A medieval device of female oppression has gotten a 21st century upgrade – and the designers are two women with newly minted engineering degrees from Michigan State University. Rachel Weinstein and Alexandra Cho came up with the concept four years ago after a fellow student was sexually assaulted. Their idea: combine a difficult to remove undergarment with a Taser. The result is the NMN line of security products for women and girls sold online at www.nmn.com. NMN stands for “No Means No.”
Ms. Weinstein and Ms. Cho overcame a number of obstacles in the development of the product line, but the latest challenge is what business owners often refer to as “a good problem to have.” NMN, Inc. is in the midst of a production surge to meet high demand following Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election. “We currently have a six to eight month backlog in orders,” reports Vice President of Manufacturing, Silvia Brun, “but we hope to bring that down to less than two months when our 3rd and 4th manufacturing lines are running at full speed.”
While demand is high, the company’s co-owners give their assurance that quality will not be sacrificed in the manufacturing ramp up. “Just think about what this product has to do,” says Ms. Weinstein. “It has to be a strong deterrent against unwanted sexual contact, but allow for easy removal by the user for waste elimination, use of menstruation products, and let’s face it, desired sexual contact.” Ms. Cho added, “There absolutely cannot be an accidental electric shock to the wearer, and the product has to be strong, but breathable.”
While Ms. Weinstein and Ms. Cho would not divulge their trade secrets – they are still working on a patent application – they show extreme pride to two features of NMN line. The electric shock will generally leave small burns on the fingers or palm of the perpetrator which can be used as evidence in legal matters, and until the wearer turns it off, a small shock will be periodically delivered to the hip to help wake up an incapacitated women. “These products do it all,” beams Ms. Weinstein. “We at NMN hope to cut the number of sexual assaults by half in the next few years.” Ms. Cho adds that NMN, Inc. hopes to begin a foundation “when things slow down a little” to improve affordability for lower income women, who are at the greatest risk of sexual assault.
And toward that goal, they may have an unlikely ally. A person who claims to represent Vice President-elect Mike Pence has contacted the company for additional information. He reports that Mr. Pence is interested in the NMN product line as a way to substantially reduce unwanted pregnancies, and as a result, abortions. “It seems a little odd to us to consider the NMN product over the much less expensive option of birth control, but if it helps reduce sexual assault, we are willing to work with the Trump administration.”
NMN, Inc. is based in Sedona, Arizona, and the company’s products range in price from $95 to $295.
This is a fake news story – my first, and likely only, fake news story. This post is actually about fake news, and the idea came from an NPR story in which they tracked down and interviewed a fake news creator (http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/11/23/503146770/npr-finds-the-head-of-a-covert-fake-news-operation-in-the-suburbs).
Note to search engines: Please don’t label me a fake news blog. The story above is a tool to help explain the industry, and I’ll send a copy to snopes.com in case it enters wide circulation.
I’m not on Facebook very often because I find that once I begin looking at my news feed, I can waste a couple hours on it. I don’t like wasting time. Prior to the U.S. presidential election, however, I noticed a great deal of fake news on Facebook, and almost all of it was anti-Clinton. This seemed a little odd because most of my Facebook friends fall into the left-of-center political category, but the few who are far right-of-center were much more prolific with the fake news.
The NPR story explained this well. The fake news creator they interviewed, Jestin Coler, is actually a democrat in suburban Los Angeles, but the majority of the fake news stories he and his writers produced portrayed Hilary Clinton, the Democrat Party and liberal issues in a negative light. The reason is a good one – Mr. Coler can make much more money from those types of stories.
The earnings comes from advertising, and the more times that a story is viewed, the greater the income for the site hosting the story. Mr. Coler owns a company called Disinfomedia, and the company owns many websites that sound legitimate, but are not. One story told of the death by murder-suicide of the FBI agent who supposedly leaked Hilary Clinton’s emails, and it was reported in a local newspaper, the Denver Guardian, at denverguardian.com. The Denver Guardian doesn’t exist, and the story is completely untrue (not even the Colorado town is real), but it was shared on Facebook over half a million times, and the site had 1.6 million views in ten days.
Mr. Coler had tried to write similar stories for liberals, but the political left “just never take the bait.” I don’t know if I can speak for all centrists, but I don’t take the bait either. I wasted hours researching the fake anti-Clinton news on www.snopes.com, and responding to conservative Facebook friends and to emails from my uncles. It didn’t make a difference. They would ignore my facts – they wouldn’t even respond to me – and the next day there would be many more fake news stories in my inbox and Facebook feed.
And that is what Mr. Coler says. The far right would take every ridiculous fake news story as gospel truth and run with it, but the left would check the facts and dismiss the stories. He has no regrets about his work – which generates between $10,000 and $30,000 per month – and does not believe his fake news had any impact on the election. I disagree. My mother, for example, changed her vote to Trump on Election Day because of a fake news story. Talk about wasted time. I spent hours on the phone with her in the weeks leading up to the election going through issues, finding out her points of view, and telling her which candidate’s policies most closely matched her beliefs. The score ended up 5 points to Clinton, 1 to Trump and 1 tossup. It didn’t matter – fake news won out in the end.
So, here’s my advice. Treat all news as suspicious until you have enough experience with a source that you can trust what they put out. For me, I trust news from NPR, PBS, ABC, CBS, NBC, and much of the stuff on Fox News’ news programs (not the commentary shows), but I do try to confirm some of the more sensational material on one of the other sites. I also do a lot of checking on www.snopes.com – another site I can waste a couple hours on, but there is entertainment value because there are some wonderfully ridiculous stories that I haven’t seen before. I also tend to trust .edu sites (schools and universities), but I also check out the unfamiliar institutions. I’m sure it would be possible to set up fake universities to disseminate fake news.
This all supposes that you want to know the truth. In this day and age, that may not be the case. Most people get their news from sources which support their views, and affirmation is more important than fact. I hope this changes soon, because I believe this is what has led to our deeply divided country, and I feel rather lonely here in the political middle.