Anatomy of Another Right Wing Scam

Zack Beauchamp has a detailed analysis of yet another of those scams being marketed to wingnuts through the email lists built by right wing magazines, blogs and websites. This time it’s survival supplies, which is a staple of the genre, sold by Food4Patriots. It’s sold with the usual bullshit about FEMA camps and “watch this video because I don’t know how long it will be up” because, of course, Obama is going to order it taken down.

Since being added to National Review’s subscriber list, I had received four emails from the venerable publication selling me on Food4Patriots’ plan to “make darn sure your family won’t go hungry or get herded into a FEMA camp” by purchasing the dehydrated food they’re hawking. Indeed, Food4Patriots is deeply ensconced in the conservative movement, placing its ads in both more mainstream outlets (Fox News, Townhall.com) and fringier sites (Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, RedState, WorldNetDaily).

Food4Patriots is a lucrative enterprise. Its parent company, Reboot Marketing, took in $11.8 million in 2012, an astonishing 1,428 percent increase over its 2009 revenue.

But the company’s skyrocketing revenues came on the back of some (arguably) really shady practices. In fact, when I wrote National Review’s editor and publisher to give them a heads up about what I learned about the company, they promptly suspended future Food4Patriots ads.

“Communist food brainwashing,” Frank Bates solemnly warns us, “is infecting America.”

Bates is the pitchman for Food4Patriots; when you click the link in National Review’s email, you’re immediately directed to a crudely animated infomercial breaking down the brainwashing threat. Frank’s biography is one of the first things you learn in the shockingly long presentation (full thing’s on YouTube here). Bates is a resident of a small town outside of Nashville, where he lives with his wife Michelle and 2 kids. He lost his job a few years ago and since then, teaching people how to live free of both big government and big business has been his passion.

“Promise to keep this information to yourself and close family and friends ONLY,” Bates asks. “I don’t know how long it’ll be online, so watch it while you can” — before FEMA takes Frank’s video, and perhaps Frank himself, out of the picture.

It’s a good thing that the National Review decided to stop selling access to their mailing list to Food4Patriots — assuming that they actually did — but it still prompts the obvious question of why they allowed it in the first place. Do they not even look at the ads they’re sending out and encouraging their readers to base purchasing decisions on? And I guarantee you that the Worldnetdaily, Human Events and other websites won’t be stopping such solicitations to their followers. Indeed, one could make the argument that this is a perfect match of product and audience. Those right wing publications spend all their time and energy spreading ridiculous conspiracy theories, harrowing tales of seized guns, collapsing economies and martial law, and then Food4Patriots takes advantage of that paranoia to sell their products.

Pairing survivalist panic to more mainstream conservative tropes is Frank’s calling card, pervading his pitches for the other products in the 4Patriots line. Power4Patriots reveals “the dirty little secret that president [sic] Obama and the big energy monopolies have been trying to bury.” There’s a “cover-up,” a “conspiracy that runs all the way to the top” to make “power rates skyrocket.” Moreover, “thanks to the shaky state the liberals have put our country in, our government isn’t ready to handle the situations that are coming our way…Ask anyone who lived through Hurricane Katrina!” The solution is to buy Power4Patriots’ books, videos, and “CD-ROMs,” which will teach you how to cut your power and heating bills by “up to” 75 percent.

Likewise, Frank’s SurvivalSeeds4Patriots missive warns that “the frightened hordes clear out the grocery stores in hours and people [will] get more and more desperate” in the crisis “about to hit the US.” Save yourself by purchasing Frank’s “painstakingly researched” personal plant seed vault.

And in reality, Frank Bates does not seem to exist:

The glue that ties all of this together is Frank’s personal story. He and his family were victimized by the business that fired him, by the terrifying power costs in their former Northeastern home, and by the shadowy forces that bent Frank’s knee in the direction of Obama and FEMA. Bates’ testimonial — up from dependence, through three neat products — is the beating heart of the 4Patriots brand’s public image.

Except there’s no evidence that he exists.

I jumped through a lot of hoops to try to find Frank Bates. I tracked the only public image ever identified as Bates back to its source, a now-deleted stock photo taken by an Austria-based photographer named Kemter. I used a variety of tools to track down contact information for anyone in the Nashville area named Frank Bates, and found no one by that name connected to the 4Patriots brand. The customer service operator at the end of Reboot’s public line said “they didn’t give us” Frank’s contact information.

But when I checked the domain registration on every 4Patriots site, as well as FrankBates.net, I found the only ones that didn’t direct you back to the company’s main phone line were either anonymous or registered to someone named Allen Baler. Baler, is listed as the principal of Power4Patriots by the Nashville Better Business Bureau. He’s the founder of Reboot Marketing, the company that operates all of the 4Patriots product lines.

Well there’s a shock. There’s a lot more in the article and the whole thing is worth reading.

"Should rational skepticism be suspended where claims of exploitation, crimes, or emergencies are concerned?I answered ..."

How to Think Critically About the ..."
"Things must be a little slow in Eugene."

How to Think Critically About the ..."
"Thanks for that metaphor, my Econ students will hear it this afternoon."

Hannity Shows the Usual Right Wing ..."
"Here's an idea: She and Franken tell basically the same story.Next!"

How to Think Critically About the ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • tubi

    For Pete’s sake, the solution to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina was to not put Brownie in charge. Not stock up on freeze dried stroganoff.

  • http://www.thelosersleague.com theschwa

    OK, how do I get into this racket? I want to fleece gullible tea partiers but do not know where to start.

  • some bastard on the net

    “Promise to keep this information to yourself and close family and friends ONLY

    This seems to have a bit of a conflict with:

    I don’t know how long it’ll be online, so watch it while you can

    Or is it just me?

  • eternalstudent

    Those 4Patriots ads sound a lot like the ones we see on FtB…

  • http://polrant@blogspot.com democommie

    @1:

    It would have been the smart thing to do. But you want to be sure in those situations to have a lot of freeze-dried water to go with it.

  • zippythepinhead

    “He [Frank Bates] and his family were victimized … by the terrifying power costs in their former Northeastern home …”

    I’m sorry, that was me. I had run an extension cord from his basement to my house and was sponging off him for years. My bad.

  • Mr Ed

    Makes me wonder if there are equivalent left leaning scams. This one seems rather obvious when you don’t share the underlying premiss that it relies on. We all use intellectual shorthand, things we know to be true, are we being manipulated some how?

  • raven

    It would have been the smart thing to do. But you want to be sure in those situations to have a lot of freeze-dried water to go with it.

    I’m sorry but you really don’t understand doomsday prepper survival tactics.

    You really want to have a lot of beer and wine to go with your freeze dried food. Anyone who grew up in the 60’s knows that :>).

    “make darn sure your family won’t go hungry or get herded into a FEMA camp”

    Meh. FEMA are pussycats. I really want to know what to do when the Reptilian UFO shapeshifters come for us. At least we defeated their last invasion, when Romney ran for president.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003657987619 Barefoot Bree

    I’m curious. In their quest to slash their power and heating bills by up to 75%, do they tout installing wind and/or solar collectors? Or are those commie pinko devices?

  • http://denkeensechtna.blogspot.com Deen

    The solution is to buy Power4Patriots’ books, videos, and “CD-ROMs,” which will teach you how to cut your power and heating bills by “up to” 75 percent.

    Like getting yourself some solar panels, insulating your home and other such communist ideas?

  • unbound

    @2 – By the same method that is needed to climb to the top of corporate ladders. Leave your morals behind you.

  • Al Dente

    So buying dehydrated food will keep me out of FEMA camps. There seems to be a step or two missing from this.

  • JustaTech

    The best part is that lots of places sell this kind of stuff, to this market. Costco, for example, sells buckets of dried meals (good ofr 20 years, enough of 4 people for 3 months). They will also sell you a pallet of freeze-dried food, with a “discrete” delivery. What could be subtle about having a pallet of anything dropped off in your suburban driveway, I don’t know. But at least they don’t say it will save you from “FEMA”.

  • http://festeringscabofrealityblogspot.com fifthdentist

    I get quite a few pitches of the “Watch this banned* video” variety — with a link to the video, of course — from fRight wing people scam sites at my work email address. I don’t know how I got on their radar.

    I wouldn’t be surprised, at this point, if these people turned out to be former Nigerian sons of deceased ministers of mining and looting. Because it seems to be the same principle: Send emails to every address you get your hands on and the few that fall for it will make it worth your time.

    I see iffy ads on some liberal sites, but have never gotten spam from them like is the case with the batshit-crazy conservative ones.

    Also, that was a neat twist that the supposed company founder doesn’t exist. I was really, really expecting that he along with his wife and kids were living in government housing receiving food stamps and welfare checks.

    • You keep using that word; I do not think it means what you think it means. Funny how Dick Tator Obama can ban videos, yet they are still available to anyone with a computer and internet connection; and, despite the massive building of FEMA camps, no one has managed to end up in one. They just don’t make Communist dictators like Joe Stalin any more.

  • busterggi

    I’m impressed that FEMA will allow its captives to leisurely pack picnic lunches to take to their camps.

  • NitricAcid

    So does that mean that Frank Bates has already been erased by the government?

  • freehand

    We’d heard the rumble for several minutes, getting louder. If that hadn’t alerted us, the cloud of dust would have. Finally, the APC stopped in front of our house, crushing the chicken coop and the kids’ victory garden. I took a deep breath and stepped outside. A bored looking bureaucrat fellow with swarthy skin and a difficult-to-place accent said “McConner. Wife, two children. Please get your family together and join your neighbors in the van. I saw the Cartwells inside, looking out the windows, subdued and pale. They were nice enough folks, but “progressives” and never listened when I explain how things were.

    Two bored looking soldiers of some unidentifiable nation with armored vests and blue helmets sat on top, cradling AK-47s, probably watching me through their sunglasses. I took a deep breath. “Sorry,” I said, “But I have plenty of of freeze-dried food on hand.”

    “What?” he said, looking upset. “You must come, or you will starve.”

    “Nope,” I replied, “we have plenty of food on hand for a long time to come.”

    “I insist!” he cried with a break in his voice. The door to the APC cracked open, and the two on top tensed up.

    I signaled by boys, Tommy. eight, and Christian, 12. Two rifles immediately poked out of the slots in the front of the house. Good American guns, M16s. “Moreover” I replied, rather more forcefully, “I have enough food even for my two soft-headed neighbors there, and I suggest you release them!”

    The silence was broken by the sounds of the safeties on two rifles being switched off. Reluctantly, the bureaucrat made a gesture, and the door on the side of the van opened up. As we watched them drive off, Bill Cartwell murmured “You still willing to teach me how to shoot?”

  • SwanGeese .

    Heh. I lived through Katrina and this gave me a nice laugh. Those freeze-dried bags of “food” won’t do you any good if your domicile is destroyed.

    But then again people who buy this stuff have a tendency to not think their cunning plans all the way through. An example off the top of my head would be Bobby Jindal and his sand berms.

    Of course I’ve been brainwashed by eating Communist MREs provided by FEMA. :-)

  • martinc

    freehand @ 17, thanks, that was pitch-perfect … I remember reading part-way through a John Ringo novel that was exactly like that.

  • http://timgueguen.blogspot.com timgueguen

    Possible ways Food4Patriots dehydrated food will stop FEMA:

    -When the FEMA troopers come to your door, offer to make them a meal before they take you away. Hopefully they’ll take you up on your offer. They eat the Food4Patriots freeze dried stuff, which is so bad it almost instantly knocks them to the ground with debilitating cramps. You then run off while they’re helpless.

    -The packages are so large and hard they make effective bludgeons, allowing you to smash the FEMA troopers over the head and make your escape.

    And Reboot Marketing? For a while I was worried the company might be being run by Dot and Enzo Matrix.

  • tsig

    ” Al Dente

    February 5, 2014 at 11:22 am (UTC -5)

    So buying dehydrated food will keep me out of FEMA camps. There seems to be a step or two missing from this.”

    You are supposed to hang up a freeze dried dinner over your door.

  • Matt Steninger

    So he’s kind of like a right-wing paranoid Betty Crocker?