Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Monday, April 1, 1996

If psychics work, why do
they need TV?

WHY are you picking on psychics all of a sudden?" a friend asked.

I'm picking on the psychics because all of a sudden they are in my face, I said.

You can't turn on the television these days without being assaulted by fraudulent psychic infomercials. Frankly, I'm getting tired of it.

Now, I generally agree with W.C. Fields' maxims: Never give a sucker an even break and never wise up a chump. If some idiot wants to blow his hard-earned welfare check on a fake "reading," it's up to him.

But it's scary that many people actually are beginning to believe these hotline, boiler-room scamsters are on the level. There may be a generation of children growing up now who will simply accept that these TV psychics are real.

And who can blame them? It was recently disclosed that the CIA hired "psychics" to spy on enemy governments. Nancy Reagan used psychics to arrange President Reagan's schedule. And even daily newspapers carry horoscopes.

If the government, presidents and the mainstream media promote psychic hysteria, how are kids supposed to be able to separate science from silliness?

According to the fuzzy logic of psychic supporters, there is so much about the world that we puny humans don't know, there is no way to say for sure if parapsychology isn't real. And it is unfair to hold psychics up to the rigid standards used in mainstream science.

That ignores a couple of key aspects of the current commercial psychic hysteria.

First, the driving force, in fact the ONLY force, behind the psychic juggernaut is the making of money. The Psychic Friends Network, the IBM of the corporate psychic industry, isn't around to help solve world problems, its goal is to make its owners rich.

Second, it is hard, provable science that resulted in the health and technological breakthroughs that have been most helpful to humanity. It wasn't the Polio Friends Network that came up with a cure for that crippling disease by taking $3.99 a minute from suckers calling in. The discovery that germs and not noxious humors cause infection, illness and death did not come from an aging, out-of-work nightclub singer. The technology that led to the computer microchip was not "channeled" to scientists from "ascended masters."

MAYBE science has just gotten too complicated for most people to understand. I doubt if most adults can explain how a microwave oven works. You could probably take a microwave oven and an electric generator to some rain-forest village and convince the inhabitants that you could make popcorn through magic.

But if you gave those same villagers an education in basic science, it wouldn't take long for them to understand that the microwave oven works on specific, verifiable natural principles.

In a way, the television psychics also perform their "magic" using natural principals. For instance, if you make the first "free" call to them, they will use caller ID to find out who you are. Then they will run a credit check on you. The next time you call in, they will dazzle you with "psychic" information such as your marital status, financial well-being and whether you just bought a car or not.

People used to joke that if Superman was such a great guy, how come he never used his powers to help the United States end World War II instead of hanging out with Lois Lane.

One day, maybe people will question why all this awesome psychic power exhibited on television is only used to take money from the gullible and not to find a cure for cancer. Until then, I'm going to keep picking on psychics.

Charles Memminger, winner of National Society of Newspaper Columnists awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite" Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802 or send E-mail to 71224.113@compuserve.com.

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Honolulu Lite by Charles Memminger is a regular feature of the
Honolulu Star-Bulletin. © 1996 All rights reserved.


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