A man and his six year old son sit down in front of the TV one Saturday afternoon and turn it on. An old black and white western is showing. The father sits back and enjoys, while the child watches with intrigue. A gentleman with an elaborately painted cart enters the screen and starts making boasts about a new medicine he has that will “cure what ails ya”. A clearly sick person at the back of the newly gathered but inquisitive crowd wanders up and takes a sip of the salesman’s elixir.
Within minutes, the sick person’s face is clearing, voice is becoming less hoarse and energy is filling his body. He buys two bottles of the elixir and wander off happily as the crowd behind him suddenly fill with excitement and start clamoring to be the next customer. The sheriff then turns up, settles the crowd, shames them by telling them this man is nothing more than a snake-oil salesman and sends him out of town to the sound of boos and hisses.
Son: Dad, what’s snake oil?
Father: Well son, many a year ago men like that used to wander from town to town selling fake cures. That first person who came up was actually in league with the salesman, a friend, acting and pretending to get cured.
Son: So the oil of snakes has no affect?
Father: No son. It was all a scam.
Son: Wow dad, how did they fall for it?
Father: Medicine back then wasn’t what it is today. There were many many more things it couldn’t cure or help with, and communication was also much slower which gave these people the ability to wander from one town to the next before word of their fraudulent activity could be passed on. Today though, people are much smarter and medicine is much better.
Son: *laughing* Yeah, nobody would be silly enough to fall for that today.