Calling Bullshit on Penn & Teller

In a previous post that briefly touched on the “libertarian slant” that has emerged on the Fox Business Network, I noted that, contra to the likes of Lew Rockwell, the honor of the most distinguished “libertarian” show in broadcast media history actually belongs to Penn & Teller’s Bullshit!, which has been broadcast on Showtime since 2003. However, I’ve become aware of two recent interviews of Penn Jillette, here and here, which touched on some issues related to the show, in particular, why:

  • The Vatican episode was excluded from the 7th Season DVD
  • Scientology and Islam have never been topics of episodes
  • Penn feigns incredulity concerning the exclusion of the Vatican episode from the DVD of last year’s season. This is not the first time this has happened. In 2005, in Season 3, the “Holier than Thou” episode, which was highly critical of Mother Teresa, was only shown once. The scheduled rebroadcasts were replaced with a previous episode. Jillette took some heat over this at the time, responding with the same type of feigned incredulity on display now.

    Frankly, I wouldn’t bother posting about any of this until I read Jillette’s comments about why he won’t do a show on Islam. He would be afraid for his life. I’m not going to criticize him if he honestly thinks he would end up the way of Theo van Gogh if he were to do show on Islam; however, I will criticize him on his ancillary commentary regarding the tolerance and “reasonableness(willing to play within the rules)” of Christians in contrast to Islamic fundamentalists.

    First of all, it should be noted that Penn downplays the organized Catholic movement resolved to get his show removed from the air. Bill Donahue’s “Catholic league” may be more or less a one man media crusade, but, rest assured, Brent Bozell’s many organizations, with whom Donahue often partners with, are not. Bozell wrote a scathing critique of Penn & Teller after they had the unmitigated gall to blaspheme Mother Teresa. Bozell’s intentions to rectify this were clear: pressure Viacom to kill the show. This hasn’t directly succeeded, but the efforts have succeeded in censoring the show’s criticisms of the institution of the Catholic Church.

    Last year, after the “Vatican” episode, Bill Donahue issued what almost could be construed as a fatwa against Penn & Teller. The likes of Donahue and Bozell employ extremist language to motivate the troops to work through the State(i.e, “legal” means) to exact retribution. But what if the State wasn’t really an option, and if the tables were turned, that is, Catholic and Christian Institutions were dominated and manipulated by the East as Islam has been manipulated and dominated by Western Political influence since the end of the first World War?

    Chris Floyd’s recent post saves me the trouble of having to qualify a thesis regarding the role I believe the West has played in radicalizing Islamic fundamentalism. The blowback from this allowed neoconservatism to likewise fan the flames of extremism in American Christian fundamentalism, to make genocide an acceptable part of foreign policy because we are in a war of civilizations, a war of tolerance vs intolerance. I realize the likes of Ayaan Hirsi Ali frequently make the rounds to emphasize the need for 24 hour bodyguard protection, but, of course, it should be pointed out that late-term abortion providers in the US have to employ private security to protect themselves from assassination by extremist Christian fundamentalists. If we employ the same type consistent standard of what constitutes “terrorism sponsorship,” how can one not construe Christian Evangelical support and influence over the barbarous Uganda regime is also not an obvious example of such?

    From a historical perspective, theres no case to made that Christianity has been any more tolerant than Islam. In fact, I think there is a case to be made that that the Ottoman Empire was much more tolerant of, for example, Jews, than Christian Europe ever was. The question is why is the 21st century so rife with religious fundamentalism, after a century of political domination by the West? That would be a great Bullshit! episode to do. But I give this warning: you might not like what you find…

    2 thoughts on “Calling Bullshit on Penn & Teller

    1. Actually, if you listen o some more comments from Penn, you will find that his comments on why he won’t do a show commenting on islam IS his comment on islam. He says that saying you are ‘afraid to say anything bad about islam’ IS saying something bad about islam, and it is the most insulting thing you can say. In that one statement, you are saying that islam is so insane and violent that you think “insulting” it will put you in danger, so you won’t insult it. The statement itself IS an insult. What more need he say?

      As for scientologoy, I think he’s right, that ones too easy, and the general public, and scientology itself, seem to have done more than enough.

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