“A Tax On The Gullible”

It’s only a tax on the gullible;
These scammers are doing no harm
The people to blame,
To point at, to shame,
Are the people who fell for their charm!

These “psychics” are selling a service!
Entertainment, for nickels and dimes!
Or for someone’s life savings,
But hey, stop those ravings,
It’s clear, these are victimless crimes!

It’s fine to take any advantage–
That’s acknowledged as one of life’s rules!
There’s money in thieving
From those who are grieving
Let’s declare open season on fools!

It’s really just light entertainment;
People pay for advice that they seek.
It’s the gullible’s fault!
(While we’re at it, assault
Is no more than a tax on the weak!)

Ok, I was not surprised in the least by the NYTimes article on psychics. I have no love for the vocation of “psychic” (though I have had a student from a family of psychics; she was terrific. She, of course, thought all the various psychics on TV were fakes, and had never heard of some of the nationally famous ones, and claimed that the real psychic community policed themselves of fakes. I believed she was honestly deluded, rather than the active liars described in the Times article), and have seen people horribly hurt by scammers who were perfectly willing to “help” them in times of grievous loss.

What was surprising, though, was the comments. In the NYTimes, commenters are not the commenters you find at The Blaze, or Fox News, or CNN, or even, recently, NPR. NYTimes commenters tend to be more thoughtful. Or maybe things have changed. A very common comment was that psychics are not hurting anyone, and that the people they are hurting (you caught that, I am sure) actually deserve to be hurt. It’s a tax on the gullible, a tax on the stupid. The price of learning a lesson.

Mind you, the article itself describes clients who have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Others may lose the tiniest fraction of that, but often these may be people who have little or nothing to spare. I once worked with a man who would pay a psychic for advice on lottery numbers, using the money that would have been his groceries that week (he figured he’d buy food with his lottery winnings).

The people who are most vulnerable to these predators are precisely the people who need protecting! We don’t tell the victims of beatings that they should have been stronger (yeah, I know, sometimes we do, but those who do are wrong to do so). We don’t tell victims of rape… you know, never mind; sometimes we suck at being people. I guess I just expected more from the commenters at the NYTimes.

Sorry. Didn’t mean to get so depressing.

Edited, first stanza… autocorrect hates me.


  1. Cuttlefish says

    There definitely were commenters who suggested looking into churches as well. Or at least the prosperity gospel sort. Or other churches that were not their own.

  2. david says

    “I guess I just expected more from the commenters at the NYTimes.”

    Well, I guess your psychic skills are weak. I, on the other hand, predict that there will always be scammers, and always be victims. I also predict that commenters online (other than me, of course) will continue to post stupid things.

    For more of my astounding predictions, send cash.

  3. machintelligence says

    I am no psychic, and i only dispense good advice. Good advice costs nothing, and it’s worth every penny you pay for it.

  4. Cuttlefish says

    I dunno, machintelligence… sometimes good advice is costly but quite worth it. And sometimes, scammers want to make money off of that fact. Rat bastards.

  5. grumpyoldfart says

    Kids are the easy ones. I just tell them I’ve got a message from their mum: She said they have to give me all their pocket money and I’ll pay them back later. The silly buggers fall for it every time so why not? And it’s a lesson learned for them isn’t it? So it all turns out for the best in the long run.

  6. johnhodges says

    There is a webcomic called Freefall (see http://freefall.purrsia.com/lastthree.htm ) It is a far-future science-fiction story. The strip for Wednesday 8/26/2015 features a genetically engineered intelligent wolf (speaks English, stands upright, wears clothes) thinking to herself “I have to watch that. When I’m tired, I don’t always act properly. It takes effort to act human. Though my friends tell me that even humans have to expend effort to act human, so I’m in good company.”

  7. thebookofdave says

    NYT readers should spare a few moments during the posting of their comments to look up the big words they have difficulty understanding, such as tax. Money paid to government, as opposed to con artists, can at least be justified for its use in programs benefiting the public.

  8. AlexanderZ says

    Something tells me that if the story had been about a Madoff-like con-artist those commenters would have sang a different tune. Which is to say, we all can be gullible, we all can be taken advantage of. When someone dismisses one type of con-artist they really are just saying which socioeconomic group deserves to suffer.
    BTW, that’s connected to why the comments on NYT seem different: NYT usually has paywalls, which means that mostly the relatively well-off comment there. Thus you get to see the opinion of “respectable people”.


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