Without evidence of benefit, an intervention should not be presumed to be beneficial or safe.

- Rogue Medic

Why Do We Treat Some Frauds Differently?


Sylvia Browne is receiving some deservedly bad press for the exposure of her psychic deception.

In 2004, the year following the then 16-year-old schoolgirl’s disappearance, Browne appeared on “The Montel Williams” show and told Berry’s distraught mother Louwana Miller – who died from heart failure a year later – that her daughter was “in heaven and on the other side” and that her last words were “goodbye, mom, I love you.”[1]


Should anyone be surprised?

But where’s the harm?

Psychics make their living by exploiting our selective memories.

We remember the hits, but forget the misses.

If I throw out as many guesses as I can, some of them are bound to be right.

Should I tell you I have the ability to see the future, or communicate with the dead?

This is not a psychic power.

This is deceit.


Jeffrey Skilling is trying to get a sentence reduction for his part in the disaster that was Enron. Fraud? Mismanagement? The Secret?


He spoke haltingly, stopping in mid-sentence. “In terms of remorse, Your Honor, I can’t imagine more remorse,” he said. He had “friends who have died, good men.” He was innocent—”innocent of every one of these charges.” He spoke for two or three minutes and sat down.[2]


Malcolm Gladwell provides a good argument that what Jeffrey Skilling did was not an intentional fraud. It was complicated. It was not hidden. Maybe Skilling was a more of a true believer than a fraud.

He apparently believed that the problem was that the employees were not willing to do what was necessary to make the company grow at an unsustainable pace. He should be able to demand results and it is their fault if they cannot deliver. Why let reality get in the way of a perfectly good plan?

The Enron financial statements were examined two years before the peak using the information that was available at the time.

The students’ conclusions were straightforward. Enron was pursuing a far riskier strategy than its competitors. There were clear signs that “Enron may be manipulating its earnings.” The stock was then at forty-eight —at its peak, two years later, it was almost double that—but the students found it over-valued. The report was posted on the Web site of the Cornell University business school, where it has been, ever since, for anyone who cared to read twenty-three pages of analysis. The students’ recommendation was on the first page, in boldfaced type: “Sell.”[2]


We don’t want to know the truth. If you had shorted Enron at the time, you probably would have lost a lot of money and had to cover your losses before Enron dropped to its actual value – less than nothing. Enron’s debts were much greater than its assets.

Psychics depend on this gullibility, too.

This is beyond your understanding.

It is arrogant to question what I am doing.

John Edward also scam the bereived and he had the backing of America’s favorite scam promoter – Dr. Mehmet Oz.

In a letter to producers of “The Dr. Oz” show Nordal said, “I provided very balanced responses to Dr. Oz’s questions during the show’s taping, however, the editing of my responses did not capture my full comments or give viewers an accurate portrayal of my professional view on John Edward’s methods. Instead, it seems that ‘The Doctor Oz’ show intentionally edited my responses in a way that gave the appearance of my endorsement of Edward’s methods as a legitimate intervention.”[3]


Dr. Oz is as bad as John Edward and Sylvia Browne. He is promoting stuff that a child should realize is nonsense.[4]

People trust him, even though he promotes frauds.

How is Sylvia Browne any better than Jeffrey Skilling?

How is John Edward any better than Jeffrey Skilling?

How is Dr. Mehmet Oz any better than Jeffrey Skilling?

The Pigasus Award for Refusal to Face Reality goes to Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Harvard-trained cardiologist who hosts The Dr. Oz Show on broadcast television, one of the most popular syndicated television shows in America. The only person to have won a Pigasus Award two years in a row, he wins a third time this year for his continued promotion of quack medical practices, paranormal belief and pseudoscience, including pseudoscientific Reparative Therapy to “cure” gay people, the “energy-healing practice” of Reiki as a way to cure disease, various TV psychics and mediums such as Theresa Caputo and John Edward, faith healers such as “John of God,” GMO conspiracy theories, and any number of new quack diets, herbal remedies, anti-aging cures, and untested “wonder drugs,” among many other pseudoscientific and paranormal claims.[5]


Harry Houdini is reported to have stated –

It is not for us to prove the mediums are dishonest, it is for them to prove that they are honest.

Houdini spent years exposing the fraudulent methods of the psychics of his day.

We still believe in magic.

The reason we seem to treat this fraud as something other than fraud is that we act like we know what is best for the people we know who are gullible.

We assist in the fraud.

We lie to people to make us feel that we are helping their grief.


[1] Celebrity psychic Sylvia Browne hit for telling mom of Amanda Berry she was dead
By Hollie McKay
Published May 09, 2013

[2] Open Secrets Enron, intelligence, and the perils of too much information.
The New Yorker
January 8, 2007
Malcolm Gladwell

[3] TV Skeptic: The medium and Oz
March 18, 2011 | 2:05 pm
LA Times

[4] The trouble with Dr. Oz
David Gorski
Science-Based Medicine
April 26, 2011

[5] JREF’s Pigasus Awards “Honors” Dubious Peddlers of “Woo” (VIDEO)
Latest JREF News
James Randi Educational Foundation
Article with video



  1. IMHO, a lot of the difference is because people don’t equate “emotional harm” with actual, measurable (usually financial) harm. Telling a lie that ends up emotionally devastating someone = despicable asshole; but telling a lie that ends up costing someone $$$$ = a crime.

    Also, there’s the perception with the psychics who “communicate with the other side” that it’s harmless since there is almost zero chance of them being proven wrong; what are the odds that a spirit will make contact across death and say, “John Edwards is a liar, I’m in hell and miserable!”? It’s right up there with telling a patient “you’ll be fine” when you don’t know what’s wrong yet.


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