Open Letter to Ellen Degeneres: Don’t Promote Theresa Caputo, the “Long Island Medium”
A new video! Close-enough transcript below.
We need to talk about Theresa Caputo. She’s the “Long Island Medium” who claims to be able to talk to the dead, and you’ve had her on your show in the past and you’re planning to have her on your show again.
To be fair, if Theresa Caputo can do the things she claims to do, it’s not just okay for you to promote her but it is your moral imperative to promote her. She has discovered the afterlife, the most important discovery in human history. She’s going to win a nobel prize. Several. All the nobel prizes, even that fake one for economics, because I know somebody’s gonna be turning a major profit here.
But if Caputo can’t really do the things she claims to do, promoting her is like using your show to sell jars of unicorn poop as an anti-depressant. It’s dangerous, immoral, and well, full of crap.
You’ve probably guessed by now, because you are smart and insightful and funny, that I think Caputo is full of crap. You are correct. I’ve seen her act, and it’s the same act that I’ve seen John Edward do, the same act I’ve seen Sylvia Browne do, and the same act I’ve seen magicians do, magicians who admit they’re not psychic and who admit that they’re just doing a magic trick called “cold reading.”
I won’t go into all the details, but know that cold reading can involve throwing out common things that likely apply to a number of people in a large audience that has specifically come to hear from dead relatives, or noticing things about people that allow you to make educated guesses, or making general statements that can be interpreted in several different ways. When the medium gets something wrong she can just abandon that person and move on to someone else or just keep talking and pretend the person was agreeing with you all along.
If you’re wondering what’s the harm in someone pretending to be psychic, look at the faces of the people Theresa Caputo abandons when her guesses aren’t connecting. Look at them start to cry while they force a smile and pretend that it’s not a big deal that they thought their dead mother was speaking to them from beyond the grave but it turns out it was just that other guy’s dead second cousin’s best friend.
Maybe Caputo makes some people feel better, but is that worth making all those other people feel like crap? Is it worth bringing up a woman’s memory of her mother dying of Alzheimers only to corrupt that memory? To turn her vibrant mother into an insipid ghost who can’t say one meaningful thing but can only talk about how she used to be chilly? To encourage an entire audience of millions to give their time, energy, and money to other charlatans who will lie to them instead of allowing them to find closure?
I don’t think so, Ellen. It is my opinion that Caputo is running a scam, and you’re helping her. You said that she can convince skeptics – well I’m a skeptic, and I’m not convinced yet. Let her try her magic trick on me. Or better yet, let her try her trick on James Randi, a magician who has offered a million dollars to anyone who can prove they have paranormal abilities. She’ll even have a head start, since we both have Wikipedia pages describing half our lives. When “psychics” start out with bits of knowledge about their targets, it makes the cold reading so much easier.
If you’re worried that skepticism doesn’t make for good TV, know that Randi used to be a regular on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, where he exposed people like Uri Gellar and Peter Popov in front of millions.
Ellen, you were the first woman Johnny Carson invited to the couch after a set. You could be the first woman to host a talk show that presents the skeptical side of pseudoscientists who target people who are grieving.
You’ve been an incredible ally for women, animals, and LGBT activists. Why not start being an ally for those of us who also value science, critical thinking, and compassion for grieving people?
Do the right thing. Don’t promote Theresa Caputo.