Third Annual Movie-Plot Threat Contest Winner

On April 7—seven days late—I announced the Third Annual Movie-Plot Threat Contest:

For this contest, the goal is to create fear. Not just any fear, but a fear that you can alleviate through the sale of your new product idea. There are lots of risks out there, some of them serious, some of them so unlikely that we shouldn’t worry about them, and some of them completely made up. And there are lots of products out there that provide security against those risks.

Your job is to invent one. First, find a risk or create one. It can be a terrorism risk, a criminal risk, a natural-disaster risk, a common household risk—whatever. The weirder the better. Then, create a product that everyone simply has to buy to protect him- or herself from that risk. And finally, write a catalog ad for that product.


Entries are limited to 150 words … because fear doesn’t require a whole lot of explaining. Tell us why we should be afraid, and why we should buy your product.

On May 7, I posted five semi-finalists out of the 327 blog comments:

Sadly, two of those five was above the 150-word limit. Out of the three remaining, I (with the help of my readers) have chosen a winner.

Presenting, the winner of the Third Annual Movie Plot Threat Contest, Aaron Massey:

Tommy Tester Toothpaste Strips:

Many Americans were shocked to hear the results of the research trials regarding heavy metals and toothpaste conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine, which FDA is only now attempting to confirm. This latest scare comes after hundreds of deaths were linked to toothpaste contaminated with diethylene glycol, a potentially dangerous chemical used in antifreeze.

In light of this continuing health risk, Hamilton Health Labs is proud to announce Tommy Tester Toothpaste Strips! Just apply a dab of toothpaste from a fresh tube onto the strip and let it rest for 3 minutes. It’s just that easy! If the strip turns blue, rest assured that your entire tube of toothpaste is safe. However, if the strip turns pink, dispose of the toothpaste immediately and call the FDA health emergency number at 301-443-1240.

Do not let your family become a statistic when the solution is only $2.95!

Aaron wins, well, nothing really, except the fame and glory afforded by this blog. So give him some fame and glory. Congratulations.

Posted on May 15, 2008 at 6:24 AM29 Comments


KnoNoth May 15, 2008 6:42 AM

fantastic, simply fantastic.
I’m quite sure, that people would buy it. Even if it’s simply a blue paper.

Tom Grant May 15, 2008 8:21 AM

Congratulations Aaron! Nicely done…and welcome to the small, but growing club of threatening movie plotters.

Aaron Massey May 15, 2008 8:41 AM

Thank you, thank you! I am surprised and pleased that I won!

Seriously though, I encourage you to look at the other entries. There’s a lot of great fear-inspiring entrepreneurs out there.

Also, congratulations to the other semi-finalists! I particularly enjoyed reading the comments in the voting thread. 🙂

Anonymous May 15, 2008 8:46 AM

… and yet the DNA Adulterometer seems to have real-world implications for clear and present dangers TODAY.

Fast-Food Workers Spit In Customer Drinks

POSTED: 12:19 pm EDT May 13, 2008
UPDATED: 9:11 am EDT May 15, 2008

EUNICE, La. — Two fast-food workers at a Sonic eatery in Eunice spit into customers’ drinks, a company representative said.

Several customers at the restaurant said their drinks were spiked with saliva.

“(My daughter) came up here and got a soda and come to find out some girls spit in the drink” father Joe Lawrence said.

A Sonic representative told KFLY-TV that the incident has been investigated and action has been taken.

Sonic said that the former employees at the eatery spit in the drinks, the KFLY report said.

“It was brought to my attention by the manager of the store that the incident was brought to his attention that an employee had spit in a drink of a customer,” Sonic representative Steve Richard said.

Some customers said the incident made them sick to their stomachs.

“That is horrible,” customer Jacquelyn Bourque said. “That is very bad because you really don’t know how long they’ve been doing it.”

Watch Local 6 News for more on this story.

Tom May 15, 2008 9:05 AM

I confess, I would probably get scammed by anyone to offer me these anti-laser-pointer-sunglasses. At least if they are looking cool. Although I know, they are bogus, I still feel the need to protect my eyes from evil guys with laser pointers. Obviously useless security products are the only thing to provide protection from imaginary threats – and don’t tell me, you don’t have any irrational fears 😉

Fred P May 15, 2008 9:43 AM


Now all you have to do is come up with a business plan 🙂

Fred P May 15, 2008 9:46 AM


High-end polarized sunglasses would work pretty well against low-power lasers (save when their polarity precisely matches).

xd0s May 15, 2008 10:55 AM


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Tangerine Blue May 15, 2008 1:12 PM

All Hail Aaron!
All Hail Aaron!
All Hail Aaron!
All Hail Aaron!
All Hail Aaron!

Could I get an autographed strip for my kid?

Dewi Morgan May 15, 2008 1:45 PM

um… lasers are not polarised. For glasses that will protect you against lasers, you need proper laser safety goggles (google ’em!)

They normally set you back about $50 for a decent pair, and you need multiple pairs if you are working with multiple lasers with different wavelengths, since each pair protects you only against a narrow bandwidth. Also, you need make sure you are wearing the right pair. A good method is to store the glasses with the lasers.

Not a scam: check out any site selling decent high powered lasers. Critically important if you are working with even fairly low-power lasers outside of visible wavelengths, as the blink reflex won’t kick in as it would with a laser pointer.

Just google laser goggles.

Of course, no realistic way to protect a random member of public against a random laser wielded by a terrorist, without completely screening out their eyes against all wavelengths… which kinda destroys the point. Maybe something reactive could work?

Davi Ottenheimer May 15, 2008 6:07 PM

Er, ok, but why wouldn’t people just stop using tooth “paste” or switch brands to a natural/local option?

Are we to believe the barrier to exit toothpaste is really that high?

For example powder works just as well tor hygiene. The fact that it passes airport security controls has led many people to adopt it already.

I think a more devastating plot would be one where people are truly afraid to switch away, as alternatives are made to appear more risky than a “fix”; one where people spend themselves deeper into addiction while they actually think they are making themselves safer. This threat-based system was perhaps best utilized by Rockefeller and documented by Tarbell in “The History of the Standard Oil Company”

After all, a toothpaste shortage/ban is hardly a crisis, but if gasoline goes away…

Impossibly Stupid May 15, 2008 6:18 PM

“Sadly, two of those five was above the 150-word limit.”

Wait, what? Are you honestly saying that a security contest didn’t validate its input? It seems wrong that you kept two other entries out of the running just because someone couldn’t be bothered to “wc -w”.

Doug Coulter May 15, 2008 9:45 PM

My take on this is that ALL the finalists are winners, and that Bruce should keep doing this as an educational exercise. Not that most of the readers here need it, but there’s the rest of the world that truly does. Humour induces change in the rational. Perhaps expecting rationality is optimistic, but I just had a great day ;~).

Thanks all.


Bruce Schneier May 16, 2008 6:24 AM

“Wait, what? Are you honestly saying that a security contest didn’t validate its input?”

Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. I thougth I did, but I forgot.

John Hardin May 16, 2008 11:51 AM


But you’re missing the beauty of the All-Spectrum Omni-Polarization Laser-Pointer Safety Goggles: all you need to do is send out the opaque glasses that the blind wear.

It’s not even false advertising, if you don’t imply that you’ll be able to do anything requiring sight whilst wearing the ASOPLP Safety Goggles.

Remember, we’re trying to profit from hysterical fear here.

Simon May 16, 2008 3:43 PM

“Now all you have to do is come up with a business plan :-)”

I’m sure he could hire a botnet to SPAM it to the world, with the extra marketing blurb “Award winning! Recommended by Bruce Schneier!”

For the laser goggles, why not go with the proven proxying principle: completly opaque, with small LCD screens inside and micro cameras on the outside. Optical data logging and profanity filters optional. “Free this month, the ever popular “PINK filter”, never feel blue again!.

John David Galt May 22, 2008 5:24 PM

I recently heard that the “Alertness Alert” device is now real (intended as a safeguard against falling asleep at the wheel).

Perhaps there should be a second award for real products and services that are overreactions to trivial or imaginary risks.

On second thought, make it TWO new awards. So many politicians’ ideas would qualify that they should compete in their own category.

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