Is Morgellons a marketing campaign?

cold_fear_scan.jpgThe comments page of the earlier article on the psychology of Morgellons mention that there are rumours that the whole thing is a viral marketing campaign for the upcoming Philip K. Dick movie A Scanner Darkly – it’s a theory that PKD would have been pround of, but almost certainly untrue.

It wouldn’t be the first time that the idea of a new form of parasite has been used for a marketing campaign, though.

The computer game Cold Fear was marketed by a seemingly genuine website that claimed that a new form of brain parasite had been discovered (with a cleverly doctored brain scan, reproduced on the right). The real purpose of the information was only revealed some weeks later.

If the same is true of Morgellons, however, the marketeers have managed to smuggle an article into a scientific journal and persuade at least one academic scientist to throw away his career for the sake of a quick buck.

Randy Wymore, a genuine professor of Pharmacology and Physiology at Oklahoma State University, has made several public statements about his ongoing research into the condition. If it were found that he was fuelling interest into a fake disease purely for marketing purposes, he would be booted out of his profession faster than you could say ‘free popcorn’.

Secondly, if it is a viral marketing campaign, it’s not a very good one. The claimed symptoms of Morgellons are quite different from the Scanner Darkly scene where where Charles Freck and Jerry Fabin believe themselves to be infested with ‘aphids’ and are attempting to capture them in glass jars.

Nevertheless, delusional parasitosis is a link. Morgellons is claimed to be a manifestation of this psychotic syndrome, and the fictional scene is a fine description of how the clinical condition can present.

If you were going to create a covert marketing campaign though, you’d probably want a closer match, unless you only wanted to advertise to those with an interest in obscure psychopathology.

One of the best suggestions is that the rumours themselves are a marketing campaign, capitalising on the recent media interest.

Truly, this is a rumour worthy of PKD himself, a true connoisseur of conspiracy theories and mass media scepticism. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether we are living in Philip K. Dick’s reality, or if he is living in ours.

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