A hat that claims to shield your head from electromagnetic fields has become a successfully funded project on Kickstarter this past week. The people behind the campaign (whomever they are) took advantage of people’s ignorance and gullibility (and possibly paranoia) about the supposed harmful effects of electromagnetic fields. These beanies are basically just a fancy version of a tin foil hat, though they claim their product is based around actual studies. However, they don’t offer any sources for these “studies”.
313 backers pledged £13,834 (equivalent to about $20,000) to support this project.
Here is part of their press release:
Introducing Shield Headwear, the impressive new concept that combines not only impeccably stylish design but also astonishing modern technology to protect the wearer from harmful radiation emitted by cell-phones, wifi signals and other electronic devices.
There are several obvious and not so obvious issues with this campaign. The design is arguably “stylish” since it projects a paranoid, uninformed outlook on the world. And the technology is hardly “astonishing”. Primarily, there is the whole issue of EMF radiation as “harmful”. We are surrounded by EMFs (including sunshine and indoor lighting) and we are living longer than ever. The claim that people can even have electromagnetic sensitivity remains unsupported by the scientific consensus.
The people behind this campaign are not claiming their product will shield you from all EMFs but will greatly reduce the “risk”. If you are worried about the risk, say from cell phones, the World Health Organization says that using a hands-free set that keeps your cell phone 30 cm away from your body will do just fine to reduce EMF radiation. No need for a hat.
The Shield Apparel people even flat out admit in their campaign that their product is founded on… a hunch.
One day we had a conversation with my cousin. He talked about one night he could not fall asleep and thought it might be caused by wi-fi or cell phone signal. He said that he would appreciate something that protects his head during the night. Then we started to think. What if there is a grain of truth in this story.
Oh, well, there’s a great reason to launch a funding effort for a piece of headwear that has no basis in reality. In the risks and challenges blurb on the Kickstarter page they claim to have the right technology and working hats with the Kickstarter being just a fundraiser for the manufacturing costs (or, perhaps, a payoff for the slick marketing campaign they used which likely costs $20K). Again, there are no citations for sources for this incredible technology or that it works (because that would be verifiable information, and they don’t want to give you THAT). It’s all about belief. They even admit to it in the VERY NEXT paragraph:
[m]any people don`t believe at all and they are strictly against signal-proof idea. But everybody has the right not to believe. Event [sic] it`s not proven, we believe that occasionally or daily wear of these signal-proof hats can be beneficial.
In the FAQ listed under the risks and challenges they AGAIN claim it’s proven to work but also admit that there is no proof EMFs are harmful. I’ve seen less flipping at a burger joint! They appeal to your desire to “care about yourself” and to “be smart”. Buying into conspiratorial claims is exactly the opposite of being “smart”. How did they manage to get over £13,000 for this?
It is suspicious that the creators of the campaign did not clearly state who they are. One of the guys supposedly behind the campaign was discovered to be Marek Schweigert, a creative marketing specialist. Their company website offers no information about who they are or where they are located.
This seems to be a campaign by a UK company, however, a commentator in the Kickstarter community, Skeptic Factfinder, claims that the company behind the campaign is out of Slovakia – the UK company being a shell to give the illusion that it’s a UK venture. The UK company was registered in late October, just a few weeks before they launched their Kickstarter and is listed with a private residence address in the UK.
The product itself is claimed to be made from “pure silver” fabric that is “antibacterial, antimicrobial, anti-radiation, anti-odor, anti-static, and radar and infra-red invisible.” Buzzwords galore! Metal fabric does have some of these properties. But, looking at the fabric, it is OBVIOUSLY not made of “pure silver” but must contain some textile to make it this flexible. Silver thread is more likely the component in the fabric. This material is marketed to those worried about Big Brother and government mind control. Yet, one wonders why you would be concerned that your head is protected from infra-red and radar when the rest of you is NOT and completely visible! Anything that emits normal heat and light signals are observable in infra-red. Does the hat not get warm? Just because the hat has some silver fabric in it doesn’t make it infra-red invisible. It’s a clear signal these people don’t really know what they are talking about, it’s all very sciencey, but it sure sounds good.
Kickstarter has basically no safeguards for your voluntary investment – it’s YOUR responsibility.
Kickstarter does not guarantee projects or investigate a creator’s ability to complete their project. On Kickstarter, backers (you!) ultimately decide the validity and worthiness of a project by whether they decide to fund it.
They assume the presentation is honest and WON’T refund money. Anyone can take the money and run. Unless you want to freely throw money away, you’d be foolish to support such nonsense claims from people you don’t know. This isn’t the first (or last) nonsense claim made on the site. Youtube user iDubbbzTV runs a series called “Kickstarter Crap”. You can see their no-holds barred video on the Shield Apparel signal-proof headwear here (Note: Crude humor and bad language, but it’s rather justified in this case, we would say.)
What’s clear from this example is that there is money to be made exploiting the paranoid fear of a portion of the public who buy into misinformation. And it probably will get worse. BE SKEPTICAL!