Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fool me once

So here I am, watching "The Walking Dead" on the AMC website, and I see this banner ad on the side saying "Acai Berry 'Diet Warning'." The URL given is www ConsumerNews24 dot com. Oho, I say to myself, did some news site grow a brain and actually write a skeptical article? I've long known that Acai Berry is comparable to blueberries and strawberries for dietary antioxidants, but its marketing these days is pure rattlesnake oil.

The top of the page is festooned with the corporate logos of ABC, Forbes, CBS News, CNN, and USA Today. The header and sidebar are festooned with woo-woo, but I'm taking this with a grain of salt, since many are generated purely by keywords, and I frequently see pseudoscience advertised on Pharyngula, Bad Astronomy and Skeptoid. I begin to skim the article.

I'm left in suspense for all of about five seconds.
"Here, we are a little skeptical and aren't sure that we've seen any real proof that these pills work for weight loss...what better way to find out the truth than to conduct our own study?"
I don't know, maybe a large scale, double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial? Scroll, scroll, scroll...

"Week One--After one week on the diet using both products I was surprised at the dramatic results. My energy level was up, and I wasn't even hungry, an apparent side effect of the Acai Berry which curbs the appetite."
Sure you are, the placebo effect is a wonderful thing. Scroll, scroll...

"Week Two--After two weeks of using both supplements...I was no longer waking up during the night and tossing and turning because my body was actually able to relax (this is a result of getting rid of the toxins I think)...I must admit that I'm starting to believe that this diet is more than just a gimmick."
You know, I think this diet may work for bulimics: I just threw up a little in my mouth.

"Week Three--After 3 weeks all my doubts and skepticism had absolutely vanished!"
Warning: Acai Diet pills may cause brain damage.

"Week Four--"Everyone at Consumer News is kicking themselves for not having volunteered to be the guinea pig."
Scroll, Scroll--oh look, shopping links for Acai LeanSpa™ and Natura Cleanse™. Some comments, just like a real news story, all from happy and satisfied customers.

As is obvious by now, this faux-consumer-reports site is nothing but a front for the woo-woo peddlers. The cherry on top is when I leave the site and am tripped by a pop-up warning:
Are you sure you want to navigate away from this page?

IMPORTANT: Are you sure you don't want to take advantage of the Acai Lean Spa and Natura Cleanse Free Trial?

Don't forget - they will only be available for a limited time. Since these trials are completely free, there is not cost or risk to you. You can also give them away if you'd like. Or start on the 4 week test that Julia completed.

If you are wondering why these trials are free, the simple answer is because the manufacturers are confident that their products will help you, and that you will continue to use their products. You will probably refer friends, family and even people you don't really like that much. That's how great these offers are.

Don't miss out on these great products!

Press OK to continue, or Cancel to stay on the current page.
I'm not sure if they're dropping the act at this point or if they're just insulting my intelligence that any Consumer-Report-type organization would be so won over as to actually promote the product they reviewed by name, even.* Either way, they probably have no shortage of suckers.

What really burns me up is not that they're selling a product that doesn't do anything--as they say, a fool and his money were lucky to get together in the first place. It's not even that the "reporter" gives a bullet list of dodgy claims before even embarking upon her "research." What infuriates me is the blatant deceit in play. This crosses the line from marketing into outright fraud.


*I, on the other hand, am free to be completely won over and will happily say that The Walking Dead a DAMN GOOD SHOW that you should definitely be watching. These people GET what about horror makes for good drama—it’s not the fright, it’s the dread.

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