How the Slinky Helped to Destroy Indigenous Cultures

Cracked has an article titled “5 Inventions You Won’t Believe Came From War”. In this case, “five” is like the Bible: Not to be taken literally. The “five” inventions are:

  • Tampons
  • Twinkies
  • Slinky
  • Silly Putty
  • Frisbee
  • Tabasco Sauce
  • Nylon Stockings

They tell us that Richard James was a naval engineer. In 1943, he was trying to develop some springs to cushion delicate electronic equipment from being battered around when the ship gets tossed on the waves or hit by enemy fire.

One of his failed attempts was a weak little spring. Cracked picks up the story:

Knowing that there was nothing kids loved more than coiled metal…

Actually, that’s incorrect. They like broken glass more.

…James figured he just might have invented the world’s greatest toy ever. Within two years, James found the perfect metal for his toy idea and scored a $500 loan to build his first batch, which he sold in 90 minutes. A few years later, probably still haunted by his failure to actually keep the battleship equipment safe, James gave it all up and ran away to join a cult. Go figure.

Well, that sounds intriguing! Giving up a million-dollar idea and running off to join a cult! I clicked on both links in the article to find out more.

KXNET tells us very little:

Betty James took over management of the company in 1959 after her husband left her to follow a religious cult in Bolivia.

The Guardian says only a little more:

This is an even bigger achievement than it at first appears, because Richard James (1914-74)… walked out of his own unexpectedly successful toy manufacturing company. In 1960 he also left his wife, Betty, and six children, to join a fundamentalist religious cult in Bolivia. (The cult benefited from much of the company’s money earned from the Slinky.)

So the troublesome bit here is that some bunch of wacko loons received a big wad of cash from the wacko loon who invented the Slinky. The consensus seems to be that the wacko loons benefitting from this largesse are some sort of fundie cult. But which fundie cult?

I checked Wikipedia’s Richard James article. The story becomes a little less salacious, but no less troubling:

Around 1960, Richard wanted his wife to go with him to Bolivia with Wycliffe Bible Translators. When she refused, he told her he did not care what she did with the company. Betty James took over as CEO of James Industries and rescued the company from the debts left by her husband’s generosity to his religion.

So who is Wycliffe Bible Translators?

Wycliffe Bible Translators is an interdenominational organization mandated to making a translation of the Bible in every living language in the world, especially for cultures with little existing Christian influence.… There are currently branches in over 50 countries.

Wycliffe bases its philosophy on Townsend’s Protestantism which regards the intercultural and multilinguistic spread of Christianity as a divine command. Protestantism, including this organization, adheres to the principle of sola scriptura and regards Biblical texts as the authoritative and infallible word of God.

So Wycliffe is part of the whole Christian imperialism movement to convert the entire world. It’s fundie manifest destiny.

The one thing it isn’t, is a cult. There are many definitions of cults. Most religions easily fall into the broader definitions. However, The Cracked article was clearly using the narrower, more derogatory definition (also known as “dangerous cults”) to lump Wycliffe in with Heaven’s Gate and the Branch Davidians.

We don’t need to do that. Wycliffe Bible Translators are dangerous enough on their own. I would argue that they are even more dangerous than a run-of-the-mill Moonie-style cult. Dangerous cults usually don’t get too big. Wycliffe Bible Translators is in 50 countries actively converting people all over the globe to their special brand of lunacy. Wycliffe Bible Translators are just one of many Christian missionary groups that are actively destroying the culture of the local people and replacing it with their own defective culture.

And prior to 1960, the Slinky contributed to this spread of destruction.

Slinky dress

12 Responses to “How the Slinky Helped to Destroy Indigenous Cultures”

  1. Jeff Says:

    I read that entire article before I realized I was reading Cracked. I didn’t read Cracked when I was an adolescent; you have me reading it now.

    Then this showed up in my inbox a few minutes later:

    We have received a request for your email address to be added to the Cracked newsletter list. In order to confirm you do wish to join this list, please follow the link below

    That is one aggressive website.

  2. Ron Britton Says:


    I’ve never seen that from any site, including Cracked.

    Does anybody know how that is possible? Is there some vulnerability in some browsers that they can be tricked into giving up an email address?

    Today I went to an art website. I wanted to sign up so I could post comments. When I went to the signup page, my firewall blocked the site and told me it was a suspected phishing site. That doesn’t seen consistent with the type of site it was. I don’t know what is going on with that site. My firewall doesn’t object to Cracked. I would have expected a similar warning if Cracked somehow grabs people’s email addresses without consent.

  3. Syldoran Says:

    I’ve been reading Cracked for ages now and that’s never happened. Hmmm.

  4. Jeff Says:

    Perhaps I clicked on “Subscribe” without realizing it.

    Meanwhile, I learned that we can’t even invent Twinkies without murdering millions of people. Oh, yeah, there’s hope.

  5. Brian Says:

    I cannot get through my day without reading Cracked’s website. I especially love Seanbaby’s “Man Comics”. Today’s issue has Aquaman paying a visit to Noah on the ark, and a further reminder that Popsicle Pete is evil incarnate. Don’t drink anything while you read it as it will come back out your nose.

  6. Coty T. Says:

    @Brian: That was hilarious! I felt it just a little weak, though, compared to the other man comics XD. My personal favorite columnist would have to be Daniel O’Brien.

  7. Coty T. Says:

    Oh, and I’ve been reading Cracked for a long time now, and I’ve never gotten an E-mail from them, either :\

  8. Brian Says:


    Go back a few months and read the one about Green Lantern being a pervert. It may just be the funniest goddamned thing I have ever read in my life.

  9. Parrotlover77 Says:

    Jeff/Ron – There is no way for a website to get your email address without you entering it, unless you have some sort of weird browser plugin that autosubmits mailing lists. If that is the case, that sounds like malware. In other words, it would be a the client side pushing data to the site, not the site using some trick pulling data from you.

    Also, Cracked is a respectable business. I find it hard to believe they would intentionally badger their visitors since they want return visits for ad revenue.

    In any case, I recommend doing a virus and spyware scan on your computer.

    As to the slinky being a fundie invention… It fits. It’s a completely useless single purpose invention that solves no problem, is not fun, and wastes time, money, brain cells, and resources (various forms of metal and plastic being finite resources).

  10. Sarah Says:

    As a resident of southeast Louisiana (in fact I work about 10 minutes from where the seed peppers are grown), I am contractually obligated to correct your spelling of Tabasco. The only “o” in it is the one at the end of the word.

    Little known fact: Tabasco is aged in old Jack Daniels barrels. They can only be used once to age whiskey, and JD and McIlhenny Co. have some kind of arrangement.

  11. Parrotlover77 Says:

    I’m a Texas Pete Sauce man myself (“Hotter” variety). For some reason, I always thought Tabasco tasted kinda off. I don’t really know how else to describe it.

  12. Ron Britton Says:


    I fixed it. When my spelling checker flagged it, I just assumed that it didn’t have brand names in its database, so I never bothered to see if it was spelled right.