Thanks to Kickstarter, those who promote silly hats got a pile of free money

TinFoilHatAreaOnlyA 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?

conspriracy hat

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.

we need you

We need your money for our silly hats!

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!

pug pot of gold

  31 comments for “Thanks to Kickstarter, those who promote silly hats got a pile of free money

  1. SmOakley
    January 11, 2016 at 8:12 AM

    Caveat emptor…

  2. Craig
    January 11, 2016 at 9:37 AM

    A few years ago, some MIT egg-heads tested tinfoil hats.

    Turns out they concentrate radio waves…just like parabolic reflectors.

    http://boingboing.net/2012/10/01/tinfoil-hats-actually-amplify.html

  3. Hiram
    January 11, 2016 at 9:52 AM

    I don’t know whether this is better or worse than the so – called “ultrasound pest repellents”. http://www.amazon.com/Bell-Howell-Ultrasonic-Pest-Repeller/dp/B008653COM

    You would have thought that the Internet would help raise awareness about pseudoscience and bad science. Quite the opposite. It has blossomed into a (un)healthy industry thanks to the World Wide Web.

  4. skeptictmac57
    January 11, 2016 at 11:21 AM

    The internet is certainly a double-edged sword when it comes to pseudoscience and dodgy information, and the ‘dull’ side of that sword seems to be winning lately.

  5. Mike C.
    January 11, 2016 at 11:31 AM

    Sounds like a good old tin foil hat to me.

  6. Bonnie
    January 11, 2016 at 11:33 AM

    Why do so many people call it “tin” foil? It’s aluminium.

  7. fredthechemist
    January 11, 2016 at 12:22 PM

    Social inertia. Aluminum replaced tin decades ago, but my grandmother and mother grew up using tin, so they still used the name. I absorbed it from them; my offspring got “tinfoil” from me. It’s also easier to say.
    I’m not sure what term my granddaughter uses.

  8. Ben Doverdahl
    January 11, 2016 at 1:10 PM

    Same B. S. as the copper infused clothing seen on late night T.V. commercials. Tommy Copper is the best known one. Pure bunkum!!

  9. January 11, 2016 at 1:33 PM

    You can tell where we are in the world by how we spell aluminum/aluminium

  10. Anomalous
    January 11, 2016 at 3:06 PM

    This is so bogus. All tinfoil hats are loaded with arsenic and aluminum which are known to cause Alzheimer’s, cancer and Autism. They won’t protect your family from deadly EMF radiation, and Monsanto’s NSA mind-control Chemtrails can easily penetrate them.
    But BarnumCo’s new custom-designed all-natural BrainShields™ are 100% organic, nuclear-shielded, loaded with positive omnicrons, fortified with vactrols, and free of all toxic chemicals. BrainShields™ effectively block harmful mind control radiation, CIA-encrypted subliminal messages and ALL Chemtrail toxins. Now with organic aloe and anti-oxidants, gluten-free and GMO-free!
    Only $19.99 each, or 2 for $49.99 thru this SPECIAL ONLINE OFFER.
    Don’t wait! Protect your family!

  11. Bonnie
    January 11, 2016 at 8:04 PM

    Except in my case. A while back my spell-checker decided I live in England & I haven’t been able to convince it to move me back to America. 🙂

  12. Mike
    January 11, 2016 at 8:35 PM

    I reported this as a scam to Kickstarter, where I spelled out how this fundraiser broke their requirement that “Projects must be honest and clearly presented.”

    I guess they ignored my warning.

  13. Graham
    January 11, 2016 at 8:35 PM

    Quite true, if you do a search for ‘Quantum Effect Device’ on YouTube, you’ll find a whole subculture built around crowdfunding a perpetual motion machine. The promoters claim that through the ‘magic’ of crowdfunding and crowdsourcing they will be able to solve the problem of being unable to power the machine from its output!

  14. MisterNeutron
    January 11, 2016 at 10:09 PM

    Indeed. Over-priced elastic bandages. Quite a scam.

  15. Mike C.
    January 12, 2016 at 7:28 AM

    But the thing is that they really don’t make any claims about the what the copper is supposed to do. I remember people used to wear a copper bracelet because they thought it was supposed to help with arthritis.

  16. D Group
    January 12, 2016 at 4:50 PM

    Apparently, these hats don’t protect you from social media echo chambers.

  17. Cathy
    January 12, 2016 at 9:56 PM

    Surely for full protection you need to pull the wool right over your eyes and all the way down to your chin. You wouldn’t want those nasty waves penetrating from the front of your skull now! Would you?

  18. Sporkfighter
    January 12, 2016 at 9:57 PM

    People who spent money on theis scam could yous a little more electrochemical action going on in their heads.

  19. Mike C.
    January 13, 2016 at 3:52 PM

    You need to wear a tin foil hat to be protected from these scams.

  20. Russian Skeptic
    January 14, 2016 at 1:26 PM

    Sorry for being ignorant, but I want to get finally educated on this issue. Everyone is talking about ‘tinfoil hats’ when it comes to conspiracies and pseudo-science. Even in my own country (‘tinfoil hat’ is ‘shapochka iz folgi’ in Russian). Please tell me, are tinfoil hats real (i.e. do any people really use them) or is it just a metaphor or joke?

  21. Bonnie
    January 14, 2016 at 1:30 PM

    All of the above. I had a relative who was schizophrenic – he covered the walls and windows in his apartment with aluminum foil to keep others from reading his thoughts. As a joke, I made myself an aluminum foil hat for Halloween one year – very hot & uncomfortable!

  22. Rich
    January 16, 2016 at 9:08 AM

    According to THE INTERNET the first mention of a foil cap to protect your thoughts from outside intrusion came in a short story in 1927.

    Tinfoil hats actually make it easier for the NSA satellites to track your movements. It’s like a radar reflector on small boats. Everybody knows that.

  23. Christine Rose
    January 16, 2016 at 10:03 AM

    My brother (who is tall and sturdily built) has a tradition of wearing an aluminum foil mask while passing out Halloween candy. It’s extremely effective.

  24. Tony
    January 16, 2016 at 7:23 PM

    Back in my day, con artists had to actually do a modicum of work — like changing out of their pajamas — to scam a buck. Carnsarnit, when you can scam the marks without needing to get out of bed, it’s not worth the effort to run a short con anymore, no less run a decent Spanish Prisoner!

    Dadgum, technology is making our scammers lazier and lazier every day. Now, get off my lawn and go pay some carnival ring toss!

  25. Katherine Rogers
    January 16, 2016 at 7:38 PM

    When I was growing up on Long Island in the 1970’s we referred to it as silver paper. I am not sure if that was a family term or a regional anomaly.

  26. Geoff
    January 19, 2016 at 1:31 PM

    You have won one Internets today. To claim your prize, please leave your name, social security number, bank routing, and account number.

  27. Russian Skeptic
    January 20, 2016 at 11:31 AM

    Please, everyone, I don’t want to get a thousand-and-first joke on the subject of tinfoil hats. I only want to know where this piece of lore originates from. I do not doubt that there is an earliest textual reference to tinfoil hats or that some people don them for the sake of being humorous. But did any person in history actually use tinfoil hats in the way homeopathy or acupuncture are used, that is, seriously claiming that they have some beneficial effect?

  28. January 21, 2016 at 8:38 AM

    The first recorded use of tin foil hats happened in 1927 as derived from a short story by Julian Huxley entitled, “The Tissue-Culture King” in which the protagonist discovers that “caps of metal foil” will block the effects of telepathy”. This was published in “The Yale Review” in April of 1926.

    From http://in5d.com/the-history-of-the-tin-foil-hat/

    So, looks like it took off from there. Once again, people confusing fiction with reality.

  29. Ray
    January 22, 2016 at 5:05 AM

    It seems to me that when someone buys one of those hats to protect his brain from damage, it’s clearly too late.

  30. Peter
    January 27, 2016 at 8:39 PM

    I’d like to get one just to debunk it. Place a phone in the hat, snug it up, and have someone call it. I’m betting the phone would ring.
    Also, “anti-radar”? Can I wrap my car in these and speed down the road with impunity? “Anti-radiation”? According to their own introduction sound is a form of radiation (it is) and by wearing this you would hear nothing. It could also double as an oven mitt. What about the rest of your body? It’s absorbing all sorts of “radiation” and the surface area is much greater than your bean. And then there’s the picture of the guy using earbuds UNDER the cap. How are you getting the signals in the buds?
    Reading the FAQ should be enough to move anyone even remotely skeptical off, but there are those who want to believe.

    I’m wondering if anything will ever be delivered to the schmucks who kicked in their money.

  31. January 28, 2016 at 12:08 PM

    I don’t think they claim it will intercept all signals. So if you wore their hat and put a cellphone to your head, it would still ring. But according to them, the radiation you’d receive is much less than what you’d receive if you don’t wear their hat.

    Either way, their entire campaign is a bunch of baloney!

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