I’m going to talk about some recent/upcoming events. Namely, the recent fooferrah with Robert Lancaster’s Stop Sylvia Browne site and the upcoming US presidential (among other things) election. I feel like it’s hard to keep perspective in all the sensory onslaught, but I’ll try. We’ll see.
What happened was unfortunate, but everything seems to have worked out. Robert’s wife had another site up and running within days of his previous site being taken over. The skeptics appear to be on board with updating links and using appropriate techniques to return Robert’s site to its rightful Google ranking.
Here’s where I have a problem. The new owner of this site was selling it on eBay. I (and possibly others) reported this item to eBay as possibly fraudulent and eBay has now apparently removed it (as the link indicates). Here is what I sent to eBay:
Item number(s): 150307548966
Message: http://www.stopsylviabrowne.com “World Famous on CNN, Authority site Psychics-Paranormals”
This website’s previous registration had lapsed and was repurchased by a new party who is now selling it here. The site’s content was changed soon after its repurchasing. However, the seller is describing the site’s traffic and content as if the site has always been the same. For example, the traffic statistics are based on the site’s old content. Furthermore, the content of the current site is NOT famous on CNN, the content of the old site (now located at http://www.stopsylvia.com) IS. The description is misleading to potential buyers.
In my opinion it is fraudulent to knowingly sell an item that does not match its description. For example, if I was selling a used car through non-seedy means, I would have to ensure that I provided a thorough report of the car’s condition to the buyer. Misleading information that affects the value of the item for sale can get the seller sued. In websites, I see no difference in responsibility. I feel this person did something dishonest by setting up a website to look legitimate and then misleading people into thinking it has always looked that way while touting its traffic and Google position, as if it was based on that content, in order to sell it. If the seller had described how the site was obtained (lapsed registration), had put a “coming soon” page there or something, and described the last quarter stats in that context, I would have been fine with the legality and morality of the sale. Regardless of the legality of how the site was obtained, what was done with it afterward was not honest.
I see a lot of defending of this person’s opportunism in business on the JREF forums. All I say to that is this: We, as skeptics, abhor the opportunism and business practices of psychics, mediums, CAM/alt-med proponents, etc. Why should financial or property opportunism get a pass? For me it doesn’t. Although all of these things may be legal, they morally questionable at best.
So in my opinion, it is the morality in general that is questionable and that is what deserves attention. Forget about threatening or tarnishing the man who bought the site. It would have been just as amoral if Robert weren’t in the hospital recovering from a stroke. That is just “icing on the cake” for us to get pissed off. And I understand that, but it serves no purpose. Direct energy to the right place. Change links, support Robert’s legitimate site, take action against fraud, and comment about morally questionable practices.
I would like to put a moratorium on the following argument: “Obama isn’t perfect, you know. There’s negative things about him, too.” Save a few die-hard “fans” on Obama’s side, I don’t think anyone seriously thinks Obama is the perfect presidential candidate. I find him reasonable, educated, well-advised, and cool-headed. But he is inexperienced and has some funky plans for taxes et al that many Americans may not like. But — perspective, people.
McCain is very old. There is a real possibility of him dying while in office. Seriously. It must be taken into consideration that Sarah Palin could be president. Neither candidate is desirable compared to Obama/Biden in this election for several reasons. First, they apparently have no concept of science research (i.e., the fruit fly incident) and education (i.e., the overhead-projector incident). Second, they are perpetuating (or at least refusing to dissuade) an attitude within their own country (!) of “us vs. them” — “Don’t agree with us? You’re not a real American”. That is not a healthy attitude, particularly considering they are in a war and a possible recession. Third, they are fundamentalist thinkers, as the first 2 points illustrate. In a dynamic world, this is not a good thing (women’s rights, gay rights, finances, wars, censorship, technology, etc).
Think of it this way: A vote for Obama is not a vote for some world-changing awesomeness. It’s a vote for reasonableness. Its a vote for anti-fundamentalism. It’s a vote against all those people who think that if a black Christian man becomes president, the whole country will be forced to be Muslim the next day. It’s a vote against the idealism that lets people refuse candy to little unvoting children on Halloween. It’s a vote against people who think urban citizens are of lesser value than rural citizens. It’s a vote for someone who puts out “attack ads” like this. And it’s a vote against crap like this.
To all the independents out there. You want to protest? Protest fear and ignorance and vote for Obama (which is also a vote for his advisers and other support systems). It may not be perfect, but consider the alternative.
I know all this sounds alarmist and extreme. Well, I’m trying to sledgehammer the point home: I live in Canada and I’m fucking terrified by some of the things I’ve heard from the republican candidates this election, but I’m a canuck so I can’t vote.
Not that any of this matters. The world is going to end in 2012 anyway…
Disclaimer: The above (and pretty much everything on this site, really) is my opinion. If I’ve said something factually incorrect, I welcome the correction. But as for the opinion — take from it what you want, but make up your own mind. I am not an authority/expert.