All the World’s a Scam: Pseudoscience, Psedoreligion, Pseudobusiness, and Donald Trump

TrumpRegrets is a new Twitter account that’s almost as hilarious as it is disheartening. A catalog of voter remorse, the account retweets messages from former Trump supporters who somehow–miraculously–didn’t anticipate the turn things have taken. Some of the tweets are poignant. Others are just abusive.

I save the latter, because they cheer me up whenever I’m forced to contemplate the thin-skinned, bloviating flesh bag we’ve just inaugurated president.

TrumpRegrets

Bitch.

Those of us who didn’t vote for Trump may wonder how the other half got duped into supporting a man who looks like a three-week-old Jack o’lantern and talks like a smackhead with a closed-head injury, but it’s really not so mysterious. Generally speaking, people respond well to being told what they want to hear.

I’m not exempting myself from that assessment, by the way. When I stumbled across alleged evidence of Trump photoshopping his hands to look bigger, my first instinct wasn’t to fact check. It was to wallow in feelings of validation.

You vain, pathetic little man, I thought. Aren’t I clever for not having voted for you.

In reality, I has nothing to do with cleverness and everything to do with having been burned in the past (well, okay, and a sizable differential in conscious racism–but that’s beside the point). Trump, at his core, is a con artist, and I’ve been targeted by con artists before. Any vulnerable member of society has. Me as a poor kid. You as a member of the LGBTQIA community. Her as a woman of color. Many people learn to recognize the signs of a scam, chief among them that “a-person-with-power-is-being-suspiciously-nice-to-me” feeling.

Some people, though. Someone people are just a little too desperate–or clueless, or isolated, or bigoted, or whatever–to run things by their internal fact-checker. And that’s when people like Donald Trump can convince them to act against their own best interests.

It’s the same phenomenon underlying any scam. Take multi-level marketing, for example. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, imagine a pyramid scheme, and then…actually, just imagine a pyramid scheme. Because that’s what it is. For a very thorough and very funny explanation, I recommend this break-down of MLMs by John Oliver.

I live in Michigan, home of the O.G. MLM company Amway. Founded in 1959 by the Devos family (yes, the same trash-heap clan that gave us Betsy Devos), Amway sells home goods, cleaning supplies, cosmetics, and nutritional supplements, to name a few. Those sales are nominally Amway’s source of income. In reality, however, Amway has made bank off of convincing its hapless salespeople to recruit other salespeople, a cut of whose profits they then receive. The structure of the company is thus “tiered”–or, dare I say, “pyramidal.”

amway

This is fine until you realize that, if every Amway employee were to recruit five other Amway employees, the number of Amway employees would exceed the population of the earth within 13 tiers. Plus, despite fervent claims of self-made Amway success stories, most Amway employees make somewhere between jack and shit.

Amway has become a byword for such schemes, so most people are on to them now. The same cannot be said for the likes of Herbalife, Arbonne, and Young Living, aka the company that told me I could cure my ADHD by rubbing oil on my feet. The thing is, these firms almost always target the poor and/or marginalized with their messages of financial freedom and self-employment. When my ex-boyfriend worked for Kirby Vacuums (which is a blog post in and of itself), every work day began with a meeting where the boss would praise the hell out of everyone and shout his signature catch phrase: “That’s positive!”

positive

Apparently this is a company-wide practice.

To a roomful of broke kids, underachievers, and drop-outs, his words were the siren call of self-worth. Of course they were going to heed that call. That’s what their con artist boss was banking on. It’s how Kirby Vacuums became a multinational corporation in the first place. It’s also how Trump rose to power on vague assertions of American exceptionalism.

That type of religious fervor isn’t specific to MLMs or the Trump rallies of yore, however. It’s also found in—surprise surprise—religions.

Every year, the United States plays host to dozens of new religious sects. Some of them, like Mormonism, go mainstream. Others, too bonkers and openly shady to ever have a prayer of doing so, remain just popular enough to be dangerous. I encountered one of the latter when a Facebook friend announced she was going to the Access Consciousness conference in Pennsylvania.

accessconsciousness

Access Consciousness is a spin-off of Scientology, and boy does it show. Both offer a path toward self improvement by clearing certain negative forces from your person. In Scientology, it’s doomed alien souls. In AC, it’s Bars. I’ll let AC speak for itself on this one:

Access Bars® are 32 points on your head which, when gently touched, effortlessly and easily release anything that doesn’t allow you to receive. These points contain all the thoughts, ideas, beliefs, emotions, and considerations you have stored in any lifetime. This is a possibility for you to let go of everything!

Each Bars session can release 5-10 thousand years of limitations in the area of your life that corresponds with the specific Bar being touched. This is an incredibly nurturing and relaxing process, undoing limitation in all aspects of your life that you are willing to change!

It’s worth noting that Bars sessions ain’t free—they cost $300 dollars each. You can stop after one session, but, as the AC website puts it, “How much more ease, joy and change would you like to have in your life? A little, a lot? All you can get?

It’s also worth noting that AC is the brainchild of a man who thinks “children are incredibly sexy.” Screw the bars, I’d like the preceding phrase scrubbed from my mind.

Once again, though, we have people being told what they want to hear: your dissatisfaction in life isn’t caused by something complex and nebulous, like a mental disorder or social inequity. In fact, the source of your misery is so simple, we can fix it by poking you in the head.

fuckingwall

The source of America’s troubles is so simple, we can fix it by building a wall.

Finally, there’s the wealth of alternative “scientific” explanations that serve more to pacify than to inform. The anti-vax movement is predicated on one. The denial of global warming is founded on another. Thanks to the Trump administration, the latter has been virtually integrated into public policy with the gagging of major scientific agencies like the EPA and the National Park Service. (Though the national parks haven’t given up just yet—follow their resistance Twitter account, if you haven’t already.)

While the outcry against these measures has been vociferous and sincere, there are still those who insist we should “give Trump a chance.” This, for them, is more expedient than facing the stark reality of climate change or the even starker reality of having elected a malignant narcissist president.

We’ve given Trump—and MLMs, and religious cults, and anti-vaxers—enough of a chance. While the preponderance of blame is always on the scammer, his victims owe it to themselves and to each other to admit that they’ve been conned. Just because a lot of Americans were convinced to follow a lunatic doesn’t mean we, as a country, need to keep following him. That’s the very definition of the sunk cost fallacy.

Get suspicious. Get active. Resist.

And for god’s sake, don’t believe something just because it’s what you wanted to hear.

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