Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Psychics Must Die...

This week Charlie Brooker shook his head in tearful dismay at Sally Morgan: Star Psychic on ITV1: "If the TV networks want to 'regain trust with the viewer', why gleefully promote the kind of bogus supernatural bullshit a stunned foetus could see through?" But I couldn't find his piece on this latest viewing fest yet, so I'll settle for an older, related rant.

Frankly, few things rile me more than quack science, pseudo-psychology, carpet baggers and snake oil merchants. Well, other perhaps
than that other menace to science, Gillian McKeith, (in)famous for the poo-song. So Charlie gets my full 'thumbs up'.

When it comes to psychics, my stance is hardcore: they must die alone in windowless cells

Charlie Brooker

If I walked into a single mother's house and said I could read her baby's mind, then started shouting four-letter words, claiming I was simply voicing her offspring's thoughts, I would expect to be arrested the moment I stepped outside.

And if, during my "psychic reading", I also speculated about the mother's sex life, and a potentially abusive relationship with a former boyfriend, claiming her toddler was concerned about "men who want to touch mum's privates", and I went on and on in this vein until the mother burst into tears, there in the living room, in front of her child, I'd expect to be arrested, sectioned, and beaten in the back of the van.

And if I allowed a TV crew to broadcast what I was doing, I'd expect to be attacked by a mob, who'd pull me apart and kick my remains around the street, pausing only to spit on any bits of my face that got stuck to their shoes.

But no. In fact the outcry would be muted at best and Ofcom would turn a blind eye - as it did last week, while clearing Channel 5's unbelievably disgusting Baby Mind Reader of any wrongdoing.

I've never fully understood the public's docile acceptance of psychics, or why, when it comes to their supposed abilities, the burden of proof is assumed to lie with the sceptic, as opposed to the sort of shrieking idiot who claims to be able to contact the spirit world (or in Derek Ogilvie's case, communicate telepathically with kids too young to talk).

I'm quite hardcore on this. I think every psychic and medium in this country belongs in prison. Even the ones demented enough to believe in what they're doing. In fact, especially them. Give them windowless cells and make them crap in buckets. They can spend the rest of their days sewing mailbags in the dark.

The audiences that psychics prey on are equally infuriating, albeit less deserving of contempt. They're just disappointing, like a friend who's let you down. Often, they're simply grieving and desperate.

I mean, if you want to believe in psychics, fine. You're a dangerous idiot and I wouldn't trust you to operate a spoon without putting an eye out ... but fine. Your choice. Delude yourself silly. Your world is probably more fun than the real one. There's no death, just an afterlife filled with magic spirits who like to communicate with eerie, ugly, otherwise-unemployable bottom-of-the-barrel "showmen" back on Earth.

But don't accuse anyone with the temerity to question your sad supernatural fantasies of having a "closed mind" or being "blind to possibilities". A closed mind asks no questions, unthinkingly accepting that which it wants to believe. The blindness is all yours.

(If you want to feel your eyes pop rudely open, swot up on the "cold reading" techniques fake psychics use - a combination of guesswork and sly conversational tics which give the impression that the "psychic" is magically receiving accurate information from the ether. A fantastic (albeit pricey) step-by-step guide is available from

Anyway, back to my psychic prison fantasies. The problem with trying to jail all the mediums in Britain is they'd a) see it coming, and escape overseas to somewhere even more gullible, like Narnia, before you'd passed the legislation, or b) call on their ghostly friends in the spirit world to whisk them from harm's reach.

Except they couldn't because ghosts - unlike scumbags and conmen - don't exist. Pity. But that's the real world for you. Often disappointing. But real. At least it's always real.


Continuing our uniquely unreliable interactive knowledge resource.

Creationism (requested by Matthew Roberts)

Creationism, simply put, is the heartfelt conviction that man was created by God, using some kind of celestial putty. This is perhaps the most arrogant belief a human skull can contain without exploding. After all, God has far better things to do than creating self-important little species such as ours. He's got wars, deaths, disasters and diseases to ignore for starters. And a fair bit of not-exist-ing-at-all to be getting on with.

Creationists reject Darwin's theory of evolution on the grounds that it is "just a theory". This is a valid criticism: evolution is indeed merely "a theory", albeit one with ten billion times more credence than the theory of creationism - although, to be fair, the theory of creationism is more than just a theory. It's also a fairy story. And children love fairy stories, which is presumably why so many creationists are keen to have their whimsical gibberish taught in schools.

In recent years, creationism has been rechristened "Intelligent Design" (or ID), because that sounds more like proper science, which is precisely what it isn't. ID is largely supported by religious zealots who believe they can best serve God by clashing with school boards and scientists, instead of, say, spreading peace and goodwill or loving their neighbours, neither of are half as much fun.

• To look something up in the Ignopedia, submit a query to

Corporate nausea

My uncontrollable rant about psychics has left no room for the TV Go Home entry this week. But there's just space to squeeze in one more example of puke-inducing corporate babyspeak. Several of you nominated Hellmann's mayonnaise, which now has "Once you dig in, keep me cold for three months ... but not too cold - I don't want to freeze!" printed on the jar. It might as well have added "LOL!" and "You don't have to be mad to eat me ... BUT IT HELPS!!!"

It's a rum state of affairs when you feel like punching a jar of mayonnaise in the face.


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