In a mere 41 seconds, Florida woman Michelle Van Etten’s gave us the heart of her speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, which was such a rambling mess that the ABC affiliate station that posted the video gave it a title that starts with “Yikes”:
Here’s a transcript:
Fast-forward 26 years…going to my high school reunion (my 20th, of course). I decided to scope out the competition, and what I realized — they were driving BMWs and they looked like Barbie.
I was 30 pounds overweight, a stay-at-home mom, and driving a minivan. I decided at that point I needed a change. And I began to dream again.
Note both her body and verbal language: the agitation, the clenched fists, the BMW/minivan comparison, and the use of competition rather than classmates.
She is telling a story that will resonate with a number of voters in these fearful times: a story of envy, perceived failure, and the encroachment of undeserving “others” who somehow took away the success promised to her.
If you’ve got have 7 minutes and 8 seconds to watch the entire thing — a shambles from start to finish — here it is:
Who is this person, who sounds like one of those unintentionally funny people attempting to give a 3 a.m. deep philosophical pronouncement at Denny’s after an epic bar crawl, and as one YouTube commenter astutely observed, seemed “distracted by her own hand motions”?
Okay, maybe she’s not a gifted orator, but she’s a “small business owner” who “employs over 100,000 people”, right?
Until it was corrected on Friday, here’s how Van Etten’s bio on the RNC site described her:
Its text reads:
Michelle Van Etten is a small business owner who was recently featured in “The Greatest Networkers in the World” second edition. Michelle employs over 100,000 people and is a strong supporter of Donald Trump, knowing his policies will support businesses all across America.
Read that bio carefully again. She’s a small business owner who employs over 100,000 people. With that many employees, her “small business” would be larger than these dinky little “mom and pop” operations (using data taken from this list of the largest employers in the United States):
|“Small” business||Number of employees|
(Aerospace, marine, and combat systems, and information technology)
(Perhaps you’ve heard of them)
(As in the oil company)
|Philip Morris International
(Yes, as in Dick Cheney’s Halliburton, another oil company)
The RNC site was updated slightly, and it now reads like this:
Michelle Van Etten is a small business owner who was recently featured in The Greatest Networkers in the World second edition. Michelle runs an international multi-million dollar network marketing business with an organization of customers and distributors of over 100,000 people and is a strong supporter of Donald Trump, knowing his policies will support businesses all across America.
Van Etten had to “clarify” matters and in an interview with The Guardian, she said: “I don’t employ. Nobody works for me, because we are all individual contractors, and we all have our own individual businesses.”
Okay, so she doesn’t employ 100,000 people, but that “Senior Vice Chairman Marketing Director” is pretty impressive, right?
That’s what her LinkedIn profile says at the time of writing:
If you’ve worked in the corporate world even only a week — or just watch Suits — you’ve probably looked at the title Senior Vice Chairman Marketing Director and thought “Wow, that sounds like a job title that a thirteen year-old with delusions of grandeur made up by stringing a bunch of ‘business-y’ sounding words together,” and you’d be pretty close to the mark.
Some simple Googling will reveal that this is a title that Youngevity seems to hand out like candy as an award rather than as an executive position.
If you look just below that made-up title, you’ll see a more accurate one beneath it, in smaller letters: “Youngevity Distributer”. And before you ask, “Distributer” is an acceptable spelling in American English, but considered to be an error — or at least not so erudite-looking — in International English.
If her job title seems a little wonky, what appears below it is downright sketchy. Below any job in a resume, which is what a LinkedIn profile basically is, you’d expect to find a description of that job, including the responsibilities of the role, the tasks involved with fulfilling those responsibilities, and any achievements and accomplishments (go ahead and look at mine, for example). Van Etten doesn’t do this; she instead opted to copy and paste Youngevity’s recruiting spiel. You’d think that someone who “runs an international multi-million dollar network marketing business with an organization of customers and distributors of over 100,000 people” would have something impressive to say in their job description.
Okay, so she’s not good at describing her job. She still works at Youngevity, a successful “international multi-million dollar network marketing business”, right?
Your first warning should be what you see when you visit her website, which she lists just below her job title in her LinkedIn profile: challengeshop.my90forlife.com…
From appearances (along with the “Youngevity” name), it looks like Youngevity is in the business of selling health supplements. However, upon closer examination, you’ll notice that the “I want to join” button comes before the “I want to shop” button. It’s almost as if they’d rather you join the company rather than buy stuff from it.
The format of the web address “challengeshop.my90forlife.com” suggests that this Van Etten’s site is a small part of a larger site, which you can get to by deleting the first part of the web address and going straight to my90forlife.com. Here’s where the story gets better/worse:
On this page, there isn’t a single scrap of information about health supplements. It’s all about enticing you to join the company.
At this point, you should be asking this question: What kind of retail business puts more energy into getting customers to buy into the business than getting customers to buy their goods?
The answer to this question becomes quite clear when you look at this “quick start” document for Youngevity distributors (and yes, their material spells the word as “distributor”):
Any time someone provides you with a business opportunity using phrases like “quick start to reaching your dreams” and “simple system”, alarm bells should go off in your head.
Here’s page 2, which features a checklist:
Note that the first four of the five items in the checklist involve placing an order for product or materials from the organization. Is your Amway sense tingling yet?
Not surprisingly, page 2 is the only page (out of 12) that shows the products that Youngevity purports to sell.
The heart of Youngevity’s business model becomes more apparent on page 4, which instructs you to create a list of prospects:
Again, note that prospects aren’t being sold health supplements, but an opportunity to work for Youngevity. This becomes more apparent on page 10, where they provide a “mathematical illustration” of how you could — in theory, if you work really hard — make $120K a year if you make 5 contacts a day, 5 days a week:
I suspect that the design for page 11 was created on a dare. They actually include a diagram of their pyramid scheme while doing their damnedest to make it not look like a pyramid. At this point, they might as well just print it as a headline in all-caps — YOUR GULLIBILITY IS OUR BUSINESS MODEL:
“Youngevity already has hundreds of million and multi-million dollar income earners,” the document says. I’m going to assume that a printing or editing error caused the end of the sentence to go missing: “…thanks to suckers like you.”
Okay, so Youngevity is a multi-level marketing company. That doesn’t mean that their business is based on duping gullible people, right?
Go read this summary: Are all MLMs scams?
(The answer, by the bye, is yes.)
Okay, so Youngevity’s business model is suspect. Perhaps their health supplements are good, right?
Youngevity’s founder and the guy behind its supplements, Joel D. Wallach, sports titles that are listed in order of increasing worrisomeness…
- BS: Bachelor of Science
- DVM: Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
- ND: Naturopathic Doctor
…and the Google results for the search terms joel wallach quack should also concern you.
Wallach’s big claim is that all diseases are caused by mineral deficiencies, and he says that 99% of Americans have a mineral deficiency, since we need 90 essential nutrients (this is where his products’ names come from), 60 of which are minerals. One document he cites as proof is actually a 1936 article from Cosmopolitan (back when it was a literary magazine) about a passing mineral fad written by a farmer in Florida (of course).
- says that mainstream doctors die young because mainstream medicine is wrong,
- was also part of the laetrile craze (it was purported to be a cure for cancer, but wasn’t),
- claims that cystic fibrosis is caused by a lack of fatty acids and selenium and not a genetic disease,
- practiced “medicine” at the Hospital Santa Monica in Tijuana,
- and claims to be a nominee for the Nobel Prize for Medicine.
If that doesn’t settle matters for you, here’s Wallach talking with infamous conspiracy theorist Alex Jones (who sells Youngevity products and says their vitamins make him feel “crazy”) about why we don’t need vaccines:
Okay, so what have we learned?
For starters, we’ve learned that whoever organized the RNC didn’t worry too much about vetting speakers or reviewing their speeches, or even giving coaching to new speakers. We’ve also learned that:
- Michelle Van Etten doesn’t employ 100,000 people.
- She’s not really a marketing director of any sort, never mind a senior vice chairman one.
- She’s not really an entrepreneur, but a sucker in a business that feeds on people’s gullibility and makes them think they’re entrepreneurs.
- The business she works for was founded by a con artist and a quack.
- Her business sense leads her to believe that the United States needs to be run by a businessman like Donald Trump, whose business track record is laid quite clear in this piece:
Van Etten’s speech points to an appalling mix of poor business acumen, misinformation, and misplaced anger over one’s own sub-optimal life choices, and it’s the perfect representation of many voters who are going to be casting their ballots for Trump come November.