How the Skeptic Movement Bankrupted Power Balance Wristbands

Former Reason staffer Michael Moynihan (read his Reason archive here), now hanging his hat at The Daily Beast and Newsweek, reports from this summer's The Amazing Meeting (TAM), an annual gathering of folks who are part of "the skeptic movement." TAM is presided over by James "The Amazing" Randi, the mentor and inspiration of Penn & Teller. Here's a snippet from Moynihan's lively and well-worth-reading coverage:

Perhaps the best example of the skeptic movement’s tenacious real-world influence has been its battle with a California-based company called Power Balance—manufacturers of wristbands that, when worn, were supposed to improve strength, balance, and flexibility, “safely restoring and optimizing the electro-magnetic balance within the human body,” the company at one point claimed on its website. In 2010 alone, an estimated 2.5 million people wore them. Among those who sported the wristbands were Bill Clinton, David Beckham, Kate Middleton, Shaquille O’Neal, and countless professional athletes. Power Balance was making so much money that, in 2011, it purchased the naming rights to the Sacramento Kings’ arena.

But [Richard Saunders, president of Australian Skeptics] smelled a rat. “I saw a report on a news program that said, ‘Look at these amazing wristbands,’ and they did the demonstration. So I wrote to the reporter and said, ‘Look, I know how the tricks work.’ ” The reporter arranged for Saunders and Tom O’Dowd, who owned the right to distribute Power Balance in Australia, to test the bands on national television. “He failed five out of five tests. And that started the avalanche that led to Power Balance’s downfall.” Australian regulators intervened, issuing a finding that forced Power Balance to admit that it was selling a product that didn’t work as it claimed. “In our advertising we stated that Power Balance wristbands improved your strength, balance and flexibility. We admit that there is no credible scientific evidence that supports our claims,” the company conceded. Soon after, it filed for bankruptcy.

Read the whole thing.

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  • fish||

    Better Alt Text: Before Power Balance I was young and virile....like the chap in the photo below.

  • Dweebston||

    Of course, this is before radfem intellectually bankrupted the skeptic's movement. See: Phil Plait, Rebecca Watson, the Skepchicks et al.

  • Irish||

    They were always intellectually bankrupt. The Skeptic movement essentially meant 'Skeptical of everything except government power.' There are obviously exceptions to that rule, like Penn and Teller, but the unthinking power worship of the skeptic movement was always off putting.

    This is especially obvious when you consider that totally unskeptical people like PZ Myers claim to be skeptics. PZ Myers has never seen a bit of mindless left-wing dogma that he did not wholeheartedly endorse.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I was really surprised to see how unskeptical the organization as a whole has been on some politically charged issues. Plait, for instance, is almost entirely blinded by his leftwing politics. Deeply disappointing.

  • SugarFree||

    I often think about getting a Slate account solely for the purpose of getting on Plait's global warming threads to say "WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH ASTROMONY?!?" and get on the astronomy threads to ask "WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH CLIMATE CHANGE?!?"

  • Pro Libertate||

    He just gets annoyed and defensive. Heck, if he were ever critical of anything in AGW claims, I might have kept reading his blogs. But he's a good soldier.

  • Tonio||

    He'd probably reply snarkily to the first and ask what the hell "astromony" was.

  • SugarFree||

    True. He's clever like that sometimes.

  • John||

    It sucks. I am not an atheist. But I really hate to see the leftists sink their fangs into it and make the term mean the same thing as "government loving socialist" to the public.

  • johnl||

    Yes it sucks for us to have those harpies and parasites about.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Pshaw - if they believe in big government they are nae *real* atheists!

    Have the Scots nae taught ye *anything?*

  • Pro Libertate||

    I say that with all love for Randi and, of course, for Penn & Teller, who are mostly on the correct side of reality.

  • ||

    ProL, just think about how insecure and stupid you have to be to actively label yourself as a "skeptic". Because a normal, intelligent person is already naturally skeptical. It's the kind of thing you join and proclaim to the world when you aren't actually very skeptical and are uncomfortable with that. It's just like the moronic socially dysfunctional dorks like Yglesias who go full TEAM BLUE because TEAM BLUE will tell them that they are smart and insightful as long as they say the right things, no matter how stupid.

    Is it any wonder there is overlap?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Real skeptics don't believe in other people, anyway.

  • Pro Libertate||

    To be fair, the earlier movement was more about crazy stuff like UFOs, psychic healing, debunking fraud. Which is one reason I was absolutely floored to hear the society actually throwing out the Denier bomb about AGW. I mean, come on, you don't have to be a Nazi to wonder whether climatology is a robust enough science to make these absolute statements about, leaving aside other questions about AGW claims.

  • ||

    Well, two things, ProL. The first is: mission creep. The second is: there is an inherent smugness in such a society; they've figured it all out and they're going to clue in the squares as to the truth. They can't just let people be, and allow them to be stupid if that's what they are. No, they need to show everyone how much they have it all figured out.

    Smugness...what group would that overlap with? Think about such personality types, and what behaviors they are prone to. So why were you floored again?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Yes, yes, I, too, see some parallels, but it's still weird when the central mission is supposed to be philosophical skepticism.

  • ||

    The central mission is self-aggrandizement and ego inflation. It doesn't matter what they say it is. Just like the central mission of MADD is prohibition, or the central mission of The Center for Science in the Public interest is statism. Names don't mean shit.

  • Irish||

    Just like the central mission of MADD is prohibition

    In fairness, MADD didn't start out with that goal. The original founder of MADD is apparently disgusted with the direction that it's gone since she never wanted it to become so puritanical.

  • robc||

    The original founder of MADD is apparently disgusted with the direction that it's gone since she never wanted it to become so puritanical.

    Actually, she wants it to be more puritanical, as the puritans were fine with drinking in moderation.

    But, yeah, she quit the org when she thought it was heading in a neo-prohibitionist direction.

  • Tonio||

    Movements tend to be coopted by the worst people - power grabbers.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Maybe reverse psychology is the answer. The Center for the Advancement of Assholes would have the stated and central mission of advancing assholery in America, but, in fact, would be advancing free markets, limited government, and philosophical skepticism and rationality.

  • John||

    Mission creep is a really good point. They started back in the 60s when people were buying into a lot of real crap. But most of that stuff has faded away and new crap hasn't arisen that much. So what are they supposed to be skeptical about? You can only do the expose on Yuri Geller so many times.

  • Irish||

    I've been called a denier for arguing that the things being advocated by AGW fanatics would cause far more damage to human welfare than AGW probably would. For example, in order to stop emissions you would have to clamp down on third world industrialization, otherwise you will have no impact on long term carbon emissions. That would essentially doom billions of people to perpetual poverty.

    You'll notice that nothing in that argument has anything to do with the science of AGW. That pretty much proves that they don't give a shit about the science and just want their policies implemented no matter what the cost.

  • sarcasmic||

    For example, in order to stop emissions you would have to clamp down on third world industrialization, otherwise you will have no impact on long term carbon emissions. That would essentially doom billions of people to perpetual poverty.

    That's the point. Remember that the central premise of the AGW movement is that human activity is harming the planet. Specifically industrial activity. They want to doom people to poverty and death. That's the whole point. They view humans as a disease to be eradicated from the planet. Well, all except them.

  • fish||

    They want to doom other people to poverty and death.

  • Dweebston||

    The movement served a function in advancing scientific literacy and critical thinking, besides providing some pushback on woo culture and outright fraud. P&T in particular picked up Randi's mantle and ran with it; their Bullshit series is sublime.

    However, it's always been marred by a quick-draw regulatory mentality. The vulgar Christian-bashing (I say as a life-long atheist) and blatant gender pandering are just caricaturing the cause now.

  • Irish||

    ProL, just think about how insecure and stupid you have to be to actively label yourself as a "skeptic".

    This is true of giving yourself any positive word as a name. Dawkins for example wants to call the atheist movement the 'Brights' which is fucking conceited nonsense. As an atheist that offends me for making us sound like arrogant dweebs.

    The same is true for skeptic. If you have to resort to giving yourself a positive name, that isn't a good sign.

    Of course, I am writing this on a website called Reason, so there is a bit of hypocrisy in this argument.

  • ||

    Hey, you didn't name the magazine/website, dude.

    But yeah; the people who rise to the forefronts of such organizations always have personality issues. It's why they're there getting the attention. Because they want it really badly. And they inevitably think way more highly of themselves than they should.

  • Pro Libertate||

    This is correct. If I had named the magazine, I'd have called it Zod.

  • johnl||

    What's funny about Dawkins is that, for a guy who's day job is evolutionary biology, he's surprisingly uncurious about what advantages a belief in gods might provide a person or community. It seems obvious that there are no gods, but all over the world, people developed ideas of gods. Those ideas had to provide some advantages.

  • Agammamon||

    Not necessarily - they could simply be a side-effect of something that *does* provide and advantage while not doing so (or being disadvantageous itself).

    There's no advantage (and in fact its often lethal) to having sickle-cell anemia - its a side effect of the advantages sickle-cell trait brings

  • John||

    I will give Dawkins credit. He has gone after Islam recently. And his normally leftist followers are having a fit. He has gone from truth teller to racist!!

  • Cytotoxic||

    As an Atheist, I gotta ask: why has Dawkins gotten so much head? What did he do that was so great? Cuz he sure isn't worth a damn today.

  • John||

    Cytotoxic,

    He got so much love because he went after Christians in a particularly nasty way and wrote in a style that appealed to liberals' smugness. That was really all there was to it. Recently he has said some nasty things about Muslims and many of the people who were giving him head are now outraged. So much for their commitment to rationality and rejection of theism.

  • Tonio||

    Yeah, when I first saw the "Brights" site I was convinced it was parody. Then I figured out they were serious. Sad, just sad.

  • John||

    I get it not being a theist. But I don't see how that means you must be a crude materialist, which is what the Brights seem to be.

  • Agammamon||

    Uh, no, normal intelligent people usually *aren't* skeptics. Unless you're classifying the vast majority of people as not normal or intelligent (or you associate with a higher class of people and don't know what normal people are like).

  • ||

    ^^^This.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Epi has nailed it.

  • Dweebston||

    Ugh. I said Phil Plait but meant PZ.

  • johnl||

    Randi also shows skepticism of the government. There does seem to be an odd attraction to totalitarianism in organized atheism. As if disbelieving in gods leaves a void in some people they fill in with an unquestioning belief in something else.

    But PZ Myers says he doesn't want to be associated with the skeptical movement. So the skeptics do have that going for them.

  • PapayaSF||

    There does seem to be an odd attraction to totalitarianism in organized atheism. As if disbelieving in gods leaves a void in some people they fill in with an unquestioning belief in something else.

    I would change "totalitarianism" to "statism," but otherwise, bingo. This is a key insight into "progressive" psychology as well.

  • Tonio||

    The skeptic/pharyngula crowd loves them some Penn Jillette, but hates them some libertarianism. Watching them try to reconcile those conflicting beliefs is fun - once, for about five minutes.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's a mess for them, too, because Penn & Teller are huge ambassadors for them.

  • Doctor Whom||

    When I was involved with Internet Infidels, the mainstream attitude on that board was that P&T were cool except insofar as they strayed into "libertarian dogma." Apparently, free thought must be fenced in.

  • Agammamon||

    ". . .The Skeptic movement essentially meant 'Skeptical of everything except government power.' . . ."

    That's mainly because the skeptic movement is largely an offshoot of the secular humanism movement (that's how I got introduced to CSICOP and Randi, through the Council for Secular Humanism).

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    I can remember, years back, being told that secular humanism was a myth invented by fundamantalists, now you're telling me there's some sort of *council?*

  • Pro Libertate||

    Yes. They meet in the same building as International Jewry and the Pentavirate. I know, because I used to run their catering business. Nice people.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    My albino monks make the best caterers. They deliver what you order, even if it's a throwing star to your enemy's throat.

    Have your conspiracy call my conspiracy and let's explore the synergies of our respective movements.

  • Pro Libertate||

    People always make the mistake of joining these global world orders. I just support them, with food and legal advice.

  • Ornithorhynchus||

    Yeah, I was shocked when I found out there actually were people calling themselves that. They publish a magazine called Free Inquiry, which has some good stuff, but is largely full of Left-Wing gibberish. (It's not totally doctrinaire, though. There will occasionally be a libertarianish article, and even the extreme Lefties involved seem to be the staunchly free-speech kind. To be fair, though, I haven't read it lately, so maybe it's changed.)

  • Irish||

    Free Inquiry was one of the only magazines willing to publish the Mohammad cartoons and really went after the media for not doing the same. I often disagree with them, but they earned my respect for that.

  • Bean Counter||

    Michael Shermer has written a book about free markets. He often writes articles that are skeptical of socialist economics and sociology. And he regularly gets reamed by his fellow skeptics.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    He also posted in a knee-jerk Tweet after the Newtown massacre that went something along the lines of "The Second Amendment was written during the times of muskets." Shermer is good, but at the risk of cynically ascribing bad faith motives to him, he does seem to cave in to the anti-libertarian faction of the Skeptic Movement every now and then.

  • Ted S.||

    Which skeptic's movement did they bankrupt? ;-)

  • sarcasmic||

    I remember those. Magnets on your wrist to bring balance to your body? There truly is a sucker born every minute. Or second.

  • Jerry on the boat||

    Any correlation with people becoming Born-Again Christians? NTTAWWT...

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Strange, being in a post-Christian culture for much of the West doesn't seem to have stopped belief in "woo-woo."

    I would even argue that, just because someone rejects the idea of a personal God who makes moral demands, that doesn't make them more rational or skeptical. They might simply exchange the burdensome, demanding set of supernatural beliefs for a more user-friendly set of views - the idea of a spiritual vending machine you can use to get what you want, without any higher power getting into your business about the poor or sexual morality, etc.

  • johnl||

    Organized Christianity might even inoculate people against newer and dangerous woo-woo.

  • PapayaSF||

    "When a Man stops believing in God he doesn't then believe in nothing, he believes anything." —attributed to G. K. Chesterton

  • Irish||

    A wonderful example of a snappy saying that is utter bullshit.

  • PapayaSF||

    I think there's some truth there. Atheists often believe really stupid things (e.g. Marxism).

  • Irish||

    Yes, but Atheist belief in stupid things is not more common than religious belief in stupid things. Chesterton's claim is that atheists are more likely to have ridiculous beliefs, which I seriously doubt is true.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    The most likely source of this quote is as a combination of two quotes from the Father Brown stories:

    "It’s the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense. ["The Oracle of the Dog" (1923)]

    "You hard-shelled materialists were all balanced on the very edge of belief – of belief in almost anything. ["The Miracle of Moon Crescent" (1924)]"

    http://www.chesterton.org/disc.....o-worship/

    How is that bullshit?

  • Coeus||

    It may not be absolute, but how else do you explain that the vast majority of atheists worship the state (and I say this as an atheist)?

  • Irish||

    Because many atheists take the religious impulse and apply it to the state while nonetheless proclaiming their atheism.

    It's true that atheists can, and often do, believe things just as idiotic as any believer. The problem with Chesterton's quote is that it attempts to argue that those dumb beliefs are a byproduct of a lack of belief in God. I don't think that's the case. All you have to do is look at liberation theology or the current Pope's bizarre socialist beliefs to see that religious people are just as capable of believing in a dumb, atheistic idea like Marxism.

  • Coeus||

    It's a vaccination. One that is not entirely effective, but it definitely helps.

  • Bean Counter||

    Having been raised in a fundamentalist Baptist preacher's home, I noted how many fundamentalists were also homeopathy practitioners. When I pointed out the the basis of homeopathy is a weird amalgam of pantheism and anamism (both anathema to fundies), all I got were blank stares.

  • tarran||

    There's a guy who sells that shit from a kiosk at the Burlington Galleria.

    I and my son watched him ply his trade from above while I explained the scam. My son was stunned to see the guy make one sale every 15 minutes or so.

  • John||

    Was it the skeptic movement that did this or the fact that the claim is about as rational as believing in rain dances. Seriously? Who ever believed that? What evil genius figured out some one would?

  • Auric Demonocles||

    The key to getting very rich easily seems to be to have no shame, and think people are really, really stupid.

  • ||

    Well, it works, doesn't it?

  • Auric Demonocles||

    It does. I wish I was able to think that low of my fellow humans.

  • Irish||

    Well, apparently 2.5 million people including Bill Clinton believed it.

    Of course, if you're dumb enough to separated from your money over something that ridiculous, there is no saving you. I seriously doubt anyone was actually helped by the downfall of Power Balance. The people who would have spent money on Power Balance most likely just went and spent it on magic crystals, soothsayers, and lottery tickets.

  • some guy||

    At least you get something back from lottery tickets...

  • RBS||

    I remember they were marketed very heavily to golfers around here. You can pretty much sell anything to a golfer if you tell him it will help his swing.

  • ||

    A shit-ton of baseball players at every level believed it. But then again Baseball players a retarded about superstitious stuff like that.

  • johnl||

    Baseball players are notoriously superstitious.

  • SugarFree||

    Better use of their time than TRYING RAPE WOMEN IN ELEVATORS!

    #femrage

  • Tonio||

    Smackdown!

  • Dweebston||

    Men don't have to *try*, SF, rape is the essence of the deformed y-chromosome. Whether we're raping womynz with our Gaze or our rapey vibes or physically raping women (CONSENSUALITY IS A MYTH, SF) men daily perpetuate the subjugation of womynz.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Wow. Sounds like a bunch of dicks.

  • ||

    Wait...

    I always thought those wrist bands were just motivation slogans in wrist band form...

    Anyway the "skeptics" are hard core believers in catastrophic man made global warming....so in other words nothing more then piles of shit in my opinion.

  • Irish||

    You're thinking of the live strong type of bracelet. What this is is a bracelet that claimed to 'regulate your magnetic field' so that you would have better balance and more energy. They did ridiculous tests on T.V. where they'd basically manipulate people into believing that they were doing something SUPER HUMAN due to their fucking wristband, when in reality it was just a parlor trick.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Speaking of superhuman moments, I personally experienced one of those crazy adrenaline surges where I lifted weight I normally couldn't even attempt. Has that ever been explained, and, if exposed to radiation, will I have an anger management problem to contend with?

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I'm pretty sure your immortality makes you immune to normal physics.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I didn't quite defy physics, but it was pretty shocking to me and to the witnesses.

    I just read something about the Pioneer anomaly that was pretty interesting.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Was a good read, but God damn it:

    As a few readers have pointed out, we ran another story this week recognizing Voyager 1 as the first spacecraft to leave the solar system, while this article gives the honor to Pioneer 10. To clarify, there are two definitions of “leaving the solar system” in play here. Pioneer 10 passed the orbit of Pluto in 1983, and so in that sense, left the solar system. Though the Voyagers got launched after the Pioneers, they travel faster, and thus overtook the Pioneers in the 1990s. Voyager 1 has just reached the edge of the heliosphere, another boundary of the solar system.
  • Pro Libertate||

    We clearly need an international commission to study this deeply misunderstood galacticagraphical question--where does Sol system's border lie? This could have political ramifications when we encounter other civilizations, after all.

    I name you and me and grant us a stipend of $100 million/year each, and a overall budget of $100 billion. Indefinitely, until we issue our report.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I think we should start the investigation by benchmarking how a "system" is normally defined.

    Should we start with TOS or TNG? Also, I think that pizza, with it's rough approximation of the solar system's likely shape, is the appropriate refreshment to order for phase 1.

  • Tonio||

    That's crazy talk. A proper sicilian pizza is square...

    [puts up shield to deflect thrown objects]

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Are you denying that the the solar system is roughly quadrilateral? I think we've found someone that won't be getting a chair on the commission.

  • Bardas Phocas||

    You should interview some hookers about this also.

  • PapayaSF||

    It obviously needs to be an interstellar commission, you Sol-centric bigot.

  • Pro Libertate||

    When the aliens start funding the commission, fine. Until then, Earth first.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I'm not going to lie, I'm considering proposing a definition of "the solar system ends when we run into an alien species capable of stopping us". Of course, this proposal won't be ready for another couple of decades of study.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Certainly, the Commission will review many, many theories, which will be presented in the form of feature films. Also, the Commission will need its own space program. You know, for research purposes.

  • Not an Economist||

    Well considering astronomers are still arguing somewhat about the definition of a planet and are just beginning to talk about when a planet becomes a star, not knowing where the edge of the solar system is is pretty normal

  • mr simple||

    Movements are dumb and movementists are all needy children, but this (showing people how stupid they are by disproving fraudulent claims) is great.

  • Voros McCracken||

    So they got the Australian government to regulate them out of business?

    Yay, I guess?

  • SweatingGin||

    The real money is in audiophile digital cables.

    The folks complaining about the site stopping weirdly right at 1500 are correct.

  • ||

    no idea what is going on here.

    Why does the images of the product include images from Star Wars and the Matrix?

  • SweatingGin||

    It has among the most awesome reviews of any product on amazon.

    It's a Cat 5 ethernet cable, with an arrow on it (shouldn't be directional, but the digital sound sounds better that way) for $500 originally (or was it more?)

  • Voros McCracken||

    There's one for a similarly priced HDMI cable where the comments are priceless. "Couldn't figure out why it wasn't working, so I cut back the sheath. The damned thing is filled with cocaine!"

  • RBS||

    Customers also viewed: Accoutrements Horse Head Mask, How to Avoid Huge Ships, Tuscan Whole Milk 1 Gallon, Uranium Ore, The Mountain Three Wolf Moon Short Sleeve Tee...

  • SweatingGin||

    Old news now. New hotness. Damn, that is one sexy ethernet cable.

  • Jerry on the boat||

    While AudioQuest doesn't pretend to fully understawnd this obvious distortion mechanicm, the solution is understood 100%

    Give us the money!

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    The Three Wolf Shirt is a personal favorite.

  • SugarFree||

  • robc||

    What is the theory behind the $45 gallon of whole milk?

  • SugarFree||

    It was probably a typo and people just ran with it.

    I knew there was a goofy review subculture, but I didn't know it went out to so many products:

    27,704 of 28,384 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Saved my marriage July 30, 2012
    By Mrs Toledo

    What can I say about the 571B Banana Slicer that hasn't already been said about the wheel, penicillin, or the iPhone.... this is one of the greatest inventions of all time. My husband and I would argue constantly over who had to cut the day's banana slices. It's one of those chores NO ONE wants to do! You know, the old "I spent the entire day rearing OUR children, maybe YOU can pitch in a little and cut these bananas?" and of course, "You think I have the energy to slave over your damn bananas? I worked a 12 hour shift just to come home to THIS?!" These are the things that can destroy an entire relationship. It got to the point where our children could sense the tension. The minute I heard our 6-year-old girl in her bedroom, re-enacting our daily banana fight with her Barbie dolls, I knew we had to make a change. That's when I found the 571B Banana Slicer. Our marriage has never been healthier, AND we've even incorporated it into our lovemaking. THANKS 571B BANANA SLICER!
  • SugarFree||

    3,876 of 4,205 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Kirk Cameron's banana slicer August 7, 2012
    By Noah
    If God does not exist, then how is it that a banana fits so perfectly in this banana slicer? CHECKMATE, ATHEISTS!
  • Voros McCracken||

    The skeptic's movement next step is to try and get Axe shut down for claiming that hot young women will fawn all over you for using their hair products.

  • SweatingGin||

    Someone needs to do an Axe commercial that takes place in an elevator at a skeptic conference. Really go full troll with it.

  • Tonio||

    Except few people would get it, and most of those would be srsly butt-hurt.

  • SweatingGin||

    Okay, it also needs a method to generate electricity from butt-hurt, or at least to measure it. Maybe not peak butt-hurt, but peak butt-hurt-density.

  • Atanarjuat||

    Moynihan wanted to write for the last issue of Newsweek, I guess.

  • SAL||

    does this kind of fraud amount to aggression? Why are astrologers and psychics allowed to trick people then?

  • ||

    Well isn't all fraud technically aggression? Of course they could save themselves time and money if they just put a label on the back of the package in really tiny print that said they were full of shit.

  • Tonio||

    I believe the TV psychics have a disclaimer that their products and services are "for entertainment purposes only."

    The bottom line is that you will always have gullible idiots and it's much better to have stuff like this in the open where it can be mocked and challenged then to drive it underground and give them victim status.

  • SAL||

    I agree

  • SAL||

    I'm not sure; most customers of astrologers and "magnetic" wristbands actually want to be defrauded, in a certain sense. I think that unsatisfied defrauded customers should be allowed to sue though.

  • Tonio||

    Free speech. Also, because these are semi-religious views they are extra privileged. Also, also it's easier to prove that a single product is fraudulent; much harder to prove that an entire belief system is fraudulent.

  • SAL||

    Sure, but if you charge someone for a product or service and you don't deliver it, you can't (or shouldn't be able to) claim "free speech" when they sue you. Then again, many claims of these crooks aren't falsifiable... but when they are, I think people should be able to sue.

  • Tonio||

    Most good (effective) fortune tellers know enough to make their claims sufficiently vague - ie, "the body of your missing child will be found 'near water'". If the body is found in a trailer in the desert the presence of a septic tank is considered to be "near water." Etc.

    Also, the claims are often retconned due to claimed "interference", etc, etc.

  • Atanarjuat||

    Interrupting her soliloquy on the importance of eating natural foods, I mentioned that I was afflicted with type 1 diabetes. Her eyes widened, savoring the opportunity to help. She offered something that no endocrinologist previously had: a possible cure. “Switch to a raw-food diet,” she advised. Now my eyes widened. “You mean that raw food would help lower blood sugar?” I asked. “No, no,” she said with exasperation. “It can cure diabetes.” When I doubted that chewing on uncooked yams would kick-start my crippled pancreas, she accused me of lacking an “open mind.”

    If you call yourself a libertarian, you would have already bought a functioning pancreas from some destitute orphan.

  • Tonio||

    If you call yourself a libertarian, you would have already bought a functioning pancreas from some destitute orphan.

    That can't be right, otherwise Sug would be once again romping through the patisserie...

  • SugarFree||

    I waiting under they artificial pancreas get real fancy. What the point of going though a surgery if I end up with a functional pancreas that isn't also a smartphone?

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    "I waiting under they artificial pancreas get real fancy."

    You're SugarFreeing your own speech now?

  • SugarFree||

    Or I had a microstroke. Does anyone else smell that?

  • Ornithorhynchus||

    Maybe your blood sugar is low.

  • Tonio||

    He talk pretty someday.

  • OldMexican||

    Australian regulators intervened, issuing a finding that forced Power Balance to admit that it was selling a product that didn't work as it claimed


    So the final result was that Power Band's right to free speech was curtailed by a bunch of bureaucrats in order to "protect" people from their own gullibility.

    What about making the Australian government admit that its own product [i.e. "civilization", the usual lefty boilerplate] does not work as claimed?

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    You should have the right to fraudulent speech, yes, but you should also pay through the nose for it.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Neoliberal Kochtopus,

    but you should also pay through the nose for it.


    No question about it, as long as harm was inflicted. If NOT, then word of mouth and exposé should be more than enough to bring a bad business down, not aggression. Never aggression.

  • Tonio||

    So, no mechanism for fighting fraud, eh, Young Canuck? I thought that fraud was one of the few actual crimes in libertarian jurisprudence.

  • Irish||

    I'm pretty sure fraud should be illegal. You can't have people outright lying about their products.

  • Pro Libertate||

    There are degrees to these things. For instance, a certain amount of "puffery" is allowed, where I can say my product is the best ever or even better than Brand X.

    It gets tougher if you start making claims that sound like they have scientific support that, in fact, are unsubstantiated. That's not necessarily fraud, but it is misrepresentation. Or can be, anyway.

    Then, of course, there's fraud, which is something few argue shouldn't be actionable. That's one of the issues I have with people who are minarchists but still think speech rights should be absolute.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I think of fraud as stealing.

  • ||

    That's exactly what it is. If they're taking money in exchange for a product they're not actually selling, that's theft. The lies only facilitate the theft.

  • Tonio||

    And there's a difference between prior restraint (telling them in advance they can't say something) and prosecuting for fraud after the fact.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Absolutely.

  • Voros McCracken||

    But it's a very fine line. I'm not seeing where anything this company claimed is any different than the claims made by organic food producers, or Axe hair products, or Bacardi Rum or any of the erectile dysfunction commercials.

    If the product is exactly the product they say it is (a rubber wristband), why do they get shutdown when they exaggerate (or invent whole cloth) the benefits to such a thing when all of the above do not?

    Sure it's bullshit. Welcome to advertising. If I sell you milk, and you find out it's just water with an additive for color, that's fraud. If I sell you "magic milk" from our specially selected cows, and claim that will help you have you the body you always wanted...

    ...and it really is milk from cows we really did pick, then that's not fraud.

  • mr simple||

    According to the article, all Saunders did was show that the claims were bullshit. Then the regulators saw this and issued a statement that the claims were bullshit. Then the company went bankrupt, presumably because no one bought their products anymore. There was no force mentioned in the article. I'm not sure what your concern is.

  • Tonio||

    I think it's the existence of (government) regulators to which most people here object.

  • Voros McCracken||

    The government didn't issue a statement, they forced the power band people to say that their product doesn't work.

    What if our government stepped in and forced Axe to admit that women won't go wild over you just for using their hair products?

    Forcing a company to tell you not to buy their product qualifies as "force."

  • mr simple||

    But their product didn't work. It does nothing. Their claims were demonstrably false. The government made the company offer refunds to the people that wanted them. This is what government is supposed to do in situations of fraud. What do you think should happen in cases of fraud?

    Axe does use artistic license to say their products will make you smell better, which is more attractive, but they don't make demonstrably false absolute claims about their products. Apparently we have had different experiences using Axe deodorant.

    Not all uses of force are illegitimate. If I stop you from stealing from me, it is also force.

  • JeremyR||

    Have you ever watched TV? A lot of commercials are nothing but scams.

    The most obvious are all those weight loss products

    In fine print, it says "When used in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise"

  • Voros McCracken||

    I mean, can you prove conclusively that wearing such a wristband doesn't improve strength and balance? It theoretically could for any number of reasons (mostly psychological to be fair).

    My problem is that generally what happens is unequal treatment under the law. A small upstart company tends to get the hammer dropped on them for this stuff, while larger big companies get away with far worse. How much nonsense gets touted on the Dr. Oz show on a weekly basis? But since it's backed by Oprah Inc., they get left alone.

    Indeed by slapping down some and not others, it gives further undeserved legitimacy to those not sanctioned.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Government intervention has it's costs and institutional dysfunctions, which is a fact that will get you labeled a misogynistic "Randroid" over at Pharyngula.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Doh!

    "its"
  • Caleb Turberville||

    Penn & Teller mean a lot to me for getting me to come to grips and acknowledge my atheism. I still hold them in high regard, as well as Randi. Richard Dawkins doesn't hold up well though. Back in 2005-2008, I was reading a lot of his books, but nowadays, I just don't find the debate about the existence of [a] god to be at all interesting. I'm still interesting in scientific/atheistic cosmology, but I'm far more interested in skepticism about government (in my opinion, the only god left to slay). Perhaps, someone should write a book called The Government Delusion?

    Anyways, the backlash against libertarians in the atheist/skeptic/atheist+/whatever movement has left me once again feeling like an outsider. I'm much more likely to get along with a theistic libertarian than an atheistic statist.

  • OldMexican||

    Welcome to the club. While I was roaming the various skeptic forums, especially the James Randi forum, I found that they were, for the most part, dens of leftists and secularists who gave no consideration to personal liberty in the least.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/zi.....ervatives/

    I went over to Freethoughblogs to see what had recently been mentioned about libertarians. I found this post, which I'm having a hard trying to understand. The thesis is messy as hell.

    The best I can understand is "Libertarians and social conservatives are both primarily concerned with 'helping the rich get richer'; all the two factions have to do is compromise in order to achieve success; libertarians can easily be swayed towards reneging are their commitment toward personal freedoms; this has actually always been the tactic used by libertarians."

    Again. It's a pretty messy post. And no I didn't read the comments.

  • BoscoH||

    They sceptics made an important philosophical jump from meer antagonists to thoughtful intellectual movement when they formed their first Sceptic Tank.

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