A Brief History
On September 4, 1957, the Ford Motor Company introduced its latest product, the Edsel. Named after founder Henry Ford’s son, the Edsel was supposed to be an upscale mass-market car and vital part of Ford’s marketing plan. It turned out to be a flop, and has since become synonymous with the word “failure.” The ugliness of the car did not hurt or kill anyone, but some do products end up being fatal. Here 10 products that for a variety of reasons have become infamous, notorious and reviled are listed. A previous article already covered Zyklon B and DDT.
Ironically, DDT may have saved more human lives than any other product by effectively killing millions of disease-bearing mosquitoes, flies, lice, ticks and other creepy crawlies. Also, by killing those insects and bugs, DDT has increased crop yields to prevent the starvation of millions of people over the years. When it was discovered that DDT stays potent in the environment and that it accumulates in animal tissues (including humans), DDT got banned. Populations of various hawks and other birds seem to have rebounded with the ban, but critics say the ban is costing many human lives. Fish in the US and other countries still have concentrations of DDT in them.
9. Poison Gas.
Poison gas includes gases used on battlefields such as nerve gas and mustard gas, or even tear gas, as well as those gases used for executions such as the notorious Zyklon B discussed yesterday. Despite efforts to outlaw the use of chemical weapons (which includes poison gas) even before the world wars, countries used it extensively during World War I and have used it sporadically ever since. Treaties, bans, agreements and international condemnation do not seem to stop their use. The thought of being gassed is terrifying, and a huge majority of people find its use repulsive.
Millions of fruitcakes are given as Christmas presents every year and are rarely appreciated. Like Spam, they have become a joke food are a frequently “re-gifted.” The company that produces them actually put a lot of effort into making a quality product, but for some reason this candied “treat” is one of the most reviled foods. Nevertheless, they sure sell a lot of them, so there must be a secret fan base out there who will not openly admit their love for this traditional food. (See our article “10 Things You Can’t Believe Other People Eat.”)
7. Chevrolet Corvair.
The star of Ralph Nader’s 1965 book, Unsafe at Any Speed, this sporty, rear-engine, fiberglass bodied car’s ensuing reputation as being unsafe turned it into a social pariah. This revulsion is perhaps a bit unfair because although the Corvair did have some dangerous characteristics, virtually all cars in the 1960s did! The book’s release resulted in massive changes in mandatory car safety requirements. (See our article “10 Car Financial Failures.”)
6. Semi-Automatic Rifles.
Called “assault weapons” by people who do not know what they are talking about, these rifles are civilianized versions of military weapons and are on the hit list of every anti-gun organization. In reality, statistics show that rifles, in general, are rarely used in murders, and “assault rifles,” in particular, are used in less than 1% of murders (actually about .012%!). Their critics, however, would have you believe that AK-47 and M-16 look-alikes are jumping off the shelves and killing people. Whereas the military guns can fire full or burst automatically like a machine gun, the civilian models do not. And so what if it has a bayonet lug? When was the last time anyone you know got bayoneted? It is an irrational fear. Muzzle brakes do not hurt anyone either, and yet they are also a feature targeted by anti-gunners. The AR-15/M-16 derivative rifles are the most popular rifles sold in the U.S. and make up a large portion of the guns used in shooting competitions and hunting. Many police departments carry them in their cruisers instead of the traditional shot gun, and SWAT teams are, of course, equipped with them.
5. Photo-Radar and Photo-Red Light Cameras.
One of the ultimate expressions of “Big Brother is watching you,” radars and cameras are a way for city and local governments to squeeze more money out of drivers. Even if you blew the light because you were on the way to the hospital, the camera cannot be reasoned with, and it does not matter who was driving, the car’s owner gets the fine. In addition, the fines are usually higher than normal to allow the company that produced and owns the machines to make a profit, too. And in a diabolic twist, sometimes the timing of the red light is changed to trap more unsuspecting victims. Lastly, studies show the damn things cause more accidents than they prevent. No wonder most people hate them.
4. Dum-Dum or Hollow-Point Bullets.
First used as hunting bullets around 1870, the British Arsenal at Dum Dum, India further developed hollow-point and soft-point expanding bullets for military use in the late 19th century. Public opposition to their use by police is based on irrational fear rather than careful thought because expanding or fragmenting bullets are less likely to pass through a target or ricochet and injure innocent bystanders. Despite all the evil weapons used in wars today, the militaries of the world are banned from using expanding bullets because of their potential to cause “undue” suffering. This ban is ridiculous in light of flame and explosives weapons, blinding laser devices and nukes. Still, the majority of the public is revolted by such bullets. History and Headlines fact: Ammunition for killing zombies is made, marketed and sold by Hornady Mfg.
3. Nuclear Weapons.
Initially received with great enthusiasm and fanfare in each country that develops them, the people there eventually realize that having them makes them a prime target of other countries that also have nuclear weapons. Across the globe, pacifists and humanitarians abhor these nuclear “devices” that have the potential to kill hundreds of millions of people in a short nuclear war and to end civilization as we know it.
Introduced in 1957 to act as a sedative or hypnotic, this drug was frequently prescribed to pregnant women to alleviate morning sickness. The real sickness set in when the babies of mothers who had taken it were born with horrific birth defects that included missing or malformed limbs, blindness and deafness. Incredibly, this nightmare drug is still in use and is prescribed to those suffering from cancer or leprosy, but not to pregnant women anymore. At least 10,000 “Thalidomide babies” were born worldwide, and the survivors serve as a living testament to the dangers of this reviled drug.
Enormously popular for 300 years, in the 1960s people finally began to catch on to its negative health effects, and serious campaigns to reduce the use of tobacco started. Today, graphic warnings about the ways tobacco can kill you or otherwise harm your health or unborn child are on every package. Most American states have outlawed smoking in restaurants and/or other public places, and the list of restrictions keeps growing. Television is bombarded with public service ads demonizing tobacco, and non-users are becoming increasing belligerent about its use. Despite taxes on tobacco being ludicrously high, many people are still not deterred, though the numbers of smokers are declining.. (See our article “10 Reasons Tobacco Should be Banned or Not Banned“).
Question for students (and subscribers): What other products would you add to the list? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For another interesting event that happened on September 4, please see the History and Headlines article: “September 4, 1886: Apache Warrior Geronimo Finally Surrenders.”
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For more information, please see…
Adler Jr, Bill. America’s Stupidest Business Decisions: 101 Blunders, Flops, And Screwups. Harper Perennial, 1997.
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