People always ask, how is it possible that adults still keep believing the ridiculous claims of charlatans like those behind 'Nuzen Gold hair oil?' As you have rightly pointed out, there are always some vulnerable balding-men who need to believe in the myth of a 'miraculous hair-growing tonic.' Perhaps, at this point, we should remind your free-thinking readers that the origins of 'MLM business opportunity' fraud lie in pseudo-medical quackery.
Between 1949 and 1959, the first bosses of the 'Amway' mob, Richard DeVos and Jay Van Andel, were themselves under-bosses in the organized crime group fronted by 'Mytinger and Casselberry Inc.' and Carl F. Rehnborg's, 'Nutrilite Products Company.' Senior officials from the US Food and Drug Administration, Bureau of Enforcement, who challenged the authenticity of Rehnborg and his criminal associates in the federal courts during two decades, privately knew him to be nothing more than the self-appointed boss of an absurd, but nonetheless dangerous, little gang of quacks (protected by an aggressive echelon of convincing attorneys) who’d combined, and updated, the medicine show and Ponzi scheme to reflect the spirit of the age.
In the late 1940s, Messrs. Rehnborg, Mytinger and Casselberrywere steadfastly pretending ‘15 000 successful Nutilite distributorships across the USA,’ with ‘sales’ totalling ‘$500 000 dollars per month.’ They had also organized the production of a ‘free’ booklet, ‘How to Get Well and Stay Well,’ in which they pretended that their exclusive ‘Nutrilite Double X Supplement’ had ‘cured or greatly helped such common ailments’ as :
‘Low blood pressure, Ulcers, Mental depression, Pyorrhoea, Muscular twitching, rickets, Worry over small things, Tonsillitis, Hay Fever, Sensitivity to noise, Underweight, Easily tired, Gas in stomach, Cuts heal slowly, Faulty vision, Headache, Constipation, Anaemia Boils, Flabby tissues, Hysterical tendency, Eczema, Overweight, Faulty memory, Lack of ambition, Certain Bone conditions, Nervousness, Nosebleed, Insomnia, Allergies, Asthma, Restlessness, Bad skin colour, Poor appetite, Biliousness, Neuritis, Night blindness, Migraine, High blood pressure, Sinus trouble, Lack of concentration, Dental caries, Irregular heartbeat, Colitis, Craving for sour foods, Arthritis, Rheumatism, Neuralgia, Deafness, Subject to colds.’
Carl F. Rehnborg (a former toothpaste salesman) played thewise paternal role of ‘scientific adviser’ to ‘Mytinger and Casselberry Inc.’ He toured the USA preaching the gospel to crowds of unquestioning admirers — ‘for less than $20 a month (the equivalent of several hundred dollars today), Nutrilite Double X Supplement’ was the ‘answer to man’s search for health.’ After both companies’ owners were approached by the FDA and warned that they could face criminal prosecution for misbranding, their lawyers pretended affinity with the regulators and gave solemn undertakings that the booklet would be voluntarily ‘revised.’ Specific therapeutic claims were supposed to be eliminated. ‘All illnesses’ suddenly became a‘state of non-health’ produced by ‘chemical imbalance’.… ‘Nutrilite Double X Supplement’ cured nothing, it merely ‘enabled people to Get Well and stay Well’ by themselves. However, pages 41-52 of the comic-book still recounted alleged case-histories explaining that ‘Nutrilite brought relief from such ailments as diabetes, feeblemindedness, stomach pains, sneezing and weeping.’ FDA officials were not impressed, so, in 1948, they finally launched a co-ordinated plan of raids, and seizures of ‘Nutrilite Double X Supplement’ and associated publications, with the intention of forcing the counterfeit‘company’ to close down or go to trial.
When 'Nutrilite Double X' was thoroughly analysed by qualified scientists at the FDA, it was discovered that (although it contained essentially what it said on the label and was quite harmless) the product mostly-comprised a random (but precisely measured) mixture of cheaply-procured, common substances (yeast, minerals and dried vegetable extracts: alfalfa; parsley; watercress; etc.). FDA experts later estimated that 'Double X' cost no more than a few cents a box to produce. Thus, FDA lawyers knew that Rehnborg and his gang were, in fact, using authentic pharmaceutical equipment to fabricate a placebo on an industrial scale, labelling it as a ‘Health Tonic’ (a meaningless term legalistically) and peddling it at a huge mark-up (at least 1000%).
In 1951, after a series of protracted lawsuits, appeals and countersuits (in which Mytinger and Casselberry hid behind slick new attorneys who cleverly manipulated one conservative judge’s existing beliefs by portraying their clients as freedom-loving American entrepreneurs being unjustly attacked by jealous bureaucrats with sinister hidden, possibly communist, motives), the FDA eventually obtained (on behalf of the people) a permanent US Supreme Court injunction against ‘Mytinger and Casselberry Inc.’ preventing ‘distributors’ from referring to 50 publications making false, and potentially life-threatening, therapeutic claims about ‘health tonics and food supplements’ (including various‘revised editions’ of ‘How to Get Well and Stay Well’). FDA lawyers proved Mytinger and Casselberry to have lied on oath when they testified to the Supreme Court that no further false claims were being made. FDA agents had, in fact, infiltrated the organization (as potential recruits) and recorded deluded proselytizers chanting the same cure-all mantra about‘Double X Supplement.’
In 1959, when it seemed that ‘Mytinger and Casselberry/Nutrilite Products Inc.’ might soon finally be shut down (under the ‘US Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act 3381-3383’, rather than anti-pyramid scams legislation) Richard De Vos and Jay Van Andel hastily created the ‘American Way Association’ (soon rechristened ‘Amway’). They cleverly dodged FDA prosecution by disguising the same closed-market swindle behind effectively-valueless,
household products. This new company was the first of what was to become a shoal of red, white and blue herrings. Indeed, countless, de facto associate enterprises continue to be created, dissolved and subverted. Cheekily, the surviving ‘Nutrilite’ company was itself absorbed back into the‘Amway’ labyrinth in the early 1970s. For more than half a century, this shifty edifice has successfully prevented, and/or diverted, investigation of an ongoing, major organized crime group and isolated its bosses from liability.
David Brear (copyright 2011)