Beware The Snake Oil Part 2

Please check out Part One of this diatribe before continuing. 

There are people in the world of fitness and personal defense that seem to enjoy notoriety more than anything else. They seem to advance ideas and take a tone that makes them seem gruff, no-nonsense kind of guys. Manly men.

What these guys often do is create cults of personality surrounding them, filled with adoring sycophants who want nothing more than to emulate their beloved leader.

These are what I refer to as Fanboys.

Fanboys are people who embrace the snake oil so completely, any and all skepticism or criticism of the snake oil is perceived–and not entirely unjustly so–as an attack on them and their decision-making abilities. After all, they reached a different decision than you did, thus you not accepting their decision as the right one means you think they’re a moron.

Of course, in many cases, it’s because they’re morons.

Anyway, the Fanboys will brook no criticism of their beloved icon, but what is it their beloved icon is selling them? In some cases, it’s nothing particularly new. Instead, it’s usually some older snake oil with a slight twist. Occasionally, it’s something legitimate with a snake oil twist that the huckster will claim makes the whole thing work.

Either way, those who buy into the snake oil become convinced by their Alpha-Male leader that this works so well that they can’t even listen to outside criticism without finding a way to dismiss it.

I’m not talking about all rival approaches to fitness. I’m not claiming there’s a One True Way, either. While I do think there’s an optimal “way” to achieve any goal, that way is probably different for each goal and each person. I’m also not arrogant enough to think I’ve discovered it. Not yet, anyway.

Mark Rippetoe proposes gaining strength by lifting barbells with certain lifts at certain times. Louie Simmons has a much different approach to gaining strength.

Who is right? Damned if I know.

What I do know is that both have proponents primarily because both have shown their systems work. Yes, Rippetoe thinks his system is best. I’m pretty sure Simmons does too.

Where they diverge from the Snake Oil Hucksters is in the fact that they can defend their programs with real-world results. I’ve seen many proponents of each comment that the other system does indeed increase strength. In other words, neither man has really gone about putting together Fanboys.

In short, they sell something that clearly works. Further, they don’t attack skepticism as if their lives depend on it. They respond with a measured approach with a factual defense of their system.

Not only that, but neither man presents his program as the greatest thing since sliced bread. At least, not that I’ve seen.

Instead, they present it as a proven system to get stronger. Both can show you the proof.

BAM!

The difference is that most hucksters know they can’t present evidence. They don’t have a long track record of proven results.

Further, most hucksters have had to create something so radical, something so very different from the norm, all so they can be the One True Way. That makes it virtually impossible for them to show results except for the tainted, manipulated results we’ve come to expect from the fitness industry.

 

Then, if that’s not enough, the huckster will further try and manipulate things to make them look like the One True Way. Take the guy who triggered this whole, two-day rant. Blowing up at someone who admitted skepticism but was still open-minded to his approach wasn’t enough.

No, yesterday he started offering a giveaway to those who reviewed his book. In other words, he’s bribing people to leave a review of his book…but we all know it’s only for a good one.

I may be cynical, but it’s a cynicism born from experience.

Unfortunately, it becomes very difficult to differentiate between the huckster and the guy with a devote following if he’s just that different. Take Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple. He takes a very radical approach to fitness and health, very different than what most experts are saying. His fans love him, and many are truly Fanboys.

However, I’ve never seen Mark cultivate this. What he’s proposing makes sense, and while he advocates it as the best way to get fit, he doesn’t feel the need to tear people down over it. He appears to prefer to let the results speak for themselves.

And therein lies the difference.

If there’s one thing that separates the huckster from the radical thinker, it’s that the need to destroy criticism. They can’t trust science to back them up, they can’t trust results to back them up, they can’t trust anything except their own prowess with…well, whatever.

So please, do beware of these people. They prey on the desperate, those who want nothing more than to get healthy as quickly and easily as possible. They prey on that desire and really don’t care about getting people healthier.

Don’t get suckered in.

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