The $37.6 Million Dollar Fine HE Doesn't Want You To Know About

By Phil Plait | December 18, 2011 7:00 am

If schadenfreude made a noise, then you’d be hearing it pretty loudly from me right now: Kevin Trudeau — a convicted credit card fraud, and a man who made tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars by telling people he could cure their cancer using, get this, coral calcium — has lost his appeal to the federal court, and must pay $37.6 million dollars in fines.

Trudeau, who shilled this false cancer cure as a diet supplement, was ordered by a federal judge in 2008 to stop making and airing infomercials about it. I wrote about this at the time, but I kept seeing those evil infomercials on TV. I wondered about this, but now I understand: Trudeau was trying to sidestep the order by selling books about this false cure, not the supplements directly. And, he kept buying up those ad spots while appealing the order. But on November 29th of this year, the appeals court said "nope".

As the court papers say:

The protections, unfortunately, were too weak: Trudeau aired infomercials in violation of the order at least 32,000 times. He should not now be surprised that he must pay for the loss he caused. At a minimum, it was easily within the district court’s discretion to conclude that he should. And $37.6 million correctly measures the loss. The figure is conservative — it only considers sales from the 800-number, not sales in bookstores carrying his "As Seen on TV" titles…

Wow, so he only violated a court order 32,000 times. But wait, there’s more! Apparently, there’s not a lot of real info in those books; they just funnel people to a web site urging them to spend hundreds of dollars for the products he sells. So how much money do you think he really made?

The court also instituted a $2 million bond in case he tries to make more infomercials. It doesn’t stop him from placing ads or writing books, just from bilking people using those long-form late night infomercials:

It does not limit Trudeau as an author; it does not curtail Trudeau’s attempt to pitch products in any print medium; it does not even apply if Trudeau makes a TV or radio ad under two minutes. Its application targets only the commercial conduct that has caused such tremendous consumer harm in the past—infomercials. Second, the district court set the performance bond at $2 million but took seriously Trudeau’s claim that it is beyond what he can afford by allowing him to file an audited financial statement and prove as much in a hearing. Third, the bond requirement is proportional to the amount of harm Trudeau caused by previous deceptive infomercials. If anything, the number seems low given that, over the course of nearly a year, Trudeau’s Weight Loss Cure infomercial sold thousands of books each day for many months.

Interesting that he claims he can’t afford the $2 million bond, when he’s built a billion-dollar empire on false claims. I can’t imagine why they’d ask for an audited financial statement from him. I hope they get an independent auditor.

And I really wish they had forbad him from publishing of any kind. Trudeau claims this is a First Amendment issue, but it’s not: there are very narrow cases where you don’t have the right to say anything you want, and false advertising is very clearly one of them.

You see, his books sell for about $30 each. That means a million people bought his utterly useless advice… except it’s not useless. It’s worse than that: people were looking for help to cure themselves or loved ones of cancer. Instead of getting help, they were getting false hope and spinning their wheels on nonsense when they could have been looking into real medicine.

How many people died or were made sicker because of Kevin Trudeau, people who might have been helped instead? That’s a number not in the court documents, nor is it knowable. Maybe it’s zero. But I strongly doubt that: out of a million people who bought into his nonsense, do you really think no one, not one single person, was hurt?

And having written about Trudeau before, I don’t know what makes me sadder: the damage his antiscience has done, or the fact that people will show up in the comments below defending him. They can try, but the facts remain: his claims are garbage, they can and almost certainly do hurt people, and that he’s made hundreds of millions of dollars off of giving false hope to sick people. And what makes me saddest is the firm knowledge that despite all of this, he’ll be back.

Tip o’ the shamwow to the JREF Twitter stream.


Related posts:

- Trudeau’s going to jail. Schadenfreudelicious.
- Here’s something Kevin Trudeau wants you to know: he’s contemptible
- <Nelson> HA HA </Nelson>
- The FTC wakes up, too

Comments (89)

  1. Chris

    Phil, you need to have your own infomercial.
    “What they don’t want you to know about homeopathy” It’s water
    “What they don’t want you to know about 2012″ Nothing is going to happen
    “What they don’t want you to know about global warming” It’s real
    “What they don’t want you to know about vaccines” They don’t cause autism
    “What they don’t want you to know about science” It works
    “What they don’t want you to know about magic” It doesn’t work

    You could educate the masses and make millions.

  2. cletus

    Naaaw, Chris … the market for truth just ain’t that lucrative.

  3. David

    Unfortunately, cletus is right. When I showed the video of Steve Novella on Dr. Oz to my freshman chemistry class, the majority of the class fell on the side of Oz. Given that I try to teach critial thinking, I pretty much felt like a failure.

  4. Gary Ansorge

    ,,,and then there is this,,,

    http://www.care2.com/causes/anti-choicers-sacrifice-junk-food-and-other-things-that-are-bad-for-you-until-abortion-ends.html

    It seems anti-choice people ARE making a choice,,,to eat healthier until abortion is once again illegal,,,

    Now, those of us who favor a woman’s personal choice can also say we’re helping the Stupid People to live healthier,,,

    Gary 7

  5. Robin Byron

    @cletus ~ Because the truth has always been, and always will be, free for those who look to find it.

  6. Bill

    I certainly agree that he is sleaze of the first water and definitely deserves whatever punishment is dished out and very likely a lot more.

    In fact, when his book came out I saw it in Costco and immediately wrote to Costco complaining about them selling a book by this felon (not that it helped).

    OTOH, any adult who swallows (literally as well as figuratively) his crap may deserve what they get as well. Clearly what they get is as much due to their own failure to educate themselves as it is due to the peddlers whose woo they buy into. In an ideal world with a populace that has a truly scientific education, these butt-holes would not sell single book or pill. Of course, given the bell-curve of varying human capacity, this will never happen. :-(

    I would suggest that the only folks who really need protection from these ass-wads are
    the children who are dependents of the pathetic ill-informed and mal-educated parents
    that subject their offspring to this crap. For that, decades in prison would be much more effective than a fine, however large.

  7. Moose

    No, no, I _want_ him to submit his own paperwork first. The independent auditor comes later, so they can jail him for perjury (and hopefully tax evasion. I can’t imagine a [fine upstanding citizen] like Trudeau isn’t playing fast and loose with his taxes, too.)

    And the courts get to fine him all over again.

  8. Trebuchet

    He’ll never pay up. Can’t they just put him in prison where he belongs? Maybe one year per book, served consecutively.

  9. Simon

    Audited financial statements -require- an independent auditor by their nature. I don’t envy whoever gets that job: in a situation like this one where the character of the sole-proprietor is severely compromised, they’ll have to go through his statements with a nano-tooth comb. On the other hand, they’ll be charging him a fee that reflects this increased level of effort.

  10. Jess Tauber

    In a world that values gold over sense, what, you think people are going to pass on the chance to make their own fortune? Nonsense is what makes civilizations, its what gives you cultural diversity. Imagine a reality where thinking prevailed- boring news, colorless politics, tiresome fashions (maybe music wouldn’t suffer), world peace and all that c**p (imagine truthful advertising and packaging- what would THAT do to the incomes of job creators). They still execute people for witchcraft (here and there). Don’t worry, though, Trudeau will get his in the next incarnation.

  11. QuietDesperation

    boring news, colorless politics

    Where do I sign up?

    Not sure why you think rationality would kill off artistic creatovity, though.

  12. QuietDesperation

    OTOH, any adult who swallows (literally as well as figuratively) his crap may deserve what they get as well.

    Distraught, ill people who make a bad decision deserve to die. Wonderful. And then you all wonder why our side has such an uphill battle. Empathy and compassion, anyone? Or are those not rational enough?

  13. Steve

    I abhor the man, and his actions, but maybe this is just one more way Nature weeds out the weak of mind!?!?!?!?

  14. Stargazer

    Maybe if healthcare wasn’t just for those who can pay for it, people would not be so likely to reach for alternative methods that don’t even work.

  15. Kevin

    Gary (4)…you and I may disagree with people who are against legalized abortion, but to say people are stupid simply because of a moral belief they hold is beyond ridiculous [see post 12]. Of course, those who demonstrate that belief by breaking the law should be punished, but that still doesn’t, in and of itself, make them stupid.

    Stargazer (14), sadly, even universal health care wouldn’t stop this–at least not until evidence-based medicine has a cure for everything. Desperate patients and their loved ones will (understandably) continue to grasp at anything when actual medicine doesn’t yet have an answer.

  16. VinceRN

    If there were a Noble prize for snake oil sales…

  17. Sadly, I suspect it’s only a portion of what he’s made, and of what his next scam will make.

  18. Antice

    seriously. we need laws against crocks like Trudeau. just look at the ad’s on the left hand side here… it’s almost all snake oil advert’s.
    The web is being overrun by these scams. it’s tragic.

  19. What Stargazer said.

  20. Chief

    So, who does the money he stole ultimately go to. Doesn’t sound like he will be paying back those he swindled. Just a fine and back to the same old shill.

  21. Sir Craig

    I have to agree with QuietDesperation regarding statements like those of Bill (and later Steve); we are talking about people who, if they weren’t already messed up enough from the desperation brought about by cancer, are surrounded by millions of sites and opinions by those who pose or claim to know what they are talking about. To weed out the lunatics and scammers is becoming more difficult because they are becoming more savvy getting their message out, and as always are trying to introduce “reasonable” doubt as though that was an actual logical argument.

    We need sites like Phil’s here that can help not only expose these charlatans but also direct people to actual experts in the field, those with years and years of experience backed by facts. The last thing we need to do is come off sounding like we are all for some kind of “social Darwinism”.

  22. The Bad Astronomer said: And what makes me saddest is the firm knowledge that despite all of this, he’ll be back.

    Sad, and true. As you pointed out, the books themselves were a way for him to get around another court order to stop what he’d been doing. I’m sure he’ll worm his slimy tentacles into some other media niche that will make him money.

  23. I wonder if it’d be possible for survivors of those who have died (after going the coral calcium route) to file a class-action wrongful death suit? Any legal eagles on here who can comment?
    As Phil said, it’s difficult to tie any one death to a patient foregoing chemo for this stuff (cancer is like that, it’s same general principle that allowed the tobacco industry to skate along for so long with its denials), but I’d think if you reached enough people, you could find a sizable group who skipped chemo for this “miracle cure.” And died. If you could get a large enough group together for there to be a statistically significant death rate vs chemo patients, would they have legal recourse?

    Of course, somewhere on the back pages there’s probably a sleazy fine-print disclaimer, something along the lines of “This book is for entertainment purposes only, and the author is not liable for harm done by taking any advice from this work.” Still, I doubt that’d fly very far in court, all things considered. Or would it?

  24. James

    “not sales in bookstores carrying his “As Seen on TV” titles…”

    I was a customer service manager at a major brick-and-mortar bookstore when Kevin’s first book hit the shelves, I’d guess it was one of the most returned books that year by percentage of sales. I quit counting how many complaints I had to direct to the publisher because “this book doesn’t have the cures it said it did!”. I’m sure their customer service line loved me.

  25. PayasYouStargaze

    @1 Chris:

    “What they don’t want you to know about 2012″ Nothing is going to happen

    In fairness, I’m sure lots of things will happen in 2012, and in 2013, 2014, …

  26. Acleron

    20. Chief Says:
    December 18th, 2011 at 2:24 pm
    So, who does the money he stole ultimately go to. Doesn’t sound like he will be paying back those he swindled. Just a fine and back to the same old shill.

    Education? Bloggers as here and the Evidence Based Medicine site?

  27. Mike G

    It’s probably pretty hard to quantify the toll these supplements have taken on the people who bought them, but the damage done in the third world countries where this coral calcium is mined is pretty clear. Coral mining is a huge problem for resource managers in the Indo-Pacific where millions of people are dependent on the reefs as their main source of income and food (though to be fair, dietary use is probably only the second biggest consumer of coral rock after the construction industry). Once the mining operations remove the structure of the reef, the fish (and usually the corals) don’t come back, so all the people who formerly depended on the reef for food are SOL. People’s livelihoods are literally being stolen from them by their own neighbors to support the coral mining industry and since the resources are often collectively owned and poorly regulated, they have virtually no recourse. Even if coral calcium did have therapeutic properties, the same form of calcium carbonate (aragonite) is found in plenty of other, more sustainable sources like discarded oyster shells. Coral is about the worst possible source for a calcium supplement in terms of the damage caused.

  28. @27 Mike: I didn’t realize coral was being mined on such a scale. Ack. That’s like selling ground-up limestone and getting it by harvesting stalactites in tourist caves. Actually, isn’t limestone mostly calcium carbonate from ancient marine organism shells? Limestone is incredibly abundant. Why the hell even put in the effort to mine coral??

  29. Chris

    @27 Mike. That’s just as bad as peddling rhino horns. Part of me was hoping they were just selling pills made of chalk.

  30. Beer Case

    #15 Kevin is right, universal health care doesn’t stop quacks. We have our share in Norway too. :(

    Although we have less of them, and the vaccineprogramme is highly supported in the public, there are a number of nutcases that deny their kids the mmr vaccine for instance.

  31. Bill

    “Distraught, ill people who make a bad decision deserve to die. Wonderful. And then you all wonder why our side has such an uphill battle. Empathy and compassion, anyone? Or are those not rational enough?”

    How about personal responsibility? Not too fashionable these days, I know. “Someone Else” (read the government) is supposed to look out for you and be sure you don’t make bad decisions (like buying into this guy’s crap).

    Stupidity, regardless of it’s origins, has consequences. I know it offends the liberals, but consequences will happen whether or not they are offended. The natural consequences. of being ill-educated and ill-informed are many. This is just one.

    As I said above, the only people that really need outside protection are those that cannot, by virtue of age or other factors BEYOND their control, make good decisions.

  32. ND

    “OTOH, any adult who swallows (literally as well as figuratively) his crap may deserve what they get as well.”

    Unfortunately Steve Jobs fell into this group when he apparently delayed conventional treatment for his cancer. At least that’s what I’ve heard.

  33. RAF

    Bill…people need to be protected from this guy, not denigrated because they “fell” for it.

    Don’t stoop so low as to “blame the victim”…Trudeau is a criminal engaged in criminal acts, and that’s what is important here…

    For instance, would you “blame” those grieving over deceased loved ones who seek out Sylvia Browne, or would you blame Sylvia Browne for lying for profit?

  34. Christo

    I reckon, he should be given Cancer as a punishment… What a disease of a human being!

  35. Dallas

    Phil: “And I really wish they had forbad him from publishing of any kind. Trudeau claims this is a First Amendment issue, but it’s not: there are very narrow cases where you don’t have the right to say anything you want, and false advertising is very clearly one of them.”

    I imagine that you’re implying that false advertising is a case where one’s freedom of speech is allowed to be taken away due to the drastic consequences that it would induce in this case.

    If our freedoms are dependent on the consequences that incur on the exercise of those freedoms, then wouldn’t it be better, under this aim, to only allow the speech that produces the best consequences and forbid all speech that could ever lead to worse consequences? This would mean, obviously, that there is no longer freedom of speech, but it follows the consequentialist logic you give. Now, maybe you can say that regulating all speech is too hard, and its better to tell people they’re free to speak and only punish them when they speak in a way that makes something really bad happen, like in this case. But then you open the door for any speech to be regulated at some point, and when the government gains increasing technology and power, more and more speech can be regulated. Thus the freedom becomes smaller and smaller.

    Do we have freedom of speech because we truly ought to have the freedom to say what we wish, or is it only a convenience until we can control all of it for the greater good?

    Or, if retract my previous assumption and instead assume you meant exactly what you said, and that false advertising is the exception itself, then it would appear that you mean all lying is wrong and should be punishable under the law. Thus, any politician, preacher, teacher, or citizen of any sort caught in a lie should be punished. I assumed you didn’t imply this before because most people do not think lying to be categorically wrong, as Kantian views are much less common than consequentialist ones.

    So what is it, categorical freedom of speech, freedom of speech as long as it’s true (or intended to be true), or freedom of speech as long as it leads to the best consequences (or in other words, completely regulated speech aimed at producing the best consequences)? Or do you have something else in mind (I can think of some more, but lets leave it at this).

  36. JC

    Bill, regarding post 31, I think what you are forgetting is that people who get a diagnosis of cancer get desperate (especially a parent with a young child who has cancer) and their judgment skills can get clouded.

    Especially in a case where conventional treatments do not work, and they are facing a terrible outcome. Again, this is ESPECIALLY going to be the case if you are a parent with a young child, and every conventional attempt has been tried.

    Those who are desperate (through no fault of their own) WILL grasp at straws, and this man is cruelly exploiting that desperation. I’ve known parents who have had children with cancer, and I cannot think of a worse situation to be in. I have been amazed at how well they somehow manage to go on, but I think it mistaken to blame them. They are already undergoing a personal family tragedy, and it is all too understandable why they are easy prey for these snake-oil salesmen.

    As for Steven Jobs, (comment 32) I believe he had pancreatic cancer — which is VERY difficult to beat — mainly because by the time one feels symptoms, it is likely already metastasized, and is rarely beaten.

    The only way to detect it in time is to have screening for it, and early treatment. But this is not routinely done.

    Jimmy Carter lost all three of his siblings to pancreatic cancer, and he has a screening every 6 months. Obviously, there must be some genetic pattern in his family (I believe his father died of that as well.)

  37. QuietDesperation

    @25 I had the same thought. :)

    The technically correct one is:

    2012: We have no idea what will happen.

  38. ChazInMT

    If you’ve gotten this far, go to Amazon.com, find “Natural cures they don’t want you to know about” and vote as “Not Helpful” on some of the top reviews people written, and “Helpful” the 1 star ratings. Let’s make it to where the “Most Helpful” reviews are 1 star reviews telling the truth.

    We here can make a difference right now on how he’s perceived on at least 1 front. There are very good (bad) reviews that are ripe to be on top, and very bad (good) reviews that need to be taken down a few notches.

    Power to the Skeptics! (I hope most skeptics have an Amazon Account)

  39. QuietDesperation

    @Bill

    Whoa there, Nellie.”Distraught, ill people” is what I was talking about, not some general referendum on personal responsibility, just a comment on a specific situation. Stuff your little ideological rant back under its rock- I don’t traffic in that unyielding POV nonsense. Empathy and compassion have nothing to do with petty little politics. You have no idea about the people hurt by this scam- their histories or their experiences or their struggles. They are human beings, not some statistic for you to dismiss. Oh, sorry, is this too touchy feely for your Unquestionable Ubernerd Rationality?

  40. The First Amendment does not give you the right to yell “FIRE!” in a crowded theater when there is no fire, or to slander someone, or to commit fraud. Let’s not slide down Dallas’ slippery slope, please.

  41. Dallas

    @TampaDude. Good point. However, I’m not actually saying that a slippery slope would occur, I’m saying it should under the weird paradigm that we’re totally focused on consequences but think it’s too hard to enforce, in which case you’d enforce what you could given the technology. It certainly seems to be the case that we can sustain a government that doesn’t keep slipping that way, and that seems to be because of society’s appreciation for freedom of speech. But my point is that it’s not consistent to say that you should have total freedom of speech except in these cases because of the consequences and not apply that consequentialist viewpoint to every situation if consequences are indeed more important than the right to speech.

  42. vince charles

    24. Joseph G Said:

    “I wonder if it’d be possible for survivors of those who have died (after going the coral calcium route) to file a class-action wrongful death suit? Any legal eagles on here who can comment?”

    Sure, anyone can _file_ an individual claim, or join a class-action suit, but…

    Kevin is obviously not stupid. He’s set up multiple hurdles between his direct statements (well, as direct as they are) and the end-user actions (i.e., swallowing ground-up coral). Thus, prosecution becomes enough of a grey area to give him some loopholes- such as his own claim to freedom of speech, or Bill’s dodge of personal medical responsibility from non-doctors. It’s the same way he wiggled his 32,000 TV spots back onto the air; he just got caught this time, and punished. Maybe he’ll manage to beat any resulting civil suits, maybe he won’t.

    “Of course, somewhere on the back pages there’s probably a sleazy fine-print disclaimer, something along the lines of “This book is for entertainment purposes only, and the author is not liable for harm done by taking any advice from this work.” Still, I doubt that’d fly very far in court, all things considered. Or would it?”

    Trudeau has gotten as far as he has by doing things like what you describe. Again, he’s not stupid.

  43. vince charles

    42. Dallas:

    There is no slippery slope. As the saying goes, your right to swing your fist ends at someone else’s nose. Freedom of speech is no more absolute than any other freedom… which is to say that all freedoms imply certain responsibilities, and a few of them often demand certain responsibilities. That’s the difference between liberty and anarchy. And yes, there is a difference.

  44. vince charles

    Ah crud, double post… Suffice it to say, the difference (rights vs. liabilities) has been recognized since before the Pentateuch, and probably before Hammurabi.

  45. Dallas

    @vince charles,

    Yeah, I’m not saying there is a slippery slope. I’m really not. Reread my statement if you need to and I can clear it up if you’re still not sure how I’m not.

    The argument that freedoms imply or demands certain responsibilities is a strange one. I think you’ll actually need to make an argument for me to understand your logic there. I’m familiar with different conceptions of liberty, and you’ll notice that I didn’t use that word, as it has a lot of very disparate baggage.

  46. ChrisB

    For what it’s worth, the mining of coral for medicine is infinitesimal when measured against harvesting of coral for lime for building purposes. Yes, the consequences are likely to be bad.

  47. Autumn

    Dallas,
    No, Trudeau is comitting fraud. I do not have the right to say I am selling you a box of tomatoes but send you a box of nothing instead. In any case in which Trudeau is directing people to a website that is devoted to selling his product, or in any case that he is directly attempting to get people to buy his book, he is comitting fraud by falsely advertising medical claims.

  48. Dallas

    @Autumn,

    Yeah, that’s the way the law works. I got that. My questions were aimed at understanding what the primary ethical concerns are. I know what the law is. Fraud is an exception to freedom of speech, and so if we accept freedom of speech a priori, we need a justification for why fraud is wrong, right? The law of the US doesn’t need to philosophically justify things, it can do what it wants, but I’m asking for some justification of how exactly we build a coherent view out of some very conflicting ideas. So, you say I don’t have a right to commit fraud. Okay, well, is that the case because of the consequences of fraud, or because the act of fraud is immoral in and of itself, as Immanuel Kant would say? Or is there another ethical concern here? Or do we need to just get rid of freedom of speech, because we can’t justify it either?

  49. Wrong

    @Bill- You’re wrong. Just thought I’d point it out there. Scum like this who can peddle eloquently written pseudoscience and garbage will always be able to get their message out. The people who are scammed are deserving of sympathy, not disgust. After all, that is the reason posts like this are written- to take down these leeches. Not everyone can, will, or should be expert on nonsense like this, or the correct alternative. That would be madness, and frankly, considering the amount of this type of nonsense peddled by PhD’s, understanding what’s real and what isn’t is not a simple feat. That’s why Plait’s work on this is awesome, and you’re posting in the comments.

  50. bkallee

    Dallas, try replacing the word “justify” with “rationalize”. We humans seem to be able to rationalize anything – right or wrong, good or bad, real or not. Find the root of anything and you will find a consequence – right or wrong, good or bad etc. You can “justify” (rationalize) fraud based on what?
    I could care less if fraud is moral or immoral, especially in some vague relgious sense. I recognized when I was young that morality cannot be legislated. Once you eliminate the the morality question you can focus on the consequences.
    Fraud = Wrong because it harms the public (me) and therefore should never be an exception to freedom of speech or any other law.

  51. Curt

    @ Kevin (15)… Maybe I’m misjudging, but the absence of comments applauding your thoughts surprises me. The moral philosophy that you display has been losing ground for years. The old adage about walking in another man’s shoes… doesn’t seem to be taught or discussed much anymore. And, IMO, most of society’s ills result from a general lack of compassion and understanding of other people’s circumstances.

    So, kudos, sir.

  52. @34 RAF: Don’t stoop so low as to “blame the victim”…Trudeau is a criminal engaged in criminal acts, and that’s what is important here…
    For instance, would you “blame” those grieving over deceased loved ones who seek out Sylvia Browne, or would you blame Sylvia Browne for lying for profit?

    This. It’s bad enough when the hucksters themselves use this as a rationalization, let’s not help them out.

  53. @36 Dallas: Now, maybe you can say that regulating all speech is too hard, and its better to tell people they’re free to speak and only punish them when they speak in a way that makes something really bad happen, like in this case. But then you open the door for any speech to be regulated at some point, and when the government gains increasing technology and power, more and more speech can be regulated.

    I agree. There’s also the question of correctly ascertaining when someone’s speech has actually led to harm. Those of us in the US may remember the aftermath of the shooting that maimed Representative Kathleen Giffords and killed six others. In the wake of the attack, quite a few pundits and political figures took potshots atsniped atcondemned each other for their choices of words and excessively “violent” political rhetoric. They claimed that their targets’ words were responsible for goading the shooter to do what he did. Now personally, I do think that some of those so accused are indeed pretty full of BS and not really adding anything to the discourse, but still, I think you have to agree if you’re going to be intellectually honest that it’s completely ridiculous to blame a person’s speech for such a crime when there are so many different variables in the chain of causation. We don’t know if the guy ever read or heard the alleged toxic rhetoric, if he did that he remembered it, if he did if he agreed with it, etc etc.
    If we open the door to this sort of argument, it’d be pretty easy for the government to ban anything it sees as potentially encouraging someone unbalanced to do something bad. Of course, with so many people on Earth, you’re always going to have a few that are unbalanced enough to do something and claim that the muppets on Sesame Street made them do it.
    In fact, if you look at pretty much any dictatorship on the planet, the government justifies persecuting those who publicly criticize the government not because “You can’t do that because we say so,” but with some variation of “Hey, we’d rather not be beating you right now, but we have to stop this kind of speech because it could cause a riot. Or something… harmful. Use your imagination.”

  54. @43/44: Vince Charles: Sure, anyone can file an individual claim, or join a class-action suit, but…
    Kevin is obviously not stupid. He’s set up multiple hurdles between his direct statements

    I was afraid of that. Thanks though.

    Kevin is obviously not stupid.
    I think that’s what makes him so reprehensible. There are some people who push woo who genuinely believe in what they’re doing. It’s pretty obvious, though, that Kevin here knows what he’s doing, and is in it for the money, end of sentence, period.

  55. DrXym

    What’s amazing is there are people who defend this huckster, and Jim Humble (Miracle Mineral Solution). These phony baloney “cures” are so obviously false, and in the case of MMS harmful that it is a wonder that there are people would give them the time of day.

    I think the main reason for their support is paranoia. Some people have developed an irrational distrust of “big pharma”; that pharmaceuticals couldn’t possibly produce drugs that cure or help you because they’re in it to make money. Apparently you can’t make money from selling things that save people’s lives (screw you airbags, emergency ration kits, torchlights, safety harnesses, work helmets, life jackets etc.). And fear of the FDA who, if the paranoid logic is followed must be corrupt for regulating big pharma.

    So when these people hear someone on TV or in a book pandering to their fears, ranting about big pharma and the FDA they buy into it. Trudeau is working these people like a consummate salesmen, empathizing with their fears, suggesting the solution to their fears is the product he sells. It doesn’t seem to occur to the rubes who buy into this pitch that even if big pharma or the FDA were utterly corrupt (and they aren’t), that it still wouldn’t mean Trudeau’s snakeoil “cures” worked as he claims. Because they don’t.

    And so it is that one of the most despicable charlatans to grace the TV set has his own defence force. People so paranoid and gullible that even after they’ve been conned still defend the man who conned them.

  56. I should probably clarify my comment at #55. I’m not saying we shouldn’t throw the book at this clown, only that we really can’t justify passing new laws restricting speech on nebulous grounds (as opposed to fraud, malpractice, etc).

  57. Dallas

    @bkallee “I could care less if fraud is moral or immoral, especially in some vague relgious sense. I recognized when I was young that morality cannot be legislated. Once you eliminate the the morality question you can focus on the consequences.
    Fraud = Wrong because it harms the public (me) and therefore should never be an exception to freedom of speech or any other law.”

    You seem to think that morality/ethics is necessarily religious. Most philosophers of ethics would disagree with you. Ethics is about answering questions such as “what ought/should I do?” Religion does a terrible job at this, as most religious-based ethical systems are rather incoherent, but then again, so are most individuals’ ethical (including political) ideas (even among the non-religious, which includes myself). When you declare that fraud is wrong, you’re making a moral claim.

    Your justification for why fraud is wrong seems to assume that all harms against the public should be stopped, and should trump individual rights. I think a good argument could be made that someone like Rush Limbaugh having a widely listened-to radio program is a harm for our society. But we also seem to respect his freedom of speech, regardless of how potentially harmful his opinions and propaganda may be. So, which is it? Wide spread use of alcohol and cigarettes is probably a net harm, and yet we respect the individual right to chose to do them, although for other drugs that are far less harmful (Cannabis, LSD, MDMA), we say that their consequences are too harmful and no one has the right to do them. This arbitrary confusion between the importance of rights and consequences appears to be at the foundation of a lot of our modern political disputes. Thus, I’m not trying to be pedantic, I’m trying to point out how naive it is for Phil to so boldly say that Trudeau shouldn’t have the right to publish anything, as I’m sure he takes freedom of speech very seriously elsewhere.

  58. Actually, contrary to Phil’s prediction, I haven’t seen anyone yet show up in the comments defending this guy.
    So yeah… don’t say you never hear any good news :-P

  59. Melf_Himself

    This is quite interesting to me. I don’t live in the USA and have never seen these infomercials. I only know Kevin Trudeau’s name because in the late 90′s when I was in high school, tapes for his “Mega Memory” system made their way around my group of friends while we were preparing for exams. I’m sure the cancer claims and many other things he’s said are ridiculous, but I have to say that the memory system actually works really well. I’ve memorised several entire essays with it, entire decks of cards in sequence, names and phone numbers, the whole periodic table, and other semi-useless things =)

    Just thought I’d add this in as a mild counterpoint – even though it’s quite clear to me that he’s a fraudster, I would not rate the truth content of the wares he is peddling as absolutely zero.

  60. @59 Melf_Himself: Eh, too little too late :D

  61. Seriously though, it’s entirely possible that he sold a legit product at one point. But I think somewhere along the line he realized that it was easier just to make crap up.

  62. If no one else has said it yet I will “Ha Ha”.

  63. David in England

    For sale : cure-all snake oil…last few remaining, don’t miss out….www.totallygullible.com

  64. Brian H.

    I actually worked for a company whose CEO as well as much of senior management were all in a cult/pyramid scheme called the Global Information Network, and bought by the caseload every single vial of snake oil this man sold, as well as would forward to employees his messages.

    So many things THEY don’t want you to know about.

    The sad thing is – the moment I saw this post not only did I have a good giggle about this (the anti-science crap they ended up spewing from this guy was a big reason I left) I also knew exactly how this would be spun by Trudeau and co:

    “The US Government and Big Pharma are using their courts to keep us quiet still! Now they’re attempting to silence us with a $37.6 million fine – but they won’t thanks to you and our multi-level network of committed believers in the truth! Oh and buy this crap I pulled out of my garden while weeding. It’ll cure diabetes or something”

  65. Atheist Panda

    A quick look at the ‘Disclaimer’ section of http://www.naturalcures.com should be enough to convince anyone of the validity of any claims this fraudster is making…..

    Neither NaturalCures.com nor the Content can be relied upon as preventive, cure, or treatment for any disease or medical condition. IT IS RECOMMENDED THAT YOU CONSULT WITH A LICENSED MEDICAL DOCTOR OR PHYSICIAN BEFORE ACTING UPON ANY RECOMMENDATION THAT IS MADE VIA THE NATURALCURES.COM WEBSITE. USE OF NATURALCURES.COM IS AT YOUR OWN RISK.

    Natural selection at work……
    AP

  66. Bill

    “Stuff your little ideological rant back under its rock- I don’t traffic in that unyielding POV nonsense”

    OK, I am done here. I really have better things to do than be insulted. I really don’t know why I bother to post to these things as there is always someone like you out there ready to start personal attacks for lack of any valid point.

    I hope you enjoy the spiral down the drain as the US becomes just another socialist nanny state. Europe has had such stunning success with that.

    Bye.

  67. Gary Ansorge

    36. Dallas

    Freedom of speech doesn’t apply when exercising it causes harm(as in crying fire for no particular reason in a crowded theater, or espousing the violent overthrow of the US government).

    Personally, I think that bald faced lies ought to be punishable by law,,,which would be really bad for politicians,,,

    GAry 7

  68. Dr. Strangelobe

    Infect him with cancer, then feed him his coral calcium. Sauce for the gander, yes?

    Except that I don’t wish cancer on anyone.

  69. @69: Better yet, just feed him a nice bowl of coral. Coursely ground, maybe into 1 cm bits. Maybe put some milk on it like breakfast cereal :)

    @67 Bill: Again you bring politics into it. I fail to see how this con artist being deservedly smacked down by the courts has anything at all to do with politics, Liberal or otherwise.

    On a related note, a question (from an American) for all the Europeans here: Do you folks get a giggle when certain Americans use your countries as cautionary horror stories to argue for right-wing (US) domestic politics?
    Maybe I’m missing something, but I’m thus far unaware of the huddled masses of European refugees streaming across the Atlantic, fleeing the tyranny of universal health care and relatively secular politics. Am I simply blind to your plight? If so, I apologize. You can stay at my house, even :D

  70. Guy

    @ #66. I do feel sorry for anyone hurt by this a-hole, but how can one read the disclaimer on his website and NOT know its just a scam? And to the others, even if they were so depressed, you mean that NONE of them have no one else to turn to that could have spotted this? As a whole I don’t see how anyone can argue that a more scientifically literate population is not desirable and could not have reduced the effectiveness of this guys marketing.

    A close family friend lost her 10yr old son to cancer, but she exercised every proven treatment first, and when those didn’t work, she did what any mother would prob do in that situation and tried every thing under the sun.

    There is no ultimate defense for a guy like this. The best we can do is protect our own selves with knowledge.

  71. DigitalAxis

    @ Bill:

    I’m fine for advocating personal responsibility, but nanny state or no, there’s a point where bombarding someone with false information and then laughing at them when they believe the lies is cruel and unusual.

    No one person can know everything. At some point we all have to trust someone else’s opinion or judgement. How are people supposed to choose accurately? Well, WE know Kevin Trudeau is a fraud, but I’d wager that’s because we know his ilk, or are acquainted with him, or understand something of the science [not] involved (or, in my case, I trust Randi, the BA, and the scientific lack of proof provided by the doctors they link to).

    We’re talking about desperate people faced with a terrifying illness, and probably knowing nothing of medicine or science. Are they going to teach themselves medicine, skepticism, or the scientific method right off the bat? I’m sure we all wish they would (or would be skeptical already), but no, they’re going to look for treatments and cures, and Trudeau’s right there with reassurances backed up by lies that they’ll gravitate to. Will some of them ALWAYS go for the scams? Yes. Are some of them well-intentioned and only mislead by a confusing sea of (mis)information? Yes.

    It is FAR from unfair for the judge to attempt to get one man convicted of selling fake cures off the airwaves. The fewer outright lies and misinformation out there, the more informed choices people will be able to make. Nanny state be damned, the health system should not be a minefield of lies only the “educated few” can navigate. THAT is the elitist nonsense, right there.

  72. truthspeaker

    RAF Says:
    December 18th, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    For instance, would you “blame” those grieving over deceased loved ones who seek out Sylvia Browne, or would you blame Sylvia Browne for lying for profit?

    Both.

  73. Do tell more, Brian H., about that company whose CEO was in thrall to Kevin True-dough (comment number 65). I have blogged quite a bit about KT and his Global Information Network (GIN) scheme. If you don’t want to comment here, perhaps you can comment on my blog on my latest True-dough post (Monday, Dec 05), or email me (email is on the blog).

    I wouldn’t count True-dough out of the game just yet. He seems to wear this big fine like a badge of honor, and he even has a whole web site dedicated to his legal defense fund (Stand With KT). If you contribute a grand or more to the cause, you get a chance to maybe have dinner with KT and other large contributors.

    And as I’ve noted on numerous threads, that $37.6 million dollar fine does not even begin to touch GIN, which, as it happens, is conveniently headquartered offshore (Nevis/St. Kitts).

  74. RAF

    Bill#67 Valid point or not, It’s just extremely unkind/hard hearted to “blame the victim”.

    …that you don’t understand that is your “loss”.

    Apparently there are 2 differing viewpoints, here…one that puts blame where blame is due, on the criminal, and the other that feels that the “blame” lies with those who are not in full “possession” of their facilities, because of illness, grief, etc.

    I “wish” the latter Merry Christmas, and good “luck”…you’re gonna need it.

  75. TC

    @Bill:

    Forget the “personal responsibility” argument. The problem with your way of thinking (they were fooled therefore they deserve what they got) is that you presume that only uneducated/stupid people can be fooled.

    Someone who believes this is the easiest person to fool. As soon as you start to think that you are too smart to fall for a trick, you will fall for one.

    James Randi often harps on this point, because it is true. Educated, intelligent people who think they are too smart to be tricked at the easiest ones to trick. So stay up on your high horse looking down at the people with cancer, if that’s what you want to do. Your smugness is your weakness.

  76. Yeah, what TC said. Many of the same arguments — about personal responsibility, human vulnerability, and those predators who take advantage of people’s vulnerability — have been flying back and forth regarding New-Wage guru and convicted killer James Arthur Ray (of Sedona fake-sweat-lodge infamy). Not surprisingly, Trudeau has publicly spoken out in defense of Ray, spinning Ray’s troubles as being another case of the big bad US government and other anti-business forces trying to suppress the self-help industry.

  77. vince charles

    Yeah, what TC said again (in a way). If patients bear complete responsibility for themselves, then why do doctors exist… after years of medical school, plus in-the-field training? Because your average person on the street is not a doctor (let alone an oncology specialist), and can’t make informed decisions on their own cancer treatment. Even Supreme-Court Justice Scalia recognizes this. He once refused to rule on a medical case which revolved around an actual medical procedure, not its legal or financial implications.

    “I really don’t know why I bother to post to these things as there is always someone like you out there ready to start personal attacks for lack of any valid point.”

    Project much, Bill?

  78. John Peter

    @ TC (77)

    “As soon as you start to think that you are too smart to fall for a trick, you will fall for one.

    James Randi often harps on this point, because it is true.”

    You are absolutely correct!

    Res Ipsa Loquitur: The $1.5 Million Dollar Bail He Doesn’t Want You To Know About.

    Imagine. Randi boasts that he has “debunked” anyone who has attempted to win the $1 Million Dollar Challenge, and yet, he ends up paying $1.5 Million Dollars to bail out a fraud, a real fraud. Wow! The irony of it all!

    http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2011-09-15/news/fl-jose-alvarez-artist-identity-theft-20110914_1_id-theft-identity-frauds

    http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2011-11-03/news/fl-amazing-randi-jose-alvarez-plea-20111103_1_identity-theft-guilty-plea-plea-deal

  79. vince charles

    58. Dallas Said:

    “Your justification for why fraud is wrong seems to assume that all harms against the public should be stopped, and should trump individual rights… So, which is it?”

    Dallas, you’ve posted the “false dichotomy” fallacy multiple times already (as well as others). Has it occured to you that there might be a third, fourth, or fifth possibility?

    Fraud harms the public at large, not just the direct victim, as later entities take up defensive measures to combat it. These defense mechanisms exact a toll, even in transactions where no fraud happened. Thus, once fraud reaches some noticeable level, it grinds down a market. In extreme cases, a market collapses when enough participants, expecting enough fraud, simply refuse to bother any more.

    Ever buy a house, Dallas? Ever wonder just how much time and money everyone- buyer, seller, lender, etc.- would save if everyone was honest? That’s the economic impact of fraud, not moral/ethical or philosophical, or even cultural (in the literal sense). And we burn that time and money even when buyer, seller, lender, realtor, pets, etc. are being completely honest.

    And I’ll add that multiple actors can and do combat fraud, not just the state. Buyers hire inspectors. Certain markets have trade associations. Professionals have professional organizations and congresses. Engineers, in particular, have independent engineering consultants. Most of these call on outside auditors at some point. Most of _these_ have some nonprofit claiming to be a watchdog. And yet, who likes having their project/group audited… sometimes at cost?

  80. BrianDavis

    The URL for the court’s opinion has changed. The correct URL is http://www.ca7.uscourts.gov/tmp/DZ1FFOJM.pdf

  81. PayasYouStargaze

    @70 Joseph G:

    On a related note, a question (from an American) for all the Europeans here: Do you folks get a giggle when certain Americans use your countries as cautionary horror stories to argue for right-wing (US) domestic politics?

    Yes I do. Listening to these particular people you’d think we needed permission from the government to leave our houses in case we tripped and fell on the pavement (US: sidewalk). Or that we would have to speak to a government agency before making a phone call in case we said something “illegal” to our mums about what we had for dinner tonight.

    Now obviously our culture isn’t perfect either. But I feel safe, secure and free to exercise my personal freedoms without a paranoia about what the GOVERNMENT might be up to. It seems that distrust of the government is much more common in the US of A.

  82. DrXym

    I can’t even begin to grasp the logic of why any European country is somehow a “horror story” as far as US citizens are concerned. No country is perfect and I’m sure you could pick holes in every health / social security system but as far as I know every EU country provides a high standard of health care to even the most disadvantaged in society as well as benefits to those who are unemployed / disabled in order to feed, clothe and house themselves. As I said no system is perfect, but IMO I’d take living on welfare in the EU over living on welfare in the US any day, not just for my day to day needs but also to assist me in getting back into employment.

  83. @83 & 84: That’s pretty much what I thought. Obviously, no system is perfect and every society has problems, but as you say, I’d rather be disabled in a dreaded “nanny state” then one full of rugged individualists who don’t see why everyone else isn’t just as rugged as they are.
    But still, it never ceases to amaze me how, particularly when health care comes up, conservative pundits here in the states will actually make arguments that amount to some variation of “Do you really want to have the same system as the UK/France/Canada/etc? Do you realize how what a horrible step down that would be?” And they say this with a straight face. Seriously.
    I wonder if some of these folks have ever come within 50 miles of a US border. Sheesh.

  84. Joyce

    @Antice: You do realize that those are targeted ads on this site? In other words, the ads you are seeing are based on being similar to ads you have clicked on in the past. The ads I see here are mostly for shoes, graphic novels and fat girls bras. :)

  85. Fred

    Anybody know how many elderly are targeted by con artists like Kevin Trudeau, author of Free Money “they” don’t want you to know about? In 1990, Trudeau posed as a doctor in order to deposit $80,000 in false checks, and in 1991 he pleaded guilty to larceny. That same year, Trudeau faced federal charges of credit card fraud after he stole the names and Social Security numbers. Kevin follows the Law of Attraction. I hope he follows you shall reap what you sow and Karma laws too.

  86. Bob

    I got suckered into buying one of trudeau’s cancer cure books…. I want to know if there is a class action law suit I can get in on……i’d like my 30$ back for the book and as much as I can get for having to watch my mom slowley die of cancer and nothing helping in his stupid book…..

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