Reading the Sept. 26 edition of The Chief, I was surprised to see a full-page ad extolling the abilities of self-proclaimed “psychic medium” Shana Gibson. (“Dialling [sic] really long distance: Psychic communicates with spirit of deceased local man: client”).
It isn’t exactly an ad, because Gibson didn’t pay for it out of her own pocket. Maybe she honed her psychic skills to hoodwink Chief writer Ben Lypka to write for free about her pretended talents. At least on this point, I’m not sure how she did it.
What is certain is that without any critical, journalistic assessment of her presumed gift for talking to the dead, Lypka, bordering on writing like a shill, expels the article with great verve and without an ounce of rational reflection. Like most advertisements, the (misspelled) headline reads as if it’s actually something that’s credible news. And true.
What’s next for The Chief, and what will Lypka now write about as “news”? With free advertising and uncritical writing like this, there should be a lineup of every huckster and charlatan begging for equal time. Suggested titles? How about: “Astrologer Finally Picks Winning Lottery Number!” “Snake-oil Salesmen Closes Down Squamish Hospital With Miracles Cures!” “Sale of Swampland Can Make You Millions! Buy Now!”
At least the front-page article appeared in the Arts and Entertainment section. But Gibson’s carnival-like talent is neither a credible art, nor is it entertainment, except of the most tawdry and unseemly. Most importantly, like the long line of other cure-all quackery and hoaxes, past and present, there’s a (im)moral quality to Gibson’s gaudy side show. In the future, if The Chief wants to run similar articles, I’d suggest a whole new section, entitled, “Woo-Woo.”
Or better, how about if The Chief invites Gibson to test her skills in a double-blind experiment that would limit the bias on her part and her audience members? I’d settle for the advice recommended by the Scottish philosopher David Hume: What is more likely? That a fresh-faced young lady like Gibson talks to dead people, or that she is only able to create the impression that she does?
Back to the moral component. In short, it is nothing short of preying on the vulnerable, the infirm, hopeless, elderly and economically desperate, all of whom are looking for some glimmer of hope. That is forgivable. However, for Gibson, pretending (or being terribly deluded) to talk to our dead loved-ones and family members now departed? Shame on her. And her $35 fee for pretending to do so.
G. Elijah Dann, Ph.D., Th.D.
Professor of Philosophy and Religion
Simon Fraser University
Editor’s note: In the above-mentioned article, The Chief reported that a client of Ms. Gibson said she believed she had communicated with her deceased son. The Chief neither endorses nor refutes that claim. The Chief also apologizes for the misspelling in the headline.