Monday, January 15, 2007



CSICOP changed its name.
From the ponderous CSICOP (Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal ) to the sleek and bright CSI. Yes, “CSI.” Not the TV CSI, but CSI for Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. CSICOP, er, CSI, has gone Hollywood. Slicker, shorter, brighter, juxtaposed with the hipness and scientifically aligned TV program of the same name, skepticism has gone Tinsel Town.

Will this name change garner a lawsuit from CSI, the TV franchise? That would be delicious; after all, we all know CSI, er, the skeptic CSI, not CSI the TV show, would sue in a heartbeat if they were pissed off enough at someone. Speaking of
sue happy skeptics, The Amazing Randihas had his fun going after participants of the strange; (if they’re not going after him.)

“Name change reflects growth, focus on science and reason” assures the blurb from their website. (Did any of us have any doubt as to the purpose of CSICOP?) Of course, given the scurrilous history of CSCICP in that regard, it’s no wonder they want a name change. There was never anything of a ‘scientific” inquiry towards UFOs, the paranormal or Forteana, (the

scandal proves that.) In fact, many of CSICOP’s/CSI’s media skeptics do not have a science background.

The new CSCIOP is no longer solely concerned with debunking UFOs or ghosts. There’s a higher moral imperative:

“Today there are new challenges to science,” Kurtz writes in Skeptical Inquirer. “Yet powerful moral, theological, and political forces have opposed scientific research on a whole number of issues.”

While that may sound rational and reasonable (no sane person believes creationism mythologies should be taught in a science class) that’s a hell of a scary statement. The danger here is the potential of cultural cleansing by the chronic skeptics of all they deign to be “unscientific.” (See: Colin Bennett: Skepticism as Mystique: A Fortean Essay in Rationalist Panics and Skeptical Dementia, UFO Magazine vol 21, No.10 December 2006 ,George P. Hansen:CSICOP and the Skeptics: An Overview, Robert Anton Wilson:The New Inquisition)

This journey has been a long one for CSCIOP/CSI. In 1997, CSCICOP held its first

”Council” in Hollywood.
Hollywood was chided for airing “pseudoscientific” programs “almost every month.”
"Recently there have been programs on prophecies, astrology, psychic powers, creationism, Noah's Ark, angels, and alien abductions," said the Council. All of them posed, in some way, as being based on scientific fact."

The Council also criticized the many talk shows devoted to the paranormal in which claims in favor of the paranormal are given a platform but the scientific viewpoint is rarely allowed.“

Back in 1997, CSICOP/CSI
bought media stock in its efforts to quash hokey documentaries on UFOs and Bigfoot:

"In its latest effort in the battle against fringe-science TV, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) and it's "media watch-dog" arm, the Council for Media Integrity (CMI), established the "Media Stock Fund." Aimed at providing leverage for CSICOP's response to the television industries lucrative commercial marketing of fringe science and psuedoscience, CMI is asking friends and supporters to help it aquire common stock in media conglomerate companies. The Media Stock Fund will allow CSICOP and the CMI to take part in shareholder meetings, where it can question the increasing infatuation with the paranormal in television programming."

"We are deliberately targeting each of the major television networks and well-known media conglomerates - Viacom (CBS), General Electric (NBC), NewsCorp (Fox), AOL/Time Warner (WB, Turner Broadcasting, CNN), and Disney (ABC)," says Paul Kurtz, chairman of CSICOP”

CSICOP/CSI has been working on joining the hoi poli and entertainment media for awhile now. Note the CMI:Council for Media Integrity, and the lack of the words "science" or "skeptic" within.

Other skeptic organizations have been been busily remaking themselves. The JREF (James Randi Educational Forum) forum has recently changed its look on its website and forum. I’m not sure how long ago it took place, but I noticed it a month or so ago. New look, new colors. Still serious though of course. Somber maroonish brown and bold black; veering on hip but still too classic to be considered at all edgy, it conveys what it's meant to convey: serious inquiry of non-serious things.

And now
Randi’s revised the infamous “Challenge.” (The challenge is an award of one million dollars to any claimant who demonstrates paranormal powers. No winners so far.)

The reason for the changes has to do in part with people flapping about the JREF offices, or laboratories, or wherever it is they test these hapless, optimistic entrants:
"We can't waste the hundreds of hours that we spend every year on the nutcases out there -- people who say they can fly by flapping their arms," says Randi. "We have three file drawers jam-packed with those collections.... There are over 300 claims that we have handled in detail."

This new Challenge will only take those with head shots. Meaning, JREF is going Hollywood as well, just like CSI. Applicants now have to have been on the news or have some other media oomph behind them before they’ll be allowed in to the Challenge. They’ll have to have press clippings and those press clippings have to be “backed up by academia.” Someone from a University (does the Community College count?) has to support the applicant’s claims.
Ah, but it can’t be just any moldy old academic.

"They have to get some academic to endorse their claims," says Randi. "And that academic is not the local chiropractor or some such thing."

Quite a Catch 22 there: really, what academic that “the Challenge” people would accept, would back a paranormal claim? As soon as one does such backing of such claims, such academic is kicked rudely to the curb by inhabitants of Randi Land. You can’t take those academics seriously! After all, they back claimants to “the Challenge!’

Randi and the JREF are nothing if not good citizens, altruistically protecting the rest of us from the evils of fake psychics. Which, in Randi World, includes all
“Randi says he'll start actively investigating professional mind-readers and mediums for proof of criminal fraud, or opportunities for civil lawsuits. “

I see potential here for some sort of reality based SKEPTO program, in partnership with the sleek bright CSI (sceptic CSI, not TV CSI), where a strange hierarchy of skeptics, seers and paranormal claimants ar pitted against each other. Guest hosts Penn and Teller are sure to enjoy themselves when it comes to be their turn at mocking the weird. Maybe Donald Trump will add some cash to the Challenge’s coffers. (cue Billy Flynn singing ‘Razzle Dazzle”) Lights and music come one while the rainbow colored confetti swirls down among the skeptics, the audience, and the somewhat dazed cons tenants.

"We're going to pick people every year and hammer on them," says Wagg. "We're going to send certified mail, we're going to do advertising. We're going to pick a few people and say, we are actively challenging you. We may advertise in The New York Times.

Boy, sounds like fun.

Yes, they’re going for the glamour, the gold, the gusto for sure. Spending years sneering at those UFO book writers and TV psychics for making money off their stuff, the JREF and CSICOP (damn, I mean CSI) is now working towards doing the same thing.

It’s all just ‘Flim Flam.’

Razzle Dazzle
Artist: Richard Gere Lyrics
Song: Razzle Dazzle Lyrics
Mr. Flynn, his honor is here

Thank you. Just a moment.
You ready?

Oh Billy, I'm scared.

Roxie, you got nothing to worry about.
It's all a circus, kid. A three ring circus.
These trials- the wholeworld- all show business.
But kid, you're working with a star, the biggest!

Give 'em the old razzle dazzle
Razzle Dazzle 'em
Give 'em an act with lots of flash in it
And the reaction will be passionate
Give 'em the old hocus pocus
Bead and feather 'em
How can they see with sequins in their eyes?

What if your hinges all are rusting?
What if, in fact, you're just disgusting?

Razzle dazzle 'em
And they;ll never catch wise!

Give 'em the old Razzle Dazzle

Razzle dazzle 'em
Give 'em a show that's so splendiferous

Row after row will crow vociferous

Give 'em the old flim flam flummox
Fool and fracture 'em

How can they hear the truth above the roar?

Throw 'em a fake and a finagle
They'll never know you're just a bagel,

Razzle dazzle 'em
And they'll beg you for more!

Give 'em the old double whammy
Daze and dizzy 'em
Back since the days of old Methuselah
Everyone loves the big bambooz-a-ler

Give 'em the old three ring circus
Stun and stagger 'em
When you're in trouble, go into your dance

Though you are stiffer than a girder
They'll let you get away with murder
Razzle dazzle 'em
And you've got a romance

COMPANY(The same time as BILLY's)
Give 'em the old
Razzle Dazzle

Give 'em the old Razzle Dazzle
Razzle dazzle 'em
Show 'em the first rate sorceror you are
Long as you keep 'em way off balance
How can they spot you've got no talent
Razzle Dazzle 'em

Razzle Dazzle 'em
Razzle Dazzle 'em

And they'll make you a star!

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