I'm the first to admit that there are things out there I don't understand. In fact, I don't really understand how traffic lights work. So for all I know, there could be psychics out there who are the real deal. But I have a strong suspicion that most mediums who ply their trade for money, like those on Sensing Murder, are not.
Psychics are criticised for many reasons. They rip people off, selling a service they can't possibly be delivering. They take advantage of the bereaved, cynically offering them false comfort when they're vulnerable. I'm not sure how I feel about this. If dubious news from the afterlife makes people cope better with loss, maybe it's not so bad.
The thing I really don't like about mediums is that this largely female 'work'force makes a mockery of one of the great things about being raised female: being attuned to other people's feelings. As lots of feminists have argued, women are (or historically have been) trained from birth to be able to read and respond to people's emotions. There's really nothing mystical about it - it's emotional labour, and, like cleaning the bathroom, someone has to do it.
Of course, not all women are good at emotional labour, and some men are great - but by and large, our culture expects that the realm of feelings will be dominated by women, whereas men will be strong and silent and never cry. And like any other form, emotional labour can be exploited. Traditionally, women have been responsible for diffusing arguments, probing the thoughts and feelings of uncommunicative teenagers, consoling distraught friends or putting on a smile to make everyone feel comfortable.
But as I see it, psychics turn the ability to read people's feelings - usually negative feelings, of grief or loneliness or anxiety - into something exploitative. They work out what it is you most want to hear and sell it to you. They remind me of an HR woman I made a complaint to about workplace bullying. She smiled so kindly as she belittled each of my concerns that it wasn't until some time afterwards that I realised I'd been completely shafted. Another example: remember a Weightwatchers ad with the theme, 'This is a song for the lonely'? It featured a bunch of middle-aged women dancing about together and rejuvenating their self esteem through weight loss. It was clearly targeted to middle aged divorced women, playing on their feelings of aloneness and unhappiness with themselves. The ability to use insights into people's emotions skilfully can be an incredible tool of manipulation, which (at least some) psychics use for naked commercial gain. (Being able to identify people's emotional vulnerabilities can also, I think, equip some people to be formidable bullies. Perhaps this is why, instead of resorting to physical harassment like boys, girls will often tear down the confidence of their schoolmates in non-physical ways.)
My psychic powers are pretty weak, but I sense that as long as there's a buck to be made by turning emotions into commodities to be exploited, the future for psychics is pretty bright.