Geller's limp spoon

By Phil Plait | August 14, 2008 10:00 am

If you’ve never heard of Uri Geller, thank Randi: Geller self-purported in the 1970s to be psychic, and that he could bend spoons with his mind… along with many other ridiculous claims. Randi has doggedly pursued Geller, pointing out that he can do these same tricks very easily with sleight-of-hand, and that Geller himself has changed his tune on his abilities many times.

So Geller maybe isn’t a guy you might trust with, say, feeding your dog, let alone being able to manipulate reality with his mind. For more evidence of that, note that Geller is extremely litigious, suing people over any minor perceived infraction of his integrity. That strikes me as indicating he’s nervous; I am constantly belittled, insulted, and lied about by the antiscience community, but I’ve never sued them. They have the right to say that stuff, even if they are dead wrong, and IMO truth will prevail.

Anyway, Geller pressured YouTube to remove some videos of him, because these videos show him clearly faking his tricks. The classic one was on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, when, with Randi’s help, Geller was humiliated nationally — and you can watch this video here, with Randi narrating (WMV format). It’s back up on YouTube as well:

The good news is that Geller was smacked down by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. You can read about the original case here, and a brief exposition of the final verdict here. I read that verdict with some amusement, due to the understated nature of it:

As part of the legal settlement, Explorologist [Geller’s company] has agreed to license the disputed footage under a non-commercial Creative Commons license, preempting future legal battles over the fair use of the material.

If I am reading that correctly, the verdict was that not only can Geller not sue over this, he was forced to license the video so that people could use it. I’m not a lawyer, but it sure seems that way to me. Boing Boing agrees.

So whaddya know? Freedom won one. Yay for us!

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Comments (44)

Links to this Post

  1. News From Around The Blogosphere 8.14.08 « Skepacabra | August 14, 2008
  1. Gary Ansorge

    THAT WAS HILARIOUS!!!

    Go Randi!

    GAry 7
    PS. Dude! You’ve got some REALLY big shoes to fill !!!

  2. madge

    Odd how Geller along with so many (so called psychics and) woo merchants are now calling themselves “entertainers” as more and more people are seeing through their scams ( in UK they can now be held accountable under the Trade Description Act for bogus claims which has helped )It was watching Randi debunk Geller and reading Carl Sagan that opened my eyes to the fact that my deep suspicions of this guy and many other examples of the paranormal, didn’t make me closed minded but a critical thinker. Bless ’em both :)

  3. Will. M

    While not exactly on topic, I read this in yesterday’s newspaper and I think it is related, since it covers another kind of fraud: “Judge Backs UC on Christian Courses – University need not give credit for classes that omit, deny facts [these are the leads]. A federal judge says the University of California can deny course credit to applicants from Christian high schools whose textbooks declare the Bible infallible and reject evolution…U.S. District Judge James Otero of Los Angeles said UC’s review committees cited legitimate reasons for rejecting the texts – not because they contain religious viewpoints, but because they omitted important topics in science and history and failed to teach critical thinking.” (The staff reporter for the S.F. Chronicle is Bob Egelko)
    Certainly, the fraud perpetrated upon the students who attend these kinds of schools is more dangerous than that “psychic” sleight of hand performed by Mr. Geller. That last sentence surely is the key: what will be left for graduates of these high schools except to continue their schooling at colleges which offer a similar, fraudulent education.
    Will. M

  4. Pro Libertate

    I haven’t read the overview of the settlement, but it strikes me as odd that Geller would be licensing anything. The rights to the video should belong to NBC or whatever entity holds the rights to old Tonight Show footage, though that must not be the case here, given the settlement terms. Even a copyright claim here is weak, because this is pretty much a classic instance of fair use.

    Phil,

    Does your high office obligate you to bend spoons to embarrass Geller? I know you said that you weren’t picking up any magical duties from Randi, but I think you need to add spoon bending to your repertoire. You’ve already got spooky egg-balancing skills, after all.

  5. Ray

    I have never figured out how Geller gets people to buy his act. He’s not a particularly good magician, even though he spent a few years doing an act in Israel in the early 70’s.

  6. Jose

    Geller’s a dirty creep too. When I was in England, he appeared on a celebrity reality show where he spent a good deal of time exposing his other bent spoon to female contestants. He wasn’t too popular.

  7. So, since Phil’s been to the Galapagos, he’s mentioned, pron, boobies and limp in his blog titles… Am I the only one detecting a theme here? What’s going on with Phil? Must be that Southern Hemispheric air!

  8. Gary Ansorge:

    Dude! You’ve got some REALLY big shoes to fill !!!

    And I hope Phil types better, too. :-)

  9. madge

    @ Will M
    I saw that story too. The only way we can stop this rot is if these kids ( and their Parents) realise that their, so called, qualifications are worthless at all the best universities. Well done to that Judge :)

  10. Irishman

    Pro Libertate said:
    > I haven’t read the overview of the settlement, but it strikes me as odd that Geller would be licensing anything. The rights to the video should belong to NBC or whatever entity holds the rights to old Tonight Show footage, though that must not be the case here, given the settlement terms.

    Clearly you didn’t read the article. The clip above is not related to the suit. The suit had to do with a video segment within a program originally broadcast by PBS on NOVA. The clip was from a program copyright by the company owned by Geller. Geller was not addressing the NOVA program, but the use of the bit that the NOVA program used, being posted by Sapient on YouTube.

  11. IBY

    (nelson)HA HA!(/nelson)
    The ending of the video was funny, by the way. :) It looked like he was taking out a piece of meat from the guy.

  12. Jim A

    The summary says a monetary payment was part of the settlement- anybody know who paid who? I can only hope that scumbag Geller had to pay legal costs!

  13. Arthur Maruyama

    Ray:

    What you may not see is that according to people who have met him (I am not among them so I am passing along what others have said) is that Geller is–or at least was–a very charming fellow. He wins people over to his side so they become in part invested in having his parlor tricks work. If Geller is able to get a TV program host on his side, then that host becomes part of Geller’s sales package when he appears on that show.

  14. MattGS

    Absolutely phantastic. I love watching this.

  15. glued

    Randi to Geller:
    Mentally bend spoons or GTFO.

  16. BMcP

    Just watched the entire video.. that’s amazing!

  17. Jason0x21

    What amazes me about the clip is Carson, actually. He takes the time to set up a test for the so-called psychic to prove himself on. Wouldn’t it be great if Montel, Larry King, and Oprah did the same things? We’d be rid of so-called psychics in no time!

  18. zeb

    When I watch psychics get put under controlled circumstances and watch them squirm as their power evaporate makes me almost feel sorry for them. Almost, but not.

  19. Todd W.

    @Jasonox21

    Johnny Carson was a smart guy and a skeptic. From what James Randi has written about that appearance, Carson contacted Randi about how to set up the tests, without Geller or his handlers finding out, if I remember right. He was a great host and serves as an example for other hosts. Now, if only they would learn the lessons that he taught.

  20. Greg

    It’s a nice thought, Jasonox21, but even Randi says that the Carson show expose had no effect on Uri’s career.

  21. Celtic_Evolution

    “No, wait… that doesn’t come out”… Classic. I sometimes forget how great Randi’s sense of humor is… just another of his many wonderful traits…

  22. Daniel

    Maybe this guy can go after James Van Praagh and John Edward.

  23. Pro Libertate

    Irishman,

    Clearly I didn’t.

    In any event, we all win when Geller loses. And I stand by my statement that Phil needs to learn to bend spoons ☺

  24. MattGS

    Man, thanks again for this posting, Phil – I’ve been watching Randi on YouTube for the whole evening now. He’s the best. Period.

  25. llewelly

    Thanks the reminder of that movie BA. Brings back fond childhood memories of reading Flim-Flam . One thing though … It still seems weird to me that Randi isn’t a touch typist. I have mediocre co-ordination at best, but I learned touch typing in about two weeks.

  26. Charly

    @Daniel

    Your John Edward remark reminded me of watching a “pet psychic” with my son. After a little coaching, we learned that he definitely has that “talent” i.e., “you have a nickname for your pet, right…..”

  27. Sam

    gods bless Brian Sapient

  28. Kevin S

    Hey, WOAH! That’s the exact strategy I used when I was younger and didn’t wanna admit to something… I’d stall, ridiculously well, thinking of some excuse after the other. And it sounded suspiciously similar to Geller’s reasons on the Tonight Show. Hmm….

  29. CanadianLeigh

    In our local rag today they had a story regarding our tatooed faith healer Todd Bentley. He has mysteriously left the Florida pulpit where he has been fleecing our American cousins. Apparently he and his wife are experiencing friction in their relationship and have seperated.
    According to the story Christian bloggers across Canada and the U.S. are questioning Bentley’s authenticity.
    Some bloggers suggest his departure has to do with his marital problems, while others suggest it has something to do with a investigative news program “Nightline”.
    I have not seen the Nightline program, however it would not surprise me if they had no problem showing him as a fraud. It just cannot be that difficult.
    I’ve had relatives who in times of desperation have been fleeced by people like this guy. I hope they all get exposed and I wish the legal people would go after the networks that carry their shows.

  30. Wendy

    When I was a kid, I bought a book by Uri Geller, and I was slowly getting more and more interested in all that hocus pocus phoney baloney mumbo jumbo… You know. Lol! Not long after, I heard he had been exposed as a fake, and it hit me like a brick: DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU HEAR!!!!!

    Thank you, Randi!!!

  31. I believe this was not a verdict , AFAICT this was settled out of court between the parties.

    When there is a verdict EFF usually posts the court papers, with out of court settlements they often are prohibited form posting the full details of the settlement.

    Proud Member of the EFF.

  32. Ginger Yellow

    I concur with Hutch. The legalistic, terse wording of the EFF post, and the lack of a link to the verdict itself, strongly suggest a settlement. A shame, as I’d love to see a judge smack Geller down, but still a great result.

  33. Troy

    I recall watching that episode of Nova with my mother. She thought God would get Peter Popoff for doing that. Anyway it is a true classic that should be replayed periodically (along with Cosmos) The youth of today deserve an equal chance to see them. I was a bit surprised that Gellar recently admitted he was just a trickster (then recanted…sort of!) As a footnote let me say Happy 80th to the Amazing Randi whose birthday was last week. You’re a hero of mine keep up the good work.

  34. Crudely Wrott

    I’m familiar with the Randi/Geller Interaction. Reading this post and watching the video brought about an interesting juxtaposition.

    Some yeas ago a funny thought occurred to me. What would be the trajectory of a one-legged frog? (In this thought experiment I left the hapless amphibian with his right rear leg.) I imagined a nearly normal takeoff accompanied by a slow roll to port, a less than maximal altitude, continuing roll and impact with the ground face first, inverted. I found the results humorous and even drew a cartoon of the frog (alas, lost to the crunching maw of fate).

    Now I can visualize Geller’s reputation and career. Priceless.

  35. Davidlpf

    Glad to see Geller lost the case, the first time I heard of Randi was through that NOVA program.

  36. Mark Hansen

    Pro Libertate, I think Phil already has done the spoon bending bit. IIRC, he posted a video of him and many other non-Gellers with spoons all bent and broken. But, hey, why not let’s see him do it again?

  37. Paul

    I remember reading about Geller as a kid and trying to bend forks and spoons with my mind. I didn’t get any bent utensils, although I did get a mild headache.

  38. Pro Libertate

    Mark Hansen,

    And Phil says he’s not a magician. . . .

  39. Knurl

    I saw that Carson show!!! I was a Freshman in high school. Like Eric Von Daniken and UFO’s, I knew that Geller was bull. The following school day a friend of mine and I were talking with other students about how he was debunked and we were amazed how resistant people were to believe that he was a charlatan. Even today (maybe especially today) it is astounding how many people want to believe in “Special Powers” and other “Feel Good” supernatural malarky. I wonder if half the human race is brain dead.

  40. ppb

    @Todd W.
    Carson also was a magician himself, so he knew the tricks.

  41. fred edison

    Yup. I also remember Carson loved magic. He knew and respected magic as harmless entertainment and nothing more. Hats off in memory to the great Johnny Carson for exposing Geller for what he was. A fake.

    People like Geller exploit a persons gullibility and tendency to trust, using trickery for their own financial and egotistical gains. I feel that these types of people are parasitic by nature. They prey on the easily misled and distraught who are eager for real or unreal answers. Charlatans like Geller and other psychics might justify what they do as helping people, in that they offer people hope where there doesn’t appear to be any. But I don’t call lying to your face and stealing your money as someone who is looking out for your best interests and welfare.

    Expose them all.

  42. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    What would be the trajectory of a one-legged frog?

    A little bit higher and a lot louder than an undamaged frog. Those animals can really scream!

    [I nicked mine while scything some high growth close to my grandmother’s pond. The frog went one way and the cut off leg the other. I didn’t find any of them, sorry to say, so no euthanasia either.]

  43. scottb

    FYI, Carson was also an avid amateur astronomer and (I think) helped fund several astronomy-related TV programs.

    He wasn’t perfect but he was a smart, rational, and very funny guy. I still miss him.

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