Friday, March 09, 2007

And Larry gingerly removes head from you-know-where.

Dragged myself in from Vegas last night (rather, early this morning) just in time to catch the wee-hours replay of Thursday's Larry King Live, where I found our hero finally beginning to ask his Secretron* guests the sorts of questions that anyone with half a brain, or even Larry, should've been asking all along. But before we give LK his props, consider that he clearly was shamed into it by the recent flurry of skeptical coverage of The Secret in Newsweek, Salon, The New York Times, etc. So, not wanting to look like a total dodo after devoting two full shows to gushing over Byrne's Boondoggle, Larry weighs in with a few phlegmatic moments of devil's advocacy. It was too little, too late, and I was unimpressed, all the more so because several months ago, when The Secret first hit its stride, I sent King's producers a number of emails begging them to do a sober-minded treatment of the subject, whether or not I was directly involved. Instead, as we all know by now, Larry opted to provide Byrne and company with the equivalent of two hour-long infomercials.

Speaking of media and The Secret, while in Vegas I did a hastily put-together radio show out of L.A., Opportunity Knocks with Tom Stern. This was my second go-round with Stern, who on my first visit showed himself to be a knowledgeable and fair-minded interviewer, even though his own projects tend to be anchored in SHAMland's territorial waters. Last week's show evolved as an informal 45-minute debate between me and one Chellie (pronounced Shelly*) Campbell, author of a catchy personal-finance tome she calls Zero to Zillionaire. One assumes that she picked zillionaire not just because it makes for a nicely alliterative title, but because it insulates her from any possibility of being taken literally and thus having to put up or shut up—in contrast, say, to self-proclaimed "millionaire-maker" Robert Allen, who appears to have made very few of them. Like so many low-level SHAM types when you corner them one-on-one, Chellie kept insisting that she "basically agrees with" me about the excesses and abuses in her chosen realm, then went on to explain in almost every answer why (a) her program stands head and shoulders above all the others, and (b) all the others are pretty good, too. Despite the massive quantities of meds I was then ingesting in an effort to suppress the nasty microbes that took root in my chest on my second day in Vegas, I think I represented the SHAMblog community well enough, taking a stand on behalf of sanity and common sense.

The only thing that left me muttering a bit was that in the last 90 seconds of the show, Stern chose to swoop in and deliver unto me a coup-de-grace, in essence telling his listeners, "Yeah, this Salerno dude's OK and all, but self-help is a deeply ingrained part of Americana, and it works, which is why millions of you buy it, so don't pay any attention to what he's been saying for the past 45 minutes, or what he says in his book, either. 'Night, folks!" On the other hand, the show happened to be Tom's radio swan song—he's moving on to other things, including (what else, in L.A.?) film-making—so I guess I can't fault him for wanting the factual and figurative last word.

As for my last word today, it comes to my attention that Tony Robbins is rattling his giant saber at one of his most acerbic Internet critics. Check it out.

More next week, once my jet lag abates.

* To the best of my knowledge, Cosmic Connie can claim first use of the term. I'm sure she'll correct me if I'm wrong.
** You gotta understand, she's from Southern California, where John is spelled Giiayayhhn. If you've lived in SoCal, or even visited for any length of time, you know what I'm talking about.


a/good/lysstener said...

You make me feel very much in the know since you (and to be fair, Connie) were writing about the Secret a long time before it hit the national radar screen. Now it's all over the place! Too bad you didn't decide to write about it for publication rather than on Shamblog, Steve, you might've had your own show.

Steve Salerno said...

Not entirely sure what you mean by that, Alyssa, but in any case, you don't get "your own show" in today's America by going AGAINST the grain of projects like The Secret; you have to toe the cultural party line by subscribing to the kind of mindless feel-good blather The Secret sells. Even Larry King, last night, was very half-hearted in his questioning of the Secretons, lest he offend his golden-goose guest list.

As for writing about The Secret somewhere besides SHAMblog--you hit a nerve with that one, kiddo. We were so far ahead of the curve here, and I missed an opportunity that I'll be kicking myself for, for some time to come....

Cosmic Connie said...

Welcome back, Steve! Hope you're feeling better. Actually, the term I coined was "Secretron," not "Secreton". The Rev calls 'em "Secretions."

Law Of Attraction (LOA) fans are "LOA-noids." I'm just full of cutesy words. Or full of something. :-)

Chellie Campbell is the Dolphin Club lady, as I recall... I will not say anything more.

Steve, I think that as more and more people realize the absurdity of the SHAM world -- and maybe it took "The Secret" to bring this about -- there will be a greater demand for programs from "the other side." I mean, that Salon article was pretty devastating, and judging from what I've seen on the Net lately, there is a growing tide of disgust with "The Secret." So maybe it's not too far-fetched to imagine a SHAMbuster radio show.

Or maybe I'm being too optimistic...

Steve Salerno said...

Connie: Sorry about the misspelling. I have made the correctron. I mean correction.

Early in SHAM's hardback run, I actually explored the idea of a syndicated column based on SHAMblog, and there was even some tentative interest. But it never went anywhere, and I think one syndication editor pretty much spoke for the group when he wrote in a rejection letter, "True or not, Steve, most of our audience just won't want to read the things you have to say. Especially on a regular basis, it's too much of a downer."

rodger said...

Not much to say about The Secret...but that's a great head 'n' shoulders of King.

You know, there's a great book you should read sometime. Might put SHAM -- the movement not the book -- in perspective.

A few years ago Lapham reviewed From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western World Culture. After a thorough read, you'll see where SHAM fits into the biggger picture.

Cal said...


I just picked up on your blog. Do you cover Kevin Trudeau in your book? This guy might be worse than Suzanne Somers in publishing misleading medical information.

Steve Salerno said...

Cal, glad you found me. No, I did not cover Trudeau in SHAM--the real furor over "Natural Cures" hit after my book already had gone to press--but I should've seen it coming (he'd been on the periphery of the SHAMscape for some time), and my failure to go after him remains one of my greatest misgivings. I did write the following Amazon review for "Natural Cures," posted Jan. 2, 2006:

"It's rare that a book of this stature fails so completely, and on so many levels. For me to note all the complaints one might lodge against 'Natural Cures' would be overkill; simply scan the rest of the reviews, or Google Mr. Trudeau and his book. For me, the most unforgivable aspect of this book is that it purports to help people by 'blowing the lid' off a widespread conspiracy to suppress medical breakthroughs--thus sparking hope in the souls of many who have soured on conventional medicine--yet the author's own 'investigative' methods and seeming disdain for serious research almost defy description. Thus--like so many who write books of this ilk--Mr. Trudeau stokes a high degree of false hope, in the end leaving people even more discouraged than before.

"The most amazing aspect of 'Natural Cures' is its dogged ability to remain high on the best-seller lists despite all of its well-documented problems. It's a testament to some folks' insistence on believing in what they want to believe in, regardless of any inconvenient facts they may encounter along the way. A very sad comment on American society."

Anonymous said...

Steve, been following this Secret stuff pretty closely the last week or two and I'm with you on this one, it boggles the mind that this is such a abest seller and overall phenomenon. What does that say about us as a society???
-not Cal but Carl

Steve Salerno said...

Carl-not-Cal, it says that lo-and-behold, there's actually a lot of truth to what I've been saying all along in this blog and, before that, my book.

Cosmic Connie said...

I've been thinking for some time that I oughta blog about Kevin Trudeau too, ESPECIALLY since he's now back on late-night infomercials with a weight-loss book which he says offers the cure for weight problems. In fact, it says that in the book's title. I thought the FTC had banned him from infomercials, but I guess the ban was lifted. (He's now offering "Natural Cures" as a free bonus "if you act now.")

And he must be getting good results from the new infomercial, otherwise it wouldn't keep running, would it?

Are people's memories that short, or do they just not care?

I'm only amazed that Trudeau didn't end up in "The Secret." Maybe he'll be in "The Secret 2."

Steve Salerno said...

Funny you should mention about people's memories being short, b/c as I recall, that's how Trudeau first introduced himself to American audiences: with his "mega-memory" program. A subliminal reference on your part, perhaps?

I'll tell you something, though--if you actually watch his weight-loss infomercial, he's very credible. By which I mean, he SOUNDS credible. He really does--like the most commonsensical, well-meaning dude in the world. (Now if only the product itself lived up to his demeanor.) I can see how he manages to sell gazillions of books.

Dr "Swill" McGraw said...

Have you ever thought about using Youtube for anything? Maybe doing a parody of The Secret and uploading it onto Youtube?

Or just simply using it to say what you want to say. If you can't get on TV, why not use the internet as a forum? It's amazing how many people Youtube and similar video sharing forums reach.

I mean, one of the great levellers is humor. A really great parody of The Secret videos would grab people's attention and make them laugh. And once you have them laughing, they're more open to a more skeptical message. Satire and parody are protected by law too.

I posted this in the "Peter Pan" entry (just disregard it), not realizing I should have posted it here. But if you want to have a good laugh, here's a vitriolic rant about the Secret that made me laugh my ass off:

Steve Salerno said...

Funny you should mention YouTube. At the height of the Anna-Nicole thing, I worked up a hilarious (to me, anyway; my sense of humor is a bit "off" sometimes) riff on that whole situation, but I thought better of it when I considered the fact that if it actually caught on, the trail would lead back to me, and I wasn't sure whether it might be professional suicide (in serious journalistic circles) for me to be identified with that kind of wacko content. But yeah, I make notes to myself about possible YouTube parodies all the time. Haven't gotten around to it yet. If I do actually post something, I'll send the link to you first.

Cosmic Connie said...

I agree with "Dr. Swill"...that rant by Mike the Skeptic is hilarious (warning: contains profanity).

I'm sure there are already quite a few "Secret" parodies in the making; the thing just BEGS for parody. And I can't wait to see 'em.

Anonymous said...

Has the website critical of Tony Robbins has been pushed offline by legal threats from Tony Robbins?