Linkadelica


Secrets and Lies
June 4, 2007, 6:09 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I had never heard of The Secret before I read Julia Rickert’s story about its author Rhonda Byrne in this week’s Chicago Reader, but now that I have, I am appalled that Oprah has endorsed this blatant crapola. Apparently the gist of this book is nothing more than a rehash of The Power of Positive Thinking, rewrit for the new millennium to blame victims for attracting their own problems with their negative energy.

According to Byrne, you have only to employ the “Creative Process” to fully immerse yourself in believing something in order for it to be true. For instance, you can lose weight and still eat whatever you want if you just think thin, as she claims in this excerpt from Newsweek. I’m sure that would be news to all the people who walk into gambling casinos believing it is their lucky day to hit that progressive jackpot, but I’m sure the casino owners just love books like this.

Leaving all of that aside, Rickert brings up some very interesting concerns about Byrne’s intellectual honesty or lack therof, citing a quote in the book supposedly taken from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The secret is the answer to all that has been, all that is, and all that will ever be.” Unable to find an attribution for that quote despite extensive research, Rickert suggests that Byrne has made it up.

I was on the fence about Oprah before the famous James Frey incident, but when she flipflopped from supporting him initially to assume a position of outrage, it was a day too late and a dollar too short. The lack of rationalism that enabled her to shrug off Frey’s fabrications is the same lack of rationalism that drives her to plug Byrne’s hooey, and I think they should both be made to answer for themselves. People who sleep on mattresses stuffed fat with other people’s money should be held to higher standards of intellectual responsibility, not lower ones.

This story demonstrates exactly why librarians should make it their business to be savvy across different media, not immersed in books exclusively. Here we have a book of influence, which happens also to be a DVD. To understand not only the content of the book but the strength of its influence and the concerns that have been raised regarding the author’s intellectual honesty, one must follow threads to both television and Chicago journalism, perhaps even winding up with a discussion on a weblog like this one. And this is where the media mixology comes in, because there is no better format than a web page to create comprehensive information packages encompassing not only print materials but videos, web pages, images, sound files, and more. The more we make use of all the tools at our disposal to make information freely accessible, the harder it will be for people like Rhonda Byrne and Oprah to forge empires built of straw ideas when there are perfectly good bricks to be had elsewhere.

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