Last month I facetiously noted that skeptics now count anecdote as evidence, after much celebration in the wake of British newspapers claiming that ‘Psychic Sally’ Morgan had been caught out using an earpiece to receive information. In that post, I noted that a prevailing attitude amongst many skeptics was “if she’s innocent, then she can sue”. Welp, apparently she’s going to do just that:
On behalf of Sally Morgan we would like to confirm that Sally Morgan has instructed Graham Atkins of Atkins Thomson to commence libel action in relation to press allegations that she is a cheat, following her show in Dublin. Thank you for your support and patience in this matter. Sally Morgan Management Team.
At his Jack of Kent blog,lawyer David Allen Green has so far discussed the topic in two parts (one and two). He firstly compares it to the infamous BCA libel case against Simon Singh, and then seems to spend some time trying to point out ‘anomalies’ in Sally’s statements
(though he later updates the post to concede that these statements were probably justified) (personal opinion withdrawn, see statement in the comments below from David Allen Green).
I said plainly at the time this first happened that skeptics and newspapers had gone way too far in their claims in this case, based on the source (a few callers to a radio show) and the counter-claim (the theatre manager said Sally’s alleged information sources were actually just light technicians employed by him). From all I have heard, ‘Psychic Sally’ makes a good living from her performances, and newspapers printed a headline claiming that she had been caught using an earpiece to receive information during her Dublin show. Regardless of what anybody’s opinion is on (a) psychic abilities and (b) Sally Morgan’s abilities and honesty, I think in this case it simply boils down to whether the newspapers can show their claim to be correct. In the end, this case will have far less to say about the reality (or not) of psychic abilities than it will about poor journalistic standards.
To reiterate what I said in my previous post, I don’t have a clue about ‘Psychic Sally’, I’ve never heard of her before this. But given she makes her living from her ‘ability’, I’m not surprised that she’s willing to take legal action against news headlines like this. At least we might get an insight into the truth of this matter, if the lighting technicians and radio callers are brought into court (though I think perhaps more likely is that the newspapers will happily pay out a settlement based on the extra sales/eyeballs they got out of the story).