When I was a kid, I was very interested in a lot of really silly things. I loved the film Chariots of the Gods? I even read the book and two of its sequels: Gods from Outer Space and The Gold of the Gods. Also, I was really into In Search of…, although long before its run was over I had seen the light. But all that stuff — Bigfoot, UFOs, the Bermuda Triangle — I loved into my middle school years. One thing I never went in for were the psychics.
Part of this was that I was into magic — as in slight of hand, conjuring — the art form. And psychics were such obvious frauds. That was especially true for people like Uri Geller and Kreskin — men who were standard mentalists (a form of performance magic) — who insisted that what they did was “real” instead of just tricks.
Even more pathetic were the newspaper and television psychics. At eight years old, I had them pegged. I always like what The Amazing Criswell says in the movie Ed Wood, “It’s horseshit… Eddie, there’s no such thing as a psychic. People believe my folderol because I wear a black tuxedo… Eddie, we’re in show biz. It’s all about razzle-dazzle. Appearances. If you look good, and you talk well, people will swallow anything.” That’s what these people were.
The best example of this during my life was Jeane Dixon. Each year, she would come out with dozens of predictions. Some of them were outrageous. And some were simply educated guesses. And later, she would talk about the predictions that she got right and ignore the far greater number that were wrong. Mathematician John Allen Paulos even coined a term for this, “The Dixon Effect.”
The Twitter Psychic
The Dixon Effect has never gone away. There have apparently always been psychics and there apparently always will be. And it is always the same con. But Twitter makes doing this sort of thing so much cooler! Check out this Tweet that went viral after the Cubs won the World Series in game seven in extra innings:
2016 World Series.
Cubs vs Indians
And then the world will end with the score tied in game seven in extra innings #apocalypse
— GIO (@RaysFanGio) November 4, 2014
As I write this, it has over 300,000 combined retweets and likes. And it’s understandable. Look at the date on it: 4 November 2014 — two years ago. Wow! GIO must be one amazing psychic or analyst or something, right?! Wrong.
How It Works
What people like GIO do is create a huge number of predictions on Twitter. And then, as each prediction goes wrong, they delete the tweet about it. By the time the actual event comes around, they are left with only the tweets that are right.
Aja Romano explained the whole thing over at Vox, That Viral 2014 Cubs World Series Tweet Seems Too Good to Be True. That’s Because It Is. She even provides an image of Noah Hiles doing this now: New York Mets 2017 WS Champs; Cincinnati Reds 2017 WS Champs; Milwaukee Brewers 2017 WS Champs; and so on.
What Jeane Dixon would have paid for such abilities: just make the wrong predictions go away! It’s really kind of brilliant. But it is, just as with Uri Geller and Kreskin, a magic trick. And now that you know how the trick is done, it loses its magic. Of course, for me, it’s totally cool. When I see a magic trick, I don’t go, “Wow!” I go, “Now let me figure out how that was done.” It’s really no different than solving a Sudoku puzzle.