CNN covers “the Secret”

And actually doesn’t make a hash of it. If CNN actually dedicated this much effort to all their journalism, people might actually emerge from their site more informed than when they showed up – a rare occurrence.

For those of you who haven’t heard of “the Secret”, it’s the latest woo-laden self-help nonsense that proposes powerful new physical laws about the universe. In this case, the Law of Attraction. That is, that “like attracts like”. Translated into self-help, it means that positive thinking makes things happen, always, every time. It is a law after all.

Now, people like me who think most self-help books, theories and advocates are scams, nonsense, and charlatans respectively, are immediately skeptical of new physical laws that are dreamed up by Australian TV producers like Rhonda Byrne and promoted by people like Oprah. CNN was good enough to actually get some skeptics’ opinions – and they nail it pretty well.

While “The Secret” has become a pop culture phenomenon, it also has drawn critics who are not quiet about labeling the movement a fad, embarrassingly materialistic or the latest example of an American propensity of wanting something for nothing.

Some medical professionals suggest it could even lead to a blame-the-victim mentality and actually be dangerous to those suffering from serious illness or mental disorders.

“It’s a triumph of marketing and magic,” said John Norcross, a psychologist and professor at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania who conducts research on self-help books. He believes some are very useful when backed by science and focused on specific problems, such as depression.

” ‘The Secret’ has earned my antipathy for its outrageous, unproven assertions that I believe go beyond the ordinary overpromises of most self-help books into a danger realm,” he said.

The book’s mantra of “ask, believe, receive,” he said, easily transforms into a blame the victim mentality.

“Cancer victims. Sexual assault victims. Holocaust victims. They’re responsible?” Norcross said. “The book is riddled with these destructive falsehoods.”

Ding ding ding. Give that man a cookie!

And they’re not exaggerating, following the Law of Attraction to it’s logical conclusion does lead to form of holocaust denial – the Jews brought it on themselves insanity:

For example, the book dismisses conditions such as a genetic predisposition to being overweight or a slow thyroid as “disguises for thinking ‘fat thoughts.’ ” And during times in which massive number of lives were lost, the book says, the “frequency of their thoughts matched the frequency of the event.”

There you have it. All that kvetching led to the holocaust.

Hysterically, when given an out to say that positive thinking is just one part of making improvement in your life, Byrne fails to moderate her message and promotes the Law of Attraction as a magic wand to make your life better:

But Ray said during the creation of the DVD, much of his talk about taking action ended up on the cutting room floor.

“You can watch ‘The Secret’ and come away with the illusion that you can sit around in your living room and visualize your millions dumping into your lap, and that’s just not going to happen,” he said.

Byrne counters that the type of action her critics discuss isn’t required by the “law of attraction.”

“It is impersonal, exact and precise. Become that which you want on the inside, and you shall receive it in the outside world,” she said in her e-mail. “The most important action to take is the work within you. When that is done, you will be moved in the outside world to receive what you asked for.”

Now, the truth is about self-help movements is that they are almost always scams. The only people they help enrich are those who sell the books, and DVDs, and seminars. The poor suckers that get fooled by the Robbinses and the Chopras and the Byrnes of the world into thinking that magical thinking will help them will only benefit by luck. Wasting money on magical self-help guru’s books is about as effective a way to solve your life problems as playing the lottery. And the “law of Attraction” is particularly insipid and foolish. Positive thinking is good and beneficial, but so is a healthy amountnegative thinking. Worry can be healthy. Planning for the worst and hoping for the best is far more helpful than just saying “think positive and you’ll be rich!”


8 responses to “CNN covers “the Secret””

  1. Warning: unclosed hyperlink tag.

  2. Could you please provide a link to the story?

  3. Thanks Blake – fixed.

  4. Heh, I loved the bit near the end about the woman getting her $50,000 loan by three PM the next day. The story makes zero sense; she called her banker in the morning but no word and yet before the day was out she got a letter of approval? Pretty terrific mail service they have where she lives, I guess.

  5. You also appear to have an unclosed blockquote tag around that part about holocaust denial.

  6. “Watch out for that bus”
    “What bus?”

    Well, if there’s money in it. I’m going to come up with my own self help book. The Power of oblivious thinking.

    Be absolutely Icebox

    “Become one with the bus.”

  7. Man, I’m just a wreck today. Can’t seem to code for the life of me.

  8. darius

    Wasting money on magical self-help guru’s books is about as effective a way to solve your life problems as playing the lottery.
    I would say the lottery is more effective… at least some of the people who spend money on the lottery win.

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