Criticising psychics isn’t like racism…

I can’t believe I am writing this. I just can’t.

I’ve just read a user submitted piece by ‘Tap’ over at the Daily Grail titled ‘Bigotry towards psychics: why it is no different to racism and homophobia‘. The opinion piece from September 2013 has been doing the rounds lately (which is how I stumbled upon it.) It was inspired by a 2006 article on The Guardian site by Charlie Brooker titled When it comes to psychics, my stance is hardcore: they must die alone in windowless cells’

In it Brooker strongly criticises OFCOM and their clearing Channel 5’s ‘The Baby Mind Reader’ starring Derek Ogilvie of any wrong doing with its tasteless show and exploitation of those involved. Brooker states that he thinks psychics belong in prison. His words are harsh, but this is Charlie Brooker and that is his style – over exaggerated anger while, underneath the pantomime angry man act, there are decent points being made. 

By writing this Charlie Brooker is apparently not only ‘displaying hate and bigotry against psychics and mediums, he’s also demonstrating how heartless he is to people he considers to be mentally unwell. Not only is he a bigot, but he has no compassion to boot.’

nope2Brooker wrote:

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.

Over at the Daily Grail, Tap finds this offensive and believes that Charlie Brooker’s opinions (which have been taken at face value) are kin to homophobia or racism. Tap states ‘Brooker is calling for the oppression and marginalisation of a group of people, a minority group who are different, a group that is outside what is considered “normal” or “mainstream”. Why? Because he *believes* they are all either fraudulent or mentally ill.’

nope

Likening the Brooker commentary to racism or homophobia is naive and it’s insulting to those who have to deal with actual bigotry on a regular or semi-regular basis. People of colour and non-heterosexual people do not have the burden of proof at their feet because they are not making claims that require evidence to back them up. They do, however, deal with ingrained prejudice in many areas of society despite this. 

People who demand evidence that gay people or black people are “normal” are bigots. People who demand evidence that psychics are psychics are not. Here’s why:

People who claim to have psychic or mediumistic abilities do have the burden of proof and most psychics, such as Sally Morgan, believe that they do not have to prove anything. This is why people are untrustworthy of those who claim to be psychic, and it’s why people like Charlie Brooker get angry when people who don’t provide the evidence to back up their claims are still able to harm those who are vulnerable without being held responsible.

By the way, Derek Ogilvie has actually failed controlled tests of his abilities by Prof. Chris French, so I think the anger is justified. It’s also worth pointing out that many people claiming to be psychics HAVE gone to jail because of their fraud – the most recent example being fraudulent psychic Rosa Marks. 

When Charlie Brooker says that all psychics belong in prison I think it’s safe to say he was over-exaggerating, but all things considered, he wasn’t that far off the mark…

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Hayley Stevens

Hayley is a ghost geek and started to blog in 2007. She uses scientific scepticism to investigate weird stuff and writes about it here while also speaking publicly about how to hunt ghosts as a skeptic.

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