Sylvia Browne died yesterday, and, despite the lack of any information in her CNN obit, she was, by almost any measure, an awful person. She lied and cheated people out of their money and their memories of their loved ones. She was indicted for fraud several times. Pretty much every verifiable prediction she ever made was wrong, including that of her own death (she told Larry King she’d live to 88).
It’s worth asking now, as surely thousands of skeptics are working on their “(raspy voice) she’s dead (/raspy voice)” jokes, is it wrong to mention all this on the occasion of someone’s death? Christopher Hitchens was known for dancing on the graves of the people he despised, and maybe that has subtly influenced me over the years. Even though I believe that every person’s (and further, every mammal’s and bird’s) life is sacrosanct and that every death is permanent, the inevitability of death forces me to be less precious about it than society may demand.
The family and friends of the deceased are those who really matter when it comes to not speaking ill of the dead – is it painful for them to read about Sylvia Browne’s sociopathy while they’re deep in mourning?
In a way, it’s ironic: Sylvia Browne took people’s memories of their dead or missing loved ones and she warped them, giving a mother nightmares about her daughter being sold into sex slavery in Japan, or telling another family that their dead daughter was stripping in Hollywood. But in using the occasion of Browne’s death to talk about her misdeeds, the very worst that skeptics will do is underscore the truth of her life – and I have to say I’m okay with that.
I’m hoping to have a video out tomorrow about Sylvia Browne, and yes, there will be jokes. I can’t help it.