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Expelled! for Advocating Health & Rationality

by Brian Dunning, Oct 22 2009

Reader Ryan Quick is a member of the Yahoo! Group EastRangeFreecycle, a northern Minnesota chapter of Freecycle. Freecycle (http://freecycle.org/) is a fine, nonprofit association of groups where items can be given away for free rather than having them go into a landfill. I’ve never used their service, but I’m a strong proponent of the philosophy and have given away a number of items over the years, mostly furniture.

Someone offered the following item for free on the list:

Offer: Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You to Know About
By Kevin Trudeau. Excellent book – I just have two of them.
In Virginia.

In case you’re not familiar with this particular book, it is yet another product by convicted felon Kevin Trudeau, who has made himself a millionaire many times over by selling quackery, much of it of the “natural cure” variety. This book, like most of his books, is essentially an upsell brochure intended to draw you in to purchase his worthless pills and supplements. Thus, Trudeau’s organization happily gives the book away, in addition to its being a bestseller in bookstores.

This particular offer came from Virginia, even though this list is explicitly limited to items from northern Minnesota.

Ryan was not so fond of this book being offered, so he posted the following reply:

This may be inappropriate for this list, but I decided to post anyway since this a matter of health and safety.

Kevin Trudeau is a notorious con-man and huckster.  He has been banned by the FTC from ever selling anything on TV again because his claims about health are so wrong and dangerous.

Here’s some information about him:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_Trudeau

http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=1574

http://www.skepdic.com/trudeau.html

http://dir.salon.com/books/feature/2005/07/29/trudeau

Again, sorry if I’ve overstepped bounds here, but I’d hate for someone to delay real treatment for health problems based on what’s written in this book.

The list is moderated, and it seems Ryan’s reply was moderated to that great freecycle bin in the sky. It was never posted. I can totally understand this: The purpose of the list is to get items recycled, not to talk people out of recycling a given item.

Personally, I think it’s better for the public good to have Trudeau’s books in a landfill and not in a potential victim’s hands, but we have free speech in this country. Trudeau is free to write his books (so long as he manages to thread the needle and avoid breaking laws), the poster was free to offer it and say it’s a great book, Ryan was free to write his reply, and the list owners are free to accept or reject whatever posts they want based on whatever criteria they want.

Freecycle’s charter is to keep stuff out of landfills, not to be a filter for what’s good science and what’s bad science. It’s just a little irksome that they bent their northern Minnesota rule to allow the Trudeau sales brochure “books” from Virginia, but wouldn’t bend the rule to allow a public safety and health warning from a local member in good standing. Those books aren’t headed for a landfill; they’re being given out to suckers, wherever they can be found, to get them to buy worthless supplements. In short, the offer was spam.

EastRangeFreecycle is, of course, free to choose whichever of their own rules they wish to bend for whatever reason they like.

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Rating: 4.4/5 (5 votes cast)
Expelled! for Advocating Health & Rationality, 4.4 out of 5 based on 5 ratings

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17 Responses to “Expelled! for Advocating Health & Rationality”

  1. MadScientist says:

    A fine case of Caveat Emptor; that pretentious book belongs somewhere with the cask of Amontillado.

  2. Dax says:

    Hmmm, maybe the skeptics in the region should claim dibs on the item just so no gullible fool will get his or her hands on it.

    • Neal says:

      Or maybe a skeptic in the region could claim the item, and mark it up with a red pen, then give it away again so people can see all the mistakes and lies. Similar to Kirk Cameron’s Origin of the Species, but moving AWAY from woo.

      • Luke Vogel says:

        Only problem there, Neal, is there wouldn’t be enough space in the margins, you’d have to write another book to correct the mistakes and lies :)

    • Luke Vogel says:

      I’m not familiar with this Freecycle program – but if I’m understanding this story correctly, I think you have an excellent idea!

  3. Jesse says:

    Brian, Virginia is a city on the Iron Range of northern Minnesota. The East Range Freecycle group includes the cities of Virginia, Eveleth, and Gilbert. http://www.freecycle.org/group/US/Minnesota/East%20Range%20(Virginia,%20Eveleth,%20Gilbert)

    You may want to amend your post for that. I do not think any rules are being bent for a Trudeau book in this case.

    As someone who comes from this area, I hope there are more like Ryan actively working against the woo on the Range. This is good to see.

  4. Cthandhs says:

    I love freecycle (geek=”language”) a delightful portmanteau word (/geek) and have used it on several occasions, one man’s trash… and all. Unfortunately one of the big attractions to woo is that it’s usually cheaper or easier than the alternative. The best response is probably to just try and take this stuff out of circulation. I would love to see posts like Ryan’s communicated, but that would open the door to, say, people who think TV is unhealthy throwing warnings out whenever a free TV is posted. It would also make the credibility of the list entirely up to the moderators.

  5. Pat in Montreal says:

    Well, if giving away an “extra copy” of Trudeau’s book is one way his people markets his woo, just have as many skeptics as possible from the area contact the “giver” for a copy of the book… The cold season is coming and I hear they make excellent fire starters for your fireplace!

    After all he makes his money on sales of woo from the book… giving away copies without generating sales is not good for Trudeau’s business.

    Just my 2 cents

  6. Aaron says:

    Holeysnappinduckshit!

    I’m from Australia and I remember this guy in the mid nineties flogging off Mega Memory tapes, et al. He then disappeared off our local screens. I subconsciously assumed he was convicted/bankrupt/went straight or something.

    Now 12+ years later I see nothing has changed with this man. He reminds me of the fable of the Scorpion and the Frog. Unfortunately its in this guy’s nature to do this kind of stuff.

    It raises the question: should we pity him?

  7. Phoenix Skeptic says:

    Our local Safeway has been selling used books to support breast cancer research. I found a very good skeptical book “How to Think About Weird Things” by Theodore Schick Jr. and Lewis Vaugh. I also found a book by Dr. I. William Lane and Linda Comac titled, “Sharks Don’t get Cancer – How Shark Cartilage Could Save Your Life” 1992.
    This was ironic on several levels! I bought both books, the first to add to my skeptic library, the second to keep it out of the hands of an unwary cancer sufferer.

  8. Christina says:

    Freecycle started here (Tucson AZ). Not sure why they have such strict rules at this chapter, here where it started the only rules are:
    No Alcohol, Tobacco, Weapons, Drugs or Medications (Drugs or medications include – prescription, over the counter items, & supplements either for human or pet use.), Profanity or Sexual content, nor related items, legal or not. A) Computer software must be removed from the donor’s computer and be the original manufacturer disks or CDs that is given outright-not loaned, copied or downloaded. B) All copyrighted material, which includes movies and music, must be the original media i.e. VCR tapes,DVDs,CDs or cassette tapes.

    But honestly I rarely see them monitor profane items unless it is obvious.

    It is a great resource, I once off loaded some organic kitty litter – it confused my cat as he couldn’t bury anything.

  9. chimbit says:

    A few months ago I was gathering some books to offload at the local used book store. I stumbled across two Kevin Trudeau books given to me by my woo-promoting father-in-law. I couldn’t take them in. In fact, I couldn’t even recycle them, lest someone see them in the bin and take them out. I threw them in the garbage where they quickly became filthy and unreadable. I felt better knowing that at least those two books wouldn’t be responsible for somebody taking Kevin Trudeau’s advice on things he knows absolutely nothing about.

    • tmac57 says:

      Sounds like you did the right thing. It would be a real tragedy if Kevin Trudeau’s books were somehow ‘accidentally’ misplaced in say, your local bookstore, or Library. I have heard anecdotal tales of woo books ending up in the sections that are rarely used by patrons, sometimes even ending up behind some huge tome in the reference section.

  10. Shane Brady says:

    As a former moderator and still “owner” of one of the oldest Freecycle chapters, I can tell you that it’s practically impossible to allow everyone on the list to comment on what other people are offering. Moderating Freecycle groups is a thankless task that, and one that often engenders a lot of abuse by group members. I don’t think they deserve any criticism.