The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'charlatans'
A South Korean man calling himself Profesor Kim is facing fraud charges after selling devices that he claimed transformed tapwater into "holy water", having "digitally captured" what it is that makes holy water from Lourdes holy. The devices, of course, did not work.
As absurd as the idea of holy water is (that an almighty deity has specifically blessed a location—a French town or an Indian river or similar—with magical healing properties), the idea of knockoff holy water takes it one step further. Surely in the sort of universe which features omniscient and omnipotent (not to mention judgmental) deities bestowing boons, actually pirating these boons and passing them onto the unworthy would be impossible, or at least ill-advised. But Kim cherry-picks the most convenient bits of two types of universes—the rational, technological one we live in and the mystical, demon-haunted one in which our fates are controlled by ineffable forces and holy water could be considered to work—and mashes them together like P.T. Barnum's mermaid, hoping that his marks don't notice the seams before parting with their cash.
An aide in Prince Charles's campaign to get homeopathy on the NHS has been arrested on suspicion of fraud and money laundering. Sadly, the fraud charges do not relate to the practice of selling water and claiming that it has medicinal properties, but to an irregularity in the accounts of Prince Charles' "Foundation for Integrated Health":
Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University, last year described a detox tincture made by the prince's Duchy Originals company as "outright quackery". Profits from Duchy Originals have helped to fund the foundation. It has also received more than £1m in public funds, mainly from the Department of Health since its launch in 1993, and almost £3m from the Prince's Charities Foundation, which handles his personal giving.Given Prince Charles' willingness to use his clout to stamp his views on the country he was, constitutionally, born to rule over (such as, for example, by using his influence with Arabian royalty to get modernist architects sacked from development projects and replaced by Charles-approved purveyors of traditionalist kitsch), the prospect of the future king's influence diverting any money from Britain's health budget (which, as we know, is not bursting with cash) from, say, underequipped ambulances or cancer drugs to the pockets of hucksters and charlatans is a grim one to contemplate.
Charlie Brooker gets stuck into Brain Gym, a set of alleged brain-enhancing exercises with scant connection to any verifiable reality, which has nonetheless managed to get into the British school system (presumably because the line of bullshit it shills sounds like "fun"):
Brain Gym, y'see, is an "educational kinesiology" programme designed to improve kiddywink performance. It's essentially a series of simple exercises lumbered with names that make you want to steer a barbed wire bus into its creator's face. One manoeuvre, in which you massage the muscles round the jaw, is called the "energy yawn". Another involves activating your "brain buttons" by forming a "C" shape with one hand and pressing it either side of the collarbone while simultaneously touching your stomach with the other hand.
If we mistrust the real world so much that we're prepared to fill the next generation's heads with a load of gibbering crap about "brain buttons", why stop there? Why not spice up maths by telling kids the number five was born in Greece and invented biscuits? Replace history lessons with screenings of the Star Wars trilogy? Teach them how to whistle in French? Let's just issue the kids with blinkers.
Because we, the adults, don't just gleefully pull the wool over our own eyes - we knit permanent blindfolds. We've decided we hate facts. Hate, hate, hate them. Everywhere you look, we're down on our knees, gleefully lapping up neckful after neckful of steaming, cloddish bullshit in all its forms. From crackpot conspiracy theories to fairytale nutritional advice, from alternative medicine to energy yawns - we just can't get enough of that musky, mudlike taste. Brain Gym is just one small tile in an immense and frightening mosaic of fantasy.