Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Oprah's dirty little "Secret"

For those not aware, Oprah's been hawking another useless self-help tome, this one being Rhoda Byrne's The Secret. The Amazing Randi has gone to town on this, but this article in Salon really gets to the "secret":

Steve Martin used to do a routine that went like this: "You too can be a millionaire! It's easy: First, get a million dollars. Now..."

If you put that routine between hard covers, you'd have "The Secret," the self-help manifesto and bottle of minty-fresh snake oil currently topping the bestseller lists. "The Secret" espouses a "philosophy" patched together by an Australian talk-show producer named Rhonda Byrne. Though "The Secret" unabashedly appropriates and mishmashes familiar self-help clich├ęs, it was still the subject of two recent episodes of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" featuring a dream team of self-help gurus, all of whom contributed to the project.

The main idea of "The Secret" is that people need only visualize what they want in order to get it -- and the book certainly has created instant wealth, at least for Rhonda Byrne and her partners-in-con. And the marketing idea behind it -- the enlisting of that dream team, in what is essentially a massive, cross-promotional pyramid scheme -- is brilliant. But what really makes "The Secret" more than a variation on an old theme is the involvement of Oprah Winfrey, who lends the whole enterprise more prestige, and, because of that prestige, more venality, than any previous self-help scam. Oprah hasn't just endorsed "The Secret"; she's championed it, put herself at the apex of its pyramid, and helped create a symbiotic economy of New Age quacks that almost puts OPEC to shame.

Read it all, it's quite damning.

However, it's one of Randi's readers who reveals what the real source of The Secret is:

I was taught "The Secret" when I was younger by a well-guarded book shown to only those who can understand the secret. It's called "The Little Engine that Could". He thought he could do it, he worked towards his goal and he took the chance to prove he could do it when the situation presented itself. AMAZING!