Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Secret to getting my own book slammed.

A little while ago I posted a scathing (but, if anything, understated) review of The Secret on Amazon, where the literary version currently reposes at a gaudy No. 8. Let's see how long it is before a succession of scathing reviews of SHAM—which hasn't had many new reviews in a while—begin turning up as well. (While we're at it, let's also watch as the "negative feedback machine" swings into high gear on my review.)


Cosmic Connie said...

Bravo, Steve. I voted your review "helpful."

And of course you will get slammed. I've even gotten slammed on my own blog for criticizing The Secret. But the Secretrons who bother to slam you will only do it because somewhere within themselves they know you are right.

Of course there will be those who choose to ignore you because they don't want to "give you any energy." (In other words, they feel that if they ignore you, you will, for all practical purposes, cease to exist, at least in *their* world.) But some of them will probably return to your review again and again...and who knows, some of 'em just might end up reading SHAM.

Apart from your review, the other comment I found interesting on that Amazon page was the one by a woman named Janet Boyer, who actually loved The Secret DVD. But she was put off by the book because of the seemingly heartless, let-them-eat-cake comments by Rhonda Byrne, creator of The Secret. And I have to admit, the quotations Janet cited make Rhonda sound pretty cold-hearted.

By contrast, Rhonda was all sweetness and light in a recent interview with a woman named Anna somebody-or-other, who's with Stephen Simon's Spiritual Cinema Circle. I'll send you the link to the interview so you can listen and barf.

Anyway, good for you for speaking out on Amazon about this travesty.

Anonymous said...

Hi there! My name is A (not my real name!) and I am 16 years old (from England) and like you I too hate the self help industry!

My question is this:

If the move The Secret is total rubbish then why are so many people writing rave reviews about it(amazon etc)?

Steve Salerno said...

"A," I'm going to take your comment at face value (which shows you how cynical I've gotten over the years, that I would suspect its authenticity and motives). But the bottom line is this: People flock to buy The Secret for the same reason people flock to buy Dr. Phil's next book or flock to attend a Tony Robbins seminar (which is telling them the same thing they heard at the last TR seminar), etc. That's the whole point, really: Self-help exists, at least in its current form and scope, largely because people are willing to keep buying it and buying it. And they will "rave" about it because they think it helps them or "inspires" them, and they think it helps them or "inspires them" because to think otherwise would be like admitting that they're fools to keep on buying it--which is something we humans don't like to do. That's my answer in a nutshell. For a longer answer, order a book called SHAM. :) You might even rave about it later...

I just thought of a better example, actually. We all like going to feel-good movies, where at the end everything works out, and the evil are punished and the good are rewarded, and the handsome boy gets the pretty girl, and everything is happy forever after. We all go to such movies time and again even though we KNOW in our hearts that real life is not like that. In fact, as a rule, movies that DON'T have those kinds of happy endings end up bombing. As humans, we want, and need, to be able to tell ourselves happy stories, even if we know they're not true. But the self-help industry is promising to FIX YOU, or at least make your life better (even though it knows it can't). It's not just escapist entertainment. To me, that constitutes fraud. And that's why I'm so hard on it.

Luther "Luke" Setzer said...

I gave a negative review of THE SECRET and a mixed review of SHAM on Amazon. You can find my full reviews of both at my Web site. Regarding SHAM, Dr. Michael Hurd -- who figures prominently and positively in SHAM -- liked my review well enough to reprint it in the "Priority Access" section of his site.

Cosmic Connie said...

Steve, although there's a lot of merit to your first response, I think your second example is more on the mark. People like The Secret and other self-help drivel because it makes them feel good. Even those grueling weekend workshops where they actually have to "do some work" on themselves (and not in a fun way :-)) make them feel good at the end. Maybe it's just because the grueling part is finally over; it feels so good when it stops hurting that it's worth the pain. Workshop junkies also get the satisfaction of knowing that they "worked" for their "reward," even if the only "work" they did was sit on their duffs for twenty hours in a hotel conference room listening to some blowhard, and even if the "reward" is illusory.

Now, The Secret goes a step further. I think it appeals to so many because of its implicit and even explicit message that you don't even have to do any work at all -- you just need to change your thinking, raise your vibrations, focus on what you want and ignore what you don't want, and The Universe will hand it over to you. As Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale says, "It's really that easy!"

And (to our new friend in the UK), that is why so many people are giving The Secret rave reviews. It simply makes them feel good.

I probably could have just said that in one paragraph. :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi there, Its "A" again! Just out of pure intrest what advice would *YOU* give to people who want to improve thier lives.

Thanks for your time sir, its greatly appreciated.

Steve Salerno said...

I've addressed your comment many times on this blog, A, but since you're a newbie, I'll give you the short version here. I'm not in the advice-giving business. I went into this as a journalist, trying to make sense of the solutions the self-help gurus proposed. If I then started offering up my own supposed solutions, I would taint my journalistic credibility, and would essentially be no better than they are; I'd have gone from being a journalist to a guru in my own right. It's kind of like this: Let's say that a company claims it has invented a new drug that cures cancer. An independent researcher who then tests that drug for efficacy--and finds that it doesn't work--has no further obligation to come out with his own drug for cancer. He has done his job. That's how I saw myself in this case: as an independent researcher. I was "testing" self-help. It did not pass the test.

Cosmic Connie said...

And that is precisely why you are not a zillionaire, Steve: you are not dishing out simplistic feel-good advice.

OTOH, I find it interesting that Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion" is still ahead of "The Secret" on Amazon's bestseller list. And I really like the fact that Amy Sedaris' delightful "I Like You" is number 3 right now.

I'm sure that some, if not all, of this has to do with media exposure of the books and authors in question. Still, it's good to know that there's something besides feel-good drivel on the bestseller lists.

Steve Salerno said...

Connie, I agree half-heartedly. ;)

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve, loved your book, we need MORE books crticizing the self-help industry! A good friend is raving about "The Secret" so I looked it up, and thank goodness, your review on Amazon is spot-on. Another serious problem with that stuff, is the problems of the Christian Scientists, who also believe Mind can heal disease, many of them do not see doctors, and their children suffer horribly. The "mother" on Amazon who spoke about how her child could heal herself with her own mind...that is chilling. It is the children who will really suffer horribly from this stuff.
But my friend who is going ga-ga over The Secret, is just excited by the Positive Thinking aspect, and the idea that she can make her Dreams happen...finally...and its the New Year Hope...they are selling Hope. 99% of people buy those books, get excited, and then forget it, and buy the next book next month...I did it myself years ago.
But I feel for the poor children of ignorant fanatics of The Secret who will suffer, there will be kids who might get a painful cancer, and their negligent parents will believe the child can "heal itself" with their own mind-power...and the child will suffer terribly...that is the dark side of The Secret...