Danny Tyree: Psychics: Should they be banned?
Apparently some municipalities have been delivering a slap in the face to palm readers.
According to a recent Associated Press story, the nation’s palmists, mediums, astrologers, crystal ball gazers, tarot card readers, reincarnation experts, tea leaf interpreters, curse removers and other psychic folk are chafing under restrictions imposed by a large number of towns — restrictions that may include an outright ban.
A 2009 Pew Research Center survey reveals that one in seven Americans have consulted a psychic.
It is not revealed how many of these are diehard true believers and how many merely dabbled with the supernatural as a lark after seeing Dionne Warwick shill for the Psychic Friends Network.
(Is it even possible for a psychic to HAVE friends? Seems they would always be thinking, "He’d like to do WHAT with my girlfriend???)
Yes, there have been some horrific swindles perpetrated by alleged psychics; but the authorities seem too eager to take the easy way out and use a one-size-fits-all approach to industries that have a high percentage of deception. Have fun finding a store open on your next shopping trip when the authorities finally crack down on businesses that promise "Easy to assemble," "New and improved" and "Just like homemade."
New York is one state that forces even sincere psychics to issue a disclaimer labeling all their services as for "entertainment only." (We probably also need an "entertainment only" disclaimer for activities such as "writing a letter to your congressman.")
Some say that scrupulous seers already divulge enough self-effacing comments about the limitations and unpredictability of their powers. I think the new industry slogan is "Fortunetelling: the Third World electric grid of decision-making."
Perhaps the savviest thing for psychics to do is reach a compromise with the lawmakers so that the regulations are as vague as their predictions. ("This statute shall become effective the 15th-ish of September, or a month with some of the same letters as September and...")
Defenders of psychics rightly point out that there is a First Amendment issue involved here.
Apparently towns don’t even want to cut citizens any slack for shouting "Depending on the alignment of the planets, there may or may not be some degree of spontaneous combustion in an establishment such as this at some hazy point in the near or distant future" in a crowded theater.
I’m trying not to take sides in the controversy. My friend Dinsdale, however, is a little bolder, saying "The authorities are trying to interfere with the GIFT that these fortunetellers have.
And someone went to the trouble of wrapping that gift and someone went to the trouble of placing a big bow on the gift. And someone put a big flashy nametag on the gift. Let’s see if we can read that name. Could it be... SATAN???" (Dinsdale himself has a gift for eating too many Twinkies while watching "Saturday Night Live" reruns.)
Perhaps I’m being overly optimistic, but maybe things will work out without any new regulations. If just one spiritualist could conjure a long-dead ancestor who would be honest enough to say, "I thought ferret dung was a good antiseptic for leg amputation, and you’re asking ME for advice on which graduate school to pick? Sheesh!," people could decide for themselves.
Danny Tyree welcomes reader e-mail responses at firstname.lastname@example.org.