truthfully say that he's not technically "in business" with Kevin, but how stupid does he think we are? Perhaps he's telling the truth about not being a direct affiliate in the CD scheme, but I'm willing to bet that Joe does have a pretty big stake in the scheme for which the CD set is an upsell (more on that momentarily).

    Or at the very least, Kevin has led Joe to believe he's going to reap a multitude of benefits from said scheme. I have the strong sense that Kevin is going to make even more money on this one than he already has, and Joe...well, not so much.
     

    Even in the short term, it appears that Kevin made money merely from attending that dinner at Joe's "private club" (that would be the Vitale Cigar Bar) in Wimberley. (I can imagine Kevin paraphrasing Joe's email: "I was not going to let this opportunity go by without draining these gullible tools of every bit of scratch I could get out of them.") Here's Joe's buddy Pat O'Bryan, waxing enthusiastic on his blog about that historic session with True-dough (Pat shot a video of the momentous occasion):
    In this video, Kevin talks about what he’s learned. Some of it is pretty mind-bending. Some of it I flat out don’t believe. Some… well, I’ve made a couple of purchases since this dinner. Everybody I’ve talked to who was there has changed something about their lives -- either added supplements, changed diet, or ordered an e-pendant. I did all three.
    An e-pendant to go with your Russian Wish Dolly, Pat... that's great.**
    Okay, so what is this "Your Wish Is Your Command" program, and how much is it going to cost you, since you're not Joe Vitale and probably will not be able to get it for free? Well, let's discuss cost first. You can get it for one payment of only $299.00, or ten easy payments of $39.95 each. [Note: The price was later changed to one payment of only $297.00 or ten easy payments of $39.70 each. Why the difference? Simply because prices ending in "7" are widely considered to be more attractive to online consumers, according to the Hype-notic Marketing Playbook.]

    That's a heck of a deal, especially when you consider what "Your Wish Is Your Command" really is at its core: an elaborate upsell scheme that will give you an unprecedented opportunity to spend even more money by joining True-dough's Global Information Network (GIN) scheme, as
    previously discussed here on this very Whirled. See, Joe isn't the only one who can repeat links.

    Just for good measure, here's that Whirled link again. Hypnotic, yes?
    As for whether or not Joe is in business with Kevin (which, as you recall, he claimed he isn't), take a look at this June 2009 blog post:

    Back in America. Just had a wonderful dinner with my friend Joe Vitale and a few other mutual friends. Joe is a star from the movie and book “The Secret”. He’s an amazing guy and one of the “insiders” in the Global Information Network. Associating with people who think the right way, possessing secret knowledge, and having the results to prove it works rubs off. Joe is genuine, a giver, fun, and can help you achieve your dreams. Would you like to meet him? Join the Global Information Network and be able to meet Joe and winners like him! To sign up, you MUST type in this affiliate code: ‘KTRN’.
    But I've teased you long enough, and that's not very hypnotic. Here is the link that will lead you to the CD set revealing the secrets that Kevin himself learned in The Brotherhood. That is the link to the main sales page. (There's an affiliate version as well; type in /010 or /012 at the end of the previous link and you'll get to it.)

    On both pages Kevin mentions an exclusive workshop he held in the Swiss Alps, an event for which he says 100 folks paid upwards of $10,000 apiece to attend. On one page he describes it as an event "that changed the entire landscape of success and how to achieve literally anything in life."
    When the fireworks were over and the dust had settled just 2 days later, every person agreed that it was the most epic two days of their lives.

    They all agreed that what they paid to attend the event paled in comparison to what the information they gleaned during those two days would do in their lives. (You can read their rabid testimonials further down on this page.)
    Rabid? Well, that explains a lot.

    Okay, now, that whole "rabid" bit is one example of what I mentioned in my little prelude above. It's no longer on either version of the sales page, as far as I can see.

    Anyway, so far on that page there are only a few testimonials, and as far as I can tell these are from people who listened to the CD set, not folks who supposedly attended that exclusive summit in the Alps.

    The above is another item that has apparently changed. On the main sales page (the one without the affiliate extension), there are now quite a few "testimonials" in a section under the header, "Here's what some of the attendees said." As there is no mention of the CD set in this section, these testimonials are all presumably from people who attended that exclusive $10,000 or $11,000 (or however much it was) event in the Alps. The testimonials (which have no attributions) mention such things as, “I used the technique taught and put REAL cash in my pocket in 24 hours!!” and “I would have paid 1 million dollars for this knowledge! I own a business and with this information my profits will go up 100 fold this year! In the first week I have already increased my profits over $50,000!”
    Is it just me, or does that sound kind of small-time for people who can afford to attend an exclusive event in the Swiss Alps, taught by Kevin and a few big international tycoons and such?

    But the important point is that Kevin does indeed go on a bit about secret societies, 'splainin':
    For more than 30 years, I’ve been lucky enough to be a member of one such secret society. The ultra-secretive “Brotherhood” society. It’s [sic] members include some of the most successful people on the planet. They’re all mega-millionaires…billionaires…high-level government officials…heads of entire countries…33rd degree Freemasons (the highest ranking of all masons)…captains of industry (Andrew Carnegie and Aristotle Onassis were members of The Brotherhood)…and believe it or not, even members of Royal families.
    And here we have yet another example of changing sales copy. If you read the copy above – which I swear was on one version of the sales page when I first wrote this – you would think that Kevin has been a member of The Brotherhood for thirty years and is still a member. Since he is only 46 (having been born in February of 1963), that would mean that he has been a member of this secret society since he was sixteen. This would mean that he was a member of The Brotherhood when he was all down and out, when he was unhappy, when he was going through hard times, when he was convicted of fraud and imprisoned for two years, and so on. This would not exactly be consistent with the story he now tells on the sales page, which is that when he was younger, he was approached and invited to become a member of The Brotherhood, and he became a member, and once he became a member his luck changed almost overnight.

    Frankly, I am having a little trouble keeping his stories straight, and so, apparently, is he. Or maybe he just has some copywriting challenges. As I noted above, however, the story really doesn't seem to matter. What matters is his sheer genius, which became apparent to him soon after he joined The Brotherhood, and which he modestly describes for us:

    I studied and learned the secrets (ONLY available to members) with more passion than anyone ever had in their history! It turned out I was gifted with the unique ability, much like Einstein, at “crunching” or simplifying complex concepts and making them easy to understand and apply. I totally integrated the “secrets” into my whole being and life! I APPLIED and USED this powerful, never before published, knowledge in my own REAL LIFE!
    By the way, on the main sales page Kevin now promises that he will explain why he was chosen for The Brotherhood, and why he chose to leave the 'Hood.
    Remember, I WAS a member of the “Brotherhood” secret society! I am NO LONGER a member! I LEFT! NOBODY has EVER left the society! NO ONE has EVER shared their secrets! Many powerful people are FURIOUS that I am exposing and revealing the SECRETS of one of the most powerful secret societies of all time! (Again, I’ll tell you why I left later.)

    Well, I sure was interested in hearing that story. But I scanned the copy and couldn't find either an explanation of why he was invited in the first place or an explanation of why he left. In all fairness, he didn't specify how much later he would 'splain. Perhaps his copywriters are still working on that part of the tale.

    Of note, Kevin also throws the majority of New-Wage/selfish-help authors under the bus, referring to the classics and bestsellers in the genre as "the Amazon.com list of shame":
    You may have even heard about bestselling books like The Secret, Think and Grow Rich, Ask and It is Given, Rich Dad Poor Dad and others that promise to teach you how to make millions, be happy, and manifest all your desires. They have been talked about on Oprah, CNN, NBC, The Today Show, and written about in Time Magazine, The New York Times and hundreds of other publications. Major celebrities, famous billionaires, and members of Royal Families (all members of secret societies) have admitted to using the information in these books to achieve riches and fame. Please!
    These books are good, but all of them miss the most important secret key ingredient that makes the information REALLY work FAST. This is why people never get the results they seek.
    All of these books miss one thing that has been PURPOSELY OMITTED – and this key ingredient makes all the difference.
    To prove my point, just type “personal success” into Amazon.com and you’ll find thousands of books written on how to make/attract more money or how to be a success in every area of your life. 99.9% of these people are usually copying other people’s information or writing useless theories. Most of these author’s lives are in shambles and they have no money to speak of. And I know this is a fact because I know many of them!
    THESE SO-CALLED GURUS ARE RIPPING PEOPLE OFF – perhaps it even happened to you. They are crushing the hopes, dreams and goals of millions of people. I know this is true because I’ve been there. I read all the popular success and money making books – I attended all the latest and greatest get-rich-quick seminars. And you know what? None of them did me any good. Why? Because I was being taught the wrong information by the wrong people. Information gathered by people from other people with bad information. I’ve never seen two wrongs make a right and I’m sure you haven’t either.
    Once I finally learned the right information from the Brotherhood, billionaires, the politically elite, captains of industry and the members of the Illuminati, Freemasons, The Skull and Bones and other secret societies, I cracked the success code.
    And now I live an exciting, fun and free life filled with financial wealth and happiness.
    In case you are still not convinced and are prepared to dismiss the copy as mere hype, Kevin begs you, for your own good, to reconsider.
    Please do not discount what I’m saying here. The strategies I revealed at this groundbreaking event are absolutely not theory. They’ve worked unfailingly for the thousands of lucky members in these secret societies. They’ve worked unfailingly in my life.
    I went from a defeated, unsuccessful, high school dropout with more than $100,000 in credit card debts to living in some of the most affluent communities in the world. I’ve driven expensive cars like Rolls Royce‘s, Bentley’s and Ferrari‘s. I own a number of different, wildly successful businesses that routinely make tens of millions of dollars for me year in and year out.
    These strategies worked for me…they’ve worked for the billionaire friends I brought along to teach their words of wisdom at the event…they’ve worked for untold thousands of members who huddle together in secret societies like the Skull and Bones…The Brotherhood…The Freemasons…and others. And they will work unfailingly for you, too.
    The PS on the page will sound pretty familiar to anyone who has read Joe Vitale's sales copy:
    PS -- What if I’m right? What if this time next year your dreams of wealth, health, success, and personal happiness and bliss have come true? Getting your hands on this breakthrough material will have been the smartest move you’ve ever made, right?
    Shades of "What if it works?" Geez, all of these hypnotic copywriters sure do write hypnotically, don't they? I guess that's why they make the big bucks.

    Once again: disappeared...poof! I can't find that darned PS on either version of the page now. Go figure.

    A few other items of note on Kevin's main sales page. In one portion he has a list of the incredible things that happened once he applied what he calls the "5 second miracle," which, of course, he learned from The Brotherhood, and will teach you too, for a price. He said that things began to turn around for him almost overnight. Within days, he was dating beautiful sexy women. He soon got out of debt, and started making more money than he could ever have dreamed, and he got really healthy and lost weight, and had luxury cars and homes, and began traveling, and heck, was just "living a stress-free, magical life!" And here are some other things that started happening to him:
    I could even begin seeing the future and started predicting events with uncanny accuracy!
    I also felt he [sic] could “read minds” and felt totally in control of all situations and people.
    My confidence was at an all time high and I had no fear in my life!
    I have since made MILLIONS and have enjoyed a lifestyle that most people could not even imagine.
    Notice that third-person pronoun in the second item? Either Kevin is having a multiple-personality experience, or he's talking about someone else, or his copywriters forgot to edit the copy they lifted from elsewhere. Tsk, tsk. Well, I imagine that copy will change too, as soon as his people get around to reading this blog post.

    The major theme running through the "Your Wish Is Your Command" gimmick, and for that matter all of Kevin's body of work over the past fifteen years or so, is that there is a wealth of information out there, but "the elite" (or big government or big Pharma or Western medicine or what have you) are all deliberately withholding this info from the masses in order to keep them in a subservient role. As we know, this marketing strategy worked for Rhonda Byrne, having formed the bedrock of the promotions for The Secret, but Kevin's mastery of the forbidden-information angle puts Rhonda's puny little efforts to shame.

    The forbidden-info theme has been embraced not only in the New-Wage bidness that Kevin reviles on one hand but exploits on the other, but on various wingnutty forums as well, such as that of radio host Alex Jones, another one of True-dough's b.f.f.'s. The following is from an article not written by Jones, but appearing on his web site:
    Billionaire entrepreneur Kevin Trudeau, who has been constantly harassed and sued by the FTC for promoting alternative health treatments, told The Alex Jones Show yesterday that elitists and Bilderberg members who he had personally conversed with spoke of their desire to see “two thirds of the dumb people” wiped off the planet...
    ...Trudeau shockingly detailed conversations with elitists during which they brazenly admitted their desire for massive global population reduction.
    “I’ve been sitting on the boats off the coast of Barbados with the guys who basically said we need to get two-thirds of the dumb people off the planet – I’ve been in the meetings,” said Trudeau, adding that such words were not spoken in an evil manner, but in a “matter of fact” way under the pretext that such a thing would be for the good of planet earth.
    Revealingly, Trudeau said that elitists see Alex Jones as an annoyance but tolerate him because they believe Jones as well as Trudeau himself are, “desensitizing people to these realities,” – which in a way works to their benefit.
    “I’ve been told that’s why I still get invited on the yachts,” added Trudeau.
    Kevin, of course, is fiercely fighting the elitists' plans to eliminate dumb people, knowing that he has to protect and preserve his customer base. I imagine this is mighty reassuring to the dumb or the merely gullible, but even more compelling is Kevin's reassurance that despite the claims of the naysayers (Duff McDuffee, for example), anyone can "have it all":
    Well, here’s good news. You can have it all. You can live in a beautiful home in an affluent community. You can drive the car of your dreams. You can wear expensive, stylish clothes. You can be tearfully happy. You can be the rich and successful person God intended you to be. In short, you can live your life…on your terms! You can have, be, or do whatever your heart desires.
    How? By getting your hands on the recordings of the blockbusting event I held in Switzerland…
    Now, even assuming that Kevin's motives are altruistic (stop snickering and work with me here for a moment, okay?), let's take a look at what he says on the site for his really BIG scheme, the Global Information Network, or GIN. If you didn't follow the links to that site in my previous post about this scheme, do so now. On the "Who We Are" page, Trudeau notes:
    The Creed of the Global Information Network is:
    • Every person on earth has the right to know all the knowledge available on planet earth
    • Every person on earth has the right to pursue happiness
    • Every person on earth has the right to be free to pursue his own dreams, goals, and desires
    • Every person on earth has the right to know ALL the methods of curing and preventing disease and have dynamic vibrant health.
    • Every person on earth has the right to know how to use their mind to create and manifest in their lives whatever they choose
    • Every person on earth has the right to privacy from all governments and corporate entities
    • Every person on earth has the right to be happy, secure, safe, and fulfilled as a human being
    • Every person on earth has the same importance as every other person
    • Every person on earth can have, be or do anything they desire
    • The privileged elite class has NO right to hide the truth from the masses and keep them as virtual slaves
    • Freedom of speech, freedom to express ideas, opinions, and what individuals believe to be statements of fact even if it is against worldwide consensus should never be impeded.
    And then there's this...
    The Global Information Network’s goal is to be the worldwide communication center that will spread previously secret and hidden knowledge that has been used by the ruling classes to keep the world uninformed, full of fear, impoverished and enslaved.
    By educating the world with this secret data, The Global Information Network hopes to empower people to have, be or do everything and anything they desire. By doing so, happiness will increase, fear will fall away, people will become more prosperous than ever before, poverty, slavery, and despair will begin to vanish from the planet and violence and wars will cease to exist on planet earth.
    I have one question: If everyone on the planet has the right to this information, and every person on earth has the same importance as every other person...well, since it's clear that not everyone can afford to join GIN and climb the ranks of membership, why doesn't Kevin just make all of the information freely available to everyone, with no membership levels, no fees, no sign-ups? Why doesn't he simply publish all of that information on an easily accessible web site? Why create an "elite" group at all? After all, he's said himself that he doesn't need any more money because he already has plenty.

    While you're pondering that question, here's another: Just how much does it cost to be a member of Kevin's exclusive group? That one I can answer ...well, sort of. Check out the "Levels of Membership" page, if you've not done so already. There are twelve levels of membership, starting with Level 1. To be a Level 1 member requires a $1,000 "initiation fee," with $150 monthly dues. For that you get "Access to Membership Level 1 sections of the GIN web site." Other benefits are "classified." As for the remaining eleven levels, both the costs and benefits are listed as "classified."

    How do you make money as a GIN member, possibly enabling you to live the life of luxury Kevin himself brags about? I quoted and linked to this page on my previous GIN post, but here 'tis again.
    For everyone you get to join GIN as a member, or another way of saying it, for everyone you get to buy a membership in GIN, you are paid $200 commission. If you get just 5 people to join GIN as a member, you make $1000. That covers your initial membership dues. If you get 10 people to join GIN as a member, you make $2000. If you get 100 people to join GIN as a member you make $20,000. Anytime and every time you get someone to become a member in GIN you earn $200 commission. Because of the experts that are behind the GIN opportunity and their unparalleled successful track record generating over 100 Billion dollars in sales worldwide, we have insider marketing secrets using the internet and mass media marketing that can help you to potentially get many people to join as new GIN members. WE will provide you with all the secrets that can teach you how some members have signed up as many as 1000 new GIN members in just 60 days earning over $400,000 in just 60 days!
    With the power of our specialized and proprietary marketing techniques, you could be earning thousands of dollars a month on this single bonus!
    But that is just the beginning. Every person you sign up or “sponsor” is “tagged” to you, and has the same commission plan as you and all the same incentives and money making opportunities. The people you sign up or sponsor want to make money too! They will be taught how THEY can go and sell memberships, sponsor, or sign people up as members in GIN. When they sign up a new member or sell a membership they of course make their $200 commission just as you did when you signed up a new GIN member, but YOU ALSO get $200 on all the new members THEY get to join GIN!
    Is this a pyramid scheme? Well, if it looks like a duck... The point is probably moot anyway, since GIN is a company based on the West Indies isle of Nevis, presumably beyond the bounds of US law. (And do follow that link in the previous sentence; it will give you much more insight about Nevis as a business paradise than I am providing here.) More importantly for Kevin, there are probably boatloads of folks whose eyes will be on the imagined prize, and they won't care about those picky little details.

    To sweeten the GIN mix even more for the chronically gullible, True-dough has cooked up a tale of a "GIN Council," a group of 29 other ultra-successful, ultra-elite billionaires who co-founded GIN with him and are on the advisory board. The clear implication is that if you advance far enough in GIN (i.e., if you give put enough money into this seekrit klub), you may even be able to hang around some of these elites yourself.

    "And educated grownups actually believe this drivel?!?" some of you may be asking.

    But fear not: there's still hope for the human race. When it comes to True-dough, there are plenty of doubters (I know, I know, he welcomes the controversy). Look at some of the comments on this discussion that took place in March 2009 on one of his own forums, apparently in relation to a mail-out advertising that famous "new" CD set he Joe Vitale is now pushing. (If it's not the same set, it nonetheless makes use of the "Secret Brotherhood" motif and apparently costs the same as that set.)
    And, of course, scads of bloggers are doubters as well, such as Stupid Evil Bastard

    These are all well and good, but I'm thinking that maybe it's time for a parody of that dinner in Wimberley, on the order of this small classic, which I've also linked to previously but loved it so much that I am linking to it again: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UT5tIfJPFS0

    I don't know about you, but while True-dough wrings every bit of profit he can from the Secret Brotherhood/GIN Council theme, I am eagerly awaiting his next tall tale. Maybe he can hire me to make something up for him. I am pretty creative, and the same rich mines of inspiration that nourish this blog could certainly enrich Kevin's ad copy. Meanwhile, you'll have to excuse me. It's time for me to prepare for a private meeting of the Secret Society of Snarky Bloggers and Knowledgeable Informants. There's a lot brewing, more than I could possibly tell you in one post... but I'm going to make you wait for it.

    PS ~ While you're waiting, if you want to kill some time on a blog written by someone who knows a lot more about Internet marketing and Internet marketers than I do, pay a visit to Salty Droid's blog. The language is not for those with delicate sensibilities, but if you don't have a problem with that, you'll have a good time with SD, who is on a mission to expose the scams and the scammers.

    PPS ~ And on a related note, here's a great article about Internet "gurus" and the law, as well as an article from the same site that illuminates "pig sty marketing." My only complaint re the latter is that it sort of insults the pig, an animal I've grown rather fond of since I've been living out in the sticks. (Thanks to Burned By Fire for the Tweets leading me to these).

    PPPS ~ Okay, I see the GoogleAd at the top of this post. Not my doing; blame the Adbots.

    PPPPS ~ Speaking of entertaining tales, a friend reminded me of some information about Kevin True-dough that I had linked to in a previous post but that I think bears linking to again. First, here's a 2005 article about how True-dough got started on a path of crime (I mean, "mistakes"). Good golly, it seems that it all had to do with his being adopted and his adoptive parents not being completely forthright with him about it. Second, there is a 12-page "Smoking Gun" piece entitled, "Would You Buy A Used Cure From This Man?" It's quite revealing. What I found most interesting: A three-page April 1991 letter from a psychiatrist pleading True-dough's case to the authorities (here's the link to page 1; each page has its own link). The letter features classic shrink-rap rationalizations such as: "Mr. Trudeau's drive to succeed has been so intense that it has on numerous occasions impaired his judgment," and "His offenses have stemmed from an inappropriate urgency to succeed..." Another classic: a six-page missive from Mama, pleading leniency (and again, here's the link to the first page of that letter).
    Am I the only one in the room who has an urge to break out singing, "Gee, Officer Krupke" from West Side Story? (Lyrics here, if you don't want to watch the vid.) That last line in particular seems to mirror True-dough's own attitude towards the authorities that have tried to squelch his ambitions.
    PPPPPS ~ This December 14 post on the AlterNet blog does a good job of 'splainin' our perennial fascination with "secret societies."

    Update, 19 February 2010 ~ As you may know, there's more trouble in True-dough Paradise, and once again he's fighting to stay out of jail. He was found in contempt of court earlier this month after urging his followers to send supportive emails to a judge, Robert Gettleman, who was hearing his FTC case (you know, the one where the FTC fined him $37 million, which True-dough has declared he is "never going to pay"). Judge Gettleman's computer and BlackBerry were shut down as a result of being deluged with emails from indignant True-dough fans, and some of the sharper tools in the shed actually sent threats to the judge. Oops! Following the contempt charge, True-dough issued an apology, saying the email campaign was "a mistake," and urging his followers not to email the judge after all. Still, he had to surrender his passport and may be facing a month in the slammer.
    But the unstoppable True-dough sent this email out to his supporters on February 18, a mere week after all of that contempt nonsense:
    Dear [Name],
    Thank you for listening and supporting the Kevin Trudeau Radio show. As a supporter of my radio show, I think you are special.
    I'm writing to you today, to share some information about an opportunity that could change your life dramatically within the next 90 days.
    If you are lucky, maybe once in your lifetime, a day will come where you will have the chance to get in on the ground floor of a moneymaking opportunity that can almost guarantee your success!
    Today is that day.
    In 1996, I launched a multi-level marketing business opportunity.
    The company was publicly traded on NASDAQ with a stock price of just 50 cents. In about 18 months, an estimated 200,000 people joined me in this MLM program. Gross sales exceeded $250,000,000. The stock price went to $35.
    Many people that joined with me in the beginning made millions. I bet you wish you were one of the lucky people I invited to join me at the very beginning of that amazing launch.
    I am writing to you now to announce that I'm doing it again!
    This time, myself and over 30 of my very wealthy friends from around the world, are launching a brand new ground floor opportunity of a lifetime...The Global Information Network (GIN).
    The Global Information Network is a private exclusive club. It is a members-only organization. It is by invitation only. It helps its members create wealth and financial freedom.
    I'm personally inviting you to join and become a member of The Global Information Network.
    This private member-only organization can help you achieve wealth and have, be or do everything and anything you've ever desired....
    ...For the first time in history, an opportunity of this type is being launched all over the world at the same time. This is totally ground floor. This is brand new. You are among the very first people to be hearing about this. Already in just the last few months, people have joined as members of the Global Information Network in over 100 countries. Those who get in on the ground floor of these types of opportunities are said to have the chance to make the most money...
    ...90 days from today you could be making more money than you ever imagined.
    This is the most revolutionary membership organization and moneymaking opportunity I've ever seen. Nothing like this has ever been done before. It has a multi-level marketing twist that could make this the fastest growing organization of its kind, of all time.
    The most amazing part of this system is that you never have to bug friends, relatives, neighbors or coworkers. In fact, you virtually never have to talk to anyone. You could potentially make hundreds of thousands of dollars in your underwear, without ever leaving your house.
    Remember, this just started a few months ago. I have met with members all around the world. This is the real deal. You can get in at the beginning of the beginning. This is a totally ground floor once in a lifetime opportunity. I believe millionaires will come out of the GIN membership faster than any other organization of its kind...ever.
    In just the last few months, people are already making huge money. One member made over $148,200 his first month and $288,600 in his second...
    ...You could be potentially developing a permanent monthly residual income. You could achieve financial freedom and independence. Imagine making $5000, $10,000, $20,000 or even $50,000 per month, without ever leaving your home.
    This is not a get rich quick scheme and there are no guarantees. Review all the information for yourself. ...
    ...The membership benefits of the Global Information Network are something that up until now have been reserved for the privileged elite class.
    The moneymaking component of the Global Information Network is simple, powerful and works.
    ...Submit your membership application today. You must use affiliate code... and you must sign up by Friday, February 19th, 2010.
    Once you sign up as a member, I will show you exactly how one member made over $400,000 in 90 days. What he did was simple. I will show you how he did it.
    Plus, because I really want you to achieve all of your dreams, I will be teaching a one-day seminar on May 8th in Chicago entitled "How Anyone Can Make Millions: The Moneymaking Secrets They Don't Want You to Know About." I will tell you exactly what I did to generate over 3 billion dollars in sales worldwide. These are moneymaking secrets I have never revealed before. The tickets for this event will be $5000 each. If you become a member of the Global Information Network by Friday, February 19th, 2010, you will get a ticket to this event absolutely free. If for some reason you cannot go to the event live, I will send you the audio recording of the event, so you can still get all the information presented.
    Become a member of the Global Information Network today and start making all your dreams come true.
    You can do it! I believe in you! Remember, don't let anyone steal your dreams and I will see you on the beaches of the world.
    Whew.

    Notice that he sent the email out on the 18th of February, and the deadline for getting the really good deal (e.g., the "free ticket" to the $5,000 May event) is the 19th.

    But that's not the main point. Let's backtrack a bit and revisit that marvelous 1996 MLM scheme he mentioned towards the beginning of the letter. This little gem is from a page on that notorious "hater" site, Skepdic, but maybe there's a bit of truth in it anyway.The page is a few years old, but the relevant information about the 1996 scheme is there.
    Presumably, Nutrition for Life International Inc. (NFLI) knew about Trudeau's past when it took him on as a business partner. NFLI, an MLM outfit specializing in such things as shark cartilage capsules and other equally beneficial nutritional supplies went into bankruptcy in 2003,* but not before making Trudeau and some other investors very rich.
    In less than 10 months, Kevin Trudeau and his marketing organization have persuaded some 15,000 people to plunk down more than $1,000 apiece for a highly touted opportunity to sell products.
    The 32-year-old recruiter's delighted business partner, has already granted Mr. Trudeau so many stock options that he has a paper profit of more than $11 million. (Emshwiller 1996)
    NFLI, which at one time traded on the NASDAQ for $35 a share, had sales of over $32 million in 1995. Then trouble hit:
    On Aug. 23, 1996, a class action lawsuit was filed in the District Court of Harris County, Texas, on behalf of purchasers of the common stock and common stock purchase warrants of Nutrition for Life International, Inc. (NFLI) during the period July 11, 1995 through July 16, 1996, inclusive (the Class Period). The complaint charges NFLI, certain of its officers and directors, the lead underwriters of its July 11, 1995 offering of stock and warrants, and a major marketer/distributor Kevin Trudeau and the Trudeau Marketing Group Inc. (collectively Trudeau) with violations of Texas statutory and common law, by, among other things, misrepresenting and/or omitting material information concerning NFLI's business, marketing efforts, sales and earnings during the Class Period (07/11/1995 through 07/11/1996). In August 1997, the case settled. The company agreed to pay $2,000,000 in cash to individuals who purchased common stock and warrants during the class period. The company also agreed to pay the plaintiffs attorney fees up to $600,000.00.*
    Even so, some people are still recruiting for NFLI. And Trudeau is still going strong...

    Meanwhile, True-dough's legions of fans continue to indignantly defend him, claiming that the real bad guys in this situation are the government, Big Pharma, the medical profession, the mainstream media, the critics, and so forth. Same song, different verse.
    Another update, 2 March 2010: I finally got a chance to watch True-dough's latest infomercial for his "Your Wish Is Your Command" CD set a couple of nights ago. Here's a link to a scathing review of the infomercial, with embedded vids so you can watch it yourself.

    Among the highlights I'd noticed while watching the infomercial in my half-asleep state, and later confirmed by visiting the site I inked to in the paragraph above:
    • KT repeatedly says he is now offering the CD set for 70 % off the regular price, but he never mentions what the regular price is. Folks watching the infomercial who don't have Internet access or don't feel like going online can only find out the price by calling the toll-free number (be sure you have your credit card handy!). And as you know if you've done any research at all on KT, people are constantly complaining about calling those numbers to order one KT product and getting signed up for some forced-continuity deal from which it is nearly impossible to extract themselves. It remains to be seen if the new (as of December 2009) FTC regs will slow this down at all.
    • KT says more than once that there are two types of people: those who are happy like he is, and "losers." He says that if you're unhappy with your own life and you don't buy his CD set, that means you're a loser. (Shades of that radio interview he had with Mr. Fire last July.)
    • He mentions that The Secret was inspired by Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich, but Rhonda Byrne has most often credited Wallace Wattles' The Science of Getting Rich. As he did in the copy on the web pages, though, in the infomercial True-dough pretty much throws all self-help authors under the bus. And why shouldn't he? After all, True-dough alone has the missing secret to real and lasting success.
    • Although he'd previously been a bit cagey about exactly when he was a member of the "secret society" that supposedly formed some of the basis of the info in the CD set, in this infomercial he says he was a member from 1975 to 1999. Well, he was born in 1963, which means he was only twelve when he joined the Brotherhood. Wow, what a prodigy! In addition, he was in prison a couple of years for fraud in the early 1990s (a fact that I think he forgot to mention on the infomercial), so, clearly, being a member of that secret society didn't keep him out of the joint.
    For me, all of this just raises the question: Is anyone in True-dough's operation paying any attention at all to these inconsistencies? Or does KT simply not care, because he is banking on the fact that the majority of his audience won't bother to do any research, or will be too drunk or stoned or otherwise medicated, or simply sleep-addled, when they're watching his infomercials to do anything but pick up the phone and give someone that credit card number?

    As far as "losers" are concerned, I think that blogger Paul Lucas, who wrote the infomercial review I linked to above, was spot-on in his comments about the patently absurd promo video for True-dough's big product, the Global Information Network (this vid is also available on the infomercial review page):

    Mr. Trudeau, I would like to humbly suggest an alternative definition for a “loser” than the one you have offered. A loser is someone who listens to the above pitch for the Global Information network and imagines he’s going to be some sort of James Bond, hobnobbing with Ernst Stavro Blofeld and Auric Goldfinger over martinis inside some subterranean lair deep beneath the Swiss Alps.

    Please tell me that people aren't really stupid enough to fall for those outlandish promises delivered in a phony accent. Or...wait...maybe it's all just a joke and Kevin is merely waiting for the rest of us to "get it." Yeah, that has to be it.

    By the way, a tip of the tinfoil hat to Paul Lucas, who was way ahead of me on the Kevin True-dough/secret society connections (I just "discovered" him yesterday, March 1, while looking for links to True-dough's latest infomercial). Here's a link to a June 2009 post of his, "Kevin Trudeau Becomes a Colonel in the Tin-foil Hat Brigade." At the end of his posts are links to others on the same topic. Happy reading!
     
    Yet another update, 19 August 2010: The delightful Smoking Gun blog ("serving the best stupid news and 5 fresh dumb criminals each week!") posted a piece on August 16 about True-dough. Not that True-dough is dumb by any means, but some of the things he writes most assuredly are. While the author mentions that Kevin has yet to pay a penny of his eight-figure fine to the FTC,*** the piece mainly focuses on some of the quirky internal memoranda that Kevin has distributed to his employees over the years. Most notable, IMO: His emphatic endorsement of Scientology (click on pic for enlargement).

    * Thank you to several alert readers who sent me the heads-up on Mr. Fire's latest True-dough email. By the way, Joe also published a blog post entitled "Kevin Trudeau's Secret Wish" on the same day he sent the email. And as it happens, Joe kind of answers the question I asked above, regarding why Kevin is charging for the Secret Information that everyone supposedly has an inborn right to possess, instead of just making it freely accessible on the Internet. Joe 'splains it thusly: "He's committed to making a difference in the world. He wants to make a profit while doing so, but that's the entrepreneurial mindset." Okey-dokey, now I understand. By the way, the meta-tag title on Joe's blog post (the title that appears at the top of the screen) is, "The Kevin Trudeau They Don't Want You To Know." Of course, this is a play on several of True-dough's book titles, but more than that, it is also an implication that the big bad "They" don't want you to know that in truth Kevin True-dough is a passionate, sincere man who only wants to help make this old world a better place.
    ** Okay, I don't know for certain if Kevin benefited directly from sales of the E-pendant or, for that matter, any of the supplements that the attendees at the private dinner felt inspired to begin taking. I just suspect that because Kevin is involved in numerous companies, and seems to have very specific recommendations for just about anything that ails you, it's highly plausible that he would indeed benefit in some way when people follow his recommendations. It appears to me that, like Joe Vitale, he rarely does anything unless there's something in it for him.
    *** Apparently Kevin has no intention of paying his fines, instead electing to play the role of freedom-of-speech martyr to the hilt. He even devotes major space on his main web site to begging his followers to send him money to help pay his legal bills.

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