The Bullshinomicon - Or How To Make A Fortune On Junk Science

I can fool millions of people into believing a falsehood by writing a news article that follows a simple formula, like this:
  1. Contradict minor beliefs that the reader would have easily given up anyway 
  2. Draw attention to meaningless confirmations that are visible in daily life
  3. Provide subjective evidence that the opposition are the bad guys
  4. Reassure the reader that their beliefs are correct and they made the right choice
  5. Make a call-to-action that requires no serious effort
Take the following example that I contrived myself, with the ingredients labelled in brackets: 

"Did you know that sunscreen lotion contains toxic chemicals that are more likely to give you cancer than UV light [1]? Or that children's vitamins contain cyanide, in a chemical called cyanocobalamin (look for it on the bottle, it's there! [2]), which is a cheap form of vitamin B12 used by the vitamin industry to maximize profits at the expense of our health [3]? If you've been looking for the organics label in the supermarket, or considering natural and herbal remedies over the chemical junk they sell in the drugstore, then you are part of a new, longer-living social elite [4]. By 'Liking' this article, you can help others discover the benefits of a Naturological lifestyle [5]."

Hook the reader, draw them in, set an adversarial context with the reader on your side, flatter them, then get them to commit to their new feelings.

Bonus Techniques

  • Claim that "The Man" doesn't want the audience to know any of this information
  • Drop the name of the current US President as a key member of a conspiracy that targets the audience's interests
  • Use the phrase "I can go to jail for telling you this"
  • Allude to an impending national or world catastrophe that only you know the secret to surviving
  • Claim that your work is on the cutting edge of a paradigm shift

These news products rarely contain outright fabrications; instead they serve a fact in a way that makes it taste completely different, like how salt can trick the tongue into tasting an ingredient that wasn't actually used. For example, commercial vitamin B12 actually does contain cyanide, but it's not in a form that can poison you, just like the iron in your diet won't give you heavy metal poisoning, nor will the cobalt in naturally occurring cobalamin. And yet a fact, presented selectively, can make an essential supplement look hazardous. It's not just "dumb" people who fall into the trap of believing nonsense, even smart people can believe in weird things.

Soon your audience will not only be ready to buy your line of "all-natural" lotions and supplements, but they'll also begin to proselytize them to their friends. At this point, you can begin to employ techniques that strengthen your grip on their minds and expand your reach:
  1. Coin a catchy name for your philosophy or movement, encourage your followers to describe themselves with it (e.g.: "Naturopath", "Scientologist")
  2. Create a community message board, and censor any dissenting voices
  3. Sell tokens of personal affiliation such as T-Shirts, key rings, membership cards, and bumper stickers
  4. Find people who's lives have improved after using your product/technique and promote this as a causal relationship
  5. Use publicity stunts and media events to trick the opposition into openly attacking you
Get your followers to make your brand part of their own identity, pull them into a tribal community, make them show it visibly, give them role-models to follow and celebrities to worship, and train them to defend the brand and community reflexively.

It doesn't matter if the improvements in people's lives weren't actually caused by your product or methods, as long as it coincides with when they began using them. In any large group there will always be someone who's runny nose was going to clear up anyway, and no way to conclusively prove that it wasn't your product that did it.

Once you have a community of followers who not only support you financially, but also voluntarily perform the hard work of evangelizing and defending the faith, you can move on to the advanced stages:
  1. During media events, be sure to use the word "debate" when you talk about your theory/product versus the opposition's
  2. Give your followers permission to make decisions on subjects they know nothing about
  3. Create titles and certifications, award them to followers who complete training programs
  4. Write a book that doesn't say anything
  5. Apply for Non-Profit status
Control vocabulary to force the opposition to talk about their side in uncertain terms, give your followers a false sense of empowerment, dress them in the trappings of credibility, create a malleable focal-point for all discussion about your system, and remove the primary objection in a way that does not actually affect your wealth.

These all interfere with an individual's ability to judge you on their terms, so they are forced to treat both you and the opposition subjectively. The majority of your potential converts, as well as your critics, are not sufficiently educated to understand why your theory is junk, so they will turn to authority instead. You need to manufacture your own authority and make it superficially indistinguishable from the real thing.

Non-Profit status does not mean you have to give away all the money. With the right tax setup a foundation merely has to give away 5% of its endowment per year, which is nothing compared to the return on your investments and the steady income from your fans. Nor, for that matter, will it have any affect on the salary you choose to pay yourself and the houses, yachts and cars you have the foundation "loan" to you.

Now that you are in an unassailable position of power, you may-or-may-not wish to engage in the ultimate stages of junk science:
  1. Seek legislative recognition of your theory, such as forcing insurance companies to pay for your treatments, or make public schools teach it, or exempt you from regulation
  2. Become the de-facto go-to-guy for TV news shows to pit against real scientists when they want to present a balanced report
  3. Establish a clinic to treat victims of the opposition
  4. Publish alternative history books, while hiding their connection to you and your foundation
  5. Create a resurrection myth before you die
Force the unwilling to fund your empire, establish yourself as the lone voice against the mob, generously provide psychological comfort to those who slipped through the cracks, bend the culture's memory to your favor, and saddle future generations with unrealizable anticipation. You are now a God.

Further Reading

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