Kerfuffle at Penn State over psychic TV show

First there was paranormal investigator Ryan Buell who capitalized on his affiliation with Penn State (starring in Paranormal State), now the school is promoting another student as a psychic medium for a new TV show. Oh, wait, not really…

Reality check: Penn State junior to star in ABC Family show | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Ms. Ten-Kate, a junior at Penn State University, is shooting a nonscripted series in State College. The program “Monica the Medium” will be a snapshot in the life of the young woman, who has been giving readings since she was a teenager.

The network promises “a fascinating look at Monica … navigating friends, family, relationships … and the fact that she’s a medium and can talk to dead people.”

The “Penn State blog” Onward State, billed as an alternative news website (to the Daily Collegian, I guess) with a student voice, featured Monica in a story.

Penn State Medium To Star In ABC Family Reality Show – Onward State.

This seemed no different than any other promotional story about mediums, without any hint of skepticism, just assuming that mediums are real. However, the story hit a nerve and was retracted. In a scathing takedown, another writer rips psychics a new one…

Psychic Mediums Like Monica Ten-Kate Are Lying Frauds: A Retraction – Onward State.

As we reported yesterday, Monica Ten-Kate, the “Penn State Medium,” is indeed getting her own reality show on ABC Family — if nothing else, that much is true. Unfortunately, in trying to provide a relevant piece of news to the Penn State community, we inadvertently promoted one of the most fraudulent, predatory practices around: psychic readings. Our mission statement promises that Onward State will work to generate honest conversation in the hopes of enriching the Penn State community and experience. Yesterday’s article did not do that, and we hope to rectify that. We apologize for the oversight, and are issuing a full retraction of that piece.

After we published the article, Ten-Kate and her publicists requested that we “correct” several parts, claiming there were errors. She was absolutely right. There were significant mistakes in our piece. Instead of reporting critically, we presented her implausible assertions at face value, and implied that Ten-Kate can actually speak to the dead. In reality, she most certainly can’t talk to the dead, because that’s quite simply impossible. Anyone who claims to have that power is a liar. We apologize for any confusion or ire this may have caused amongst our readership, and we appreciate your comments.

It’s a very adamantly skeptical piece. Perhaps TOO adamant. We note that Mr. Randi is featured at the top of the page and a number of prominent skeptics are mentioned, yet, the piece goes too far in calling psychic mediums “lying frauds”. It seems the writer is not well versed in libel claims. I expect this piece might be retracted as well. While there certainly ARE many psychic mediums who are frauds, not all are deliberately lying. Many believe they have this power and simply take advantage of the human propensity to find patterns and seek reassurance, thus convinced that the person is really psychic. It’s not a valid sixth sense, but it does convince many people who believe. That’s why psychics get their own TV shows and sell tickets to events — people believe and that’s enough. But throwing the words “liar” and “fraud” around will get you into hot water.

A corollary to this subject harkens back to Buell’s Paranormal State. That show attempted to use the reputation of the university to bolster the scientific cred. They failed. PSU disassociated with the show. (Good for them, because Paranormal State was incredibly UNscientific and contrived.) Will Monica the Medium promote her as a smart college student to enhance her reputation as a real psychic? The show will take place in the college town. Hard to say. Grabbing the younger crowd to promote such a belief is also worrying. I can empathize with writer Purcell but a gentler approach may have been more reasonable. The comments on the piece are not all positive noting the piece is more opinion than retraction (if the retraction was even needed) and seems inappropriate.

Since psychics have not convinced more critical thinkers that they do anything special, and every TV psychic show is plain old awful, the real question is why the hell do we need another psychic show?

  9 comments for “Kerfuffle at Penn State over psychic TV show

  1. April 9, 2015 at 5:53 PM

    Even the retraction has a major factual error.
    >> she most certainly can’t talk to the dead, because that’s quite simply impossible
    Actually she certainly can and that’s quite easy. Hearing the dead respond is the extraordinary claim…

  2. fredthechemist
    April 9, 2015 at 7:14 PM

    “why the hell do we need another psychic show?”

    How many are born every minute?

  3. Ronald H. Pine
    April 9, 2015 at 9:51 PM

    This is in regard to those people who are said to really believe that they “have this power.” I can see ( I guess) how someone could, year after year, honestly think that he/she is carrying on conversations with dead people, by use of a ouija board, say, but how one who is not psychotic could, without use of any such devices, honestly believe that he/she is carrying on conversations with the deceased is beyond me.

  4. ApexDisorder
    April 9, 2015 at 11:34 PM

    Perhaps off topic, but I was watching this with the girls and someone came to mind.

  5. ApexDisorder
    April 10, 2015 at 12:01 AM

    I screwed up that link.
    The movie is the Disney film sword and the stone.
    Merlin looks like James Randi.

  6. CatMA
    April 11, 2015 at 1:42 AM

    Exactly. There are so many who want to be convinced that there is an afterlife, some desperately, and there has never been a shortage of predators of the gullible. I watched a few episodes of several of the ghost-related “reality” TV shows to see the social dynamics and to try to figure out which “investigators” and “haunt victims” were deliberate frauds and which might be misled or dupes. The frauds were often obvious, but the shows still have their audiences. I’m not surprised to hear of yet another show like this, targeted to the lucrative young adult market. I am curious about which cynical advertisers will support it, but not curious enough to watch.

  7. Bill T.
    April 11, 2015 at 8:40 AM

    It’s a lot cheaper than doing shows with actual content.

    Actually, in some cases even this may not be the case, reraising your point. “Hot” readings can take actual work too, I guess the question is what is the comparative levels of effort.

  8. BobM
    April 11, 2015 at 10:03 PM

    Libel? I thought the libel laws in the US were relatively lenient? Just askin’ :-).

  9. Sean
    April 12, 2015 at 2:38 PM

    It isn’t libel because it is true.

Comments are closed.