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Charlatan: America's Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam

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In 1917, America's most brazen young con man arrived in the tiny town of Milford, Kansas. Quackbuster Morris Fishbein vowed to put the country's ... Show synopsis

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Reviews of Charlatan: America's Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam

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  • There Is Nothing New Under the Sun! Jul 23, 2012
    by RandyEhrler

    "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." ? Ecclesiastes 1:9

    This a tremendous story ? amazing really ? that has lessons to teach all of us regarding our unending obsession with youth, fitness, health, aging, virility, and our own mortality. Every day it seems that a new ?revolutionary? product is launched that promises to keep us young, slim, viral and wrinkle-free.

    Currently, an $80 billion dollar industry, anything related to anti-aging will experience explosive growth over the next decade as baby boomers enter retirement. There is an entire legion of companies, entrepreneurs, doctors, surgeons and assorted others who are hustling to create products and procedures to feed their desire to remain ?forever young.?

    This is where it gets dangerous, and where we can learn a great deal from Charlatan. This is the story of John Brinkley, a con-man who portrayed himself as a doctor and offered men a ?cure? for the diminished virility and ?manliness? they experienced due to aging: he would transplant their testicles with those of a goat. While the very idea seems ridiculous, it is important that we consider the times, and, in doing so, think about our own times. Every new supplement, lotion, potion or procedure comes with the words ?revolutionary,? ?scientific-breakthrough,? or ?newly discovered? attached to it ? we are to believe that they have discovered the fountain of youth and will solve our problem. The irony is, if you pay attention, these products often come with a very heavy dose of advertising and marketing ? they push HARD ? to separate you from your money ? and often disappear within a couple years. Why? Because enough people figure out that they are bogus and simply quit buying them, and the manufacturer, knowing they are bogus, has often already moved on to the next gimmick.

    Think about all the products you?ve seen (or bought) over the years, such as the thigh-master, metabolite, bow-flex, the shake weight, quick slim, alli, the gazelle (really anything by Tony Little), 6-minute abs and so on. Or just watch TV after 10 pm and you will see the latest and greatest ? all available for $19.95 (call now and they will double your order!). Check out this article from Men?s Fitness for a little history lesson about some of the absolutely crazy stuff that has been sold over the years. It is a very brief picture, but you get the idea that this onslaught of fitness and health products is big business and has no end, and it has always preyed on our vanity and insecurity to feed its bottom line.

    Almost all of these scams promote the same idea: you don?t have to change anything in your life, just buy this product and the years and pounds will melt away. It is difficult to remember, in the face of the all-out marketing assault, that the real goal is to get you to buy something, not do something. We cannot stop aging, but we can age well ? but no product will do that for us. There are some supplements and other products that can help ? moisturizers, sunscreens, a multiple vitamin and the like. But there is no revolutionary gadget, gizmo, drink, shot, lotion, potion or pill that will radically transform your body ? there just isn?t.

    What is ironic is that Jack Lalanne told us everything we need to know about staying healthy and aging gracefully ? in the 1950?s. If you watch the video below, from his television show, you will learn all you need to know. The problem is that this does little to fuel the billion-dollar industry ? which relies on ignorance, fear, insecurity and expendable income to keep going ? and growing. Listen to Jack Lalanne and you will be way ahead of the pack ? and you will save your money.

    If you feel just a little uneasy about the vast number of programs, products and gadgets that are available to ?help you get in shape,? Charlatan is a revealing history that sheds light on the mindset and motivation of those who offer these wonder cures. Yes, I believe that there are some good products and well-intentioned practitioners ? but they swim in an ocean of scam-artists and conmen. So, buyer-beware ? if it is too good to be true ? it is. If the answer costs $15,000 ? RUN!

    John Brinkley lives among us ? be vigilant, be careful and don?t give in to the hard sell.

    Peace & God Bless!

  • Excellent Oct 9, 2008
    by Joan1310

    The medical profession at the beginning. Not a pretty tale but well worth reading. In the beginning an unbelievable but a sorry tale about the venerability of human?s beings and their desire to be much more then their body allows. Seems that even that long ago the primary reasons for some treatments was for making of lots of money. There is also an interesting explanation of the beginning of the AMA. This book also tells about the beginning concept of using mass media to promote products to the mass market. Very interesting reading.

  • Chronicle of a scoundrel Oct 2, 2008
    by RTimms

    Pope Brock does a magnificent job of telling John Brinkley's story. I have read other books about the man. Brinkley was a flimflam artist who posed as a medicasl doctor. Over decades, he conned thousands out of millions, and some patients apparently died in his care. But what makes the man fascinating is his impact on society though he was completely corrupt. He helped shape broadcasting. You could argue that he helped make commercials what they are today. His engineers helped define high-powered radio (Continental Electronics, an excellent firm, grew out of his engineering staff). Brinkley even dabbled in politics. His "take" on Christianity was as corrupt as the rest of his life, but it shows how gullible people can be.
    This book, unlike the others I've read, deals more with Brinkley's lifelong adversary, Dr. Morris Fishbein of the AMA. So there is much new information to be learned, even if you think you've read this story before.
    I think this could make one hechuva movie!

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