Paranormal Skepticism/critical thinking

Sylvia Browne tries intimidation when her psychic powers don’t work

Congratulations to Robert Lancaster, purveyor of the fine website Stop Sylvia Browne, a site dedicated to documenting the misadventures and misdeeds of the phony “psychic” known as Sylvia Browne. Apparently she has noticed him. In fact, between Robert, The Amazing Randi, and Anderson Cooper piling on to document her errors and downright callousness towards the people for whom she claims to exercise her “psychic gift,” she’s clearly feeling the heat. Her screw-up over Shawn Hornbeck, where she told his parents that he was dead only to have Shawn discovered alive recently and her telling the fiancee of a firefighter who died on 9/11 was “in water,” only to keep insisting she was correct when informed that the firefighter in fact died in the Twin Towers.

Now she’s reduced to legal threats and intimidation against a website she doesn’t like. Read the cease-and-desist letter from the Hodgson Law Group. It’s utterly hysterical, claiming that, for example,’s “domain name incorporates our client’s trademark and name at the URL. Since your use is without permission or consent of the trademark owner, this use is an infringing use of the mark SYLVIA BROWNE. Your use of the domain name creates initial interest confusion as it misleads the consumer as to the source or affiliation. Your use is also a Dilution of SYLVIA BROWNE, which has become famous through years of advertising and usage by our client.”

As if anyone reading would confuse it in anyway with Sylvia Browne’s actual website. The letter also misrepresents fair use of an image as being an infringement of copyright. Notice that no mention was made of libel. You can bet that, if any of the factual content of Robert’s website were in error, there would have been a threat of a libel suit included for good measure.

Instead, obviously, stung by a string of embarrassments that show the world that she is nothing more than a cold reader, and a pretty bad one at that, Sylvia Browne’s now reduced to threats and legal bullying. Even though it’s painfully obvious that these threats and legal puffery are ludicrous, Sylvia Browne has the money to pay high-priced lawyers like Cheryl Hodgson, the attorney who drafted the letter, to churn out such vacuous legal threats. Robert Lancaster has nowhere near the resources to match her. Even so, this to me is an indication that Robert is doing great skeptical work; he’s clearly stung the vile “psychic” hard. Truly she has earned the name bestowed upon her by vampire406 at Mondo Skepto: Darth Sylvious (a.k.a. Sith-ia Browne).

Here’s hoping Robert keeps up the good work.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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