Psychics Say Soothsaying Laws Unfair to Believers

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They're in a mystical business with few guarantees, so perhaps anyone could foresee tension between psychics and the law.

In two prominent examples, self-declared clairvoyants were recently convicted of big-money scams in New York and Florida, where one trial featured a romance-writing titan as a victim. But beyond those cases is a history of legal wrestling over fortunetelling, free speech and fraud.

While the recent trials involved general fraud charges, numerous cities and states have laws banning or restricting soothsaying itself.

Authorities say they aim to distinguish between catering to people's interest in the supernatural and conning them. Still, some psychics feel anti-fortunetelling laws are unfair to them and to people who believe seers have something to offer.

New York psychic Jesse Bravo decries seers who make impossible promises or press clients to consult, and pay, them frequently. "There are a lot of predators out there," he says.

But Bravo, an investment banker who moonlights as a medium, rues the disclaimer he's compelled to give clients: Readings are for "entertainment only." Unless solely for amusement, telling fortunes or using "occult powers" to give advice is a misdemeanor under New York state law.

"It's a little insulting," he says. "I believe in what I do, and the people who are coming to me believe in what I do. … But that's OK — the state doesn't have to believe in what I do."

Written By: Jennifer Peltz
continue to source article at abcnews.go.com

23 COMMENTS

  1. ” “It’s a little insulting,” he says. “I believe in what I do, and the people who are coming to me believe in what I do. … But that’s OK — the state doesn’t have to believe in what I do.” “

    After the state there is a plethora of people who do not accept as real that which you are doing. Hopefully that number will grow and you can go back to your day job.

  2. Shouldn’t the psychics know what is going to transpire? Why would they look to speak up or speak out? They should already know what the future holds. Shouldn’t they? Kind of screws up their clairvoyant claims. Lobbying and picketing and such menas that they think that they can affect the outcome of the controversy. But, they shouldn’t have to, they already know or can “see” the pathway that lies (HAHAHAHAHAAH LIES) ahead.

    • In reply to #2 by crookedshoes:

      Shouldn’t the psychics know what is going to transpire? Why would they look to speak up or speak out? They should already know what the future holds. Shouldn’t they? Kind of screws up their clairvoyant claims. Lobbying and picketing and such menas that they think that they can affect the outcome of the controversy. But, they shouldn’t have to, they already know or can “see” the pathway that lies (HAHAHAHAHAAH LIES) ahead.

      To which they’ll reply that their vision of the future indicates that in order achieve the correct future they need to take these actions at this precise time or all will be lost. If they don’t then they’re mere amateur snake oil salesmen and give a bad name to con men everywhere.

  3. Of course your customers believe in what you do. You conned them into it! That does not excuse the con.

    Fortune telling should be thought of as a variant on stage magic, except people often mistake it as genuine.

    If a performance costs say $50 or less, you could see it as entertainment. But when they get their hooks into the marks for thousands of dollars, it should be treated as a con.

    Most children today know how the bullet-catching-in-teeth, and sawing-a-lady-in-half trick is done. This keeps them guessing how some trick is done, and inoculates them from thinking it is real. The same should be done to debunk fortune tellers so kids are savvy. Medium James Van Praagh is such an obvious fraud, I wonder how it is not obvious to anyone he is a fake. I guess they get taken away by their own wishful thinking.

  4. Soothsaying Laws Unfair to Believers

    Is telling believers they’re barking up the wrong tree fair? Yes, yes it is.

    Bravo decries seers who make impossible promises… Unless solely for amusement, telling fortunes or using “occult powers” to give advice is a misdemeanor under New York state law. “It’s a little insulting,” he says. “I believe in what I do, and the people who are coming to me believe in what I do”

    If we can’t dismiss Bravo as a fraud on the assumption his powers do not exceed ours, why can he dismiss certain other seers as a fraud on the assumption their powers don’t exceed his? If at least some psychic powers exist, how do you know which don’t? Bravo is advocating a double-standard. Those of us who expect claims to be backed by evidence don’t.

    Mitchell’s lawyer said her psychic efforts were sincere, even if their effectiveness wasn’t proved — or disproved

    Firstly, prove they were sincere. Secondly, on the subject of effectiveness the burden of proof is on those who claim some people have these supernatural powers, not on those who trust science, which has a great track record. Thirdly, while no supernatural claims have ever been verified, many have been refuted.

    A private investigator who specializes in such cases says they’re about proving clients were exploited, not about passing judgment on clairvoyancy

    But if the psychic had genuine clairvoyance and told their client the truths they wanted to know, how could that be exploitative? I suppose it could be if it was very expensive or involved degrading requirements, but apart from that exploitation implies these powers don’t exist.

  5. But Bravo, an investment banker who moonlights as a medium, rues the disclaimer he’s compelled to give clients: Readings are for “entertainment only.” Unless solely for amusement, telling fortunes or using “occult powers” to give advice is a misdemeanor under New York state law.

    If you don’t charge money, or want to do a magic / Derren Brown show, then why would you care?

  6. In two prominent examples, self-declared clairvoyants were recently convicted of big-money scams in New York and Florida, where one trial featured a romance-writing titan as a victim. But beyond those cases is a history of legal wrestling over fortunetelling, free speech and fraud.

    In the USA, free-speech has been used as a liars and fraudsters charter for far too long!

    While the recent trials involved general fraud charges, numerous cities and states have laws banning or restricting soothsaying itself.

    Rational government! Whatever next?

    Authorities say they aim to distinguish between catering to people’s interest in the supernatural and conning them. Still, some psychics feel anti-fortunetelling laws are unfair to them and to people who believe seers have something to offer.

    Ha! ha! ha! – Laws regularly discriminate against (those poor victim) con-men. That’s what laws should be for!

    New York psychic Jesse Bravo decries seers who make impossible promises or press clients to consult, and pay, them frequently. “There are a lot of predators out there,” he says.

    But** Bravo, an investment banker who moonlights as a medium**, rues the disclaimer he’s compelled to give clients: Readings are for “entertainment only” Unless solely for amusement, telling fortunes or using “occult powers” to give advice is a misdemeanor under New York state law…”It’s a little insulting,” he says. “I believe in what I do, and the people who are coming to me believe in what I do.

    Ah! “There are predatory con-men psychics in jail – but I am a trrroooo psychic!” -
    The gullible should swallow that without too many questions!

    Perhaps we should also note that the financial authorities have been taking bankers to task for similar misrepresentations!

    Bank of America could face $6.8 billion fine if it settles FHFA case on J.P. Morgan’s terms – http://blogs.marketwatch.com/thetell/2013/11/04/reading-the-tea-leaves-of-j-p-morgans-mortgage-settlement/

  7. Just as there should be no blasphemy laws, there should be no laws restricting clairvoyancy.

    Religions also claim to predict the future, down to the precise number of virgins awaiting martyrs in Paradise.

    It is up to grown-ups to recognise the somewhat far-fetched claims of both groups of charlatans for what they are: complete nonsense.

    Alternatively, if you want to ban psychics, you cannot rationally maintain a position where you do not also ban religions.

    • In reply to #10 by Stevehill:

      Just as there should be no blasphemy laws, there should be no laws restricting clairvoyancy.

      I have no problem with that, except the money grubbing aspect, for no tangible benefit. Bit like churches tax breaks, mandatory payments to particular religious groups. Donations, I don’t care. It’s your money. There’s potential for abuse still, but hey.

    • In reply to #10 by Stevehill:

      Just as there should be no blasphemy laws, there should be no laws restricting clairvoyancy.

      What about laws restricting your right to tell people you’re a Nigerian prince who wants to park a couple of millions on peoples bank account?

      What I mean is, I agree in principle, but just as there are laws regarding frauds and con-men in other areas (the financial sector comes to mind) so there should be legal handholds against cold-blooded criminals making supernatural claims, who prey on the weak and vulnerable and sometimes milk them for thousands of dollars.

      But of course you get into muddy waters here. Dowsers for instance often really believe in their abilities (the idiomotor effect) and are therefore not more culpable than priests promising a specific afterlife. The cynical racketeering faith healers are very close to certain religious practices that are and should be protected by the freedom of religion, etc. It’s a tricky business, but con-men, often preying on the elderly or desperate people should be brought to justice.

  8. But Bravo, an investment banker who moonlights as a medium, rues the disclaimer he’s compelled to give clients: Readings are for “entertainment only.” Unless solely for amusement, telling fortunes or using “occult powers” to give advice is a misdemeanor under New York state law.

    “It’s a little insulting,” he says. “I believe in what I do, and the people who are coming to me believe in what I do. … But that’s OK — the state doesn’t have to believe in what I do.”

    Wow, doublethink. If it’s for entertainment, then he should be making it clear that it’s a fictional performance done purely for fun, and not a serious ability that they can use to base their life decisions on.

    Or maybe he thinks duping credulous clients is amusing.

  9. Years ago, I went to a local TV astrologer. I needed to sign a form that stated that I understood that this session was for entertainment purposes and not for predicting the future or offering advice. When I commented about this, she said “Some people are just gullable and will believe anything.” (OMG) I think she somewhat realized what she said and quickly moved on to the session.

  10. “But Bravo, an investment banker who moonlights as a medium…”It’s a little insulting,” he says. “I believe in what I do, and the people who are coming to me believe in what I do. … But that’s OK — the state doesn’t have to believe in what I do.” “

    SOED – Moonlighting – the performance by night of … an illicit action.

    This suggests, perhaps unreasonably, that his daylight pursuits differ from his other activities.

  11. Is if free speech if you’re charging for it?

    Anyway, no Genuine Psychic** would need to ask for payment up front. The $50 “performance” fee seems sensible, along with the disclaimer that “it’s all in fun”. Or claim it’s genuine and do it for free. Any other rules are a charter for fraud.

    I also agree that all religions, however “respectable” have done all the prep work on the marks that fall for the psychic fraudsters.

    ** (not to be mistaken for the other kind of GP)

  12. Most children today know how the bullet-catching-in-teeth, and sawing-a-lady-in-half trick is done. This keeps them guessing how some trick is done, and inoculates them from thinking it is real. The same should be done to debunk fortune tellers so kids are savvy. Medium James Van Praagh is such an obvious fraud, I wonder how it is not obvious to anyone he is a fake. I guess they get taken away by their own wishful thinking.

    Agree, I’ve been to Lilydale a few times and definitely notice a formula. Long ago, I used to like it when Randi was on the Johnny Carson show. He would show some of the tricks of the con artist trade. It seems as if we need more of this today.

  13. Mixed bag of feelings here. If you’re dumb enough to spend hundreds of pounds at a Vagas casino, expecting to make a fortune, you are an idiot. If you spend hundred of pounds on psychics, for any reason, then you are an idiot.

    But that doesn’t give you any legal claim against the casino or the psychic. They are not financially responsible for your stupidity.

    • In reply to #21 by ANTIcarrot:

      Mixed bag of feelings here. If you’re dumb enough to spend hundreds of pounds at a Vagas casino, expecting to make a fortune, you are an idiot. If you spend hundred of pounds on psychics, for any reason, then you are an idiot.

      Some compassion for those who don’t understand probability and statistics would be a better response. Say ‘uneducated’ rather than just ‘dumb’.

      Here in the UK Blair wanted to licence super-casinos in major cities (just as banking regulations were relaxed) and the poverty promoting policies of the Cameron administration have led to a feeding-frenzy of online gambling para sites. Huge numbers of these, with dorsal fins circling, surface in television adverts and on the web.

      Aren’t you outraged by this exploitation of those the education system has failed?

    • In reply to #21 by ANTIcarrot:

      Mixed bag of feelings here. If you’re dumb enough to spend hundreds of pounds at a Vagas casino, expecting to make a fortune, you are an idiot. If you spend hundred of pounds on psychics, for any reason, then you are an idiot.

      Maybe you are just desperate. I’m as staunch a naturalist as ever there was one, but even I could imagine falling for a supernaturalist fraud in really dire situations i. e. your child has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer, or similar circumstances, the parents among you will understand what I mean. The mediums, faith healers and psychics often exploit terrible grief and suffering that makes people loose rationality.

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