Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Just Giving the People What They Wanted

In case you missed it yesterday, the King of Informercials--Kevin Trudeau--was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison yesterday for criminal contempt of court.  You may recall Mr Trudeau from his various half-hour TV "programs" as an "expert" on improving your memory, getting out of debt, getting free money from the government and banks, weight loss and curing every malady under the sun without having to see a doctor.  A pretty heady list of "expertise" for someone who never attended medical school, worked in the finance industry or did a single bit of scientific research.

But what Kevin Trudeau knew how to do was to market Americans their favorite product in the whole world: The Easy Way.  His "debt cure" was nothing more than challenging every account on your credit report--not setting up a system to pay off those debts.  His "weight lost cure" was a much-discredited old idea of using hormone therapy and simply not eating to "shed pounds quickly"--rather than developing a healthy lifestyle of good nutrition and exercise.  His way to "find money" was to apply for common college student grants or borrow money to buy forclosed homes and then flip them immediately--rather than actually developing marketable skills to make more money.  And his "cure for everything" was nothing more than common products that hold no medicinal benefit--rather than proper treatment and healthier living.  All of these things were "better explained" in his monthly newsletter--available for $75 a year.

Trudeau was also a master of the "conspiracy theory".  If you look at all of his books--and informercial titles--they contain the "they don't want to you to know about" phrase.  It played into people's fears that big companies are plotting to keep them poor, to keep them sick, and to keep them buying their government-regulated and tested-for-safety medicines.  The "conspiracy" angle also gave Trudeau great cover when the Federal Trade Commission tried to crack down on his claims--"See, the Government is trying to shut me up about these 'secrets' they have been keeping from you!"  And millions of Americans ate it up.  Trudeau had several New York Times bestsellers--and despite his conviction and now sentence--his books are STILL available for sale on several booksellers websites.

We occasionally hear about "victimless" crimes--when defense attorneys try to get leniency for their convicted clients--"nobody was really hurt by this, Your Honor, so why the need to throw the book at my guy?"  Personally, I think this is one of those cases.  Every person who bought Kevin Trudeau's books, DVD's and audio tapes is just as guilty of trying to "cheat the system" as he was.  And in the end, they all ended up with what they deserved--lighter wallets.

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