Thursday, April 5, 2012

Psychics, Mediums, and Flim Flam Artists

I'm sure you've stayed up late at night and seen a commercial enticing you to pick up the phone and call into some hotline wherein you will be connected to someone who can tell you all sorts of things about your life. Think Ms. Cleo. A Black woman with a Jamaican accent advising you to 'call me now for your free reading'. Quick note about Ms. Cleo; Court documents revealed she was actually born in Los, Angeles California and her parents are United States citizens. The Jamaican accent she employed was a part of the show. Right here in Atlanta we have a number of self-proclaimed psychics who will charge you money for their services. They've developed an industry knowing people are searching for answers, banking on them going to the wrong places to get those answers, and that they can supply them with the answers. They are right. They can supply answers but the real question is how meaningful are the answers?

By answers I mean, after you have supplied some information for them to make a guess. Say the person says, did you buy your wife roses? You say yes and they say 'for a birthday or anniversary' and you say anniversary and they say 'your wife is very happy'. The person could easily see your wedding ring, know that roses are typically associated with married couples regarding special days and operate with the idea that some or most women would be happy receiving roses from their husband. Psychic? No. Observant? Yes. 

If you've gone to a psychic or even watched them on Youtube or television please take note of their tactics. First, she/he will ask you a series of broad questions or make statements which are so open ended, you are left to supply the meaning to the words. Say the psychic says 'Does the letter R mean anything to you'? The letter R, could signify anything to YOU. It could be the beginning of a person's name, a street name, school name, a letter in a tattoo on your body, something to do with your favorite movie, etc. The question cannot be answered with a simple 'yes' and it's specifically designed to get you to think. The problem with that is when you supply the meaning, the psychic looks like she/he has some kind of power when all they did was ask/made a broad question/statement. If one question does not do the trick they will ask/make a multitude of questions or statements. They are phishing with fast paced statements and questions and waiting for you to gravitate toward their tactics and when you do, they claim some sort of meaningful purpose in the interaction. All they are doing is talking to you. They present themselves as trustworthy and believable people who are just trying to help you. If simply asking people broad questions in a shotgun type manner is what qualifies anyone to be a psychic, then I've been one for at least 10 years. Next time you come across a psychic, ask them why they have not predicted the lotto numbers so they can get rich. If they say 'I shall not use my powers for my own gain' tell them they could use the money to help feed the homeless. If they still don't do it, draw your conclusion about their ability from there. 

Mediums are another set of people who claim to offer solutions. They typically pitch themselves as some kind of gatekeeper or messenger between living and dead people. They too employ the shotgun method in terms of questions and statements. A new 'medium' has appeared on TLC with the same bull shit as all of the others. The show is called Long Island Medium. In my opinion these people are vultures who fly around looking for pain, which they know is inevitable and when it comes they swoop right in. One clip was with a woman who'd lost her husband while he was on duty( The clip is titled 'Widowed Wife' if the link does not take you directly to it. He was killed by another driver while he was writing a traffic ticket. They had 3 children together at the time of his death. It's a very tragic situation and the woman was clearly still in pain. She knew the material explanation for her husband's death(she said it) but she also believed the medium could answer some questions. Listen at the end of the clip to what the medium says. She says 'your husband told me to tell you that it gets harder from here'. Notice the lack of specificity of the statement. It's very broad and if she or her boys experience some kind of hardship in any way, the statement applies. There's nothing inherently special about her claim to this woman. It's simply being as vague and broad as you can to allow whomever you are speaking with to FILL IN THE BLANKS. Notice the dead people with whom they are claiming to speak of offer the most vague of replies to substantive questions too. 

These people and I argue a lot of pastors and preachers know this too, is that we are prone to commit the post hoc ergo proctor hoc fallacy. Say you prayed to a god to make a way for you to get the job you were seeking. You get the job and you conclude that since you got the job, the prayer worked. In other words the prayer CAUSED you to get the job. Not necessarily. You may have prayed and you did get the job but it is not automatically inferred that since you prayed, that specific action brought about you getting the job in question. They know we usually are not as skeptical when confronted with a smiling face and an extended hand coupled with emotional or euphemistic language. That particular starting point is where they make all sorts of claims for which they do not intend to work for. I group astrologers in the same category. Check your local newspaper or horoscope and look how broadly and vaguely each piece is written. Horoscopes may be fun to read and all and that rising moon shit may be decent fiction but do not build your life around it.

Keep an eye out for these people. They write best-sellers, appear on television, i.e. Sylvia Browne, and hold expensive sessions on cruise liners. They offer empty platitudes and pseudo-science. Yes they offer solutions and places where you can talk but in my assessment, it will not do you any good. 

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