Essay

The “Negative Social Mood” and Bill Harris

By Eric Schiller on January 11th, 2010

The Verdant Bough

If you are at all familiar with social media, you probably had a  good idea what was going to happen after Bill Harris decided to threaten Duff McDuffee.  Twitter lit up in support of Duff, a smattering of notable blogs wrote about the threat, and in the end Beyond Growth received a ton of traffic.  Perhaps the Law of Attraction works after all–Bill threatened Duff in a blast  of negative energy, and the result was a lot of negative publicity.  Mission accomplished Bill.

Old Media vs New Media

If anything, this ordeal has been the perfect case study for how not to do public relations in the age of social media.  Over on MindTweaks, Tori Deaux wrote a post titled “How To Trash Your PR At The Touch Of A Button: Of Holosync, Bill Harris, and Silencing Critics.”  Deaux explores why it isn’t such a good idea to try to silence bloggers, whether they are in the right or the wrong.  She writes:

You will lose in the court of public opinion, because you’re not really dealing with the ONE small blogger, but the entire blogosphere.  See, threatening a lawsuit against a blogger is like, well…

It’s like pushing a big red button that releases a pack of rabid hounds.

A pack of rabid hounds that  races wildly around the countryside unchecked, braying about it at the top of their lungs until EVERYBODY knows.

It’s not pretty.  It’s very slobbery.  It’s wildly infectious.

And it’s very, very bad PR.

Tori concludes with some exceptional advice for those who have public disagreements with bloggers.  She suggests they try calming down, talking to the blogger about the disagreement, and forming friendships with other bloggers who will support your side.  Effectively playing within the rules of social media  as an alternative to destroying your PR via lawsuit seems like a good strategy.

Enlightenment For Sale

From a Buddhist perspective, Marnie Louise Froberg wrote a post titled “The Ugly Face of Commercial Pseudo-Buddhist Self-Help.”  Froberg is critical of the pseudo-Buddhism that Harris spouts as it appears on his blog.  She wrote:

No what’s stuck in my craw is the way this “Secret” afficianado blathers on about Buddhist terminology and concepts on the pathetically amateur blog he keeps entitled The Blog That Ate Mind Chatter. (from the author of The Program that Eats the User’s Ability to Think)   It’s fairly clear that he gets all these Buddhist buzzwords from Genpo since there is nothing but rabid adulation from the second post onward. And if Holosync is so hot why would Harris bother to try Big Mind?

Froberg is also critical of Harris’ claims that Genpo Roshi has  “the largest lineage outside of Japan.”  She demonstrates that Harris doesn’t exactly have a good handle on the lineage business, and goes on to suggest that Harris “attempts quite a reach when he talks about Buddhism.”  It seems Froberg’s post overall adds support to the notion that Harris himself is nothing more than a salesman, and he is willing to say whatever it takes and paint whatever picture necessary to sell his expensive products.  At the end of the post she provides an extensive listing of the coverage  regarding the threats to Duff by Bill Harris from other blogs.

Used Car Salesmen, a Beautiful Marriage, and the Salty Droid

Not willing to be outdone, the Salty Droid wrote three posts regarding Bill Harris, starting out with “Silencing of the Lambs.”  As you will no doubt find, the Droid is quite the direct robot, he starts out calling Harris names like “sleazy used car salesman,” “Bill Hairless,” and “Bill ‘What’s it going to take to get you into this 2002 Chevy Tahoe today?’”  In a delicious twist, it seems that there actually is a used car salesman named Bill Harris, as seen by his website here: Bill Harris Used Cars Inc. “You’re simply the best!”

The Droid goes over the basic turn of events, provides an exclusive on one of the threatening emails that Duff received from Harris, and ends the post with a threatening letter of his own to Harris:

You have 24hrs to notify Andrew McDuffee that you have decided not to pursue legal action against him :: or you are going to have a MUCH more serious problem than one measly post by a mild mannered and fair minded gentleman.  I WILL END YOU and your transparent fucking scam Bill Harris :: with elegance and ease.  It will consume your life :: your bank account :: and it will be HIGHLY stressful {ask around}.  Your deep {and probably intimate} connection to Bringer of Death of James Arthur Ray :: the obviousness of your swindle {including new FTC reg violating testimonial based sales} :: and the surface ugliness of your soul make you a low hanging fruit for an anti-scammer on a roll.  Don’t fucking temp me … don’t.

Think this over Bill.  Look before you leap.

Unfortunately for Harris, the deadline was missed, and he became the Droid’s latest play-thing when he parodied both him and James Arthur Ray in the post “New Year’s Wedding.”  It seems the Droid might have a secret side-hobby of writing old-fart erotica based on his descriptions of the Ray and Harris love affair.  I’ll let you click on the link if you want the gruesome details.

Finally, the Droid put together a brilliant video montage titled “Bill Harris Reccomends“  beautifully demonstrating the link between Harris and James Arthur Ray.  He used a testimonial video uploaded by James Ray International on YouTube in which Bill Harris emphatically suggests that “if you get involved with what he does, it will totally change your life.”  Is Harris more in-tune with the secret than we originally thought?

Why the hell is everyone being so negative?

Bill Harris himself rung in the new year by complaining about the “negative social mood.” Perhaps Harris doesn’t see how threatening to sue Duff was a negative thing, but in my mind he is definitely a contributor to the negativity.  However, there is a bright side to his post, as he writes:

My wish for you, then, is that you move toward your dreams regardless of the prevailing social mood; that you look for ways to be helpful and compassionate to others; that you learn to love yourself, as you are, with all your human failings and quirks; and that you extend that compassion to others (who also have human failings, just as you do).

What Harris doesn’t realize is that by sending Duff that cease and desist letter he has helped us do just that.  Our dream is to make personal development more responsible and make to make those who we believe to be scammers less culturally relevant, and by exposing himself he has furthered our mission by leaps and bounds.   So Bill, in gratitude for your wish to us (and everyone else),  I want to dedicate this image of our web traffic following the lawsuit post to you:

traffic

Perhaps that will help bring the positivity back.

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17 Responses to “The “Negative Social Mood” and Bill Harris”

  1. SaltyDroid says:

    Awesome!

    And way to stand tall boys.

    However :: let me add that I'm not sure the free speech picture is always quite so rosy. Ya'll are being critical … so other critical thinkers were already watching. But there is still a void … where the lonely, and the hurting, and the recently scammed or damaged … CAN be silenced by these kind of scary sounding threats. And that is shame … because the Internet has finally made it possible for their voices to be heard.

  2. @WryDave says:

    Nice graph!

    Very nice post and commentary. Now if you guys can just teach me how to "attract" some warmth in this frigid weather…

  3. @dustmapper says:

    I enjoyed the post Eric and the work you and Duff are doing. A nice summary of how the Law of Attraction backfires when manipulated…which seems to be whenever it's invoked.

    I believe you mentioned something on Twitter that your motivation isn't to change the guru but to inform/empower the public. I hesitate blasting individuals because I would not want to invite the same, but as long as the unaware are being manipulated, seduced, or bulldozed, the work has to be done.

    If and when Harris actually does engage in dialogue, with a willingness to clarify his message and listen, that moment would signal a more intelligent, more compassionate spiritual climate.. However, my feel is that the Law of Attraction as it's often taught actually buffers against criticism (instead of taking it to heart).

    Thanks again.

    @dustmapper

    • I would love to see the day when more intelligent dialogue reigns. And yes, I agree that LoA and positive thinking as typically taught involves repression of unwanted emotions, thoughts, and parts of one's self, which then gets projected outward onto unwanted emotions, thoughts, and parts of others. As within, so without.

      • @dustmapper says:

        Harris' response exposes this flipside of the LoA to the world. I find the law DOES enable us to own our wants, though like you said it brings the side effect of disowning our unwanted, leaving us a distorted representation of the laws of nature. I have great hope that our collective awareness is growing around this blindness, with continued exposure like this incident and subsequent reporting.

        • I agree. When you focus on what you want, you more clearly know what you want! This can be a good thing, but I've found that there is no reason to then disown parts of yourself by labeling them "resistance" and similarly with other people. It is in fact just as simple to integrate this additional information from self and other once you know how.

  4. ~C4Chaos says:

    as James Ray is fond of saying “energy flows where attention goes” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldCM5tCJsCg ~ I guess Mr. Harris forgot it. by giving you his negative attention, he gave you more energy ;)

  5. Hi Eric.

    I have to say that the traffic plot at the end there is a pictorial punch line if I've ever seen one.

    Also, you sure brought up some good points about how social media very quickly spreads material that is against a single member of it, so smart PR would not get on the wrong side of someone with harsh words.

    Cool stuff man.

  6. Mumon says:

    It's a pity how some people will be taken by these people, and how even if they don't think they are taken, they'll miss reality.

  7. shamansun says:

    One of the most positive things that came out of this is the support that came out of the woodworks for you guys. I'm glad Harris got a taste of what happens when old-bullying tacts are tried during the internet age!

    At any rate, immensely supportive of your work here. Let this be an example for any future gurus you guys will eventually tackle. :)

    @shamansun

  8. Claudia says:

    Phew I had no idea all this stuff was happening. Maybe I’m being scammed huh? I mean I have been using holosnyn and actuall find BH kind of amusing in a dry sort of way.

    Duh doe that make me gullible?

  9. noodlebowl says:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100204/ap_on_en_ot/us_sweat_lodge_deaths;_ylt=Aj6iErqEe0yoIgMnAL3Pg8es0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNwcnF0OTAwBGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMTAwMjA0L3VzX3N3ZWF0X2xvZGdlX2RlYXRocwRjY29kZQNtb3N0cG9wdWxhcgRjcG9zAzYEcG9zAzMEcHQDaG9tZV9jb2tlBHNlYwN5bl9oZWFkbGluZV9saXN0BHNsawNzZWxmLWhlbHBzcGU-

    Self-help speaker charged in AZ sweat lodge deaths (today) (go online to get booking photo)

    By FELICIA FONSECA and AMANDA LEE MYERS, Associated Press Writer Felicia Fonseca And Amanda Lee Myers, Associated Press Writer – 20 mins ago
    COTTONWOOD, Ariz. – Motivational speaker James Arthur Ray is set to make his first court appearance on three counts of manslaughter for deaths that happened at an Arizona sweat lodge ceremony he led last year.

    Ray was indicted and arrested on Wednesday for the deaths at an Oct. 8 ceremony intended to be the highlight of his five-day “Spiritual Warrior” event. The ceremony was held at a retreat center he rented near Sedona.

    Ray is being held in the Yavapai County, Ariz., jail on $5 million bond and faces a minimum of 3 years and a maximum of 12 1/2 years on each count. He’s scheduled to appear in court Thursday morning.

    Ray’s attorneys call the charges unjust and say they’re confident he will be exonerated.

    Two people passed out inside the sweat lodge and died that night. A third died a week later.

    ___

    James Ray International, http://jamesray.com

    THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

    FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Months after authorities focused a homicide investigation on James Arthur Ray, the motivational speaker was indicted on manslaughter charges that could land him in prison and topple his self-help empire.

    Ray was arrested Wednesday in Prescott, Ariz., on three counts of manslaughter for deaths of participants in a sweat lodge ceremony he led in northern Arizona last year. He was being held at the Yavapai County jail in Camp Verde on a $5 million bond, with his first court hearing planned Thursday.

    Ray’s attorneys quickly called the charges unjust and said they were confident he would be exonerated in court. If convicted, he faces a minimum of 3 years and a maximum of 12 1/2 years on each count.

    “This was a terrible accident, but it was an accident, not a criminal act,” Ray attorney Luis Li said. “James Ray cooperated at every step of the way, providing information and witnesses to the authorities showing that no one could have foreseen this accident.”

    Ray has built a multimillion-dollar empire as a self-help superstar who teaches people about financial and spiritual wealth, and uses free seminars to recruit followers to more expensive events. He soared in popularity after appearing in the 2006 Rhonda Byrne documentary “The Secret,” and he later was a guest on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and “Larry King Live” to promote it.

    The Oct. 8 sweat lodge ceremony was intended to be the highlight of Ray’s five-day “Spiritual Warrior” event at a retreat he rented near Sedona. He told participants, who paid more than $9,000 each to attend, that it would be one of the most intense experiences of their lives.

    About halfway through the two-hour ceremony, some began feeling ill, vomiting and collapsing inside the 415-square-foot structure. Despite that, Ray urged participants to push past their physical weaknesses and chided those who wanted to leave, authorities and participants have said.

    Two people — Kirby Brown, 38, of Westtown, N.Y., and James Shore, 40, of Milwaukee — passed out inside the sweat lodge and died that night at a hospital. Liz Neuman, 49, of Prior Lake, Minn., slipped into a coma and died a week later. Eighteen others were hospitalized.

    Neuman’s daughter, Andrea Puckett, said Wednesday she was pleased with Ray’s arrest and praised the authorities for the depth of their investigation.

    “It helps that he is, for now, being stopped from doing what he’s doing, from harming anyone else, and that’s the biggest relief for me and my family right now,” said Puckett, of Bloomington, Minn.

    Ray’s attorneys have said he took all necessary safety precautions and wasn’t aware of any medical problems until the ceremony was over.

    Brown’s mother, Ginny, said Wednesday from her home in Westtown that she would have liked to believe the deaths were accidental but that everything that Ray did during the “Spiritual Warrior” event almost made them inevitable.

    “One of the things that horrifies me after we found out Kirby had died was to see how he behaved, to really yield his true character,” she said. “This wasn’t just a horrible accident. His own conviction in his omnipotence and his own seduction of money and wealth made him delusional.”

    Authorities said they quickly determined the deaths were not accidental and focused their investigation on Ray. They conducted hundreds of interviews that reached into Ray’s past ceremonies and events, including one in which a man fell unconscious during a 2005 sweat lodge ceremony at the same retreat near Sedona.

    “The detectives, they put a lot of work into this,” said Yavapai County sheriff’s spokesman Dwight D’Evelyn. “The families really wanted to see what they believe will be justice…”

    Ray’s representatives have said there was no way Ray could have predicted the night’s tragic events. Had he heard any pleas for help inside the pitch-black sweat lodge, he would have stopped the ceremony immediately, Ray’s attorneys said.

    Documents released in the investigation showed that some people lost consciousness and others suffered broken bones at past Ray-led events and that Ray largely ignored medical problems that arose.

    One participant in the latest sweat lodge questioned the worth of having Ray behind bars and said he could do more good by speaking publicly about how to handle adversity and contributing financially to the families of the deceased — something the families have said hasn’t been done so far.

    “He can’t change what happened, but he can respond to what happened in a concrete, tangible way,” said Kristina Bivins of San Francisco. “His desire is to help the families, to help the Native American community, to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.”

    Another participant, Beverley Bunn, said she has no ill feelings toward Ray but is satisfied in knowing he cannot continue his work.

    “I just feel justice will prevail, and the truth will come out,” said Bunn, who was Brown’s roommate during at the “Spiritual Warrior” event.

    In the weeks after the deaths, lawsuits accused Ray and the owners of the Angel Valley Retreat Center where the sweat lodge was held of negligence and fraud. Ray’s publisher postponed two book releases, and Ray canceled his appearances amid heavy criticism from survivors.

    The owners of Angel Valley have said their contact with Ray was minimal over the years he held the sweat lodge there, and that other groups had used the same lodge for ceremonies without any problems.

  10. It is the little adjustments that create the biggest changes.

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