Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The troubles of Psychic Sally

In what is certain to draw the attention of both skeptics and paranormal enthusiasts worldwide, "Psychic Sally" Morgan has announced that she is suing the journalist who released that story that she had cheated in a Dublin "reading" by having an earpiece through which she was being fed information by accomplices.

This, to me, seems like thin ice for Morgan.  A libel suit, as far as I understand it, can only succeed if it can be established that a false claim was made in print, which was intended to make the victim look bad.  For example, if someone wrote, "Gordon Bonnet is a complete moron about mechanical devices.  It is surprising he knows which end of the key to stick into the ignition of his car," I would be unlikely to win a libel suit, because I am in fact a moron with respect to machines.  I'm the one who called in our Technical Support guy at school to fix my document projector, because the lights mysteriously wouldn't turn on, and the mystery was cleared up when the Technical Support guy pointed out that this is typical when the switch that says "Lights" is set to the "Off" position.

Be that as it may, it would seem to me that in order for Psychic Sally to win, she would have to establish that she is actually capable of doing a "psychic reading" without assistance, and that could make for some interesting court proceedings.  Since the word that was bandied about in this case was "fraud," it looks like she might be called upon to prove that she's not one.  I wonder how that would work?

Attorney for the journalists:  "Ms. Morgan, can you answer the question that I'm thinking right now?"

Psychic Sally's attorney:  "Objection, your honor."

Judge:  "On what grounds?"

Psychic Sally's attorney:  "The hostile atmosphere in this courtroom is interfering with the psychic energy fields, and preventing my client from achieving interconnectedness in the spirit world.  I request that all further questions be asked aloud."

Judge:  "Sustained."

In any case, it should be interesting to watch.  I think, however, that the one who has the most to lose by this move is Psychic Sally herself; it's not like most people who go to psychic readings are all that concerned about hard evidence anyhow, because if they were they wouldn't be there in the first place.  If she'd just ignored the accusations of fraud, I bet that after a short downswing, Psychic Sally would be right back in business, drawing in the crowds, and the whole thing would have blown over.

Now, though, she's drawing more attention to the claims, and you have to wonder if it might not backfire on her.  She might want to recall the tragic example of Oscar Wilde, who sued the Marquess of Queensberry for defamation after Queensberry claimed that Wilde was gay.  The resulting trial unearthed conclusive evidence that Wilde was, in fact, gay, and this resulted in Wilde himself being arrested for "gross indecency." 

So Morgan might want to tread lightly, here.  In her position, I think that I'd probably lay low, given the public ridicule that could follow an unsuccessful libel suit.  But that's just me.  Maybe "Psychic Sally" already knows that she'll win, or something, or is planning on using telepathy to influence the judge.  In any case, it should be interesting, and I plan on keeping you updated on further developments as they occur.

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