Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Hot Chicken Soup, Part 1

By now, some among the SHAMblog faithful know that I appeared last night on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360. (I know this for a fact because at least two former students emailed me about it…and bless your heart, Jordana, for asking if I’ve been “sick or something.” No, I’m afraid that’s just how your old journalism prof looks these days.) If you didn't catch the segment—which aired after Cooper dutifully covered the gay priest, the pregnant, unmarried Catholic school teacher, and the Florida teacher who slept with her 14-year-old student, as well as the demise of the world's ugliest dog—then count us both lucky.

I didn't mention the Cooper appearance in advance because we've had our major-media misfires, and if it all fell apart at the last minute—as it almost did, when my originally scheduled on-air nemesis, The Big Guy, Tony Robbins himself, backed out—I didn't want to end up looking foolish. Not that I could’ve ended up looking much more foolish than I did by actually doing the show...

The pinch-hitter for Robbins was Mark Victor Hansen, whose resume as a five-tool SHAM artist is capped by his formative role in the Chicken Soup for the [fill in the blank]’s Soul line of books, almost surely history’s best-selling book series after the various editions of the Bible. The last-minute Robbins-to-Hansen lineup switch was doubly disconcerting to me. I’d prepped for Tony for two full days and felt ready, really ready, to take him down. There’s just so much about Robbins that symbolizes SHAM at its worst. The Chicken Soup franchise, on the other hand… Let's face it, of all the wild and woolly elements of self-help that are ripe for attacking…how much can you really say about Chicken Soup? Besides, since I found out about this switch just an hour or so before game-time, there was little opportunity to prep anew. I consoled myself with the fact that Robbins is known to be a handful in give-and-take settings, whereas I figured Hansen—whom I’d never met, or even seen—would be something of a teddy bear. How could the father of Chicken Soup be otherwise?

Well, he could, and was—and he succeeded at knocking me off my game. Hansen has an air about him that suggests he regards himself and his Works as only slightly more important than the Old Testament. In marked contrast to the syrupy-sweet tone of his trademark product line, he was obnoxious and condescending throughout; at one point, when I said I could never write a self-help book because I’m “too realistic,” he barked, “You’re incompetent.”


He also showed an almost complete disregard for even the most minimal standards of journalistic accuracy. The most egregious example was when, in the course of his general disparagement of me and my book, he alleged that I’d gotten it all wrong about his pal Dr. Laura. Readers of SHAM will recall that I impugned Schlessinger’s professional credentials, pointing out (among other things) that her doctorate was in human physiology, not psychology, as most of her trusting listeners assume, and also that this shining paragon of family values didn’t even know her own mother had died till months later—a fact that I repeated on Cooper’s show. The latter tidbit in particular seemed to light a fire under Hansen: “You’re giving her a bad rap!” he lectured sharply, contending that Schlessinger “did know” her mother had died [that is, when it happened]. And, he continued, “She’s been educated. She has a Ph.D. that’s legitimate. She's a marriage and family counselor.”


And whom did Hansen consult in order to establish these truths? Why, none other than Dr. Laura herself, that’s who! Yes, he said he had “just talked to her” that very day, and she set him straight. (This, of course, represents journalism at its finest: If you want to know the facts about someone, you go to the person himself or herself, right? That way you know you're sure to get an objective opinion...) I never got a chance to revisit this topic. I would have asked Hansen, “So why didn’t Schlessinger sue me? And by the way, I guess I was also the one who put all those nude photos of her on the internet.” Cooper took us off in another direction, then gave my opposite number the last word. Suffice it to say I was somewhat disconsolate leaving the studio.

I’ve gotten some nice emails since then, and a handful of radio stations have contacted me—even during this, Thanksgiving week—to arrange follow-up interviews based on what they saw last night. So maybe it wasn’t the unqualified disaster I thought it was.

Still, one hates to leave things on such a downbeat footing. And so, in our next episode, we’ll take a closer look at Mark Victor Hansen, his vast financial SHAM-pire beyond Chicken Soup, and how you, yes you, can “learn how a dollar a day can become $2,700,000…”


Happy Turkey Day to you and yours. Have an extra helping of stuffing in honor of SHAM's overstuffed rhetoric...

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ha! "SHAM-pire" is good. Perhaps its practitioners could also be known as shampires, sucking blood money out of the credulous?

Anonymous said...

i saw the segment and i didn't think you did nearly as bad as you think you did. that guy was obnoxious beyond belief! you showed class and a lot of restraint and you made sense. whereas he was obviously just tooting his own horn. keep the faith!--alex

Rodger Johnson said...

Sorry you haven't faced off with the Giant called Tony. I'm equally sorry that I missed your appearance on 360--when the choices to pay for cable or graduate school collide, IUPUI wins hands down.

When you do have another one of these TV appearances planned, please let me know via e-mail. If it falls through, that doesn't make you a bad person :)

Micki McGee said...

As I said by e-mail, it was remarkable to see Mr. "Chicken Soup" Hansen put on his cockfight claws and go for the jugular.

He appeared petty and venal, and was completely inaccurate in his wrapped in red, white and blue rhetoric about Americans being the greatest because Andrew Carnegie, according to Hansen, invented the self-help genre.

Not so, not so at all.

Check out my blog for more on this and his other erroneous assertions . . .

www.selfhelpinc.com/blog

Steve Salerno said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Steve Salerno said...

Micki! Welcome to SHAMblog, and glad to have you on-board.

For devoted SHAMbloggers who may not know, Ms. McGee is author of "Self-Help Inc.," a highly literate, insight-packed look at the SHAM terrain, through a slightly different lens. Please visit her blog as well--and help spread the good word!

Micki McGee said...

Thanks for the kind words, Steve. And congrats on the latest beyond-chicken-soup TV appearance.

Cherie said...

Hi from Australia! Just reading your book at the moment and it is fantastic. I really needed this book to help me see I wasnt a bad person for having doubts about what I had been following for years.

Billyboycapricorn said...

Here's a link from Mr Hansens site with the actual Anderson Cooper show interview...towards bottom of Hansens Site page.

http://www.markvictorhansen.com/




Here's also a link from the site Rip Offs with just a few of the comments about Mr Hansen and his partner Robert Allen and actual users of their "services" complaints...they are quite costly and their tactics are bush league at best..so much for his preaching of spirituality and giving as the basis for becoming a millionaire.

http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/ripoff33468.htm

Glad I found it and your book as well, as I was almost about to sign up for some of these courses myself.

Anonymous said...

In a way, you're the same as they are by promoting a book about this. Give it away for free or make it some kind of online content if profit intent is morally unjustifiable. That's my first point. Everyone is seeking their own social ascent.

Secondly, these guys clearly are doing more for the economy by keeping cash in motion than you seem to be. They're being proactive. You are reacting. You're looking at what they're doing and expressing jealousy or whatever else motivates you. Quite frankly, I don't see who made you the money police telling people how to spend their own money.

Forcing your opinion on others doesn't give you the moral high ground, no matter how accurate or inaccurate you are. Journalists are just a different kind of immoral. They're negative, destructive. They like the scandal. They like being right. They like sitting on their high horse of morality and using it to defame other people.

There's enough negativity in the world already. If people want to dream, let them dream. Their affairs are none of your business.