by Mike Masnick

If Sylvia Browne Is A Psychic, Wouldn't She Know How Nastygramming A Critical Site Would Backfire?

from the i'm-skeptical dept

Okay. Let's try this one more time. If someone has put some information online that you don't like, sending them a legal nastygram demanding that they take it down is likely to create the opposite effect, giving it that much more attention. While we don't expect everyone to read the many such examples of the Streisand Effect that we discuss around here, you would think that if anyone could see how such a situation was likely to play out, it would be a psychic. Apparently not. The folks over at Digg are pointing out that a self-proclaimed psychic named Sylvia Browne has had her lawyers nastygram a site that was critical of her, called Stop Sylvia Browne, demanding that those responsible for the site stop using her "trademark." Of course, that's not quite how trademarks work. You don't get to demand that anyone stop using it -- especially if they're just being critical of you. While there have been mixed opinions, it seems that both arbitrators and the courts are finally realizing that so-called "sucks sites" are perfectly legal, even if they use the name of whoever they're criticizing within a site's domain name. In the meantime, I had not previously been aware of a site criticizing the supposed psychic -- but, thanks to her lawyer's attempt to shut it down, a lot more people know about. You would have thought a psychic would have recognized that such a plan would backfire.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2007 @ 5:01pm

    Sylvia has always said that she is no psychic about herself or her own family.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    scate, Feb 6th, 2007 @ 5:04pm

    Ms. Browne needs to hide her specatular and tragic

    I'm sure Ms. Browne would like to divert her attention to her dismal failure in
    the Hornbeck case. She went on the Montel Williams show and told the parents of missing child that he was dead and had been kidnapped by a dark skinned man. Recently Shawn Hornbeck had the temerity to show up alive and splash mud in the eye of the self-prclaimed "psychic.

    In my opinion she is a ruthless con-woman who preys on the vulnerable.

    See http://www.randi.org/jr/2007-01/011907tam.html#i1

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    xanius, Feb 6th, 2007 @ 5:14pm

    Her lawyers...

    Her lawyers can't even spell her own name.

    They claim he is using the trade mark of "syvia" and "syvlia" in the cease and desist order.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    JM, Feb 6th, 2007 @ 5:15pm


    Perhaps not all of these are backfired attempts. Seems this kind of publicity is getting her quite a bit of attention. The phrase, "any publicity is good publicity" exists because it's generally true.

    It's perfectly reasonable to believe that many, or even most, of these nastygrams are sent by those who haven't got a clue. But it seems likely that at least a few such cases are from those that actually do get it and are looking to generate publicity for the sake of publicity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    ehrichweiss, Feb 6th, 2007 @ 5:17pm


    Last week I saw some examples of exactly how HORRIBLE of a "psychic" she really is; my favorite being that she told the parents of one of the two boys that had been kidnapped a couple weeks ago(they were in the headlines, look them up) that the boy was already dead and the family states that she offered(not out of the kindness of her shriveled little 2 chambered heart but rather...) for $700/hr to help them find the body though she now denies this aspect. There are others that are more tragic. Some people might call Sylvia Browne a complete fraud for that. Ever seen Carlos Mencia? She's definitely Dee-dee-dee!!!!

    Penn and Teller already ripped this woman(if you can refrain from calling her an outright whore...I barely can) a new ass about 4 years ago. Doesn't surprise me that others are catching onto her slimy ways.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    arb, Feb 6th, 2007 @ 5:59pm

    Attorney Firm

    What I found funny was that the Attorney Firm's Letterhead has the AFLAC duck in it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Lightworker, Feb 6th, 2007 @ 6:09pm

    Being psychic is a talent, like playing the piano

    To be psychic basically means your third eye is open. Kinda like a movie screen in your head.
    Now, what plays on that screen is entirely desided by your spirit.
    Life lessons do not get a preview on the screen as that would be like skipping ahead on the Tivo to see what happens, and that's no fun.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    fuse5k, Feb 7th, 2007 @ 4:14am


    Lightworker, lay off the crack. Everyone knows that psychic is BS.

    There have been several scientific studies proving this to be the case.

    Anyone claiming to be a psychic is a rip off merchant.
    And anyone who beleives in them is a fool.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    John Duncan Yoyo, Feb 7th, 2007 @ 7:16am

    Re: Her lawyers...

    Perhaps it would be more effective to an email to the lawyer thanking her for making us aware of all the valid criticisms of her client. Of course you cc it to the client as well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    J.R., Feb 7th, 2007 @ 8:38am

    Re: Lightworker

    Hrm... seems this has been debated with GOD too. No scientific proof there either. Are you a religious individual fuse5k?

    I generally agree with you and don't believe in psychic's or an omnipotent being. Unfortunately when it comes to the latter (whether you believe or not) over 90% of the world's population believes.

    Now. Just because science says it doesn't exist means exactly shit (science said smoking was good for you once-upon-a-time too). And if one can say that God exists in spite of the lack of scientific proof then what is to say that psychic's don't?

    Seems to me your critical thinking skills need a bit of improvement there Bucky.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Chronic Rationalist, Feb 7th, 2007 @ 10:00am

    God is long dead

    > seems this has been debated with GOD too. No scientific proof there either.

    Yes, and all gods, including Jesus Christ and Yahweh, are bullsht. The Earth was not created in 7 (or 6) days. Humanity isn't a mere 4 thousand years old. There never was a garden of Eden. And there is no heaven or hell, except those we make on Earth.

    We need to stomp out ancient superstitions. In this age of nuclear weapons, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and globalization, religion can only do harm. Faith is bad. Reason is good.

    It's the 3rd millennium. Why do we keep clinging to dark-age superstitions?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    scate, Feb 7th, 2007 @ 10:11am

    Ahh...the fun of trying to prove an unrestricted n

    Lightworker writes:
    "Now. Just because science says it doesn't exist means exactly shit... And if one can say that God exists in spite of the lack of scientific proof then what is to say that psychic's don't?"

    Well, one can say anything but it doesn't make it so.

    Now, as to scientific testing. Um, actually science does 'mean shit'. If it didn't, that tall building you visit would collapse, the medical procedures you get wouldn't work, the airplane you fly in wouldn't leave the ground and there would be no electronic anything...so if science doesn't mean shit you couldn't write your misinformed missive on your computer and post it to the internet!!!

    Unlike many religious claims, good old Ms. Browne sometimes makes testable claims such as predictions, you know like predicting that a missing boy is dead and kidnaped by a dark skinned man but then is later found not dead in the custody of a while kidnapper? Test failed.

    Although it might be impossible to prove Ms. Browne "isn't psychic" since might be possible to be psychically wrong all the time in a way that perfectly mimics a charlatan just making shit up, it is possible to prove that her predictions and such are no more accurate than chance or those made by a normal human being. She agreed on the Larry King show to be tested by James Randi. The test was simple and based on on what she agreed she could do. She would be given the names of 10 subjects. She would make "psychic readings" for these people. The people would then have to identify which reading was theirs. Browne could have won $1,000,000 for exceeding chance probability. She could have given the money to charity. But no, she has reneged on her promise. In my opinion she full well knows she can't pass the test because she isn't any more psychic than my cat.

    It isn't up to us to prove Ms. Browne isn't psychic, it is up to Ms. Browne--who claims to see the future and talk to dead people--to prove her extraordinary claims which would change physics as we know it were they true. In the realm of probability, which is more likely? An evil charlatan who just makes shit up and charges money for it (plenty of well documented precedents in human history) or someone who can literally see into the immutable future? Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and Browne can even deliver ordinary evidence.

    Don't support con artists just because you are some woo woo optimist.

    The above post represents my personal opinion--this is after all a thread about Ms. Browne suing someone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    scate, Feb 7th, 2007 @ 10:34am

    I meant "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and Browne can't even deliver ordinary evidence."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Cixelsid, Feb 7th, 2007 @ 2:53pm

    Psychic shmychic

    Anybody who honestly thinks psychics aren't bogus conmen should be taken outside and a shovel taken to their heads.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Rob, Jul 13th, 2007 @ 9:04am

    Here is some of my own forecasting. Sylvia will make a big error exposing her fraud, and in the end result will be the doom of the Montel Williams show. Then Sylvia, and Rosie O'Donell will start their own show called "Intuitive Thought From a Big Mouth". Here is a poll if you believe in Sylvia or not: http://www.apopularitycontest.com/display_poll.php?ID=157

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    nancy bisset, Aug 13th, 2008 @ 10:23am

    RE: Get the dingbats off Sights

    I could't help but think how people became such cridics
    of Sylvia Browne.

    She has done more for me through her books that any preacher in the world, and especially None from you.

    I feel that she should go after those that try and discredit her gift. For Goodness sake, she is 85% right.
    She does not have ALL the answers, those that she is allowed to give those that wrote in their charts that
    she will be helping them or even giving "wrong" info, there is a lesson for those parents to "NOT JUDGE SYLVIA"
    Do you think she chose to give the wrong answer, No it was
    not to be so so these people could learn the lessons that
    they came here to learn and perfect.

    The Neg. energy that eminates from these sights is bad for the whole collective energy of the world.

    Read the stories such as mine on her sights that tell
    what her knowledge has done for me and my life.

    Stop "Hate-en" as the commic says in his movies, and
    show some RESPECT to this wonderful human being.

    I see by the dates it already Peter___OUT.
    Karma is a B___h!!!!! nancyl2

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    nancy Bisset, Aug 13th, 2008 @ 10:27am


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    nancy bisset, Aug 13th, 2008 @ 10:35am

    RE: WOW Karma is a B____H!

    To these web sights that try and debunk my good friend
    and psyic, Sylvia Browne. The good she has done for her
    friends and strangers in her life would out shine you
    millions-1, WOW what ODDS.

    Go read the stories from people like myself that put our name with the comments and stories we share with her.

    It is sad that you do not use your energy more wisely and
    maybe this world would have a chance to shift for the GOOD rather then EVIL. The energy you waste on this kind of talk
    makes the energy of the whole Universe BE DOWN.

    Sylvia should go after everybody on those nasty sights and
    Go live your own life and stay out of hers and our (Her friends) business. You have enough to take care of your
    own business to get into hers which is "Her Business".
    She will pay if she is doing anything wrong.

    I feel so happy when I see how far this did not go. WOOPIE.
    GET A LIFE!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Reverand Conner, Apr 29th, 2009 @ 3:08pm


    Psychics can't see everything. That isn't the way it works. Ms Brown is most likely just as psychic as she claims. I like her. The paranormal can be explained on a quantum physics scale. I believe in ghosts, psychics, and what people call the unexplained. Mostly because I feel they have been explained just fine even if they haven't been explained well enough for the scepitic. Let them be sceptics. Sometimes you need to be sceptical before the truth comes out. I have had dreams that have come true since I was eight. I read tarot. My readings are very accurate. I don't care who believes me and who doesn't.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Reverand Conner, Apr 29th, 2009 @ 3:41pm

    ESP hasn't been disproven or proven as far as I know

    I would suggest actual reading in actual case studies, not just listening to pestimists. Auras and residual heat patterns can be seen on special cameras. I believe that ESP is best explained on a quantum physics scale.


    http://www.psychicandclairvoyant.c o.uk/StudyingScienceAndClairvoyance.html

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Karyn, Nov 25th, 2012 @ 7:16pm

    Extreme Cold Reading

    I have read books on the Tarot, the Bible, various books on cold reading and alternative forms of spirituality, and I believe in God. I have to claim that she is a con artist. I received a reading from her son over ten years ago and what he had to say caused me deep pain and suffering. He told me that I would never see someone again whom I loved very greatly, and he also told me I was mentally ill. She does the same sort of thing, only on a larger scale. I believe in the existence of E.S.P., but she doesn't need to be a b****.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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