In the … Clint Eastwood film “Hereafter,” Matt Damon stars as George, a man who has the ability to communicate with ghosts. George, who retired from the contacting-the-dead business (calling it a curse instead of a blessing) is reluctantly drawn back into doing readings for people who have recently lost loved ones.
People in nearly every culture have long believed that communication with the dead is possible, and throughout the ages many people have claimed to be able to speak with the dearly departed. Ghosts and spirit communication often show up in classic literature, including mythology, the Bible and Shakespeare’s plays.
In Victorian England, it was fashionable in many circles to conduct séances; Ouija boards, three-legged tables, candles and other accoutrements were used to try to contact the dead. In the U.S., belief in communication with the dead rose dramatically in the 1800s along with the rise of Spiritualism, a religion founded on hoaxed spirit communication by two young sisters in Hydesville, N.Y. Despite the fact that the sisters later admitted they had only been pretending to get messages from the dead, the religion they helped start flourished, claiming more than 8 million adherents by 1900.
For well over a century, many mediums have been caught faking spirit communication. Harry Houdini exposed many psychics as frauds who used trickery to make vulnerable people believe in the reality of spirit messages. (For more on this, see Massimo Polidoro‘s book “Final Séance,” Prometheus Books, 2001).
Whether real or faked, the messages supposedly conveyed from the great beyond have changed dramatically over time. A century ago, mediums “in touch with the spirit” during séances would write pages and pages of “automatic writing,” the psychic’s hands allegedly guided by ghosts to convey lengthy handwritten messages.
Curiously, ghosts seem to have lost their will (or ability) to write since that time — or even communicate effectively. These days the spirits (as channeled through mediums) seem to prefer a guessing game and instead offer only ambiguous, vague information: “I’m getting a presence with the letter M, or J in the name? A father, or father figure perhaps? Did he give you something special to remember him by, something small?”
If spirit communication is real, one might think . . .
- Skeptical ‘Zombies’ Attack Alleged Psychic James Van Praagh (VIDEO) (illuminutti.com)
- British Psychic TV Channels Fined For Not Telling Viewers It’s All B.S. (illuminutti.com)
- Poltergeists: Noisy Spirits (livescience.com)
- What’s a Séance? Tales from My First One (lovehealingbliss.wordpress.com)
- A Discussion of Spirit Communication and Exercises for the Novice (epages.wordpress.com)
- Mediums, Psychics – Snakeoil Salesmen (skepticsguidetolife.wordpress.com)
- Seeing Ghosts (hintonfran6.wordpress.com)
Ah, conspiracy theories.
Talk radio personality Alex Jones attracted attention for his petition to deport Piers Morgan. Then he showed up on Monday night on Morgan’s CNN show and attracted more attention, spewing conspiracy theories right and left. He spouted off about 9/11, the New World Order, suicide pills and at one point began speaking in a fake British accent. He leaped straight to Mao and Hitler without pausing to reflect on Godwin’s Law. All in all, it was a remarkable show. Morgan won the debate, but only, as Tim Stanley noted, because Jones did not let him get a word in edgewise.
This is saying something. The last time Piers Morgan won a debate was against Clint Eastwood’s Invisible Chair Obama, and that was because most of the chair’s comments were too ripe for cable. Once an actual straw man came on, but they tied. Jones, as a talk radio personality, is as close to a living straw man as you can hope to get.
There are reasons that people do not embrace conspiracy theories, aside from the high level of organization that they require us to believe is going on beneath the surface at the Denver Airport. The people who embrace them most tightly tend to yell and spit when they talk. There is a reason the only verbs associated with conspiracy theories are “spout” and “spew.” No one ever says, “And then he sat down and explained quite reasonably, calmly and without bursting out into a full-body sweat, what was Really Going On with the suicide pills and 9/11.” The reason they and their arguments are not featured more often on national news is not that they are being suppressed, exactly, as that producers fear that once they started talking, they might never stop. This only feeds it. “I’m being suppressed!” they yell.
“You just chewed through a sound cable,” we say, “and you’re frightening the houseplants.”
Perhaps to compensate for years of silence, the tendency of conspiracy theorists is never to stop talking. And this is problematic. You hear an argument that might, in isolation, be convincing, but it is quickly followed by the observation that
Congress is comprised entirely of malignant lizards Congress is doing a great, productive job! “I was with you until the New World Order,” you say.
Sometimes the best argument against an argument is its adherents. “I’ll have the opposite of what he’s having,” we say, pointing at the man in the black shirt who has just called someone a “hatchet man of the New World Order.”
I was all for deporting Piers Morgan, if only to pump excitement into the post-cliff news cycle. But after reading the piteous pleas of numerous Brits who had just put in so much effort to get rid of him, it seemed cruel. And after seeing the person who is leading the deportation charge — well, there must be some merit to keeping him that I’ve overlooked.
Besides, there are few more cutting responses to an American waving his arms and shouting about factoids than a person with a British accent saying nothing. Even if it is Piers Morgan. We can’t deport him now.
Editor’s note: I did find a video of the show on YouTube. I haven’t watched it yet and i don’t know how long it will remain posted before YouTube takes it down. Get your popcorn.
A short version:
- Deport Piers Morgan founder rants in face of his nemesis (guardian.co.uk)
- Alex Jones Berates Piers Morgan On CNN (buzzfeed.com)
- Creator of the ‘Deport Piers Morgan’ Petition Loses It on Piers Morgan’s Show (theatlanticwire.com)
- ‘Deport Piers Morgan’ Petition Creator Goes Ballistic In Faceoff With Morgan On CNN (deadline.com)
- Creator of the ‘Deport Piers Morgan’ Petition Loses It on Piers Morgan’s Show. (greatriversofhope.wordpress.com)
- Alex Jones to Piers Morgan On CNN: “You’re a hatchet man of the New World Order!” (sgtreport.com)
- Pro-gun advocate Alex Jones rants at Piers Morgan in studio ‘debate’ (metro.co.uk)
- WATCH: Alex Jones Blows Up at Piers Morgan (schnittshow.com)
- WATCH: Alex Jones Blows Up at Piers Morgan (mega949.com)