There is a wonderfully-written — but sad, frustrating, and maddening — feature-length piece in the weekend Washington Post about “natural cures” (and Mega Memory, and …) television pitchman Kevin Trudeau:
Over the years, Trudeau, an ex-con who never went to college or medical school, has been remarkably successful doing infomercials for everything from how to achieve a photographic memory to how to cure your addictions to how to beat cancer by ingesting a particular type of calcium that, as fate would have it, he also happened to sell.
Now he sells the most popular nonfiction book in the country, according to Publishers Weekly. In “Natural Cures ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About,” Trudeau explains how a massive cabal formed of the federal government, pharmaceutical companies and the media is keeping Americans from living well past 100. He advises everybody to get off prescription drugs, even if they have serious problems like diabetes or blood clots; he reveals how multiple sclerosis can be cured by magnetic mattress pads.
He says sunscreen doesn’t prevent skin cancer. Instead (wait for it), sunscreen causes skin cancer.
So, why does anyone believe this nutty stuff? Writer Libby Copeland of the Post gets to the heart of the matter:
Trudeau is a remarkable American success story in the grand tradition of traveling salesmen with cure-all potions. He could sell you your own shirt and leave you grateful for the bargain.
When he talks, his hazel eyes get big and he taps his listener on the knee. He claims he knows important people in important places. He says he was just on the phone with Kirstie Alley. He says he met Mikhail Gorbachev, “fascinating guy.”
He’s a victim. He’s a martyr. He’s just trying to help his fellow man. He hasn’t been sick in 25 years and he’s going to stay healthy till 150 and he might run for president one day because “there’s 25 million people that would probably vote for me.”
He is like a magician; you’re watching his hands and all of a sudden there’s some confetti and a woman in a bathing suit and when you look back, lo and behold, there’s a dove. When you ask Trudeau over and over for proof of his “natural cures,” he says his studies are unpublished; he says he doesn’t believe in studies; he says the studies are in the book — but they’re not there. They’re never there.
Watch the hands.