The Weiler Psi

Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics

The Cost of Media Bias Against Psychics: Bullied Children


Gawd, do I hate bullies; even watching film depictions of bullying makes my blood boil.  Having the media fan the flames of bullying with ill advised skeptically biased articles demeaning psychics.  This week it was the San Francisco Chronicle and writer Steve Rubenstein.  On the one hand, we have an experienced psychic Sheldon Norberg who specializes in house clearing with over 200 satisfied clients spanning  20 years, and on the other hand, we have a reporter who had his mind made up even before he wrote his article about house clearing:

If so, it couldn’t hurt to call in an expert. And there is no greater expert in persuading stubborn and obstinate ghosts to leave a haunted house than Sheldon Norberg, 48, a slender man with a shaved head who has been driving demons, devils and negative energy from Bay Area houses for the past two decades, at $1,200 per dwelling.

In the interview, Norberg made no mention of demons and devils; the writer made up that part.  How do I know?  Norberg wrote a rebuttal in the comment section.  In his rebuttal he goes on to state:

The article also has a distinct focus on my fee, with four mentions and a boastful sounding “I’m not cheap.” This comes despite explaining to him that my fee has increased from $250 to its current state over a period of 20 years, and at the insistence of my clients, and told me I need to price myself realistically to the value of my service. I know money is an issue, but considering that the house is now sold, if my work had any effect, was it worth $1,200? The article points out that staging cost $10,000, yet there is a subtle insistence that I’m running a scam. Believe me, I appreciate and demand real muckraking authorship, but that would require research into new models of physics and interviews with more than one of my clients (which would support my work).
As for interviewing, I understand the importance of not leading a client to answers. I know how odd my work is, and how variable people’s perceptions of it are, so I try not to demand that my clients share my perceptions of things. The lead into the next to last paragraph however, “Perhaps her optimism in Norberg was misplaced, she acknowledged”, betrays the fact that the question was not open ended, as an objective reporter might have asked, but hinting at chicanery. (…) The print article has seriously damaged my reputation, and the editors have chosen not to make any corrections, as in an article rife with opinion and omission, there are no “factual errors”, but you as a reader owe it to yourself to review it in light of these comments and make your own decision.

(With regards to his fee, it is a normal charge for a self employed professional with a specialized skill in my region.  As a comparison, for me, his fee is equivalent to 14 hours of work and for my wife, a computer specialist,it’s 9.6 hours of work.)

It’s really at the end of the article that the reporter shows his bias, leading the reader to a conclusion that it was all a waste of time because that is what he believed.  He does not make the three or four phone calls to previous clients to vet the psychic in a responsible way, but rather like so many other skeptics, he just assumes that his limited experience is enough.  it’s a bonehead mistake and the fallout from this was immediate and nasty.  Out of 72 comments and 60 replies ( as of July 9, ’11) there were 91 negative and insulting comments.  That’s roughly 70%.  It’s a lot of hatred, vitriol, insults and bigotry that have been given a public forum.  The most damaging aspect of this is that all of this bile has found a forum for agreement and encouragement of this behavior.
The message, of course, is that bullying is OK as long as the person targeted claims to have psychic ability.  Then it’s open season.
Mr. Norberg is middle aged, like I am, and I’m sure he can take this crap and get past it.  It might bother him for awhile, but he’s heard it all before and has developed a tough skin as a result.  The abuse just comes with the territory when you come “out” as  a psychic person.
The real damage reaches far beyond Mr. Norberg and into the homes of these skeptical people who have now been emboldened to spread this hate into their homes and beyond.  Their children will learn from this behavior and spread it on the school grounds with the result that the most sensitive young children who are different, otherworldly and least able to defend themselves will be the targets of the sorts of merciless bullying that children are all too capable of.  That would be the children that learned that it is OK to bully sensitive children who believe in psychic stuff because “it’s all fake.”  It’s what happens when you give hatred a voice.
Inevitably, some of these proud skeptics undoubtedly have sensitive children whose self esteem will depend on acknowledgment of their psychic ability which they are so keenly aware of.  Replace psychic with Irish, black, histpanic or gay and it’s all the same thing; one group of people feels an innate sense of superiority over another and feels justified in punishing the minority group for being different.  Yet another generation gets to go through the same thing we did; depression, self hatred and deep confusion over their identity.  I hate watching this happen.  I hate it a lot.
This shit is getting old really fast.
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9 comments on “The Cost of Media Bias Against Psychics: Bullied Children

  1. Sandy
    August 5, 2011

    I’ve very careful not to share my experiences openly. As a child I became very distrustful of adults because I felt that they wanted me to be dishonest. I had to lie about what I was seeing and experiencing to make them happy. If I admitted to having experiences, I was sent for counselling to cure me of those things. The school even tried to insist I be given harmful drugs, but thankfully my dad wouldn’t give in to that demand . It didn’t matter that my experiences were not only harmless, but in many cases beneficial. I still had to deny them.

    I became a very wild teenager in response. It seems like such a waste. I was a basically good kid with “imaginary friends” who was doing fine in school. I became a wild teenager who didn’t see the difference between lying about my experiences and lying about how much beer I had been drinking.

    I’m fortunate that when I got older I understood that most adults were not having these experiences and they often found them frightening if they did have them. As a kid, I tended to see it as some sort of adult conspiracy. I thought adults were basically dishonest because they pretended not to see what was obviously there. I was able to forgive them for putting me through hell once I understood how they see the world. I still have trouble trusting people with my experiences though. I don’t think I’ll ever get over that part.

    • craigweiler
      August 6, 2011

      I totally understand. It’s sad really, that people get freaked out by something that is really quite natural.

  2. Laurel Marshfield
    July 13, 2011

    Hi, Craig — I didn’t see the share button, alas. Only the option of commenting by logging-in to either Twitter or FB. Perhaps my browser obscures it?

  3. Laurel Marshfield
    July 12, 2011

    What a thoughtful post connecting the dots between “skepticism” and simple bullying behaviors (as well as bias and prejudice). I’ve noticed this traditional-media tendency to create a hook for an article or a show by using a sarcastic, wink-wink tone relative to what they inevitably refer to as “woo-woo” subjects of all kinds — not just professional psychics — and it’s a way to get attention for a piece or radio or TV show segment cheaply.

    But when it maligns working professionals who help people with their gift, it’s especially negative and even malevolent.

    Kudos to you for articulating what so many of us have noticed for years.

    (It would be great if you had Facebook and Twitter buttons to post a link to your post to our Social Media accounts, too.) Thanks so much.

    • craigweiler
      July 13, 2011

      Hi Laurel,
      Thanks for your comment. The feedback is nice. There is a share button at the bottom of the articles if you wish to use it.

      Craig

  4. startears
    July 11, 2011

    Thank you for your well formulated response Craig, I completely agree ..

  5. Emma
    July 10, 2011

    I’m completely with you on this.

  6. Monica
    July 9, 2011

    I learned that lesson when I told my mother about my gift and she assumed it was a way of calling her a bad mother. Now I’m older, and my own ‘coping mechanism’ is to assume that no one, ever, can be trusted, except on the Internet.

    I just can’t shut up the part of my mind that tells me it should be better. And kids shouldn’t have to shut that part up. Kids shouldn’t have to even see it as anything but themselves.

    What the hell are medical professionals and psychologists DOING? “Oh, yes, here’s a group of people who have gifts that might explain how the universe works, and if the military figures out how to turn them all into living weapons first we’ll have enough PTSD cases on our hands to turn the world inside-out, but hey, it’s not happening NOW, right?” Good lord, you guys. Ethical behaviors. Learn them.

    And any kids reading–have a big, big hug and a zillion smilies. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 (x a zillion)

    • ParaVisible
      July 31, 2011

      i liked the part that you learned that “no one can be trusted” – not even on internet

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