[The Secret is] indistinguishable from, and inextricably bound up in, the Oprah idea of self-esteem, the kind of confidence you get not from testing yourself, but from "believing" in yourself. This modern idea of faith isn't arrived at the old-fashioned way, by asking questions, but by getting answers. Instead of inquiry we have born-again epiphanies and cheesy self-help books -- we have excuses for not engaging in inquiry at all. Let other people schlep down the road to Damascus; we'll have Amazon send Damascus to us.
Not that any of this is new. Aimee Semple McPherson, "The Power of Positive Thinking," Father Coughlin, est, James Van Praagh -- pick your influential snake-oil salesman or snake oil. They were all cut from the same cloth as Oprah and "The Secret." The big, big difference is, well, the bigness. The infinitely bigger reach of the Oprah empire and its emissaries. They make their predecessors look like kids with lemonade stands. It would be stupidly dangerous to dismiss Oprah and "The Secret" as silly, or ultimately meaningless. They're reaching more people than Harry Potter, for God-force's sake. That's why what Oprah does matters, and stinks. If you reach more people than Bill O'Reilly, if you have better name recognition than Nelson Mandela, if the books you endorse sell more than Stephen King's, you should take some responsibility for your effect on the culture. The most powerful woman in the world is taking advantage of people who are desperate for meaning, by passionately championing a product that mocks the very idea of a meaningful life.
The writer reminds us that Oprah publicly humiliated James Frey for claiming that his book "A Million Little Pieces" was the truth, when in fact he had made a lot of it up. Oprah publicly exposed Frey’s dishonesty. It’s a pity she doesn’t apply the same high minded standards to everything else on her show. Although perhaps if she did, she wouldn’t have much of a show left.