The 2009 Scammy Awards: it's not too late to vote!
A few weeks ago I received an email from John Curtis, founder of Americans Against Self-Help Fraud! The purpose of the email was to announce the second annual edition of an awards program that John created last year as an adjunct to his National Guru-Free Week, which is April 1-8. And yes, there is a significance to the fact that Guru-Free Week begins on April Fools Day. (Here's a link to a press release about last year's National Guru-Free Week.)
Being preoccupied with my real work as well as my serious investigative non-journalistic pursuits of other matters of consequence, I let John's email slide, but everything worked out all right anyway. As it happens, he also sent an email to Steve Salerno at SHAMblog, and Steve didn't let it slide. Here's the link to Steve's post about the matter.
At this point the Scammy Awards are still wide open for categories as well as nominees. Some of John's suggestions for categories are:
- Dumbest Thing Said by a self-Help Guru
- Most Hypocritical Self-Help Guru
- Worst Sequel to a Self-Help Book
- Least Likely to be a True Self-Help Premise
- Self-Help Product Most Clearly Done Just for the Cash
- The Deepak Chopra Lifetime Confusion Award
- Biggest Celebrity Sucker (Who Bought and Then Promoted a Load of New Age Crap)
- Biggest Promise That Will Not Be Delivered Upon
You are, of course, welcome to add your own categories and nominees. Steve is now receiving suggestions at SHAMblog, which he will compile and forward to John.
Not surprisingly, I have a few categories to add, which I shared on SHAMblog. I'll recap my nominations here.
To begin with, I think there should be a category for Most Creative/Profitable Use of Imaginary Friends. The obvious front runners would be Esther and Jerry Hicks and their Imaginary-Pals collective, Abraham. Even though they were, for all practical purposes, ousted from The Secret due to Rhonda Byrne's greed, they continue to rake in the really big bucks, holding lavish Abraham-Hicks cruises every year. As Jerry and Esther themselves put it on the web page describing their 2009 Tahiti cruise, "We keep saying this----It just can't get any better than this! (But we know that somehow it will!)."
Another stunning success story in the Imaginary-Friends industry is JZ Knight and her old (literally; he's over 35,000) pal Ramtha. JZ has exclusive rights to Ramtha and even successfully sued someone else who claimed to be channeling him. She has made many millions of dollars convincing people that Ramtha is real, and as many may recall, the two of them were a major part of the hit New-Wage moviemercial, What The Bleep Do We Know? The blurb about Ramtha on the "Scientists" page of the official What The Bleep web site says, "[Ramtha's] partnership with American woman JZ Knight, his channel, still baffles scholars." (No, Bleepers, what baffles scholars is the fact that so many people apparently believe Ramtha is real – a belief that enabled his wily inventor to evolve from trailer park resident to multimillionaire. I GOTTA find me a scam.)
A newer entry in the Imaginary-Friends arena is Vladimir Megre, once a failed Russian entrepreneur who hit the big time after he "discovered" a young, naked but infinitely wise woman in the Siberian woods. He says her name is Anastasia, and he has written a slew of books about her, The Ringing Cedars series. They haven't become as big as The Secret yet, but they seem to be pretty popular, and such luminaries as Chicken Soup co-perp Mark Victor Hansen has praised them (scroll down a bit on the page and you'll see his brief testimonial). Or at least Mark praised Anastasia, saying, "Anastasia wows the soul!" It's entirely possible that he was actually praising the animated movie, and the Ringing Cedars people lifted his testimonial, but knowing the circles Mark runs in, I tend to think not. Anyway, here's a bit more insight into Anastasia and the whole Imaginary-Friends shtick.
The Three Amigos $2,000 Briefcase Scam perpetrated by Bob Proctor, Jack Canfield and Michael Beckwith is worthy of a Scammy in and of itself. For the benefit of those who don't know about the Briefcase Scam, it involved a $1,995 leather briefcase that contained DVDs, CDs, MP3s and a workbook, all centered around Wallace Wattle's classic book, The Science of Getting Rich, but with a whole lotta Proctor thrown in. It was an affiliate program, so for your nearly $2,000 you got the chance to sell overpriced briefcases full of crap to as many other people as you could manage to sucker into the deal, and you'd get a commission. As I just mentioned the other day, though (scroll down to the third item, "Whither the SGR Club"?), the briefcases are no longer selling for $1,995, but are now going for the rock-bottom price of just under $300. When they're gone, they're gone! Be sure to watch those videos if you follow the link, especially the one where Scientist Bob snaps his finger and demands that you take advantage of his briefcase deal NOW, with absolutely no further thought about it – even if you have to borrow the money from your grandmother (here's the YouTube link to that one).
Kevin Trudeau probably deserves his own Lifetime Achievement award too, perhaps as Most Successful Serial Scammer.
There should also be some sort of New-Wage Martyr Award, and I think Trudeau (or True-dough, as he's often known) would be up for that too, since a major part of his marketing shtick is making a big deal out of the fact that the big bad US government has been on his case for years. Poor Kevin; he's only trying to help consumers, and Unca Sam just keeps trying to clip his wings. Another contender for New-Wage Martyr, of course, would be David Schirmer, Aussie Secret star, whose ongoing martyrdom has been documented on my Whirled numerous times, including here, and here, and here, and here. David has been accused of all sorts of financial wrongdoing, including bilking investors out of a great deal of money, but he blames all of his troubles on a vengeful ex-employee/lover, tabloid journalists, Satan, etc. They're all out to get him, poor guy, when all he really wants to do is the Lord's work.
Although I didn't mention this on SHAMblog, there's another potential Scammy category, based on an award I proposed a couple of years ago on this blog: the MystiCouple Award for the best New-Wage mom-and-pop team. Response to my proposal was lackluster (although I did get a lecture about what a judgmental and angry person I am, and I also received some indignant private emails from followers of one of the MystiCouples. I'd tell you which couple, but I don't want yet another spate of angry emails). Anyway, I'm thinking that some sort of Flim-Flamming Couple Award would be a viable category for the Scammy Awards. Once again, our pals Esther and Jerry Hicks are contenders in this category, but there are several other active couples, as mentioned in the post linked to above. (Note: The couple at the very end of the post, one Rev Ron and Cosmic Connie, are there for laughs. We're not competing for a Scammy. Don't waste your valuable vote!)
Now, I realize that the MystiCouple category may be more New-Age/spiritual than strictly self-help, but then again, so is the Imaginary-Friends category. Frankly, the line between self-help and New Age has blurred so much in recent years (which is why I coined the term, "New-Wage" in the first place) that they are all, in my opinion, Scammy contenders. In fact, John Curtis' tentative category list above reflects the common threads of New-Age, self-help and McSpirituality.
Well, I hope this was enough to get you inspired. I invite and encourage you to participate in the Scammy nominations. You can do it at Steve's blog, as mentioned above, or you can submit your suggestions here on my Whirled, and I'll forward them to John Curtis.
And, of course, you can also contact John directly through his site. He does solicit financial support for his ongoing efforts to battle self-help fraud (and yes, I know that some would say "self-help fraud" is a redundancy), but you can participate in the Scammy nominations at no cost.
Let the nominations begin (or continue)!
PS ~ If you want to promote the Scammy Awards on your own blog or other site, feel free to use the image above (note: it's not an "official" creation or logo of John's organization, just my own effort for the cause). If you single-click on the image you'll get the large version, which will be better for downloading.