Irresponsible TLC, Promoting Ignorance and Fraud

She’s funny, she’s wacky, she’s setting stupid people up to be scammed.

Public ignorance and stupidity costs the nation billions of dollars, kills untold people in the hundreds of thousands, vastly increases crime and unemployment, and generally makes life far less productive, safe and enjoyable for the minority that are not ignorant and stupid, as well as for those who are. Among the most unethical and despicable among us are those who profit from the ignorance of others, and who either plot to keep them that way, or who exploit their dimness for profit. These deplorable exploiters include politicians, advertisers and merchandisers, religious groups and cults, as well as single-issue advocates on a wide range of issues. There should be an especially unpleasant corner in Hell, however, for an organization that does this under the guise of “The Learning Channel.”

The Learning Channel has already established its fondness for either making “entertainment” out of child abuse, as in its execrable reality shows, “Toddlers & Tiaras” and “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” or exploiting child labor, as with the “Jon & Kate plus Eight” franchise. But its “Long Island Medium” show is especially vile, as it prepares gullible fools for manipulation and fleecing by charlatans who claim to be able to contact the dead, read minds, or foresee the future. “Theresa is a typical Long Island mom who has a very special gift. She talks to the dead.,” TLC tells us on its website. Elsewhere, it describes Theresa Caputo as a “real psychic.” These are lies.

Nobody talks to the dead, and there are no real psychics. All psychics are frauds and have ever been frauds, from John Edward, to Jean Dixon, to Nostradamus and Rasputin. They all gull sad, desperate, hopeful and naive people into surrendering their trust and cash for the product of guile and carefully honed observational skills that have been used by fortune tellers and other fakes for centuries. This is not a matter of serious question or debate. TLC stating that Caputo is a real psychic is the equivalent of its asserting that it has the Loch Ness monster in an aquarium or that Elvis has risen from the dead, except that what TLC says about psychics is infinitely worse, because so many people believe it.

Not only is TLC deceiving the public, the most foolish members at least, by stating a falsehood as fact; it is also advertising a product, psychic readings, that is fraudulent and dangerous. Magicians Penn and Teller, following in the hallowed footsteps of Harry Houdini, who ended his career exposing every psychic foolish enough to challenge him, used their cable show “Bullshit” to show just how dishonest and manipulative these scam artists can be. Their victims often let the “psychics” dictate important life decisions, and TLC, by advertising their “gifts” as psychic powers rather than the ability to cheat people out of their money—the accurate description—are facilitating crimes.

Because TLC is assisting in the commission of multiple frauds by broadcasting “Long Island Medium,” anyone who watches the show is assisting as well. We know TLC is shameless; we know criticism won’t stop it from presenting unethical programming. All that can be done is to make the most unethical of its shows unprofitable, by not watching them, even out of curiosity. TLC calls those who don’t believe in Theresa’s powers “skeptics;” that is not accurate. The term for people who don’t believe in psychics is “educated and rational,” and the word for those who do is “marks.”  It is up to the educated and rational to protect the marks.

Stop The Learning Channel. Stop “Long Island Medium.”

It’s easy.

Just watch some other garbage that doesn’t lay the groundwork for scam artists.

____________________________________

Graphic: Get Glue

17 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Marketing and Advertising, Professions

17 responses to “Irresponsible TLC, Promoting Ignorance and Fraud

  1. Fred

    They are just trying to keep up with the National Geographic Channel’s “Chasing UFO’s”, History Channel’s “Pawn Stars”, Discovery Channel’s “Moonshiners” and SyFy’s “Ghost Hunters”. I cut the cord and haven’t missed it one bit.

    • Well, at least there ARE real UFO’s (we just don’t know what they are), pawn shoppers and moonshiners, and nobody’s being swindled by the advertising these thing get on those channels. And SyFy, unlike The Learning Channel, suggests with its title that what one sees is hooey.

      And how do you know what you missed? Isn’t that like one of the moonshiners saying they haven’t read a book since 1974 and haven’t missed a thing?

      • Fred

        You’re right, those are more “off-mission” than fraud. “Crossing Over with John Edward” which edited seven hours of wrong guesses out of eight hours of tape to put together an average show is more like it.

  2. You’re advocating the curtailing of religious freedom!

    Seriously. There’s zero difference between this and any other spiritual/religious advocacy program.

    Please note that I make no comment about the harm charlatanry and scam artists do, nor whether this “psychic” is more or less good or bad than preachers in prosperity-gospel megachurches. My religious beliefs, or lack thereof, are irrelevant.

    I’m saying that by calling for a ban on this particular belief system and no other, simply because you believe they’re fraudulent, constitutes a rare lapse of ethics, You’re treating groups unequally simply because of your personal beliefs (and extensive evidence equally applicable to other more popular beliefs, I’m certainly not saying this isn’t a scam), simply because other belief systems have greater popular support.

    • It’s certainly close, but the nice thing about religion is that it signals its dependence on faith, so a channel saying, “Fred is a REAL saint!” would flag itself as taking a denominational side, and thus be automatically disqualified as an objective authority.

    • Dwayne N. Zechman

      Zoe:

      There is a distinction here, and if you watch the first episode of the Penn & Teller show that Jack cited (Hell, watch them ALL–it’s a great show), you’ll see it made crystal clear.

      The whole “psychic” “talking to the dead” routine is really a learned interpersonal skill that the the practitioner develops and practices in order to become good at it. And its practice goes back literally hundreds of years. Penn & Teller explain how it’s done, demonstrate how it’s done, and show you the additional things these TV shows normally edit out because they don’t WANT you to see it.

      This is very different from a strongly and genuinely held belief concerning something that is essentially unprovable, like the existence of a deity.

      By way of metaphor, it’s perfectly okay to broadcast baseball games on TV, but when players claim to be good at the game because of “supernatural gifts” rather than a lifetime of practice practice practice to learn their skills, then we are right to call bullshit on that.

      –Dwayne

      • zoebrain

        I don’t need to comment.

      • If all of the universe has a supernatural origin (which is really the basis of M-theory, so we’ve come full-circle on that one), and a percentage of an athlete’s ability comes from genetics and not just practice practice practice, then yes, it is perfectly legitimate to credit God for the gift of being able to chase down a baseball (or for that matter, the universe in which to play baseball and the ability to practice practice practice.)

    • This premise is false, and dishonest. It is also lazy. If you can’t list the differences between a legitimate church and a psychic, it can only be because you are lazy or dishonest. Lumping them together only works as a tactic for certain atheists (those being, the unethical ones who just assume that they can sway people with clever but illogical tripe).

      Here, I’ll get the ball rolling for you…
      1. A church is not a business. Anyone can attend, receive charity, prayer, etc. from a church without paying anything. A psychic, by contrast, has no reason to exist if not to gain a profit somehow.

      2. One can be entirely honest, earnest, adaptable, and objective and persue theology and religion. There’s a reason why Oxford employs theologians, but no psychics, and it isn’t because religion “has greater support.” It is because religion itself is a broad field, a quest for truth, that incorporates scientific data, human experience, personal spiritual seeking, etc. to attempt to know the Divine. You can practice religion, and even be a pastor, and not be 100% certain that God even exists.

      3. Even pentecostals and other religious groups that attempt to communicate with the Divine, and pass along that message, if you know much about them, are typically not cons or swindlers, and certainly don’t have to be. At a typical Assembly of God church, you might be approached by someone saying, “I think the Lord is telling me to tell you THIS, because I was praying for you and I got that impression…” There’s an oft-commicated disclaimer that the person could be completely wrong, and that the receipient of a “word of the Lord” should get “confirmation” by praying and seeking guidance him or herself.

      4. A church or rreligous gathering will sprout up even if a government makes it punishable by death. There certainly isn’t a buck to be made in religion when you could get dragged out into the street and beaten just by praying with some neighbors in the living room. That kind of spirituality is hardwired into humankind.

      5. You are confusing two different things anyway: “scams” and “attempts at spiritual truth that are statistically most likely wrong.” All religions can’t be correct, hence most of them are probably wrong. But most of them can be earnest personal attempts at truth. Psychics cannot, unless people are experimenting with readings at home, or gathering in a church-type setting to play with psychic-readings together, and not to scam people. I have no idea whether psychics would even do that, but I am 100% certain that the Long Island Medium wouldn’t because she knows dang well that she’s not a psychic. The Learning Channel knows it too.

      • tgt

        This premise is false, and dishonest. It is also lazy. If you can’t list the differences between a legitimate church and a psychic, it can only be because you are lazy or dishonest.

        No true scotsman. Nice.

        Lumping them together only works as a tactic for certain atheists (those being, the unethical ones who just assume that they can sway people with clever but illogical tripe).

        If I say something illogical, point it out. General accusations are the refuge of people who can’t validly make a complaint. God knows, I point out all your failures of logic and usage of tripe, and I’m about to do it some more.

        1. A church is not a business. Anyone can attend, receive charity, prayer, etc. from a church without paying anything. A psychic, by contrast, has no reason to exist if not to gain a profit somehow.

        No, not anyone “can attend, receive charity, and prayer[sic]” at any given church. Moreover, churches’ still are businesses, they just claim their income is “donations” instead of fee based. These donations are essentially required by the content of the religion. It’s a scam to get money out of people. Some psychics also use this tactic. Only pay what you want, but I’m communicating with the dead for you. Once you get someone hooked, they continue to pay pretty much on their own.

        You made an inaccurate distinction.

        —-

        2. One can be entirely honest, earnest, adaptable, and objective and persue theology and religion.

        Same goes for psychics and people visiting psychics. Special pleading and appeal to belief.

        There’s a reason why Oxford employs theologians, but no psychics, and it isn’t because religion “has greater support.”

        Oxford employs theologians because at the time Oxford was founded, religion was considered the valid pursuit of truth. That Oxford employs theologians says no more about theology than what my alma mater says about parapsychology by having a class in it. Appeal to authority and appeal to popularity.

        It is because religion itself is a broad field, a quest for truth, that incorporates scientific data, human experience, personal spiritual seeking, etc. to attempt to know the Divine.

        Religion might be a quest for truth, but it hasn’t ever found any. You might as well say parapsychology is a quest for truth. Theology is really an attempt to prove an assumption in the face of evidence. You’ve just claimed that Oxford has a theology department because people think it will lead to truth. Appeal to belief.

        You can practice religion, and even be a pastor, and not be 100% certain that God even exists.

        Same goes for any rituals, and any organization, but since you’re trying to show how legimitate churches are different from psychics, you’ve essentially said that all sell proclaimed psychics believe they are actually psychic. Disinction that doesn’t exist.

        3. Even pentecostals and other religious groups that attempt to communicate with the Divine, and pass along that message, if you know much about them, are typically not cons or swindlers, and certainly don’t have to be.

        This is a repeat of 1 and 2, but with a jibe at pentecostals. It also begs the question and moves the goalposts.

        At a typical Assembly of God church, you might be approached by someone saying, “I think the Lord is telling me to tell you THIS, because I was praying for you and I got that impression…” There’s an oft-commicated disclaimer that the person could be completely wrong, and that the receipient of a “word of the Lord” should get “confirmation” by praying and seeking guidance him or herself.

        You realize that this is the same for psychics, right? They are just the intermediaries between the spirit world. It’s up to the sucker to determine what the passed information actually means. It’s a common con tactic. You plant the meaning in their mind, but then tell them to make up their mind about it. Special pleading.

        4. A church or rreligous gathering will sprout up even if a government makes it punishable by death. There certainly isn’t a buck to be made in religion when you could get dragged out into the street and beaten just by praying with some neighbors in the living room. That kind of spirituality is hardwired into humankind.

        (A) Psychics and witches were burnt at the stake. No buck to be made there. Nonexistent distinction. (B) Strong belief does not imply correctness. Charlatans are still charlatans. Appeal to belief. (C) You are talking about believers here. They are akin to the clients of psychics, not the psychics themselves, and there are plenty of people who spend their money on psychics despite the scorn they receive for doing so. Improper analogy or equivocation.


        5. You are confusing two different things anyway: “scams” and “attempts at spiritual truth that are statistically most likely wrong.” All religions can’t be correct, hence most of them are probably wrong. But most of them can be earnest personal attempts at truth. Psychics cannot, unless people are experimenting with readings at home, or gathering in a church-type setting to play with psychic-readings together, and not to scam people. I have no idea whether psychics would even do that, but I am 100% certain that the Long Island Medium wouldn’t because she knows dang well that she’s not a psychic. The Learning Channel knows it too.

        The “attempts at spiritual truth” are known to be invalid. Pushing something that’s known to be invalid is a scam.

        Psychics absolutely can be as sincere as religious people. Special pleading.

        That the Long Island Medium is clearly a fraud does not in any way suggest that religion is not a fraud. Non sequitur.

  3. I used to watch Glenn Beck for entertainment. I liked his connect the dot conspiracy theories. He was also entertaining on his prophesies. Hey, wait! Why didn’t TLC pick up his show?

  4. Sharon

    If I were a psychic, I would be a million dollars richer thanks to James Randi. Perhaps the history of his one million dollar challenge would be a better topic for TLC.

  5. Sonya

    This was a refreshing article. I had the same reaction to seeing commercials for this show and refused to watch a second of it. I don’t want to participate in anything fraudulent that might confuse people who are uneducated on this topic. I just naturally didn’t even want to watch one episode because I thought it might boost her ratings. I love the other TLC shows despite the controversy. This one, I don’t find so benign. I am not a religious person, but a healthy skeptic. It was fun to see someone else with the same general train of thought!

  6. John J. Griffin

    Thanks for your post… At least we are aware of how much time we wasted on watching television…. of course there’s a lot to learn from this ‘magnificent box’, but we should keep in mind that television is also created just for ‘recreation and entertainment’, meaning that WE are the one who control ourselves whether we would watch t.v. or not… and not the TV would control us and our kids.

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