Salon Examines Oprah and The Secret

Everyone’s starting to wake up:

Oprah Winfrey is one of the richest women in the world, and one of the most influential. Her imprimatur has helped the authors of “The Secret” sell 2 million books (and 1 million DVDs), putting it ahead of the new Harry Potter book on the Amazon bestseller list. In the time Oprah spent advertising the lies in “The Secret,” she could have been exposing them to an audience that otherwise might have believed them. So why didn’t she? If James Frey deserved to be raked over the coals for lying about how drunk he was, doesn’t Oprah deserve some scrutiny for pitching the meretricious nonsense in “The Secret”?

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About Andy Wibbels

Andy is an award-winning blogger and author of the book Blogwild! A Guide for Small Business Blogging. His work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Entrepreneur, Wired, Business Week, Forbes, and other national and international media. He was worked at several San Francisco startups including Get Satisfaction, SAY Media, InMobi, Keas, and Mindjet. Currently, Andy is Director of Marketing at Lucidworks. Tw · Fb · G+ · Li

16 thoughts on “Salon Examines Oprah and The Secret

  1. Brandon H

    OH thank god, I thought I was the only one who smelled bullshit. It’s just recycled Self-Help put-your-mind-to-it manipulation in order to make money. I have been wondering why no one else can see it as they quote me the Law of Attraction(TM)

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  2. Craig K

    I think we’re going to see Oprah reach a tipping point over this.
    There are several of these “Law of Attraction” experiments out there, like yours Andy, which attempt to put this stuff to some sort of rigor. I’m reading a very interesting book called the Intention Experiment, which tries to link the “LofA” to various scientific studies.
    I think in the end, a fascinating test of all this will be the amount of hurt which is going to be laid at the door of Oprah. Then a worthy discussion will be “How did she attract this to herself”?

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  3. DNash

    Thanks for linking to that Salon article. It’s brilliant.
    I’ve long admired the fact that Oprah was preaching a message of self-improvement, and so I approved of her despite some occasional forays off the deep end. (Like a few years ago when she brought on Gary Zukav and his pseudo-spiritual book “Seat of the Soul.”) Lately however I’ve been really disturbed by some of the crap that she’s done. Her fawning over every celebrity that comes on has gotten worse and worse to the point where it’s just disgusting. And just in the last two months, not only has she supported this “Secret” bullshit, but she also brought back the fraud John Edwards and his “talking to the dead” scam, and discussed it with nothing but credulity. And she did so just a week or two after famous “psychic” Sylvia Browne had made the news for having told a family their missing son was dead – shortly before the boy was found alive and well in Missouri. It’s beyond appalling that Oprah is supporting this kind of hucksterism.
    I didn’t watch the show about Oprah’s school, but I find the comments about it in Birkenhead’s article quite troubling. Founding a school for girls in a poor nation is indeed a great thing – but why only one school, why only that small handful of girls, and will they be given real education or just told to “believe in themselves” while they enjoy their spa treatments? The world needs more well educated and intelligent people – not more girls who think becoming the next Pussy Cat Doll is the best measure of self-esteem.

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  4. Trudi

    The biggest argument against the Salon argument IS Oprah herself. She has used the Law of Attraction to create her success. She’s a freakin’ billionaire. I wonder if the Salon writer can scrape two nickels together. The other people featured in the movie also have attracted great success. Funny how the detractors don’t seem to show that kind of success.
    Regarding tragedy – first of all you have to believe that the real being was actually harmed. If you believe in the eternal soul, then that’s not possible. That is MY reality. Second, Abraham- Hicks (in the original “Secret” bit not in the extended version) address that in depth in a number of their tapes and publications.
    That said – I believe that everyone’s world reflects their own belief system. So if you believe in heaven and hell you’re right. If you believe heaven is here on earth, youre right too. If you believe in the Law of Attraction you’ll attract plenty of evidence that it works. If you don’t believe you’ll attract plenty of evidence that it doesnt’.
    It’s interesting that people would supposedly believe in personal responsibility would draw the line in the sand somewhere as what we create in our lives and what we don’t. I think our world is really made out of where we put our attention. Science has already shown that so much of our reality is made up of our perceptions. We delete and distort most of what is going on around us. Is it too much of a stretch to imagine that what we let in matches our current belief system. All of that is part of the Law of Attraction.
    JMHO,
    Trudi

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  5. Craig K

    I think simply pointing to someone who is highly successful and then claiming that the LofA is responsible is kind of akin to saying “Everytime I see a fire, I see fire engines, so the fire engines must cause the fire”.
    I’m not suggesting for a second that being negative or cynical is better than being optimistic, or that visualization isn’t powerful, but anyone who thinks that simply sending energy into the Universe will result is wealth is, I’m sorry to say, deluded.

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  6. DNash

    She has used the Law of Attraction to create her success.
    No, she hasn’t. She used good ol’ fashioned hard work, education, intelligence, talent and personality. It’s funny how no one ever wants to credit qualities like that anymore, preferring to attribute all success to the mysterious whims of a divine entity or something. Yet they never seem to blame that same divine whim when things go horribly wrong.
    I wonder if the Salon writer can scrape two nickels together.
    That’s called – “if you don’t like the message, belittle the messenger” and it’s B.S. First, he got a Salon.com cover story, didn’t he? That doesn’t come out of nowhere, and alone is enough to discount your statement. Second, a little research would show that Mr. Birkenhead is a fairly successful working actor – IMDB lists many television appearances, and I happen to also know that Mr. Birkenhead has done a lot of stage acting including a national tour of Tony Kushner’s “Angels In America.”
    You say it’s funny that the detractors aren’t all billionaires like Oprah. Shouldn’t it be even more funny that the believers aren’t all billionaires? Because if the “Law” works, they ought to be.

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  7. Brandon H

    The problem with the Law of Attraction is that its only rich people who believe it. They are already filthy stinking rich and they use the “Law” as justification for their own opulence, which is what oprah is doing. It’s just a way of calming the idea that there is nothing special about any of us and a good portion of our success is actually dumb luck (not all, but a good portion). Scary thought that, especially when your rich and being constantly told how awesome you are.
    Don’t you just love our narcissistic media culture?

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  8. Trudi

    This is not a new message. Do you know how many people have benefitted from Napolean Hill’s “Think and Grow Rick”
    Oprah is the one who said she used these principles. Yeah, it involves action. This is an action oriented world. But the difference between hard work and inspired action creates joy in life.

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  9. Erin Blaskie

    I have recently watched The Secret and put the Laws of Attraction to work in a test. I intended that I would receive $500 in unexpected income within two weeks from that date. Two days later, I was on a call with one of my clients and he said to me, “For your hard work, I have a check her made out to you for $500″… So, my experience was a good one and I do think that the Secret reminds us of the good ways to live your life – positive thinking, enjoying your moments, setting goals, etc.
    There will always be skeptics but I think being skeptical to something is much the same as closing your mind off to something and doesn’t that just put up barriers that will prevent you from ever understanding something?
    Trudi, I love your comment btw. I think you hit the nail on the head when you say that life is merely what you make it and that you’ll always find plenty of things that you want to find because you are attracting it to you.

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  10. Andy Wibbels

    “That is MY reality.”
    If we get to choose our own reality than is it really a reality? Doesn’t that make it a perception? I thought reality was the generally agreed upon, concrete and scientificially proven set of assumptions and perceptions around us.
    You don’t have your own reality. Reality is reality.
    Of course we can always reference Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner when Lily’s character says that ‘Reality is nothing but a collective hunch.’
    I think also we confuse hard work and inspired work – I don’t think those concepts are exclusive from eachother.
    From a strictly semantic point of view the phrase ‘Mediocrity always attacks excellence.’ was genius because it defuses all criticism to the sentiment of ‘You’re just jealous!’ It also points to the continual ‘crisis of faith’ we find in most world religions where ‘sh_t happens and you have to have faith that it makes sense in some cosmic sensibility.’
    Sometimes the language people use around The Secret reminds of me of the same language used in the Born Again Christian movement here in the States.
    Erin – that is bad-ass! 🙂
    Great comments all – keep up the dialogue!

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  11. Trudi

    That is fact that our reality is made of where we put our attention. Reality IS perception. And it can be very individual.
    So I do get to choose my own reality. I don’t get to choose whether gravity is going to work or the sun is going to shine. But the circumstances individual to me I ABSOLUTELY get to choose.
    Some people are absolutely certain there’s a heaven and a hell while people believe in reincarnation. There is an individual reality for each of us.
    But then this is again part of my belief system regarding subjective reality. I understand I’m out of sync with mainstream thinking. I’m ok with it. I still manage to function and contribute in the world. But I don’t accept that things are a certain way because that’s what people always believed any more than Copernicus accepted that the sun revolved around the earth. Belief systems change. And when you really look around and look and how our beliefs and facts have evolved with humanity you realize that “Reality” is not necessarily all we believe it to be. It changes over time.
    One of my favorite books is “Left to Tell” by Immaculae Illibageza. She was saved from the Rwanda genocide by hiding in a bathroom for 3 months with several other women. Her Christian faith and the beliefs associated with it kept her alive and kept her positive. I don’t subscribe to her belief system. But I do understand that her belief system, allowed her to survive, forgive and thrive despite her devasting circumstances. Her experience of her faith was very real for her – and it was her salvation.

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  12. Teresa

    The most disheartening feature about these Abraham-Hicks followers is their belief that absolutely everything that happens to a person is caused by that person’s beliefs and feelings. This is essentially a perfect excuse to ignore, belittle, criticize or even abandon friends, family or the community at large when those individuals “manifest” something negative like cancer, job-loss, or relationship troubles. It’s an excuse to be selfish and mean.

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  13. Marisa

    Oprah is subterfuge for the masses.
    Now her and Ekhart Tolle; who by the way HATES people and is a practical shut in,
    are manipulating people more.
    This whole this is so full of bullsh*t I can hardly stand it.
    Now millions of down trodden are “waking up to the truth inside yourself”
    Oh really? what about our gasoline and housing crisis? Rising food costs?
    Snap out of it Sheeple.
    Oprah needs to go far, far away.

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