May 17, 2012

The Secret of Scamworld

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

"Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something." ~ The Princess Bride

Jason Jones does God's work. I became familiar with his brain child, The Salty Droid, when I was searching out information on James Arthur Ray and the horrible sweat lodge deaths that resulted from his hubris. I had found Ray to be one of the least interesting members of The Secret brain trust when I first began to publicly critique it. That Jason, aka Salty, had done his homework on this two bit, genie pimping conman, made his site a go to. And I enjoyed a lot of back and forth with that funny, little robot while I was blogging the sweat lodge trial.

The Salty Droid is brilliantly funny and has given me something of an education on the depths of  flim-flammery that infect a certain segment of this wacky new age arena I call home. Up to that point I had always thought of The Secret crowd and their ilk simply as purveyors of dangerously bad metaphysics. While I thought them excessively pecuniary in their focus, mostly I considered them ignorant. I was wrong. A number of them are grifters and The Secret is really just part of a long con.

The seamy underbelly of internet marketing is not really my beat... until it intersects with spiritual teaching. Then it is very much my concern. One of the things that initially caused me to break my silence on The Secret was the fact that I had clients beating themselves up for things like being sick. The victim blame inherent in that paradigm just makes people who haven't "manifested" the perfect life feel bad about themselves. Worse, it equates any form of adversity with spiritual failing. The part of this problem that I hadn't fully considered back then is that this really sets people up to have their pockets picked. And this is where the relentless "love and light" contingent of the new age meets the dark underworld of internet marketing.

It's a frighteningly good fit if you think about it. What do con artists do? They suss out your aspirations and your vulnerabilities. Then they leverage your vulnerabilities while holding out the promise that they can help you attain your aspirations: love, money, fame, and so on.

What do self-help products like The Secret do? They remind you of all the ways your life is not what you want it to be. That's easily accomplished by holding up an impossible standard of perfection. You may be miserable or you may be fairly content but, come on, we could all stand to improve something in our lives, right? They've done it and so can you!

In advertising it's called "created need." You didn't know you needed a pan that boils hotdogs and steams the buns at the same time until you saw it in an infomercial. And you didn't know that you needed a passive income stream that would make you a millionaire so that you could stop looking for a day job and have total financial independence -- and a yacht -- until you knew such a thing was possible. And you had no idea that you could order up the life you wanted from the giant catalog we call the universe until The Secret told you it was just that simple. But now that you know, you'd be a fool not to have a designer life.

People from all walks of life have heard of The Secret and many take its law of attraction message at face value. It's an idea with a very long lineage and whole lotta truthiness. Far fewer people are aware of the multi-tentacled reach of the internet marketing industry. Fewer still are aware of how the latter is suctioned onto the former.

It's fairly distressing how much of the self-help industry can be found canoodling with Frank Kern and the rest of his "syndicate." For instance, when Bob Proctor's associate Michele Blood isn't busy committing crimes against music, she can be found learning how to run her business "like the mafia" from the man himself.

It takes a giant pair of balls to be Frank Kern.

At about minute 6:00 in the Scamworld video, we meet Glen Ledwell of Mind Movies. Remember Mind Movies? It was one of many products James Ray was pitching to his email list even as he was standing trial in Arizona for the deaths of James Shore, Kirby Brown, and Liz Neuman. Because we all want advice on visualizing the perfect future from someone who's manifested death and destruction on that level... Right? Never mind. It doesn't have to make sense. Because the law of attraction works every time, except when it doesn't, but Mind Movies definitely takes it to a whole 'nother level.

Ray's email was light on the particulars of the product and heavy on the manufactured scarcity of "the launch." And for good measure, the man on trial for sweating people literally to death worked the word "sweat" into the pitch.

But here's the catch...

The team at Mind Movies are only able to offer the incredible Mind Movies 2.1 software at a MASSIVELY discounted price with all the extras to the first few thousand people to take big, bold, fast action.

. . .

So they're sweating it out, because there is a good chance they will sell out today.

From the Scamworld article in The Verge:

The purpose of lead generation is to be able to launch a product. This is what the Internet Marketer is after when they sell you a $20 book. The books and DVDs aren’t products — they’re relationship builders; a bridge to a customer’s credit card. The real “product” will be far more complex, and cost a customer a lot more money.

Unlike mainstream sales, where a product launch is an announcement, in Internet Marketing the product launch is a process. First, information about a new service or product trickles out slowly, among people in the IM community, creating hype and what marketers call social proof — essentially, "proof" that this is a quality product, not through actual evidence, but because the IM community’s echo chamber progressively reinforces the marketers’ claims. The product (again, there’s nothing of value here) is only available for a short period of time, creating a false scarcity that increases its perceived value. Affiliates in the IM community hammer their leads with ads for this "get rich quick" scheme, "magic bullet" business product, or whatever it is, hoping that a small percentage purchases it. The affiliate gets a small cut of the sale; the rest goes to the Internet Marketer selling the product.

Where the Frank Kerns of the world pitch, repackage, and pitch marketing tools, the James Rays of the world pitch, repackage, and pitch self-help tools -- their own and those of their syndicate. They offer up endless recastings of the same, tired law of attraction tools, each one promising to be the thing that finally turns your mind into a pure manifestation machine. And when it doesn't, there are all those seminars, each one promising to be the thing. All they need is your credit card number, because what's a maxed out credit limit compared to a future of total freedom. And if you should happen to die at one of those seminars, that's terribly unfortunate, but all sales are final. Because it's really an "investment" and investing in your future is always wise even when you don't have one.

The objective of internet marketers and the boiler rooms they funnel into is to "find out how much credit is available on the victim's credit card [and] take all of it." They do that by encouraging their marks to talk about their problems and fears and offering them hope for a hefty price. If anything, James Ray was more brazen. Using a range of techniques, he'd break people down -- public humiliation, sleep deprivation, food and water deprivation, intimidation. And the coup de grĂ¢ce would come as tired, emotionally raw people were pressured to max out their credit cards, sometimes multiple ones, to pay for still more seminars that would fix the many things that were wrong with them. Sometimes they would finalize their transactions even as they sobbed over not being able to afford the expense.

For now, James Ray has been reduced from the gold mine that is Large Group Awareness Training (LGAT) to email pitches for members of his syndicate like the felonious Kevin Trudeau. That's because Ray is still in jail. And, sure, he's promised not to run dangerous events anymore but if the past is any guide, prosecution, and even incarceration, are only temporary inconveniences for these guys. They just keep on scamming.

Well. You gotta stick with what you know, I guess.

Salty has more on his participation in Scamworld and the reaction to it from, well, scamworld.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Opinions and ideas expressed in the comments on this page
belong the people who stated them. Management takes no
editorial responsibility for the content of public comments.