In the wake of Derren Brown’s stinging exposé on ‘Psychic’ Joe Power, I thought it worth sharing with the world a conversation I had with Joe back in June 2009, when the MSS was still young, and I was but a naive, innocent skeptic with a dream, and an application form for Randi’s $1million Challenge…
Cool drizzle fell onto the grey Saturday streets of Liverpool, a light breeze tumble-weeded a sweet wrapper down the road in a clichéd fashion, and I was becoming increasingly aware that this would be the strangest conversation of my life. And I didn’t need psychic powers for that. For I was in the company of ‘Psychic’ Joe Power, fresh from his latest in-store book-signing (signed copies of which, I add, are still on the shelves of Waterstones – supply quite exceeded demand it seems), and things were getting weird.
“The thing about you sceptics,” he said, standing on the step of a plus-size lingerie shop to raise himself to my eye-level, “is that you sit there, festering in front of your computers at 3am, thinking up ways to get at people. What if I were to sit in front of your house and tell people you’re a paedophile?”
“Well,” I say, “that’s for you to decide to do if you want to but it’s not really the same thing – I’m raising questions over what you do and the service you claim to provide; insinuating I was a paedophile would be just a personal attack, and wildly baseless. It’s not really the same thing. At all.”
“Oh I think they’re very similar,” he answers, “because you’re there festering, at 3am, plotting to get at me, in the same way that paedophiles fester and plot to interfere with children – you both have to be sick in the head to do what you do.”
With Herculean effort to suspend my natural what-the-fuck? reaction, and with a curt politeness that in retrospect now seems other-worldly, I manage a swift retort: ”Sorry, can I just clarify – are you comparing sceptics to paedophiles? Could you explain that? I mean, are you saying that paedophiles also ask questions of you, or what exactly?”
Joe: ”I think most sceptics probably are paedophiles. I mean you’re sat around at 3am, plotting, aren’t you? Do you deny that?”
An-incredulous-Marsh: “Do I deny what? That I ask questions? That I’m sometimes awake at 3am? Or that I am a paedophile? Could you please be clear what you’re asking me, Joe?”
It’s not often that you’re 5 minutes into a conversation with someone you’ve never met before and they’ve already played the paedophile card. I had a feeling it was going to be one of those days.