Monday, June 14, 2010

DEREK LIES

Perhaps you’ve heard of Derek Acorah.  He is a particularly fake medium inexplicably allowed on British television.  I should be clear what I mean here: all mediums are fake but some are deliberately fake and others seem just deluded. The record seems to show that Acorah is among the former camp.  He can sue me if he likes, but before he does he might like to explain why he hasn’t even applied for the JREF Million.  Derek, sorry if you have applied and I missed you on the list.  There are a lot to search through.  I’m not sorry for calling you a fraud though.  Because you’re a fraud.  You fraud.  Naturally I’ll backtrack like you yourself have on several occasions if you actually do sue me, because I don’t have the resources to defend yourself.  So you’ll…uh….win.  I guess.  And you’ll know I’m calling you a fraud because, as it says on your site: you are:

Derek Acorah is, without question, the number one television psychic in the UK, bridging the gap between the niche cult shows to mainstream talk shows which rely on personality and the ability to capture the imagination.

So….can you see dead people then or what?

As a result of Derek's sincerity and enthusiastic delivery, Derek has achieved international acclaim with television, radio and personal appearances across the United Kingdom, Europe, the Middle East, New Zealand and the USA. Derek has also conducted telephone consultations for people as far south as India, Australia and New Zealand.

So….can you hear dead people then or what?

You see where I’m going here.  Derek doesn’t say on his own official site what his magical powers actually are.  But he does have plenty of links you can click to give him money to exercise the skills he doesn’t say he has and he has a tiny disclaimer which states that whatever you give him money for, it is for entertainment purposes only, which is why he will probably win if he sues me for calling him a fraud.

Anyway, instead of doing work, I ended up watching a show featuring the fraud Derek Acorah.  Do you know what?  I didn’t even think to write down what the show was.  I like to think I’m more thorough than that but it turns out I’m not.  I think I was too excited about analysing his not particularly skilful cold-reading techniques and burbling out a post about it.  But frankly, who the fuck cares?  It could be any show featuring Acorah.  Not one of the ones he was sacked from for lying, of course, one of the ones he’s currently employed by.

This is how it went down.  There’s an audience and Acorah leaps in front of the camera and then….  (this was done as it happened, so expect corrections as the text progresses)

He starts by mentioning an audience member's departed soul by name.  it is presented as though he knows the name by unnatural means but there are like four cuts. It looks like Max fucking Headroom.

Already.  In the first eight seconds or so of the show.  You’d think he’d just be saying hello and psychically zeroing in on people who need his help.  Why would he need to cut so much material.  It’s almost as if he didn’t get any hits at first and wouldn’t have looked very psychic at all on the telly until he hit a particular mark.

He starts by focussing on a particular person in the audience and talking about that person’s dead acquaintance.  We aren’t treated to a picture of the audience member (I’m going to call the audience member ‘the mark’) yet, which is interesting.

He points out how old the recently dead person (I’m gonna call this dead chap ‘the corpse’) was.

He says how old the recently dead person (the corpse) was.  Well, with a decade's worth of error bar.  After looking at the offspring of the departed and guessing their ages.  And having never yet specified who the corpse was.  It would be child’s play to look at 40 year old marks and tell them they know someone in their 60s who had died.  It wouldn’t be a surprise if it were their father or mother.  Or grandad or grandma.  Or aunt or…  Well you get the idea.  Acorah never says who the actual corpse is.  All the information is supplied by the mark, as we’ll see.

Acorah talks about this corpse having cancer, specifically - as it seems - cancer in his body. He waves his hand all over his own body as if to specify where the cancer – in this not-specified-person – was.  Well, it’s a fairly safe bet that the cancer was in his body.  Where is it likely to be?  Well in a male, in the lower portions of the torso.  Another safe bet.

But Acorah predicted cancer, right?  Well, it almost seems so from the show, but there are so many cuts….we don’t know whether Acorah picked out someone in the audience and told them things about their loved ones or whether he shotgunned.  Certainly he seemed to be staring at a woman in the audience when he began then later he was plainly talking to a man about the specific cancer, but I’m not sure what I can make out of that.  Could just be editing. But it’s a fairly safe bet that cancer is the culprit in any death.  One in three.  It’s either that or heart failure.  And with heart failure you can’t lose since cause of death is always, when it comes down to it, your heart not beating any more.  But remember that the audience is full of people who have come to hear about a dead loved-one’s current activities.  They all know someone dead.  Every single one of them will know someone who has died from cancer.  Or had cancer and then died.

Anyway, Acorah finds someone who has a relative who died of cancer.  He predicts what kind of cancer it was by waving his hands over every single part of his body until someone says stop.  To be fair, he mentions that it might be bowel cancer, but when it turns out later to have been stomach cancer, he counts two inexplicable things as hits: first, the fact that the cancer might have been in the person’s body and second that bowel cancer is the same as stomach cancer.

This is all assuming that the mark didn’t tell Acorah beforehand that he had a relative who died of cancer.  We don’t know, but it was a safe bet either way.  Interestingly, there was no gasp from the audience when cancer in the region of the lower torso was mentioned.  I strongly suspect that the mark told Acorah that that’s where the problem was.

Acorah then makes the amazing statement that the deceased might have lost a bit of weight before he died.  Not a great leap of faith for someone with cancer, especially if it was in the bowel area.  Would a medical doctor mention weight loss when talking about the death of a cancer patient?  No.  Because she'd know that weight loss is associated with that illness and she'd know that it was likely explained to the family as a symptom in the early stages and it would not be worth mentioning when discussing it later, especially after the person had died.  It would be like establishing that someone had a cold and then pointing out that they sneezed.

A second later, it turns out that it wasn't the bowels, it was the stomach.  Acorah doesn't say this, of course, someone in the audience does. And it turns out I've given Acorah too much credit: he seemed to be staring intently at a particular person in the audience as though he was speaking specifically to her.  And there were some shots of a woman reacting to what he said.  And then suddenly there's this bloke in a completely different part of the audience VOLUNTEERING information about  stomach cancer, which Acorah seizes upon.

More cuts.  Cuts cuts cuts.

Then Acorah says - almost unbelievably - that he's not making any claims about the next thing he's going to say.  He says he's just asking for information.  Then he asks whether the corpse was a fun-loving guy.  As he asks it, he grins and makes a big deal of eye contact.  Cut to someone nodding and saying yes.  Well it seems relevant at this point to ask who wouldn't love fun.  Does anyone hate fun?  Or do they find fun fun?  And who would want to say on television of a beloved relative that he was a miserable bastard and they're glad he's dead?  Before you answer, remember that I'm not going to go on television to say that sort of thing.  Because nobody would ask. But the point is that Acorah is pandering to his audience.  He’s making his guesses seem more true by saying things that seem quite specific but are actually true of everyone.

Acorah then repeats the loss of body weight shtick.  It's already been counted as a hit, so he milks it by mentioning it yet again, even though the subject has been changed.  The mark confirms this again and adds the information - completely unprompted - that the man in question died within a month of being diagnosed.  Now wait a cotton-picking minute.  If you knew someone who had died from cancer (and chances are you do) and someone asked whether they had lost weight toward the end, chances are you wouldn't say "yes, he died within a month of being diagnosed and lost lots of weight".  That middle part is not relevant information so why is the person saying it?  Well, I don't know, but my suspicion is that Acorah spoke to him before the broadcast (or during the cuts) and associated these sorts of thing together as a means of soliciting additional information.  Just a guess. For example, he might have said “now here’s a commercial break: when we come back, the mark will tell us how…..” and so on.

Acorah then asks whether one of the corpse’s family members have moved - he makes an expansive gesture - and finishes "moved.....in some direction".  Almost as though he's shotgunning.  Let's think about how the mark could have answered.  Of course, if he hadn’t, Acorah could have picked on someone else, easily.  He could have said "yes, my mother moved one door down the street."  He could have said "yes, my mother (or brother or neighbour or friend or someone we didn't really know) moved miles away."  Or he could have described a lifestyle change that one of these people made.  They'd all have seemed like hits.  As it happened, a family member did move 100 miles away.  Acorah gets his hit.  What does he do with it?  He says the corpse is aware of this and has 'made visitations' (does this mean 'has visited'?) to the new home.  The mark nods and smiles and says that yes, they were very close.  He notably does not say that the supposedly visited person can't get any housework done due to ghosts cluttering the place up.  This is a typical kind of vicarious win for people like Acorah: no prediction has actually been made, has it? the vague 'someone moved/changed" statement was turned into a particular family member having moved BY THE PUNTER, NOT BY ACORAH and in the audience's minds this was turned into a positive ghost manifestation based solely on the mark's statement that the dead guy and the family member 'were close'.  NO MENTION WAS EVER MADE of that family member believing she was contacted by the dead person.  It wasn't even implied.  Something was implied to have happened when it did not.  A classic cold reading technique.

Acorah then seems to be speaking to nobody - presumably his spirit guide.  Then he asks the mark a question: has there been talk of a pregnancy in the family? And he makes an expansive gesture as if to suggest that 'family' could mean more or less anyone.  Note: he doesn't ask whether anyone is pregnant or even whether the dead guy knew about it or was involved with it in any way.  He *asks* whether there has been *talk* of a pregnancy somewhere within an extended version of whatever 'family' might mean to that particular person under that particular circumstance.  The mark is amazed.  Yes, his sister has recently had a baby.  Where does Acorah go with this?  Nowhere.  He takes his hit and moves on.

Then he changes the subject completely.  Guided, he says, by the corpse.  He asks whether the audience member is thinking about changes in his life.  Let me make a prediction: are you, the reader, thinking about making some changes?  Has there ever been a time when you *haven't* thought about moving house or changing job or partner or image?  Have you ever thought of parting your hair on the other side or buying different deodorant?  Have you ever thought that you'd like a Mac instead of a PC or that you'd like to learn the piano? It would be difficult indeed to get a miss from this gambit and let's be clear:Acorah has COMPLETELY CHANGED THE SUBJECT.  He is no longer able to trade off the dubious 'hits' he's already made, but the transition is such that the mark doesn't notice this.

Acorah then asks whether there's a bit of hesitation about this supposed change.  Duh, another obvious hit.  We don't change things lightly.  Uncle Peter (and it is suddenly Uncle Peter), as it happens, fully supports the change.  Without *ever* specifying what that change *is*.  It's never even brought up.

Acorah finishes by saying that dead uncle peter will make the decision work for the best - oddly, whatever decision is made - and so the resident idiot doesn't have to worry.  He does an extensive passive aggressive signoff, getting the mark to say "OK" several times as though to endorse the predictions.

Amazing.

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