Mediums and the monetization of grief

Opinion

As many people, or at least any of those who read my articles are aware, I don’t tend to hold punches when it comes to my opinions, of which there are a myriad. Often, the subjects of my ire are trivial and little more than passing annoyances, and when said subject is of a serious nature, it is usually evident. As a result, when I decided to write about what I believe to be the sinister and truly malignant nature of psychics, fortune tellers and mediums, I feared that the line between trivial and serious would be blurred and thus want to make to you, my reader, clear that this is a matter upon which I am completely serious. Not only do I believe that in many cases, these self-proclaimed clairvoyants should be brought to justice via the judicial system, but in this age of informational enlightenment, their line of work should be exposed for what it is, a fraudulent means by which to trick people at their most emotionally vulnerable moments for monetary gain.

Before I begin, I would like to address what I expect to be the primary objection to my argument: “How do you know that psychic powers do not exist?” The answer is quite simple: I don’t.

However, all the current evidence points against such an occurrence. For example, since 1964, an American magician by the name of James Randi has offered a substantial reward — beginning with $1,000 and eventually growing to its current $1,000,000 — to anyone able to demonstrate paranormal abilities under a series of controls set by Mr. Randi. These controls are non-encumbering to the testee and allow Randi to determine whether the subject is indeed demonstrating true psychic ability, or merely a trick, which would be revealed by the control conditions.

The test has two stages, a preliminary stage in which the “contestant” is evaluated by a panel of objective scientists, and the final stage, where Randi is directly involved. To this day, no one has passed even the preliminary stage. While this is not conclusive proof, the amount of money at stake and the longevity of the offer certainly suggests that if there existed those with true psychic abilities, they would have no problem passing Randi’s test and walking away with $1,000,000.

This, of course, has not occured, leading me to believe that no such abilities exist.

While the existence of psychic powers is, for the time being, up for debate, the supposed “powers” of the majority of psychics and mediums is not. From small window-shops to television, the tactics of these individuals are actually quite easy to identify, no psychic powers necessary.  Take for example TLC medium Theresa Caputo. Caputo’s show, Long Island Medium, displays her alleged ability to communicate with the dead, with her demonstrating this ability in formal “reading” settings and in seemingly random encounters with strangers in public venues such as the street and super markets.

The show is very popular due to the understandable yearning which many have to communicate with dead loved ones, a fantasy that Mrs. Caputo not only indulges in, but has, like many other mediums, successfully monetized. However, as a quick Google search will reveal, Mrs. Caputo’s methods are far from paranormal in nature.  In 2012, Inside Edition executed a sting operation on Mrs. Caputo, with incredibly revealing results. Caputo, it turns out, gained personal information on guests which she would then claim she was receiving “from the beyond” from “selling seats through Ticketmaster and the use of credit cards, Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter” (csicop.org).

During the shows, her staff would feed her information through an earpiece based on seat numbers, also imputed online. The same effect was accomplished in more informal setting via waivers, signed by prospective subjects of Caputo’s “gift.” A member of Caputo’s staff, using a laptop, would use the information from the waiver to gain personal information about the person and convey it to Caputo.

While technology has most certainly been an asset to modern day psychics such as Theresa Caputo, the same feat is possible using the riskier cold reading technique, in which the medium asks a subject of series of questions based on “body language, age, clothing or fashion, hairstyle, gender, sexual orientation, religion, race or ethnicity, level of education,  manner of speech, place of origin, etc” (wikipedia.com). The medium then makes a series of guesses based on said factors and by paying close attention to body language. While an imperfect art, when done with a certain level of skill, close reading can appear to be just as mystical as the effect more modern psychics can produce with the use of technology.

Finally, I would like to address what I believe to be the true reason psychics and mediums are so morally despicable, the way in which they have monetized grief. When one loses a loved one, the healthiest way in which to cope is to grieve for a time, but to eventually come to the recognition that they are gone and you need to move on with your life, just like that loved one would have wanted you to.

This process also allows the person to come to the perhaps painful, but nevertheless pragmatic, conclusion that they will never be able to communicate with the person they lost again.  Instead of allowing this process to occur and the person grieving to gain closure, mediums and psychics, or as they have been colloquialized, “grief vampires,” stall and inhibit the process and give their victims a false idea that they are able to communicate with their passed loved one (as long as they keep paying the medium of course).

This despicable exploitation of people in their most vulnerable state should not only be societally shamed, but in my opinion prosecuted. While this may seem extreme, I believe it to be more than justified, and is not without precedent.  In this era of information, there is no excuse for tolerating this scam routine any longer. It is time for society to once and for all, put an end to the psychics, mediums and their monetization of grief.