Here are the rules for selling junk science, based upon the methods of radio pioneer John Brinkley, who became a multimillionaire in the 1930s by convincing millions of Americans that he could restore male virility by implanting goat glands.
- #1: Tie your product to the customer’s fears. Brinkley constantly played on the fear of loss of virility.
- #2: Tie your product to popular culture. Brinkley built his medical treatment around popular religion with a revival-tent flavor.
- #3: Have multiple products to sell. Brinkley build an entire distribution channel for dozens of patent medicines.
- #4: Use social proof rather than scientific proof. Brinkley constantly trotted out men who would testify how the goat glands had made them young and fit.
- #5: Argue from authority rather than fact. Brinkley constantly cited his numerous medical degrees and awards.
- #6: Spread the BS as thickly as possible. Brinkley often cited non-existent authorities that supported his work.
- #7: Treat real science as junk science. Brinkley constantly questioned the validity of scientific research published by the AMA.
- #8: When all else fails, trot out your family. Brinkley constantly used his son as “proof” that goat glands really worked.
- #9 Use gullible reporters to get your message out. Brinkley constantly schmoozed reporters to get them to write positive stories.
More about John Brinkley here. His story is told in the excellent book: Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster.