Friday, March 23, 2012

Interesting thoughts from Daniel Tammet about memory sports

(this post has been edited and added to a number of times)

Many thanks to the blogger known as "The Author" for letting me know about this piece of writing, apparently from 2002 and apparently written by the famous Daniel Tammet, whose life story I and others have been investigating. We have been trying to uncover the truth about Daniel Tammet, and the folks at the Wikipedia don't seem to want to know anything about it.

Here's some more postings by the same author claiming to be Daniel Tammet, the second message quite commercial in nature:

The pieces of writing about the WMC contain what looks like intelligent opinions and arguments, written with grammar and spelling that look pretty-much perfect, in contrast with the many illiterate postings that one often finds on internet forums, even forums about intelligent topics. The author is a smart cookie. I have no idea how to verify the genuineness of the date or whether the identity of the author of these posts is really Daniel Tammet, the famous author of two best-selling books, so I'm taking them at face value, but with caution. If these pieces of writing are genuine they are interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, Daniel Tammet is confirming that he was indeed a competitor in the World Memory Championship in the year 2000:
"It's true, this year's World Championship was the best yet." "It's worth however bearing in mind that the WMC started more than adecade ago with a handful of competitiors, and has - in real terms -progressed very little in that time." "The total number of actual competitors this year was actually *down* on when I last competed two years ago."
This info about Tammet's competing in the WMC is consistent with other evidence which I have outlined in my blog in the last few months, a part of Tammet's life story which has questionably been left out of the bulk of Tammet's autobiographical writings and interviews.

There is also a much more disturbing aspect of the postings in Yahoo Groups by member "danielius21" signed "Daniel Tammet". These postings add more support to the belief that Tammet was the author of a number of very dodgy postings made in 2001-2002 at various internet forums, including some that are from the same membership account as author of the above three postings:

Andersson, Daniel (2001) Psychic Daniel Andersson. Psychics. Yahoo Groups. August 2nd 2001.

and this one too

This member at the Ciao forum named "danielius" implausibly claimed to be a qualified medical doctor and made a few dodgy posts in 2001, including one on the subject of the pop band the Carpenters, a known enthusiasm of a young Daniel Tammet, as stated in Tammet's first book Born on a Blue Day. Was Tammet the author of these bits of trash?:

There's good reason to believe that these dodgy forum personas are also connected:

Here's a very shonky post at Google Groups from 2002 by someone with the online name "danielius" who appears to have a membership of the same name:

and here is a not-so-dodgy forum membership again linking the name "Daniel Tammet" with the online name of "danielius":

The third reason why one of the forum postings about the WMC is interesting is that it apparently shows Daniel Tammet contradicting a central feature of the story of his own life that has been very effectively sold through the international media, a story about a biologically unusual person (the impolite term being a "freak") who supposedly has amazing but effortless mental powers as the result of the biological difference in his brain. In point number eight of one posting Tammet passionately argues that "Mentathletes are *sportspeople*, who practise, exercise, train and emobdy the common virtues of discipline, dedication and commitment" just like other elite sportspeople. Tammet stated in the other posting about the WMC that he is a member of this group, so his argument about "mentatheletes" must apply to himself. Tammet also asserts that elite sportspeople are not "freaks", and as he has included mentatheletes including himself in this group, he must also be asserting that he is also not a freak. But it is as a freak (an autistic synesthete savant) that Tammet has achieved fame.

Both pieces of writing about the WMC appear to be ample evidence of Daniel Tammet's greatly frustrated ambition in 2002, his personal disillusionment with memory competition, his love of the sport and what seems to be a genuine desire that it will grow to attain status and prominence in society and be able to offer decent rewards to those who participate. As far as I can tell from my research, at the time that these posts were apparently written in 2002, Tammet had abandoned memory sport and had turned his attentions towards fame in the wider world as a means of achieving the life that he desired. The content in these posts fits in very nicely with what I have discovered about Tammet's life in this period. In 1999 and 2000 Tammet competed in the World Memory Championships (WMC) (under his original surname), attaining a rating of fourth in the world in 2000, perhaps not quite enough of an achievement to establish any degree of fame. In the year 2001 Tammet changed his surname from Corney. This was also the year in which he contacted Karen Ammond of the publicity and marketing company KBC Media, with the aim of bringing "his knowledge and skills to the world" (KBC Media). Karen and her team then reportedly advised Tammet that the best way to reach his goal would be "through a documentary, international media and then a book." (KBC Media). In 2001 Tammet was describing himself as a “World-class mentathlete, memory sport pioneer, personal empowerment coach, spiritual development teacher and speaker and a leading authority on Mindpower and Human Potential” at the website that he published at the time: http://www.danielt√§ which seems fairly shonky in my opinion. In 2002 Tammet was one subject in a study of a group of WMC participants by British memory researchers.

Taken together, the two forum postings about the WMC apparently by Daniel Tammet show what seems to be a concern for the future and the progress of memory sport which looks genuine, thoughtful, highly motivated and selfless, because it appears that the writer of these pieces has pretty much given up trying to get anything out of the competition for himself, but wishes the best for the sport and those in it. The sentiment in these messages very much echos the frequent lament of advocates of the rights of intellectually gifted people, that the world is excited by the physical achievements of elite sportsmen, but is often indifferent or threatened by elite achievments in the purely intellectual domain. I find it easy to like the author of the posts about the WMC, but the positive impression given needs to be considered in light of the evidence that the same author also produced some shockingly exploitative and deceitful forum postings at around the same period. It's a very sad story. I think it is a story about a young man with frustrated ambitions who turned bad, and when this type of thing happens we all need to examine the reasons why it might be so much easier for a young Brit to achieve fame and wealth by apparently peddling nonsense and obscuring and twisting the truth than it is to achieve a rewarding career as an honest, very capable and dedicated sport competitor. Something is wrong with this picture!

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