left biblioblography: Ding Dong The Bitch Is Dead: Another Liar Bites The Dust

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Ding Dong The Bitch Is Dead: Another Liar Bites The Dust

Cross posted @ the Atheist Oasis

Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it – Macbeth, Act 1 Scene 4brownbullshit

There is perhaps few emotional crimes worse than pandering to a person’s grief with promises of falsehoods. And while I usually try to empathize on this sort of topic, I really can’t.

Sylvia Browne is dead.

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

She was a liar, a fraud, a snake-oil salesman, a confidence man*. In short, she made millions on the ghoulish garbage known as the afterlife. Pandering to the lowest common denominator of poor education, she raked in undeserved riches with her scam. Her history is risible: let’s take a look;

Psychic readings

Browne started to give psychic readings in 1974, and performed thousands of one-on-one readings for a wide variety of groups and individuals. As of 2008, she charged $850 for a 20- to 30-minute telephone session.

More than prostitutes charge per hour. And likely less satisfying.

Browne was the author of dozens of books on paranormal and spiritual topics. She discussed a wish for people to feel that they are loved by God. Browne claimed that God comprises both a male and a female part, named Om and Azna respectively. She stated that the entity of God loves all people and living beings equally, no matter what one's specific religious or spiritual beliefs are. According to Browne, this includes atheists, people who do not believe in a god or gods. Browne wrote that people's actions and intentions define a person and soul, and that people of all religions, spiritual beliefs, and non-beliefs may go to "the Other Side", as she referred to Heaven. Browne wrote that she presented her beliefs in a way that allows readers or listeners to take what they want from her teachings and leave behind what they do not agree with.

Wow – she must’ve learned that in psychobabble city.

Paranormal claims

Browne claimed that she knew what it is like in Heaven. In her book The Other Side and Back, she says the temperature is a constant 78 °F (25.6 °C), that there are no insects unless one wants there to be, that pets go to Heaven, and that a house can be built wherever one wants. She asserted that the "other side" exists approximately three feet above ground level and at a "higher vibrational level" and that this makes it difficult for humans to perceive. Like a number of other psychics, she claimed to have been born able to perceive a wider range of "vibrational frequencies".

Browne declared that she could see angels, and that they looked similar to depictions in paintings but had different traits depending on their "phylum." She also claimed that they do not speak. Browne professed the ability to speak with her spirit guide, "Francine," and gave details of 54 of her own former lives as divined by her.

Yeesh – self-involved much, lady? So she sees shit, knows the thermostat, and claims to have had 54 lives? 54 separate personalities is closer to reality.

Here’s where the hilarity really begins:

False predictions

Browne made many public predictions which have subsequently been proven false, including the following:

  • In 2002: Browne told the parents of 11-year-old Shawn Hornbeck, who had disappeared earlier that year, that Shawn was dead and had been kidnapped by a dark-skinned man with dreadlocks. Hornbeck was found alive in 2007; his kidnapper was Caucasian and short-haired. In June 2008, UK television network ITV2 was sanctioned by Ofcom for re-airing the Montel Williams episode featuring Browne's original prediction.
  • In November 2004, to the mother of kidnapping victim Amanda Berry, who had disappeared 19 months earlier: "She's not alive, honey." Browne had claimed to have had a vision of Berry's jacket in the garbage with "DNA on it." Berry's mother died two years later believing this to be the case. Berry was found alive in May 2013.
  • On Larry King Live in 2003, Browne predicted she would die at age 88. She died in 2013, aged 77.

Aye caramba! A psychic who can’t even predict her own death! Who’da thunk it?

Funnier still:

In 2000, Brill's Content examined ten recent Montel Williams episodes that highlighted Browne's work as a psychic detective, spanning 35 cases. In 21 cases, the information predicted by Browne was too vague to be verified. Of the remaining 14, law enforcement officials or family members stated Browne had played no useful role.

In 2010, the Skeptical Inquirer published a detailed three-year study by Ryan Shaffer and Agatha Jadwiszczok, examining Browne's predictions about missing persons and murder cases. Despite Browne's repeated claims to be more than 85% correct, the study reported that "Browne has not even been mostly correct in a single case." The study compared Browne's televised statements about 115 cases with newspaper reports, and found that in 25 cases where the actual outcome was known, she was completely wrong in every one. In the rest, where the final outcome was unknown, her predictions could not be substantiated. The study concluded that the media outlets that repeatedly promoted Browne's work had no visible concern about whether she was untrustworthy or harmed people. Among the predictions examined in the study were the following:

  • In 1999, Browne said that six-year-old Opal Jo Jennings, who had disappeared a month earlier, had been forced into slavery in Japan. Later that year, a local man was convicted of kidnapping and murdering Jennings. In 2003, an autopsy of Jennings' remains found that she had died within hours of her abduction.
  • In 2002, Browne claimed Holly Krewson, who had disappeared in 1995, was working as an exotic dancer in a Hollywood nightclub. In 2006, dental records were used to positively identify a body found in 1996 in San Diego as Krewson's.
  • In 2002, Browne claimed Lynda McClelland, who had disappeared in 2000, had been taken by a man with the initials "MJ"; was alive in Orlando, Florida; and would be found soon. In 2003, McClelland's son-in-law David Repasky, who had been present at Browne's reading, was convicted of murdering McClelland; her remains were found near her home in Pennsylvania.
  • In 2004, Browne said that Ryan Katcher, a 19-year-old who had disappeared in 2000, had been murdered, and his body could be found in a metal shaft. In 2006, Katcher's body was found in his truck at the bottom of a pond, where he had drowned.

In a 2013 follow-up article, Shaffer reviewed more recent predictions by Browne, as well as predictions whose outcomes had been earlier classified as undetermined but were now largely resolved. According to Shaffer, Browne was mostly or completely wrong in 33 cases and mostly accurate in none.

I take it back – this isn’t funny, it’s horrifying. The American people will listen to any idiot with a good lie, regardless of how often the person in question is proven wrong.

What I love, is how James Randi braces these bozos:

Scientific skeptic James Randi, a retired stage magician turned investigator of paranormal claims, was a vocal critic of Browne, and claimed her accuracy rate was no better than educated guessing. On September 3, 2001, Browne stated on Larry King Live that she would prove her legitimacy by accepting the James Randi Educational Foundation's $1,000,000 challenge to demonstrate supernatural abilities in a controlled scientific test. However, by April 2003, Browne had not contacted Randi to make testing arrangements.

On May 16, 2003, in another appearance on King's show, Browne said she had not taken the test because Randi refused to place the prize money in escrow. Randi responded by mailing a notarized copy of the prize account status showing a balance in excess of one million dollars; Browne refused to accept the letter. In late 2003, despite challenge rules that money could not be placed in escrow, Randi announced that he was willing to do so for Browne; Browne did not accept or acknowledge this offer. In 2005, Browne posted a message online that she had never received confirmation of the prize money's existence, despite Randi's claim that he had a certified mail receipt showing Browne's refusal of the package. In 2007, on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360°, Browne's business manager Linda Rossi stated that Browne would not be taking Randi's challenge "because she has nothing to prove to James Randi."

Wow – squirm much, you fucking ghoul?

I consider these people to be beneath contempt. Unemployable (or too lazy to go out and get a REAL job), they scam and flim-flam the gullible public (we can perhaps blame this on TV’s ubiquitous garbage, but that’s another topic). Psychics are lower than priests, rabbis, imams, or ministers. At least most of the latter think they’re doing the right thing – but a psychic? If they’re not mentally wrecked, they’re lying scumbags.

I am terribly tempted to go pee on her grave. And see if her ‘psychic’ son Christopher Dufresne can actually track me down using only his mind.

Just kidding – there’s no such thing as psychics.

Till the next post, then.

*An side to the PC police – I use the terms purposely, and independently of gender. So spare us all your semantic objections.

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