"douchebagery at a double black diamond level"
June 7, 2017 11:49 AM   Subscribe

John Oliver takes on Herbalife

Also, Betting on Zero: Herbalife doc feeds investors' feud as director claims 'dirty tricks':

The stakes, after all, were high. The film, Betting on Zero, asked if the company was a vast pyramid scheme that bilked hundreds of thousands of poor, vulnerable people in the US and across the world. The company maintains its direct sales model has been misunderstood. Even before the film premiered at New York’s Tribeca film festival, a well-connected Democratic lobbyist tweeted that the film was funded by a Wall Street vulture who had staked a billion dollars on Herbalife’s demise.

A website mimicking the documentary, bettingonzero.com, funneled Google searches to a litany of damaging accusations against the film. Picketers at festival screenings handed out flyers that repeated the accusations. Lobbyists bought half the tickets for a screening at the National Portrait Gallery and did not show up, leaving scores of empty seats.

posted by beisny (17 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
It's worth remembering that the owner of Herbalife was the guy who tried to bleed Mother Jones to death in the courts.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:05 PM on June 7, 2017 [10 favorites]

Seven Months Ago Tonight
posted by Wolfdog at 12:21 PM on June 7, 2017 [11 favorites]

Lots of good stuff on Herbalife previously.
posted by knownassociate at 12:29 PM on June 7, 2017

There's some great regulatory timing context that's missing here. Supplements have been exempt from almost any kind of regulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, very formally, since the 1994 passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA). Since then, the supplement industry has understandably boomed. But as the industry got bigger, companies started making shadier and shadier products, and supplements tainted with undisclosed drugs developed from a pesky issue to a really major issue. Add to that the invention of the "nutraceutical" concept that sees supplement companies trying to get as close as possible to making health claims (which is one of the principal definitions of an FDA-regulated drug) without triggering legal scrutiny and you get Herbalife.

Cut to 2014, when the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Evaluation (CFSAN) announced it was starting to revise its outdated toxicity testing requirements for the products it oversees. AMong the ideas up for consideration: should FDA be regulating the supplement market since so much has changed since DSHEA? Keep in mind, this was one little question in an otherwise gigantic, wide-reaching plan to bring an agency's testing requirements up to date. But I was at the first public meeting on the revision process. The room was packed, which was surprising, and as the comment period opened it became clear why: every supplement industry lobbyist in the goddamn world had flown in for this meeting to screech and panic very openly about their fears of being regulated, and promising to raise hell for as long as it takes to keep that from happening.

I suspect that the same lobbysts are the ones buying up these screening tickets and otherwise trying to give the impression that EVERYBODY LOVES SUPPLEMENTS THE WAY THEY ARE OK.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 12:35 PM on June 7, 2017 [13 favorites]

John Oliver's Last Week Tonight is overall great work. Really funny and slides right into strong, opininated but thoroughly ethical journalism. With profanity. Better imo than Jon Stewart ever was, because journalism instead of goofy interviews. Then sometimes a political musical stage number.
posted by newton at 12:37 PM on June 7, 2017 [15 favorites]

Among the ideas up for consideration: should FDA be regulating the supplement market since so much has changed since DSHEA?

As long as there's an Orrin Hatch, the answer to that will be a stern "NO!"
posted by Thorzdad at 12:54 PM on June 7, 2017 [5 favorites]

Uploading a version that's subtitled in Spanish is a really nice touch. That, plus his message (that MLMs are hurting people), really drives home a reminder that good journalism keeps a great focus on improving people's lives.
posted by entropone at 1:00 PM on June 7, 2017 [5 favorites]

I just want to know who let all these orrins in here in the first place and seal up the holes to keep them out. Then we can get rid of this stupid hatch.
posted by howfar at 1:01 PM on June 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

My ex got into Mary Kay when we were married. I tried to advise her against it, but she was dead set. Luckily we only ended up a few hundred out of pocket when she bought out a distributor that was leaving the business (maybe a harbinger there? OF COURSE NOT!). Granted she gave me a couple of male facials that were lovely experiences (so she could use me to talk about the male facials), but that was pretty much what I had to do with it.

She quit after several months when she got squicked out by the cult-like behaviors of the locals she worked with.
posted by Samizdata at 1:11 PM on June 7, 2017

Wow, Herbalife is still around? That's great news. Reminds me, I've been meaning to tell you about this, I know a great way to MAKE.MONEY.FAST!!! Just send me $5.00, add your name to the bottom of this message, and forward it to your closest 50 friends. If you follow these instructions exactly, in 40 days you will receive over $50,000 in cash. It really works!
posted by sfenders at 1:17 PM on June 7, 2017 [6 favorites]

I don't really want to see this vid. I participated in a Jeunesse event (as staff) and before then I was in a conference of MLM creators (as staff). At first I was (almost) fooled, exuberant. Then I did my research.

Please spread the word of caution: MLM is a pyramid scam, plain and simple. No matter which variety, no matter which product, or what profit distribution scheme, it's a scam.

The people who design and run the MLM racket are the most unsavoury, slimy, greedy, backstabbing individuals on this planet and I saw them face to face.

I seriously don't get how this can still be legal.
posted by Laotic at 1:21 PM on June 7, 2017 [7 favorites]

"I know a great way to MAKE.MONEY.FAST!!!"

Looks pretty remote to me.
posted by traveler_ at 5:32 PM on June 7, 2017

Nobody with a really good product is going to limit their distribution by not putting it in stores. If it really was fantastic stuff, it'd be in Walmart.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 5:35 PM on June 7, 2017 [6 favorites]

good journalism keeps a great focus on improving people's lives.
...and bad journalism has ads from anybody who'll buy.

If it really was fantastic stuffminimally okay, it'd be in Walmart. Fixed.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:02 PM on June 7, 2017

Then, there is Amway's DeVos Family...
posted by edheil at 7:36 PM on June 7, 2017

I seriously don't get how this can still be legal.

Multilevel marketing is about this different from political lobbying. If you've mastered the one, you've mastered the other.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:31 AM on June 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

The thing that kills me about this stuff is that it almost always targets less sophisticated and vulnerable people. It's so predatory.

Nobody I know in my "real" life has ever been involved in one of these, but a woman I went to high school with, and with whom I am Facebook friends, is now an enthusiastic participant in one. It kills me, because she's had a hard row to hoe -- in her mid-40s, she's been widowed twice.

A younger version of me would've challenged the posts that appeared on my wall. This version of me just muted her.
posted by uberchet at 9:49 AM on June 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

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