Phony Psychic

In Gulliver’s Travels Gulliver describes the customs and laws of the tiny Lilliputians, and mentions that they consider fraud to be a worse crime than theft.

They look upon fraud as a greater crime than theft, and therefore seldom fail to punish it with death; for they allege, that care and vigilance, with a very common understanding, may preserve a man’s goods from thieves, but honesty has no defence against superior cunning; and, since it is necessary that there should be a perpetual intercourse of buying and selling, and dealing upon credit, where fraud is permitted and connived at, or has no law to punish it, the honest dealer is always undone, and the knave gets the advantage.  I remember, when I was once interceding with the emperor for a criminal who had wronged his master of a great sum of money, which he had received by order and ran away with; and happening to tell his majesty, by way of extenuation, that it was only a breach of trust, the emperor thought it monstrous in me to offer as a defence the greatest aggravation of the crime; and truly I had little to say in return, farther than the common answer, that different nations had different customs; for, I confess, I was heartily ashamed.

We generally regard violent crimes as worse than non violent crimes like fraud, since with non-violent crimes no one is physically harmed, but I think I agree with the Lilliputian view. A murder or theft might perhaps injure or kill a handful of people in his criminal career, but a swindler undermines the bonds of trust that holds a society together. Any society more complex than a band of hunter-gatherers depends on people being able to trust that other people, including strangers they will never meet, are doing their part to keep things working. Societies in which these bonds are weak or in which each person feels they can only rely on their own relatives or members of their own subgroup tend not to work very well. The con artist takes advantage of people’s’ trust and so weakens the ability of people to continue to trust one another. As Gulliver puts it, commerce depends on trust and if fraud is not regarded seriously enough, the honest are at the mercy of the knaves, and worse, the honest are obliged to become knaves in order to protect themselves.

In my opinion, the lowest of the low as far, as the fraudulent are concerned, are those people who take advantage of grieving persons who have a loved one missing by pretending to be able to determine whether the missing person is alive and where they can be found using their purported psychic powers, or even worse, impede police investigations by providing tips allegedly gained through their clairvoyance. It is with particular pleasure, then, that I present this video of one of these con artists getting something of what she deserves.

 

Here is the story that comes with this video.

Do you believe that psychics have the ability to assist families and the police in finding missing persons or solving murder cases?

Each year, countless desperate families turn to so-called psychics looking for information and leads. Sadly, psychic detectives are often selling false hope to the anguished and distraught instead of actually helping them unravel the mysteries.

Psychic detectives are known to prey on victims’ families, using vague, contradictory and useless information to convince them of their validity. They hardly ever offer answers or comfort to the grieving, sending police on an endless manhunt.

In the video above, Inside Edition exposes a phony psychic and her abilities.

When Laurie McQuary is asked about a missing girl, she claims that her “sixth sense” told her that she was brutally murdered. Interestingly enough, the photo she was shown was actually a childhood photo of the show’s Chief Investigative Correspondent, Lisa Guerrero.

As you can imagine, McQuary had no idea she was about to be exposed, and immediately excused herself from the interview after playing dumb.

I don’t much care for the description of this woman as a “phony psychic” since that seems to imply that there are real psychics out there, but perhaps I shouldn’t complain too much, since the reporter states more than once that there are no known cases in which a psychic detective was able to solve a case. I am glad Inside Edition ran this story, and I wish there were more like it. All too often, supposed psychics are promoted and celebrated in the media and not debunked, getting their own television shows, or appearing on talk shows in which their abilities are accepted without question or challenge. Psychics are good entertainment and no one seems to want to spoil the fun by actually examining their claims, even if they are cruelly taking advantage of people at their most vulnerable.

I wonder why these psychics are never prosecuted for fraud. It would seem to be an easy case for any competent prosecutor. These people are making a claim that they possess a power that they do not actually have and they are asking for money to use this power. How is this not fraud and why are they not punished?

Perhaps there is a certain reluctance to punish psychics because it seems to be too close to religious persecution. If a psychic can be prosecuted, why not a faith healer? And then, why not any religious leader who proclaims himself a  prophet?  I think a clear distinction can be made between matters of faith and practices that are fraudulent. If someone preaches that Jesus is the only way to get to Heaven, this is strictly a matter of faith. That preacher’s claims cannot be verified and it is likely that he believes it. If a preacher states that prayer can cure illnesses, that also is a matter of faith. If, however, the preacher states that he can heal people and will do so for a donation, that is closer to being fraud. The ability to instantly cure diseases and injuries at a prayer meeting can be verified and if it can be shown that he cannot actually perform such miraculous cures, the preacher is a fraud. If someone claims to be a psychic who can speak to the dead, that may also be a matter of faith, but if the psychic claims to know the fate of a missing person, and it is shown that he does not, in fact, have that knowledge, than he is a fraud.

If we can’t prosecute psychics, I wish that at least there would be more shows that expose them for the charlatans they are, and maybe better education in critical thinking. It would be the least anyone could do.

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