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Ronson on Sylvia Browne

I missed this last weekend, but it’s worth a mention. Journalist Jon Ronson, well-known for investigating the strange topics we like to cover, did quite a long piece on superstar psychic Sylvia Browne, which was published in the Guardian. Ronson managed to get a one-on-one with the elusive Browne by joining a cruise holiday on which she was featured.

His conclusions were not positive, with only one ‘hit’ of note by Browne mentioned, but plenty of doubts sown about her authenticity. Based on my own reading, I’d have to agree with Ronson and wonder why Browne has the following she does – and not just because of the now infamous Shawn Hornbeck error. I have heard of many mediums who seem to be more deserving of a high profile than Sylvia Browne. More importantly, skeptics tout Browne as an example of the fraudulent nature of mediumship – and as a figurehead (whether desired or not), she leaves a lot to be desired.

On the flipside, Jon Ronson’s previous work – such as The Men Who Stare At Goats (Amazon US and UK), have exhibited a humorous cynicism, rather than objective reporting (though he’s not a harsh skeptic in any sense). It’s certainly a topic that lends itself to that approach for public reading, with its core theme of the oxymoron of military intelligence – and Ronson’s writing talent makes it a fun and fascinating read – but at the same time, we should perhaps be wary of making these topics too easily dismissed in polite conversation. But then, with people like Sylvia Browne dominating the public definition of ‘psychic’, a little cynicism is not only desired, but required…

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