In Greek mythology, several stories explain the introduction of evil into the newly-created world e.g. secular alternatives to Genesis.

Pandora

In Greek mythology, several stories explain the introduction of evil into the newly-created world e.g. secular alternatives to Genesis. In one, only innocent children populated a world without danger or troubles. Epimetheus [hindsight] and playmate Pandora lived in a cottage in which a tightly-locked box was entrusted to them to keep locked. Voices from within continually pleading to be let out raised their curiosity until Pandora—urged by Epimetheus who wanted her to open it so he would be blameless-could resist no longer and opened the box. Out flew a plague of stinging insects [some say daimones, spirits] inflicting pain and suffering on the world. One small voice remained within pleading for release “Please let me out. Please. You will want me now. I want to help you.” Pandora opened the box again and out sprang Hope.*

Balms

Balms, like healing salves from the resinous gums of the terebinth tree [Jer.8:22] along with soaps, lotions, and electronic gizmos to restore health and bring beauty have long existed to bring hope. Bogus medicines received their name beginning in 18th century England in the era of mercantilism when the Crown awarded ‘letters patent’ to favored firms chosen to be ‘national champions’ having monopolies on products [spices, tea]. [A tax on tea sold by one such trading firm, the British East India Company, brought about the Boston Tea Party.] It also gave patents, not trademarks, on elixirs or ‘nostrums .’ They came to America with our first settlers.

Ads

Being hokey they depended on wildly exaggerated claims to cure any and all ailments. They played a large role in creating the advertising industry which gave rise to newspapers. Their appeal to legitimacy came from personal testimonials rather than scientific studies. The Woodbury Facial Soap ad read, “Science and everyday experience teach that a beautiful skin does not depend on youth. Give your skin daily the right treatment, and you can keep it smooth, clear, flawless, long after youth is passed.”

Hadacol

Hadacol was a foul tasting elixir containing vitamins, minerals, honey, and 12% alcohol sold primarily in the South in about 1950-52. [It was especially popular in ‘dry’ counties.] Dudley J. Le Blanc avoided medical claims but widely advertised it using testimonials of folks who thought it brought miracle cures of all kinds of maladies. Sales were $20 million in 1950 from advertising of one million dollars a month in 700 daily papers and 528 radio stations. He had a traveling medicine show of 130 vehicles on a tour of 3800 miles. Retired OU Journalism Professor Frank Heaston was a front man for their medicine shows. He chose which testimonials they received to place in ads. He said the best was, “It used to be I couldn’t sleep with my wife because she tossed and turned all night. She started taking Hadacol and now anyone can sleep with her.” [I attended one of their shows in Enid about 1951.]

Two country hits about Hadacol were released in 1950, “Hadacol Boogie” by Jerry Lee Lewis, and the following which ,appropriately, was released on April Fool’s day.

What put the pep in Grandma?

Grandma’s over eighty, she feels like sweet sixteen

She’s a cutting rusties That Grandma never seen

Grandpa’s short and goosey, Grandma’s straight and tall

What put the pep in Grandma?

Hadacol, Hadacol, Hadacol, Hadacol

She goes down to the old barn dance and does a crawl da crawl

Grandpa’s getting worried cause grandma’s on the prowl

She won’t stay at home cause every night’s her night to prowl

He threw away his walking cane and tried to cut a rug

Now there lies ol grand pappy all stretched out in the hall

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Comment

In my early years science debunked quack medicine and cures, but beginning in the sixties that tendency reversed. Riots and the breakdown of historical norms of civility broke down and the economy shed middle-level jobs supporting those less prepared for the service and knowledge economy, many lost faith in the American Dream and traditional sources of truth and morality. Victims of this new normal economy lost hope which left them receptive to unrealistic claims and promises of modern quacks. Let down by life and having lost hope from historical sources of their support, some in their desperation embraced unrealistic promises and proposals. Political quackery was demonstrated this week when someone on news said “I really believe such and so,” and in the next sentence referred to that personal belief as “This fact…..”

I estimate that half to three-fourths of the stations on my television are selling hope through quack products and ideas. They try to established truth by personal testimonies rather than laboratory and statistical testing. For example, currently there is an ad on local television in which a customer says, “At this casino you win more often than you lose.” He may believe that, and the casino wants viewers to believe it, but it can’t be true. As Senator Moynihan said, we are entitled to our own opinion but not our own facts. [The FTC and FDA regulate ads and drugs respectively.]

One can sincerely believe but be sincerely wrong. Just because 51% of respondents in a public opinion hold the same opinion, that doesn’t establish truth in the marketplace of products, ideas, or morals.

*Samuel E. Lowe, Viola E. Jacobson, Fifty Famous Stories, Whitman Pub.,Racine: 1920.

**Kurt Anderson, How America Lost Its Mind, The Atlantic, Sept. 2017, 76cf.