I got this intriguing email a couple weeks ago:
The Beverly Hills Times Magazine has come across a book about which we are considering running an article. The book presents a theory about the emotional balance of people, with focus on homeostasis, evolution, conservation laws, society, and religion. We are seeking background information on the topics in the book to ensure that all of the information in the book is accurate. We are asking for your assistance because your extensive expertise has been brought to the attention of the Beverly Hills Times Magazine.
As background information on the Beverly Hills Times Magazine, my name is Stephen Takowsky, and I am the publisher of Beverly Hills Times Magazine. This is the only free magazine that goes to the residences and businesses in Beverly Hills, California. We have several prestigious monthly contributors including: Ralph Nader, Erin Brockovich, Ron Paul, and Dennis Kucinich. We maintain close contacts with other media, and our articles have been featured on several media platforms including CNN and TMZ. Our websites focus on gathering heavy traffic for our articles by bringing the key words in our articles to the top of search engines.
For more information on our magazine, you can check out our website at bhtmag.com, or you can Google us by searching for Beverly Hills Times.
Your assistance would be greatly appreciated. Our main goal at this point is to determine whether there is any established scientific evidence that tends either to support or invalidate the theory presented in the book. We want to find out if there is any scientific research that is relevant to the premise of the book. The Beverly Hills Times Magazine would give you full credit for any input you provide. We would also consider publishing one of your own articles as trade for your contribution.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at Publisher@bhtmag.com
Here is a link to the book: http://www.ofgrandeur.com
If you are interested, we would appreciate having your comments by September 19, 2010.
Thank you for your time.
Publisher, Beverly Hills Times Magazine
It seemed legitimate, and I was inclined to help — it’s an honor to get asked by a journalist for input on a piece he or she is writing, and I want high-quality philosophical ideas to reach the general public. But there are some strange aspects to the email too — why is the Beverly Hills Times Magazine interested in writing an article about a philosophically oriented book? And I’m no expert in “the emotional balance of people”, whatever that means.
I did some google research and came across this. So this publisher has been sending out versions of this email for a while, at least since the beginning of 2010. This was looking less and less like a legitimate request for a journalist for information for a forthcoming article.
Finally, I clicked the link to the book, and read a couple pages. There are lots of good philosophy books out there that magazines intended for the general public would benefit from talking about, but this isn’t one of them.
I decided to just let it drop, and not respond to the email, but now I’m upset, and I want to publicize this scam. The reason I’m now upset is that, when I went a couple weeks ago to the link to the book, all that was there was the book, but when I went back just today (in the context of showing someone the strange emails I get), the link has changed. Now, the book is there, but also prominently listed under the heading “Contributors” are lots of university professors who provided comments. Specifically, the text says:
Professors from over 100 universities nationwide have responded to requests to review the first draft of these books. The following professors have provided comments:
and then follows what looks to me like a few hundred names of professors, with their university affiliation.
This is despicable, right? It appears that the publisher of Beverly Hills Times Magazine is soliciting feedback on a crackpot manuscript under the pretense of saying that he’s going to publish an article about it, and then listing as “Contributors” the hundreds of professors who have taken the time to kindly provide feedback, thinking that they were providing assistance to a legitimate journalist. I’m appalled, and that’s why I’ve gone public with this blog post.