Sunday, May 15, 2011

Peter Popoff, Back from the Dead

As some one who puts little faith in the supernatural, I don't believe in zombies or that people can come back from the dead. But, if they could, I think Peter Popoff could count as some one back from the grave.

Okay, not the literal grave, but certainly a figurative one. Reading the Wikipedia article on this guy, I have to admit that I am amazed at his resilience and ability to make a comeback in circumstances that would have forced most other people into obscurity never to be seen or heard from again.

Popoff was once a superstar TV evangelist who preached to crowds of thousands. At his height in 1987, he reportedly took in $4.3 million dollars a month. He certainly had his critics before his eventual downfall at the hands of James Randi, groups such as the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) - now known as the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) - used to hand-out flyers explaining how Popoff could accomplish one of his most impressive "miracles": accurately and publicly calling-out the exact home addresses and physical ailments of individual members of the crowd, without apparently using any sort of reference materials like index cards. Natually, Popoff denied it and referred to the flyers as "tools of the devil".

But, in 1987, noted skeptic of the paranormal James Randi revealed publicly how Peter Popoff performed this feat. After an investigation that took months and being able to listen-in with a radio scanner, James Randi was able to hear Popoff's wife reading-out the information to her husband. This information had been gotten from members of the crowd who had been asked to fill-out "Prayer Cards" when they entered. Peter heard his wife via a radio receiver that he had in his ear. As the best way to get this information to as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time, James Randi contacted his friend Johnny Carson and appeared on the Tonight Show. When James Randi played the recording for Johnny's audience, it was the end of Peter Popoff's career, at least temporarily. You can see part of this Tonight Show episode in this Inside Edition report on Popoff in 2007.
Popoff declared bankruptcy in 1987 and most people might have thought that they would never hear from him again. However, Peter was not the kind of guy to give-up and go get a real job. He started over from scratch.

Popoff could no longer preach in public auditoriums like he used to, but he could take his scam message to an audience that may not be aware of his previous fall from grace. So, he bought airtime on television stations around the USA and eventually in other countries. Small TV stations could be convinced to sell him airtime, especially in the late night and early morning hours, which were typically the times when few advertisers bought commercial time, so these parts of the day were seldom moneymakers for the stations. If Popoff wanted to put some money into their bank accounts, who would refuse it? Even cable networks could be convinced to sell him time, as they need money as much as anyone.

Working hard and painting himself as a crusader for spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ in parts of the world that had little exposure to Christianity - such as Africa, the Middle East and China - Popoff reinvented himself and came back as strong as ever. He lives in a luxury mansion in California and drives an expensive car, so Peter's got the Good Life going-on. His website features a video uploaded by his son Nickolas on his Vimeo channel and you can see how many people click on that site on a daily basis by the number of views his video gets,since the video plays automatically when you go to the site. When the video was upload back in March, it got anywhere from zero to 2 views a day. But, over the past two months, the number of views ranges from about 140 to a high of nearly 1200,on average getting about 400 views a day. The only other video on that channel, which I did not see linked on his website, gets less than 40 views a day. Neither video has comments on its Vimeo page and no one has clicked "Like" on either of them.

So, anywhere from 140 to 1200 people visit his website on a given day. It's impossible to know which of them are his followers or which are his critics, but that doesn't matter.

Attempts have been made since then to try to put Peter out of business again, but success has been mixed and limited in scope.

About two years ago, YouTube user dprjones went on a self-appointed campaign against Popoff with this video
His basic idea was to get everyone to send away for Popoff's Miracle Spring Water (visit the website to find-out what this is) and to get on his mailing list, with some people even putting other people on that list. The basic premise was that with a lot of people getting mail from Popoff, it would cost him money to send it out on a regular basis. More people on the list meant more postage costs, after all. It seems that dprjones believed that if Popoff spent too much money on mailings, with not enough coming in to cover it, Popoff might be hurt financially or even go out of business again.

To say the least, this was a pipe dream. If you live in a mansion, drive an expensive car and buy airtime on TV and cable stations all around the world, you can easily afford a few thousand mailings that yield no cash returns. It was a good try and it yielded some interesting video replies, but two years later, Popoff is still going as strong as ever.

Popoff preaches what is known as the Prosperity Gospel, which is essentially that people who put their faith in God will have their financial needs taken care of and even be raised from abject poverty to wealth beyond their wildest dreams. Even moreso, Popoff claims that God can heal the sick through him and this certainly appeals to the sick and crippled around the USA where healthcare is expensive and often beyond reach for the nation's poorest. So, they'll give Popoff some of their money and hope that they have enough faith that God wil reward them with restored health and bestowed wealth. Most of these victims, when they realize that they gave their money to Popoff and got nothing in return are often too ashamed to speak-out publicly.

After dprjones started his campaign against Popoff, a list of all TV stations around the world that broadcast his infomercials was circulated and people were encouraged to contact these stations and ask them to remove Popoff from their schedules. I'm not sure if that worked, but Popoff stopped broadcasting on numerous stations in the USA, Canada and Australia. However, he still has them being broadcast in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Some of the people who contacted these station received a negative response. Specifically, that Popoff was paying for the airtime and they were not going to refuse to sell it to him. If people gave him money, that was their business and the station was simply involved in a business transaction.

I'm not the type to tilt at windmills, but if you want to take a shot at it yourself I'll provide a list of my own right here. The stations listed here are all listed on Peter Popoff's own website. I'm only providing contact information. If you want to start your own campaign against Peter Popoff, be my guest. Please remember that in order to ensure that your email passes through their spam filters, please put the name of the program or topic of your inquiry in the Subject Line of your email. Do not leave the Subject Line of your email blank.


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That's all the contact information I could find on the broadcasting companies that sell airtime to Peter Popoff. The names of the networks and channels come from Popoff's own website, I visited the respective channels' websites to gather whatever information I could to post here.

Bear in mind that Peter Popoff has rebounded from being disgraced on national television to rise back almost to the same level he was at before his fall in 1987, so he is a survivor. He didn't come back from near-oblivion by being a stupid person, so don't underestimate his ability to stick-around.

Also, remember that Peter Popoff pays for the airtime he gets on these channels and networks. They don't give it to him for free. By asking these people to discontinue selling airtime to Popoff, you are asking them to give-up serious amounts of money.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't complain, but I would like you to keep in-mind the realities of the situation.

Duane Browning 
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