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BULLSH*T!
August 11, 2006 9:22 AM   Subscribe

BULLSHIT! Penn & Teller present their rational, libertarian bent views on diverse subjects, now available for free download on Google Video ::: profanity; creationism; alien abductions; conspiracy theories; recycling; gun control; endangered species; religion; the bible; family values; the apocalypse; signs from heaven; the occult; 12-step recovery programs; exercise v. genetics; environmentalism; hypnosis; ghosts; the war on drugs; feng shui / bottled water; college; PETA; and abstinence.
posted by crunchland (114 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite

 
My personal favorites are the ones on PETA, gun control, and recycling.
posted by crunchland at 9:24 AM on August 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


Durr... I can't think Showtime would be happy with this?

(Thanks land o crunch!)
posted by cavalier at 9:30 AM on August 11, 2006


Fantastic. But why is it legally OK for Google to show this? I doubt Showtime gave permission. Can we all just start uploading our DVDs now?
posted by riotgrrl69 at 9:30 AM on August 11, 2006


I love the cackling water sommelier. Gets me every time.
posted by boo_radley at 9:32 AM on August 11, 2006


I always enjoyed these shows, even if they weren't terribly rigorous. What bothered me the most about Penn & Teller's approach (aside from its anecdotal nature, which could have been the subject of a Bullshit episode itself) was that it could ridicule any topic, regardless of that topic's merit.

If you know the format of these shows, I urge you to consider how they might treat academics ("Hey, the richest man in the world is a college drop-out."), athletics ("What's the point in exercise? We're all going to die anyway."), civil rights ("Face it -- there is always going to be someone stronger who represses someone weaker"), charity ("If someone is homeless and starving, why doesn't he get off his ass and get a job?"), or just about anything.
posted by bshock at 9:33 AM on August 11, 2006 [5 favorites]


If they weren't so unremittingly snide throughout the entire thing, I'd enjoy this series, but as it is I stopped watching because I got tired of the endless "GEE THESE GUYS SURE ARE STOOOOOPID!"

Yes, I know, it's stupid, but do you think I'm so stupid as not to get it without CONSTANT YELLING?
posted by perianwyr at 9:34 AM on August 11, 2006


If you axe that "rational" you'd be a lot more accurate.
I see enough screaming libertarians on the internet. I'm not sure why I should encourage Penn and Teller.
posted by klangklangston at 9:37 AM on August 11, 2006


Nice. Believe enough in their message that they are willing to forgo some of the DVD cashstream to get their message out.

Good to see some people believe what they say.
posted by rough ashlar at 9:39 AM on August 11, 2006


klangklangston beat me to it.
posted by keswick at 9:45 AM on August 11, 2006


Great post. I'm ambivalent about the show though.

Worthy targets to be sure, but Penn uses too much flim-flam and loaded language to really make a convincing argument. He's just preaching to the converted.
posted by empath at 9:47 AM on August 11, 2006


Although they might go a little far with the politics, I've always felt that Penn & Teller are two of the most authentically cool people on the planet. They're magician/musician/author/comedian/radio host/historian/political activists. I don't think they spend too much time playing Mario Cart.

I love the show, but it's a lot better when they stick to new age crap and mysticism than the politics. I'm pretty much a libertarian, but they really lose credibility with, oh, say, the global warming episode. No matter how you feel about it, it's just not in the same realm as UFOs.

But the PETA episode is classic (as is the 12-step program).
posted by Bookhouse at 9:50 AM on August 11, 2006


D'oh. And here Banjo and I rented a bunch of the DVDs like a coupla suckers!

We really like the show and the discussion-over-wine it produces.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:50 AM on August 11, 2006


I love this show! I'm not a huge fan of the straw-man arguments that they sometimes set up, but as far as humor goes I've always thought of it as one of the better shows on television. I can deifnitely see why people wouldn't like it, though.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 9:58 AM on August 11, 2006


I too find their method slightly less than rigorous and Penn Jillette's commentary a bit challenging, although he's fairly well known for that. Perhaps some sort of combination of Bullshit! and the Discovery Channel's Mythbusters would more appropriate.
posted by stonedcoldsober at 9:59 AM on August 11, 2006


The recycling episode is a bit weird. They only offer one "talking head" to say recycling is bad, and the core of their argument seems to be "Taxes are used to fund recycling, and recycling isn't a profit center, so it's taking money from you and that's bad."
posted by cavalier at 10:00 AM on August 11, 2006


I read somewhere on the internet (so it has to be true, but I cannot find the link) that when introduced, very often Penn will give you his business card, on which is written "There is no God."

Shortly thereafter, of course, Teller will present his own card, bearing the message "He's right, you know."

I always thought their dynamic was kind of cool.
posted by AbnerDoon at 10:03 AM on August 11, 2006


Penn and Teller are good entertainers, but a lot of these episodes are terrible science. For example in the recycling episode they dismiss one of the fundamental reasons for recycling (saving energy) by writing it down on a whiteboard and crossing it out.
posted by justkevin at 10:03 AM on August 11, 2006


Their War on Drugs episode is fantastic as well, but of course in 30 mins it's hard to really argue about anything super complicated...but that's TV...I'd take 30 mins of this to think about than 24x7 news channel heads blathering away press releases from the government.
posted by evilelvis at 10:05 AM on August 11, 2006


All Things Considered, December 27, 2000 · Teller, the smaller, quieter half of the magic act Penn & Teller, is the son of two artists. They're retired now, but they still paint every day. Teller describes life with his parents.

Warning: You will hear Teller speaking (albeit, with kickass poignancy).
posted by basicchannel at 10:07 AM on August 11, 2006


Woah. That's cringeworthy. I just mentioned Penn in another thread.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:12 AM on August 11, 2006


Even though Penn can come off as a sanctimonious asshole sometimes, he usually has a valid point. Usually.

I love that show!
posted by jaded at 10:25 AM on August 11, 2006


The best way to make people look stupid is to just put their words out there, and let everyone see how stupid they are. Penn and Teller don't quite seem to get this -- instead it's "LOOK AT THIS GUY. I'M GOING TO REFUTE EVERYTHING HE SAYS IN VOICE-OVER. WHAT A STUPID GUY." Very annoying indeed.
posted by reklaw at 10:25 AM on August 11, 2006


bshock: "What bothered me the most about Penn & Teller's approach ...was that it could ridicule any topic, regardless of that topic's merit."

I love straw-man arguments. =) I'm a big fan.

"Penn and Teller are good entertainers, but a lot of these episodes are terrible science."

Yes. And if Penn & Teller were terrible scientists instead of great entertainers, the fact their entertainment makes for terrible science might actually be a troublesome prospect. I cook popcorn in my microwave oven; my popcorn makes terrible linguini.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:28 AM on August 11, 2006


Yes they take too many propositions as self-evident ("This is a free country, in a free country we should put whatever we want in our body!"), I don't disagree but that's somewhat like the same logic that says "Drugs are bad! Mmmkay."

South Park does libertarianism, or their brand of libertarianism, better in my opinion.
posted by geoff. at 10:28 AM on August 11, 2006


I just watched the one on Creationists, which I had missed originally, and I was filled with an overwhelming urge to drive to Cobb County, GA and simply strangle everyone for fear of the species surviving. This, even though I'm a Quaker.
posted by petrilli at 10:30 AM on August 11, 2006


The environment show where they had the petition for Dihydrous monooxide....it would have been nice to see how many people said 'naw' or 'sure water *IS* dangerous'
posted by rough ashlar at 10:31 AM on August 11, 2006


Mild derail here. Just once I'd like to see a short subject film starring Teller & Silent Bob. I wouldn't want Kevin Smith gushing over how great Teller is, and I wouldn't want them discussing topics of the day. I'd want a half hour spoof where the two of them are on the same stage, maybe nothing more than a park bench in front of a brick wall, and maybe do nothing for a half hour, yet in an entertaining way. No Penn. No Jay. I believe a half hour with Teller & Bob just staring blankly in space would be a riot, because their natural senses of humor would build from that and turn it into something that would leave anyone in stitches.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:43 AM on August 11, 2006


I completely did not know that the cure rate for AA is the same as without: 5%. That's astonishing. I knew 12 step fucked people up in some ways - I've watched people become dependent and warped from it - but I had always assumed it worked.
posted by fleetmouse at 10:48 AM on August 11, 2006


Penn And Teller Are Funny As Hell But They're Wrong About My Pet Issue.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 10:52 AM on August 11, 2006


I hadn't seen this show before, so I watched the college episode. I'm afraid I can't see the appeal.

I don't feel programs have to be balanced, I enjoy shows where people put forward an argument and try to push their view but I really don't think they did that effectively. Whenever they "interviewed" anyone they responded via a voiceover rather than actually having a discussion with them. They also used brief clips and splicing, it seems like they conducted a full interview with each subject and then just cherry picked the stupid bits.

I get the impression they're either worried that part of their argument might not stand up to discussion or they're just on one big ego trip.

As a contrast, I may not agree with Richard Dawkins but on his show he had the courage to argue with people face to face rather than hiding behind a voice over and editing all the time.
posted by Olli at 10:52 AM on August 11, 2006


but I had always assumed it worked.

It works if you work it! Keep coming back!

That Penn and Teller episode was pretty significant in my leaving of the cult.
posted by pieoverdone at 10:53 AM on August 11, 2006


Yes. And if Penn & Teller were terrible scientists instead of great entertainers, the fact their entertainment makes for terrible science might actually be a troublesome prospect. I cook popcorn in my microwave oven; my popcorn makes terrible linguini.

My concern is that they are presenting their show as science, or at least researched fact. Your bag of popcorn doesn't say "Orville Redenbacher's Linguini" on it.
posted by justkevin at 10:55 AM on August 11, 2006


hoverboards don't work on water: "Penn And Teller Are Funny As Hell But They're Wrong About My Pet Issue."

You Mean Hoverboards DO Work On Water?
posted by ZachsMind at 10:57 AM on August 11, 2006


I would be willing to bet that Penn & Teller are perfectly happy that you disagree with them. I think they'd be glad to see that you're thinking for yourself, and willing to doubt anyone who purports to be an authority. Many of their topics are things that conventional wisdom and downright superstition causes people to accept without question. I think their goal is mostly to provide a shadow of a doubt while trying to inject a lot of entertainment into the mix.

Besides, Penn is a geek demi-god.
posted by crunchland at 10:57 AM on August 11, 2006


As a contrast, I may not agree with Richard Dawkins

... or other well established facts.
posted by evilgenius at 11:07 AM on August 11, 2006


Whoa, whoa whoa! I have never seen this show, but I am watching the recycling episode right now, and a huge red flag just popped up: their "expert" that explains that recycling is bad for the environment is from CLEMSON UNIVERSITY! No, no, no. If an "expert" from Clemson University told me that the sky was blue, I wouldn't believe it. If that is the best they got, I am keeping my grigri. Go Gamecocks!
posted by ND¢ at 11:08 AM on August 11, 2006


I don't think they spend too much time playing Mario Cart.

Left field called. It wants to know where the hell that came from.
posted by purephase at 11:10 AM on August 11, 2006


justkevin: "My concern is that they are presenting their show as science, or at least researched fact."

Huh? What? That's like saying the tv series ER is presenting itself as a documentary.

Olli: "...they're either worried that part of their argument might not stand up to discussion or they're just on one big ego trip."

I think that would be YES. Of course their argument can be argued but it's their half hour. They get the soap box for that half hour. They do what they want with it. It's not science or journalism. It's a roller coaster ride. If you like where it's going, you hop on. If it's not your cup of tea, that's cool.

Personally I can't wait for the episode where Penn & Teller debunk Discordians. That day will so rock.
posted by ZachsMind at 11:13 AM on August 11, 2006


My friend in Las Vegas says that Penn is a notorious, sanctimonious, overweening asshole. Does this surprise anyone?
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:14 AM on August 11, 2006


Also, I heard that John Stossell revealed that chemicals aren't dangerous, that greed is good, that there's no global warming, and that feminism is bad.

Hooray for our libertarian prophets! How the powers that be must quake at the truths revealed by these televised iconoclasts!
posted by washburn at 11:15 AM on August 11, 2006


Penn is a notorious, sanctimonious, overweening asshole.

I wonder what his alias is here on Metafilter.
posted by crunchland at 11:16 AM on August 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


Besides, Penn is a geek demi-god.

he even penned The Best Song Ever Written
posted by carsonb at 11:18 AM on August 11, 2006


I don't think they spend too much time playing Mario Cart.

Dude. Mario Kart.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:20 AM on August 11, 2006 [2 favorites]


Dang ... where's the one they did on "second hand smoke"?
posted by RavinDave at 11:20 AM on August 11, 2006


Huh? What? That's like saying the tv series ER is presenting itself as a documentary.

Wait, are you saying that Penn & Teller's show presents its content as fact as much as ER presents itself as a documentary?
posted by justkevin at 11:22 AM on August 11, 2006


Good show, entertaining, and mildly informative.

Penn gets on my nerves sometimes, though. Dude can be waaaay too preachy.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:24 AM on August 11, 2006


The reason they mock people's stupidity and insult people is because if they actually call them "thieves" or "liars", it's libellous.
posted by riotgrrl69 at 11:29 AM on August 11, 2006


As a contrast, I may not agree with Richard Dawkins

... or other well established facts.
That's right. Richard Dawkins is a well established fact.
posted by verb at 11:29 AM on August 11, 2006


Olli: As a contrast, I may not agree with Richard Dawkins but on his show he had the courage to argue with people face to face rather than hiding behind a voice over and editing all the time.

Not to defend P&T, exactly, but that's not quite a fair basis for comparison. The Dawkins show seemed really exceptional in its willingness to 1) set up some conversations which were sure to be very tense and adversarial in a very serious way (not in an entertainment way, like a reality show or a pundit who yells at his guests) 2) film them and 3) show them in an unusually lightly-edited and honest form.

The Dawkins show wasn't even trying to be the slightest bit entertaining, whereas P&T are entertainers first and foremost.
posted by Western Infidels at 11:31 AM on August 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


In the War on Drugs episode they have some great interview footage with perhaps the most weasely-looking government official currently employed. Balding, slouched over, suit too big on him, you can just hear the twinkle of ass kiss in his voice.

He looks like an Evil Suit from an Adam Sandler movie, some stereotype of a soulless bureaucrat.
posted by StopMakingSense at 11:35 AM on August 11, 2006


"Huh? What? That's like saying the tv series ER is presenting itself as a documentary."
ZachsMind
That's a terrible analogy. ER is presented as a ficitonal drama, while Penn and Teller's show is about them supposedly cutting through the bullshit on various issues and giving you the truth (hence the title). While it's entertaining, they're also trying to prove a point. You yourself recognize this:

Personally I can't wait for the episode where Penn & Teller debunk Discordians. That day will so rock.
Debunking means tearing away the lies and mistaken beliefs about a subject, which is what they claim to do, which is why you would look forward to it. It's not "Penn and Teller Make Up Random Things About Stuff".

And since they're presenting themselves as smashing lies and exposing falsehood, it can be dangerous for them to spout bad science and half-truths themselves, as people might take their word that that is the truth about the matter.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:37 AM on August 11, 2006


These aren't my values. Yes, recycling uses more energy and costs more money than using virgin materials. Duh. Next season they're gonna assert that marriage uses more energy and costs more money than visiting a prostitute.
posted by elderling at 11:39 AM on August 11, 2006


JustKevin: "Wait, are you saying that Penn & Teller's show presents its content as fact as much as ER presents itself as a documentary?"

Does the pope poop in the woods?
posted by ZachsMind at 11:48 AM on August 11, 2006


Yeah, I don't agree with them on everything, but it's refreshing to see someone stand up in the bigtime entertainment world and declare his atheism so enthusiastically.
posted by fleetmouse at 11:51 AM on August 11, 2006


These aren't my values. Yes, recycling uses more energy and costs more money than using virgin materials. Duh.

Making a ton of aluminum cans from virgin ore, or bauxite, uses 229 BTUs of energy. In contrast, producing cans from recycled aluminum uses only 8 BTUs of energy per can.
posted by justkevin at 11:52 AM on August 11, 2006


Sangermaine my man! Chill!

It's Penn & Teller! They don't claim to be anything more than charlatans! That's their trade! It's what they do!
posted by ZachsMind at 11:57 AM on August 11, 2006


In their show on alien abductions they took a surpringly benevolent attitude toward the average "victim", contending that they were unfortunate, lonely people who needed attention. Similarly, in their show about those who "communicate" with the dead, P&T avoided making fun of the customers, reserving their justified ire for the hucksters who claim to be mediums.
posted by QuietDesperation at 11:57 AM on August 11, 2006


The PETA episode was awesome! Loved the fat person = meat eater gag (Me= longtime vegetarian and pretty chubby.. but that's mostly beer).

I think Penn and Teller are great fun and the show is entertaining. However, if you watch and presume they're offering up a journalistic expose... ummmm..... you will probably be voting for Jon Stewart in 2008. Maaaaaybe what they are doing is, ooooh, getting folks to think, by making the subject entertaining. The point being that one should perhaps follow it up with a bit of ones own research and edification. You know, to make an informed opinion. As an informed citizen. Just sayin'.
posted by elendil71 at 11:59 AM on August 11, 2006


The part where they lied to people who wanted to recycle and tricked them into acting stupid really convinced me!

I did some googling. Chaz Miller, who was interviewed for the recycling show, wrote about the experience.

Bookhouse, you forgot record-label owner: 50000000000000000000000 Watts In the Hands of Babies. So Penn is cool in some regards.
posted by hydrophonic at 12:00 PM on August 11, 2006


The reason they mock people's stupidity and insult people is because if they actually call them "thieves" or "liars", it's libellous.
posted by riotgrrl69 at 1:29 PM CST on August 11 [+] [!]


Exactly. I hated the show when I first saw it, because Penn comes off as such a pretentious asshole. Once I saw the first episode where they explained all the personal insults, I warmed up to it.
posted by anomie at 12:01 PM on August 11, 2006


"Maaaaaybe what they are doing is, ooooh, getting folks to think, by making the subject entertaining. "

Give that man a ceeeegar!
posted by ZachsMind at 12:03 PM on August 11, 2006


Making a ton of aluminum cans from virgin ore, or bauxite, uses 229 BTUs of energy. In contrast, producing cans from recycled aluminum uses only 8 BTUs of energy per can.

I somehow find it hard to believe that 30 aluminum cans weigh over a ton. Is there a typo somewhere in there?
posted by LionIndex at 12:04 PM on August 11, 2006


Making a ton of aluminum cans from virgin ore, or bauxite, uses 229 BTUs of energy. In contrast, producing cans from recycled aluminum uses only 8 BTUs of energy per can.

As I recall from that episode, they specifically identify aluminum as an exception to their premise that recycling isn't worth it. They say this is evident in the fact that somebody will pay your for your old aluminum. If recycling paper or other materials was cost effective compared to just growing new trees, then somebody would pay you for your old paper too.
posted by willnot at 12:04 PM on August 11, 2006


Just thought I'd point out the original source for this material being on Google.

Neither P&T, nor anyone affiliated with Showtime, put these episodes on Google. Just some guy with the DVDs and free time.
posted by ruthsarian at 12:11 PM on August 11, 2006


Making a ton of aluminum cans from virgin ore, or bauxite, uses 229 BTUs of energy. In contrast, producing cans from recycled aluminum uses only 8 BTUs of energy per can.

There is something screwed up in this factiod. One ton of fresh cans for 229 BTU, and each recycled can for 8 BTU. It sounds like you will get ahead in this simple energy comparison only if a ton of cans amounts to less than 29 cans. I realize there is something more complicated going on, but this is just a meaningless comparison.
posted by peeedro at 12:13 PM on August 11, 2006


oops, already beat to the punch.
posted by peeedro at 12:14 PM on August 11, 2006


Hi. My name is Penn. I've never had a drink of alcohol in my life.

I knew there was something I didn't like about him...
posted by fungible at 12:17 PM on August 11, 2006


Just thought I'd point out the original source for this material being on Google.

lol ebaum
posted by riotgrrl69 at 12:21 PM on August 11, 2006


LionIndex: Looks like it, I cut and paste the quote from the EPA site without checking the numbers. According to the Aluminum Association (the EPA's source) recycling a ton of aluminum saves 237 million BTUs. So clearly the production number was wrong.

Willnot: I watched the episode through, but got up once or twice. If they mentioned the aluminum exception, I missed it. Did they mention any others?
posted by justkevin at 12:21 PM on August 11, 2006


Making a ton of aluminum cans from virgin ore, or bauxite, uses 229 BTUs of energy. In contrast, producing cans from recycled aluminum uses only 8 BTUs of energy per can.

So it takes more energy to make 29 aluminum cans from recycled aluminum than it does to make a ton of aluminum cans from virgin ore? I must be missing something.
posted by gyc at 12:25 PM on August 11, 2006


If you know the format of these shows, I urge you to consider how they might treat academics ("Hey, the richest man in the world is a college drop-out.")

*heh* After working with academics the past several years, I can't say I much blame P&T for being skeptical about the merits of academia. It's just a big, bloated, closed system of self-important adult children from what I can tell. The way college wasn't like high school when you were a student, a university is exactly like high school when you are trying to make your way into the system. (No, I'm not trying, I just have a job in a system, and it's been fun but mostly sad watching people waste large chunks of their lives to get some juvenile, spoiled idiot with a lot of power to like them.)

Indeed, important things come from academia, but a scientist's single good idea doesn't make him a better person than anyone else much less more authoritative on any other topic outside a very, very, VERY narrow field of study. Smarts in one little tiny piece of information in the world doesn't mean you're smarter than other people when it comes to anything else (a myth that academia loves to propagate).
posted by smallerdemon at 12:27 PM on August 11, 2006


Does anyone here think P&T know about this place and are geeking out that they've gotten their own FPP in The Blue, or are they above that sort of thing? Or maybe Penn's too upset that he's been YouTubed to care about being MeFi'd?
posted by ZachsMind at 12:32 PM on August 11, 2006


I used to think that P&T were brilliant, but as it were they're just as hypocritical and narrow-minded as anyone else. Penn just yells louder, is physically bigger and also tends to drop the F-bomb much quicker than probably anyone he's ever spoken to.

Penn's analysis of the wording of the Second Amendment (you'll have to actually hear it from him) is the most stupid, nonsensical instance of grammatical parsing I've ever heard. Good on him to have made it so well in life without a college degree, but clearly he could have benefitted from a few English classes.
posted by clevershark at 12:36 PM on August 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


Looks like it, I cut and paste the quote from the EPA site without checking the numbers. According to the Aluminum Association (the EPA's source) recycling a ton of aluminum saves 237 million BTUs. So clearly the production number was wrong.

Yeah, I checked the website you linked to and it also mentioned a 95% energy savings for recycling versus production. But, the EPA is getting silly with numbers anyway by not comparing apples to apples (i.e. a ton of new to a ton of recycled aluminum).
posted by LionIndex at 12:37 PM on August 11, 2006


Aluminum cans are mentioned as an exception to the "recycling's not worth it" theme, because it's economically viable to recycle them. P&T don't actually explore any other aspect of aluminum recycling (that I can recall).
posted by clevershark at 12:40 PM on August 11, 2006


If you moved from NYC to Philly recently, you will know that gun control measures are effective.

And 9/11/01? Sorry-- there are just too many coincidences for that to be waved-off as simply Islamic Fundamentalists -- and no one else-- planning to- and attacking the U.S.

Look at what the Bush brothers (all of them) were up to at that time, for starters. And all of the bin Laden connections.

The Carlyle Group meeting in Chicago on that morning -- with Bush the Elder and a bin Laden in attendance?

C'mon Penn, get your head out of the sand.

Almost all of the other subjects are dead-on-- especially bottled water, college, the war on drugs, hypnosis and all that is religion-based.
posted by wfc123 at 12:43 PM on August 11, 2006


Shorter wfc123: P&T are right, except when I disagree with them.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 12:51 PM on August 11, 2006


Dude, people who agree with my politics are always right. Those who disagree with my politics are always wrong. After all, we are on the internet.
posted by dios at 12:59 PM on August 11, 2006


I can't be the only one who finds someone taking pride in never drinking as disconcerting as someone talking pride that they've never had sex. Hey, Penn, gove me a call when you reach the age 21. Then we'll have something to talk about -- over a refreshing cocktail.

What does he drink, water? Doesn't he know fish fuck in it?
posted by Sailor Martin at 12:59 PM on August 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


P&T are right, except when I disagree with them.

I'm trying to think of who or what this wouldn't apply to.
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:03 PM on August 11, 2006


P&T are right, except when I disagree with them.

That describes everyone...
posted by 445supermag at 1:08 PM on August 11, 2006


It is so telling to me that people see monju_bosatsu's statement as a statement of fact instead of the stinging criticism that it is.

But I guessed I shouldn't be surprised. That is why I included my comment about being on the internet, after all.

Off-line, most well-adjusted people seem to be able to recognize that matters of opinion are just that: matters of opinion and not fact. But here on the interent--and especially Metafilter--people think that those that disagree about something are objectively wrong. In fact, many people here argue that those that disagree about a matter of opinion are so obviously and factually wrong that they must be "lying" or "stupid" or acting in bad faith.

On the internet, and espectially here, you have people who don't seem to understand matters of opinion. They conflate the ideas of opinion and fact. They take their personal beliefs as dogmatic, verifiable facts. And they are argue them as facts, instead of the opinions that they are.

People who think that "those who agree with me are right; those who disagree with me are wrong" are scorned off-line as dogmatic, arrogant, or, quite simply, assholes.

But here on the internet, people view it as accepted--if not universal--thought process.

monju_bosatsu's comment should have been seen as critique of dogmatism that was self-evident.
posted by dios at 1:18 PM on August 11, 2006


WRONG, you stupid liar.
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:27 PM on August 11, 2006


BULLSHIT! The PETA episode is awful. While PETA deserves to be criticized, it's totally disingenuous to align PETA with raw foodist hippies with no political programme.
posted by beerbajay at 1:33 PM on August 11, 2006


I honestly don't believe Penn looks at this program as an opportunity to change the world. They don't try to make a good argument. They try to be entertaining by making something that appears to be a good argument, and do that very well. It's their job. Everything you see about these guys? It's an act. Penn may actually be boisterous and loud and obnoxious in real life too, but when he does it in public, it's all part of the act.

Whether or not they're truthtellers, that's up to the viewer to decide. Many people are deriding Penn's presenation style. That's part of what makes it work, how he sells his own brand of what the show is called. What? You thought it was just that they're calling everything else that? Penn knows full well he's also dishing it out. That's the beauty of what makes the show work. You can't play a player.

By the way, Teller can actually speak. He just doesn't in public. Or did you think he was actually mute?
posted by ZachsMind at 1:39 PM on August 11, 2006


"P&T are right, except when I disagree with them."

Penn & Teller should sell this on t-shirts in the Vegas lobby where they work.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:43 PM on August 11, 2006


Thanks for the follow up, justkevin. What's up with the braindeadness of the EPA?
posted by peeedro at 2:26 PM on August 11, 2006


ZachMind, you keep saying that they're just entertainment and they're not out to speak any kind of truth, but here on the Showtime Web site for the show, they say, "...Penn & Teller's mission is to expose the truth to an otherwise desperate and gullible public." Am I misreading something here? That they are not, in fact, trying to rise above..ahem...bullshit and tell the truth about the given subject?
posted by NoMich at 2:28 PM on August 11, 2006


I completely did not know that the cure rate for AA is the same as without: 5%

Is this from a P&T show? Are P&T proceeding on the assumption that AA claims to cure alcoholism? If so, they are misinformed. No one in AA will tell you that the program cures alcoholism; there is no cure. AA treats alcoholism by keeping people sober. AA has a zero percent cure rate.
posted by sidereal at 2:28 PM on August 11, 2006


They claim that AA only has a 5% success rate.
posted by crunchland at 3:35 PM on August 11, 2006


The Blair Witch Project claimed to be the real thing too. Many shows today say 'true to life' or whatever. It all is part of the illusion.

I'm not saying whether or not P&T actually believe what they're spewin'. I don't know. That's not the point. Essentially what Penn is saying is he's a charlatan, and these people doing the feng shui or scientology or whatever? They're charlatans too.

Essentially it's like P. T. Barnum pointing at snake oil salesmen and making fart noises.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:36 PM on August 11, 2006


So, either they're putting this out as entertainment or they're not, and either way, they might actually mean what they're saying or maybe they don't. Thanks, that helps.
posted by aaronetc at 4:01 PM on August 11, 2006


crunchland, thanks for the clarification.

Whatever AA's claims are, their cultish operations certainly are worthy of a serious skeptical analysis.

Essentially it's like P. T. Barnum pointing at snake oil salesmen and making fart noises.


This made me spit beer all over my keyboard. Thanks eversomuch, Zach.
posted by sidereal at 4:03 PM on August 11, 2006


Aaron I'm saying it doesn't matter. Truth is relative, and if you'd ever met some of Truth's relatives you'd know how painful they can be. If these guys were actually scientists or lawyers or journalists or whatever, then one could argue that they have to get their facts straight. They are entertainers. They are artists of sleight of hand. They are magicians who give away their own secrets. In years past that woulda made them the lowest form of illusionist. Their own kind would have exiled them. If they happen to enlighten along the way that's icing on the cake, but they don't have to be right all the time. They don't have to be right ever, and they'll still be good at what they do.

We like it when all the books and magazines in the universe are accurate, but when's that ever true? It's one thing to expect a dictionary to be right and it's a completely other thing to expect the National Enquirer to spell right. IF they do, that's great. If they don't? What'd you expect? It's the National Enquirer! So what if they forget to use a spell checker?

Penn Jillette doesn't claim to be a dictionary, is what I'm saying. He's a supermarket tabloid who occasionally dresses up to appear to be an encyclopedia, but he's only foolin' ya.

Am I the only one who remembers Leonard Nimoy's In Search Of series? P&T's show is like that, only, y'know... funny. Penn Jillette's credentials are no better than Leonard Nimoy's. Now, Teller's credentials? Well.. The guy speaks Latin, which is a dead language, which is pretty funny when you think about it.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:18 PM on August 11, 2006


I always find this programme great and it's cool to have links to all(?) of them in one place. I have to go with the 'always right except when I disagree' on a couple of points tho.

I work in London and can honestly testify that the water tastes like crap - if you boil a kettle you get rediculous amounts of limescale. Now sure, you could buy a filter, but i'm not the one paying and so i'm happy to drink the bottled stuff. I also imagine our water standards (both bottled and tap) are higher then the US, but don't quote me. I'm sure the tap is perfectly safe, it just tastes like crap.

Secondly, the whole recycling thing - now in America you have loads of space - the grand canyon could keep you going for millenia - however over here we dont have much space to be shovelling our crap into - recycling makes sense in this case at least.

Banning smoking is also good. More people quit, i don't stink after going to the pub and the bbc, the British Medical Council and Cancer Research UK seem to think the whole thing carries weight and when i can't be bothered to do any research I let people like them get on with it...

I'm also happy to see a little 9/11 crazy spilling over into the board - good one guys.
posted by Meccabilly at 4:18 PM on August 11, 2006


So... they're being willfully disingenuous?
posted by aaronetc at 4:19 PM on August 11, 2006


"So... they're being willfully disingenuous?"

That, and they're uh... calculatedly insincere.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:40 PM on August 11, 2006


Penn & Teller are like expensive hookers. It feels real good, but you should never mistake it for love.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:10 PM on August 11, 2006


This was weird. Last night I watched the P&T episode of West Wing in which their appearance was far less obnoxious and more compelling than this show. For those who haven't seen it, the segment involves them performing at a birthday party in the White House. Their final act is to roll up the Bill of Rights, stuff the American flag into it, and "burn" the flag without hurting the Bill of Rights.

Of course this causes and uproar, and Penn makes an eloquent speech about how he burned the flag in celebration of the American freedoms which allowed him to do so. I'm doing it poor justice, but it worked better than a lot of this show.

That said, I still enjoy Bullshit! if only because it stands outside of the traditional partisanismof American politics. I'm a civil libertarian, and financially liberal, so of course I agree with them on some issues (creationism, profanity) and dissagree on others (recycling) but I still think it's great that they're doing what they're doing.

Here we all are, discussing what we agree with and don't agree with, while claiming that the show will be seen as fact. MeFi isn't the end all authority on how people will and should interpret things, and in fact P&T generally will give fair soundbites to their opposition and then refute. It's not objective, but it doesn't claim to be, and overt bias is far less dangerous than it's covert cousin on the cable news networks.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:20 PM on August 11, 2006



The fact that the show is called "Bullshit!" automatically means that no attempt will be made to form a coherent view. Do we really need endless loudmouth polemics? For instance, on the environmental activism- So some of the activists don't have a firm grasp of ALL the very complex interactions of the climatic system- BUT are the two magician laymen really contradicting the thousands of climate scientists who on, yes, evidence-based research OVERWHELMINGLY (Bjorn Lomborg aside) support the concept of anthropogenic climate change.
posted by Rufus T. Firefly at 4:59 AM on August 12, 2006


"P&T are right, except when I disagree with them."

The people that are somewhat baffled at monju's intended criticism are those that are less familiar than they ought to be with self-doubt. The culture gap that dios is trying to describe isn't between those who understand the difference between matters of fact and matters of opinion, as he claims, but between those who expect themselves to be wrong and those who do not.

If you expect yourself to be wrong, then you start to look at things schematically instead of from the exclusive viewpoint of whether or not you agree with an assertion.

In the context of what monju is trying to point out about what wfc123 wrote, this works out to be:

A) The person who knows they are right sees P&T assert twenty things they really agree with and five things they don't and thinks to himself, "P&T are truthtellers and people should listen to them, except about those five things they're mysteriously wrong about."

B) The person who expects themselves to be wrong sees P&T assert twenty things they really agree with and five things they don't and thinks to himself "It might be the case that either P&T isn't as trustworthy on the topics of the twenty things I agree with them about, or I'm not as right as I think I am on the five things I disagree with them about, or both."

When I write "schematically", what I intend isn't clear in the P&T example, but is more clear in another. For example, in a recent thread about the bombing of Hiroshima, a well-known conservative mefite responded that American liberals will make a big-deal about Hiroshima but not Stalin because it's all about American-bashing for them. I responded with a hypothetical Russian accusing Russian liberals of making a big-deal about Stalin but not the Americans bombing Hiroshima because it's all about the Russian-bashing for those Russian liberals. My point was that I'd hoped this famous mefite conservative would look at my hypothetical Russian and laugh at his argument, pointing out that of course Russians who don't like Stalin would be more concerned with Stalin than in criticizing the US; and I expected that it would be obvious to the well-known mefite conservative that this hypothetical Russian was more interested in changing the subject than he was in the geopolitical evenhandedness of Russian liberals. Then I'd hoped he see the similarity to his own argument and re-evaluate it.

However, I'm pretty sure that my point went right past him. Just as most of the similar analogies I use against some well-known mefite liberals go right past them.

The reason these analogies usually don't work is because, probably, this well-known mefite conservative simply thought to himself, "but what I said and his hypothetical are completely different." Just as some of the well-known mefite liberals respond the same to any of the analogies I make to them. In many cases, what is so hugely and obviously different to these folks is that in one case something is obviously true, and in the other something is obviously false. Sure, they might admit, the two things look similar if you put in abstract symbols. But so what? They're not the same because we know that one is true and the other is false.

These kinds of schematic similarities never make any of these people sit up and take notice. They're never a warning sign that perhaps the two things are more alike than they want to admit. But, for me, I'm always on the lookout for these similarities as opportunities to critically examine something I believe that I otherwise would have not thought to question.

People as polemical as Penn and Teller present a special challenge to most people because our instincts are to cheer on those who shout polemics we agree with and, more to the point, to unconsciously give some of our allegience to them. That guy really knows what he's talking about! He's very intelligent! He's widely-read and a critical thinker! How can the people he's disagreeing with not wake up and realize they're full of shit? Conversely, our instincts are to question everything about someone who's polemical about things we disagree with. That guy's an idiot! He's ignorant! He's intentionaly lying! What are his ulterior motives? Can't everyone else see how full of shit he is?

But given such a long list of polemics as we see Penn and Teller have provided, there's bound to be some things that most of us disagree with. Maybe they're not so smart, after all? Maybe they're not as widely-read? Maybe they don't have the best motives? Maybe their reasoning and knowledge, or mine, on those issues about which I agree might not be...

...nah, they're right about the stuff I think they're right about. Those other things, well, it's not that big of a deal. Hey, let's talk about something else.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:15 AM on August 12, 2006 [6 favorites]


Ethereal Bligh - excellent comment. You hit on what I was trying to say, and you, of course, said it better than I.
posted by dios at 9:13 AM on August 12, 2006


I just watched the college episode. The show is well-titled - it's bullshit.

I'm all for criticising current higher education. I've been in university for the last 8 years, I care passionately about education and curriculum, and there is a hell of a lot to criticise about every university system (I've had experience with universities in Canada, the US and Britain). Too bad they didn't even hone in on anything actually worth talking about. They aren't even talking about what universities are suposed to be for (and it isn't job training - that is suposed to happen after your degree).

And then they begin to attack the suposed monopoly of political correctness and diversity on campus. And I call BULLSHIT! This is the lslander/libel of people who are the real threat to academic freedom, and I'm extremely disapointed that Penn and Teller have fallen for it. "Political correctness" is what people say when they hear things they don't want to.

The point of a university is not to hear all ideas, bad and good (as Penn claims), it's to hear and debate ideas that have ACTUAL SUBSTANCE AND EVIDENCE. If you don't agree with your professor or your TA, make your point and find some evidence to back it up. Anything else is just a waste of time.
posted by jb at 5:21 PM on August 12, 2006


Watching the profanity episode at the moment. Here's the problem.

"Somebody swears in a conversation with me, I think they're underestimating my intelligence, or underestimating my opinion of myself. I don't think it's protected speech, and I think if people are somehow exposed to that against their will, the government should take action to protect people."

That 'opinion' infringes on the rights of other people. Whether or not you agree with what P&T have to say, whether or not they even agree with what they have to say, that's not relevant. The fact remains that human beings have an inalienable right to express themselves, so long as their expression doesn't infringe on other people's mutually inalienable rights. Saying "bullshit" doesn't infringe on other people's rights to express themselves. Preventing someone from saying "bullshit" freely, does infringe. It's more offensive to stop one from saying "bullshit" than it is to say it. This ain't fuckin' rocket science.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:56 PM on August 12, 2006


One more thing before we let this thread fade away and eventually become closed to any further responses in a few weeks or so, there's one thing I learned watching Penn & Teller that ain't bullshit, and more people should have this, perhaps trivial knowledge, stored away somewhere in their craniums.

Look for the google video copy of Penn & Teller's take on food. There's a point about fifteen minutes in where Penn Jillette does something he doesn't often do. He sings the praises of a man instead of calling him an asshole. Penn gives a very astute and persuasive argument for Nobel Prize winning Norman Borlaug being the greatest human being ever in the history of humanity. Why? Because Norman Borlaug's research and determination in a lifetime of achievement can arguably be attributed to saving over a billion lives from starvation, particularly in foreign countries like Africa, China, India, and Mexico. He didn't do it alone I'm sure. There were others who helped him, no doubt. However, had it not been for Borlaug, pushing and pulling those other people and persuading them that they CAN feed the starving world with the development of semi-dwarf high-yield, disease-resistant grains, this planet would be a little less vibrant and healthy, by about a billion people. Actually, Penn Jillette says that Borlaug's efforts saved at least a billion lives by 1970, and one can argue that many modern agriculture techniques were influenced by Borlaug's efforts, the man's saved far more than a billion by now, and there's only about seven billion people on this planet. So at the very least, Borlaug has saved at least one seventh of the world's population from starvation.

"Norman is the greatest human being, and you've probably never heard of him." - Penn Jillette

Well. Now you have. Anyone who's ever eaten a slice of bread should know that Norman Borlaug saved a billion people by improving streins of grains.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:06 PM on August 13, 2006


contradicting the thousands of climate scientists who on, yes, evidence-based research OVERWHELMINGLY (Bjorn Lomborg aside) support the concept of anthropogenic climate change.

"Lomborg "accepts the reality of man-made global warming""
posted by dgaicun at 3:16 AM on August 16, 2006


I've heard of Borlaug, albeit on The West Wing (where President Bartlett says just about the same thing as Penn). Dwarf wheat is amazing, even if it makes the English countryside look strange (I was hoping to see old fashioned European sheaves of wheat, ala a Pieter Bruegal painting).
posted by jb at 4:50 AM on August 16, 2006


scraping the bottom of a barrel isnt much of a magic trick.
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:36 PM on August 17, 2006


Some of the best stuff sinks to the bottom.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:15 PM on August 17, 2006


does anyone read the posts down here?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:20 PM on August 17, 2006


ur mom
posted by keswick at 7:53 PM on August 17, 2006


Curious, they seem to investigate some topics with attention and then fly over others with the superficiality that's implicitly criticized by the very existence of their show. I don't really like their delivery-method of in-your-face ; I expected Penn to dress like a fat scottish and start screaming "Arrrrr ! Get in mah beeeeelly Teller " anytime but I guess it is need for spectacularization. I guess this show is a step in the direction of something even better and more interesting ; till then I will favour Meta for debates.
posted by elpapacito at 10:50 AM on August 27, 2006


We all float down here.
posted by ZachsMind at 11:25 AM on August 27, 2006


Shit also floats !
posted by elpapacito at 11:55 AM on August 27, 2006


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