Monetizing fear: Food Babe shows how it’s done


PT Barnum famously said that you can’t go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public and blogger Vani Hari (Food Babe) is demonstrating the truth of that adage. Her artful manipulation of her Food Babe Army would warm Barnum’s heart.

Like Barnum, Hari depends for her money on the gullibility and lack of sophistication of her followers. They are so naive that they seem to have no awareness that Food Babe is a business, and they’ve been duped into buying an endless array of its useless products.

Maybe Vani’s followers are having trouble seeing Food Babe for the business that it is. Perhaps we should identify what Hari does by giving a nickname to her business; I suggest “Vansanto.”

Barnum at least had to put on his circus and that costs money. Monsanto at least has to create poducts that actually do something. “Vansanto” doesn’t have to do anything to rake in the dough. Hari, the “chief executive” of Vansanto, has figured out how to monetize fear, and that’s free, especially when you create it yourself.

I could spend a lot of time debunking Hari’s claims one by one, but I suspect that wouldn’t be very effective, because her followers lack the knowledge of basic science needed to understand them in the first place. But even those who never learned chemistry should have learned cynicism. They should be able to recognize a marketing ploy when they see one.

“Vansanto” is no more committed to your health and wellbeing than Monsanto is. Both are businesses that make money by promoting and selling products. Monstanto sells a range of products some of which have tremendous value, some of which have serious side effects and all of which fill Monsanto’s coffers.

“Vansanto” promotes and sells a range of products all of which have no intrinsic value since don’t do anything besides line Vani’s pockets. They only have value when you’ve been convinced to fear the less expensive, often far more effective, conventional alternative. That’s where Vani’s true brilliance comes in. She knows that her claims don’t have to make sense and don’t even have to be true; they just have to create fear and Vani is very, very good at doing that.

What’s amazing is that The Food Babe Army is oblivious to what seems pathetically obvious to me. Vani Hari creates fear in order to monetize it. “Vansanto” is no different from Monsanto in that regard. It is an enterprise that exists to create value and profit for its shareholders regardless of whether its products help or harm people.

Maybe members of the Food Babe Army could explain to me why they can’t see this. Is there a single member of the Food Babe Army that hasn’t been convinced to buy either a product that Vani sells, or to forgo buying a conventional product for one that Vani recommends? Is there a single member of her Army who isn’t supporting her with their own money? Can’t you see its about the money, not the food? Can’t you see that there’s no real difference between “Vansanto” and Monsanto except that one makes money for her and the other doesn’t?

Don’t you see that Vani Hari sparked your fear and you are now willing to pay her to make the very fear that she created go way? That doesn’t mark you as educated; it marks you as gullible, and profitable, fools.