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Gullible people who believe Donald Trump may also believe the snake oil salespeople pushing worthless products like Prevagen
It takes self-awareness, critical thinking, and real effort to counter untrue propaganda.
By Hal Brown
This is a revised version of the story I posted on Daily Kos on April 18, 2021
The Strickler ad is the bottom row, third from left.
If you watch MSNBC as many of my blog readers do, and have a decent memory, you may recognize the name Robert Strictler. He’s one of the people who appeared in ads for Prevagen which is supposed to improve memory in people over 50. There are lots of the people giving paid testimonials ( see how many you recognize here, trivia points for each one). The ads featuring Strickler was running to be running on almost every evening MSNBC show when I first wroter this.
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If you haven’t seen the commercials they are all pretty much like this one.
It should be a no-brainer (pun intended) that if there was a medication that actually improved memory in seniors, or anybody for that matter, it would be a boon to humanity. Everyone would be taking it.
So what’s the deal with Robert Strictler with his dulcet baritone, and all the other incredibly healthy looking people, touting how this pill improved their memories? Should you believe them? (I think I answered that in my illustration.)
Prevagen is marketed as a brain supplement supposedly based on a discovery coming from analyzing jellyfish. This could convince the gullible. They say it contains a protein called apoaequorin, which is made by some jellyfish that luminesce.
I mean, why not, it makes jellyfish glow so why should’t it light up your brain? The jelly fish kind of looks like a human brain.
Brilliant marketing, eh what?
He’s either lying and making the commercials for money, or actually thinks it has improved his memory. I won’t rule out the possibility that he’s a true believer and making money is a bonus. The placebo effect is very powerful.
Does it really work aside from a placebo effect. The simple answer is no. You can reach this conclusion with a simple DuckDuckGo web search of Prevagen hoax or real.
You’ll find articles like this from a 2017 NBC News article:
There are numerous articles like this including this one from a Harvard Medical School newsletter: FDA curbs unfounded memory supplement claims.
Now lets do another DuckDuckGo search. Here’s what you’ll find if you search the following:
The top article that comes up actually has the title of my Internet search.
Here’s an excerpt from this article that references both dietary supplements and how Donald Trump exploited the gullibility of a large segment of the public.
Gullibility in public life
Gullibility and credulity have become important issues as a deluge of raw, unverified information is readily available online.
Consider of how fake news during the US presidential election influenced voters.
Stories that generate fear and promote a narrative of corrupt politicians and media can be particularly effective. In Europe, Russian websites “reported” numerous false stories designed to undermine the EU and to bolster support for extreme right-wing parties.
Credulity and gullibility are also of great commercial importance when it comes to marketing and advertising. For example, much brand name advertising subtly appeals to our need for social status and identity. Yet, we obviously cannot acquire real status or identity just by buying an advertised product.
Even water, a freely available colourless, tasteless, transparent liquid is now successfully marketed as an identity product, a multi-billion dollar industry built mostly on misleading advertising and gullibility. Dietary supplements are another large industry exploiting gullibility.
There's a sucker born every minute
This is a phrase closely associated with P.T. Barnum though there’s no actual evidence he ever said it. Wikipedia
I’d say that with the birth rate in the United States now being a baby being born every eight seconds (Reference) there are currently many more suckers than merely one being born here every minute.
Con artists probably have uttered these words as they laughed all the way to the bank. Not to assume Trump ever said these words I wouldn't be surriosed if he thought about it as turned lying into an art form. I would expect that those working on his campaign either said it or thought it.
Another quote which is apropos when considering how gullible people are has been attributed to Abraham Lincoln but it is also unclear whether he ever said it:
“You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” Reference
All I can say about the future of America is that whether Lincoln said this or not, I damn well hope it is true since it appears that about 40% of the voting public believe Trumpian lies. These number have been holding true since I originally wrote this
I hope that number of gullible people who swallow the scare tactics from the hard right hook, line, and sinker never gets high enough to turn us into the kind of country the likes of Trump and his minions want it to be.
I am not sure of the authorities of the FDA and the FTC and how they intersect or overlap when it comes to regulation or possible banning the advertising claims of supplements. This is the authority of the FDA for supplements. They say that “a firm is responsible for determining that the dietary supplements it manufactures or distributes are safe and that any representations or claims made about them are substantiated by adequate evidence to show that they are not false or misleading.”
I think the FDA which is a scientific body should do a rigorous review of research used by the manufacturers of supplements to make their claims, or commission their own studies. Then if appropriate the either the FDA or the FTC could issue the ban.
There’s another three letter government entity, a commission and not an agency, which is relevant in this discussion, the FEC. The is the Federal Election Commission. They seem to be a toothless tiger when it comes to keeping our elections honest. See “Senate confirms new members and restores power to long-hobbled Federal Election Commission” from 2020.
I suspect that those taking advantage of the payouts ordered by the FTC never reach the predicted amounts (see “Prevagen Payouts Could Reach Tens of Millions of Dollars Due to False Advertising” ) because even if those who purchased the product hear about it not that many will go to the trouble of submitting a claim. Even if they learn of the settlement they need proof of purchase and only are eligible to receive 30 percent of the retail cost of Prevagen, with the total not to exceed $70. How many people have proof of purchase and will bother making the claim to get a maximum of $70?
Note that the original FTC false advertising charge was issued in 2012 and the payouts weren’t ordered until 2020. It seems to me that a company that has made hundred of millions selling a bogus health supplement doesn’t care about paying out tens of millions to consumers anyway.
The only way I can see of protecting gullible consumers is to ban such advertising.
Dr. Zach Bush who made a case against getting vaccinated for Covid to his many followers when the vaccine first came out. This year we have RFK Jr. spinning similar dangerous lies about vaccines.
Well known medical doctors like Dr. Oz who promotes pseudoscience have a significant following but lesser known ones like Zach Bush promoted false claims to a gullible audience not only about various health subjects but dangerous theories about Covid including in Zach Bush’s case recommending against vaccination.
I researched Zach Bush because he'd been recommending against Covid vaccination. If you search him on DuckDuckGo you have to go far into the results to find anything debunking him. If you add the search terms pseudoscience, quack, debunked, and fraud you will find several articles explaining how he is promoting pseudoscience.
If someone worried about the Covid vaccine talked to a friend who gets their medical information from Zach Bush and his like and then they looked them up online they would find what seem to be logical medical reasons not to get it. When I first looked at some of what Bush wrote it look like a lot of scientific gobbledygook, but I could see how lots of people would find what he said to be credible. Then I did my deep dive into the Internet to learn more about him.
I learned from one of those websites exposing him as a fraud that several years ago he hired a company to assure that he could flood Internet search results with his own material. It was successful. This fraud is a slick self-promoter who even sells his own products on his various websites.
Zach Bush is a good case study because of his credentials. This is some of what Medika,an excellent website. says about him in “Who Not To Trust: A List of 10 Covid-19 Charlatans and “Medical” Snake-Oil Salesmen.”
Triple board-certified and until recently widely respected within the medical community, his use of science and his medical credentials make his abuse of office and position all the more reprehensible when it comes to diluting the dangers of Covid-19. His newly discovered spiritualist beliefs in an existence beyond this one encourage him to espouse a view of embracing death as an expansion of consciousness. His vocal criticism of Covid-19, which occasionally raises valid issues, has been completely compromised by his views on our ‘journey to the light’. Visit his site and once you’re done taking in his Covid-19 advice, you can shop to your heart’s delight from the range of products he recommends. It would appear not even three medical degrees are a good enough substitute for a paying affiliate stream. A particularly dangerous and beguiling individual. By all means, hope for life after death, just don’t expose yourself to Covid-19 in an effort to achieve it.
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