Rational Inquiry -Volume 9 Number 1
By Keith Taylor
On December 11, reporter Elizabeth Fitzsimons wrote a feature story in the San Diego Union-Tribune about laminated cards being used as healing instruments with the claim they eased stress and restored a trauma victim's emotional strength.
"Emotional Strength" was sorely needed because the cards were being "given" to victims of the recent horrible fire near Julian. These were victims who, in many cases, had lost nearly everything they owned.
Skepticism aside we can safely make two assumptions in a case like this. First such nostrums will be touted as being free. Secondly, they won't be.
Here's what the Union-Tribune writer, Ms. Elizabeth Fitzsimons wrote: "Use of the cards is free, and there are no strings attached. But buying one of the cards for regular use, and becoming an `instrument keeper,' is something else. The cards cost from $250 to $350, depending on the `power.' Other instruments range from $560 for a `healing puck' to $8,600 for the `healing bar,' which is described as using the most advanced technology."
The story goes on to explain that the manufacturer "makes them with knowledge gained through telepathic impressions in the form of engineering blueprints" from "a place outside of this earth and its astral system." In addition to mental and emotional benefits, the instruments also are supposed to "relieve pain."
Finally, deep inside the story is the U-T's disclaimer. "Others dismiss the claims as quackery, and say the organization is taking advantage of traumatized or desperate people."
Another disclaimer was given in a quote from Dr. Robert Baratz, president of the National Council Against Health Fraud. "I think this is how most quackery happens. They find people who are desperate and ingratiate themselves to these people and then take advantage of them down the road."
Most of the rest of the story was a mishmash of claims of innocence "There's no financial or personal benefit to anybody when someone becomes an instrument keeper," Ms. Miller from the card manufacturer was quoted as saying. "This is an honest thing. There are no strings attached. Nobody is going to chase people down or anything. We just want them to have a better life."
The next day two SDARI members wrote the Union Tribune. Our new president Richard Uhrich wrote a note to Ms. Fitzsimons: "While your article tried to present `both sides,' it did your readers a disservice and helped perpetrate quacks. Sometimes there aren't two sides. Anyone with any knowledge of science or of the history of frauds would know immediately this is a hoax typical of those that crawl out of the woodwork whenever there are victims to be used."
I wrote a letter to the editor: "One wonders if there is anything so ridiculous it can't be peddled to the gullible! A card with absolutely no scientific testing is being peddled for free but it'll end up costing the gullible as much as eight grand! The pitch is that the card will make folks `feel better'."
One thing we Americans ought to have learned by now is that any tragedy, such as the fire in our county, will bring out charlatans with some sort of nostrum with magical powers. Another thing is it'll be advertised as "free," but sooner or later the victims will find themselves empty in the pocketbook.
We all really should try to think once in a while!