The Pseudoscience of Victim Blaming: Introduction

We’ve all heard it somewhere before, whether it be through The Secret, through Spirit Science, through self-help books, Oprah, Greg Braden, Theta Healing, and all manner of things that claim to be beneficial, enlightening, or self-empowering – victim blaming, taking the unfairness out of the world by pinning everything that goes wrong as a personal mistake. This self-empowerment smells like dis-empowerment, and whether we’re talking about victims of bullying, disease, trauma, or even just people screwed over by society, victim blaming is widespread throughout the world of pseudoscience.

The principle belief that encourages victim blaming though pseudoscience is the ‘anything is possible’ manta. The law of attraction as described in infamous self-help book The Secret is just that, as are some of the philosophies spread by Spirit Science and Greg Braden, in their popular works. By being able to change the fabric of reality (or even on a smaller scale, just the way things change around you) using just the power of your mind, this ‘law’ continues the stagnating notion that ‘anything is possible’, by making a sciencey-sounding name for it and ignoring the fact that so much about the world contradicts the idea. Some have found this idea empowering, and I grant that the downtrodden can gain hope by believing that they can pick themselves back up from the ground and achieve their dreams. There’s nothing wrong with having goals and the drive to achieve them, but this philosophy cannot possibly be the only way of finding the motivation to continue.

If the world is shaped by us, by our will and our wishes, this takes the burden of bullying from the bully and onto the victim, excusing the perpetrators of all actions and letting people traumatized by the cruelty of others know that everything was their fault, and if they’d just have wanted to not be bullied harder, they’d be fine. This is victim blaming, walking up to the abused and telling them that they obviously wanted to be abused, and it’s stunningly blind.

This is not simply a phenomena of the perpetrators however, it’s also passed down to the victims themselves, who on occasion defend the ideology and their flaws in allowing themselves to be abused (sometimes horribly), and this is the saddest part of the whole business of victim blaming, the fact that victims can be convinced by increasingly wealthy gurus of pseudoscience that the worst parts of their life happened, not because of other people, but because of themselves, and their unwillingness to want their abuse to end.

In the following weeks I will go through examples of victim blaming in pseudoscience and their repercussions, but for now I’d just like to end by talking about Greg Braden and his unoriginal notion that cancer can be stopped on a purely mental level. No one can help having terminal cancer, you can’t stop hanging around with terminal cancer, you can’t ever move on from terminal cancer, and to say that people die of terminal cancer because they’ve decided not to live any more is not only wrong, but it’s deeply insulting, insensitive and, if not intentionally dishonest, then horrifyingly stupid. That there are people giving out this advice dressed up as authority figures is astounding, but the only thing that’s more astounding is the fact they’re allowed to get away with it, sell their books, and make a profit out of telling other people to shut up and hope their cancer away.

[image credits: Surly Amy at skepchick,]

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Cat Strickson

Cat Strickson

Cat, or Elly, or Eddy, or whatever name they're going by these days, is a British palaeontologist and fantasy author. It's a pretty awesome skill set, but it doesn't pay much right now. They enjoy science, history, vidyagames and all things SFF.

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