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Penn Jillette knows Dick




The Libertarian Cher to Teller’s Bono should STFU

Penn Jillette, the loud, annoying, ponytailed half of the magic act Penn & Teller, is a true American Hero. He’s both incredibly ignorant and damn proud of it.

Jillete, seen here, not reading a book

Jillette, seen here, not reading a book

Check out this incomprehensible pile of garbage Jillette wrote for CNN called “I don’t know, so I’m an atheist libertarian.” It starts off reasonable enough. The main lesson is that his late friend, the great theoretical physicist Richard Feynman, was comfortable with the limitations of his own comprehension:

“I don’t know” is not an apology. There’s no shame. It’s a simple statement of fact. When Richard Feynman didn’t know, he often worked harder than anyone else to find out, but while he didn’t know, he said, “I don’t know.”

The man may have taken his tea with both milk and lemon, but that’s some sound epistemology right there. Not knowing things is perhaps the hallmark of human experience. However, Jillette uses his ignorance to justify further ignorance. And he doesn’t seem particularly worried about putting in the “hard work” (Googling) to alleviate his dumbshititude.

The article is a response to what he perceived as the unfair treatment he received on “Piers Morgan Tonight”. No, Piers didn’t hack his voicemail. Morgan had the temerity to ask Jillette to postulate an alternative theory to God The Creator (you know, science):

He started with “How did you get here?” and I started talking about my road to showbiz and atheism and he interrupted and said he meant how the universe was created. I said, “I don’t know.”
He said, “God,” an answer that meant Piers didn’t know either, but he had a word for it that was supposed to make me feel left out of his enlightened club

He started with “How did you get here?” and I started talking about my road to showbiz and atheism and he interrupted and said he meant how the universe was created. I said, “I don’t know.”

He said, “God,” an answer that meant Piers didn’t know either, but he had a word for it that was supposed to make me feel left out of his enlightened club.

Sure, ultimately no one knows how the universe was created — or if it was created. Although, he did a horrendous job of demystifying the process by not talking about evolution as a substrate neutral algorithm (to rip off Dan Dennett), I don’t know is an OK answer there.

While scientists know a lot about the universe, relative to religious lunatics, it’s the same religious lunatics who purport to know with absolute certainty that the universe was created in 1982 by God’s massive queef. Or something along those limes.

Morgan then asked him to explain how libertarianism provides an alternative to civilized, socialist government policies meant to help the poor:

Then he asked me what we could do to help poor people. I said I donated money, food, medical care, and services and he said, “No,” he meant, what could society do to solve the problem of poor people. Again, I was stumped.

He said the government had to do it, which I interpreted as another way of saying he didn’t know, but he thought that made me look mean … even though I do care and do try to help.

I hate Piers Morgan’s smarmy ass as much as the next dude, but how is claiming that government should act as a benevolent social equalizer the same as “I don’t know”? It’s not. Here’s where Jillette goes from playfully disingenuous to purely deluded:

It’s amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness.

What the fuck? First of all, voting – ostensibly in the form of electing a representative whose ideology demands – to have the government help the poor is compassion! Especially if you’re Warren Buffet. And what’s this about guns now?

People need to be fed, medicated, educated, clothed, and sheltered, and if we’re compassionate we’ll help them, but you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right. There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gunpoint.

What now? Suddenly this is a lesson in Ayn Rand-level ethics. Jillette displays a stunning lack of understanding regarding human nature, the function of government, and very essence of morality.

Government, at its best, is a method by which people can act in concert. That is all. Simply calling something “government” doesn’t render the thing an automatic boogeyman. Americans –wealthy Americans are clearly not compassionate enough to to compensate for their ever decreasing tax rates. Aside from our expensive and pointless wars, why the fuck do you think our infrastructure is crumbling? And while you get no “moral credit” for forcing others to do what you think is right, you get an A fucking + for forcing someone to do what is right. It’s the very definition of morality.

The lesson here is that you should never let Penn Jillette watch your children for the evening. If a burgling pedophile broke into your home, Penn Jillette would not stop him from stealing your laptop and buggering your kid. He might think theft and pedophilia are wrong, but he’s a liberatarian!

And what is this about guns?

People try to argue that government isn’t really force. You believe that? Try not paying your taxes…. When they come to get you for not paying your taxes, try not going to court. Guns will be drawn. Government is force — literally, not figuratively.

So what this is all about is that Jillette doesn’t want to pay his fair share of taxes. He’s a cheap asshole. And he doesn’t have the decency — or more likely knowledge — to fully quote General George Washington:

Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.

Can government do shitty things? Oh yeah. Can it build damns, wind farms, roads, etc. by taxing the wealthy and give people jobs in the process — in turn giving the newly-employed money to buy more junk from the rich? Of course. Sorry to go off on a rant here, but these sort of “free market” worshiping, Ayn Rand atheists give all atheists a bad name.

The reason most people self-indentify as atheist is because they’ve evaluated the profound lack of evidence for a supernatural deity and they’ve reach the safe conclusion that there is no God. We’re supposed to value reason and empirical evidence. And Jillette is considered — I have no fucking clue why — something of an atheist champion. Well, until you “work hard” to clear up your ignorance problem, we don’t fucking want you! I don’t, anyway. In my opinion, you should shut the fuck up before Burns Strider at the American Values Network makes you into the anti-libertarian poster-boy by conflating your economic ignorance with your reasonable atheism, like he did with Ayn Rand.

On the off chance you’re reading this (or having Teller read it for you), I’ve done some of the hard work for you: I Googled “Scandinavia”. You’ll appreciate that Scandinavian countries are the least religious societies on earth. They don’t go in for bullshit, as you might say. The same holds true for their economic systems. Their wealthiest citizens pay 50% and even 60% of their income in taxes. This money is used for social programs. It’s the reason they’ve done so well during the global recession. Better than Europe. Way better than the U.S. (where the 400 richest people have as much wealth as the bottom 150 million combined). It’s also why they consistently rank among the happiest countries with the highest standard of living. Read something, you asshole!

While I’m at it, I have one more of Jillette’s idiocies to share (sorry):

I’m scared to death of being in debt. I was a street juggler and carny trash — I couldn’t get my debt limit raised, I couldn’t even get a debt limit — my only choice was to live within my means. That’s all I understand from my experience, and that’s not much.

God damn it! I presume by “debt limit” he’s alluding to the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling is not a debt limit. It’s a moronic cap set on repaying debt already incurred. But I wouldn’t expect Jillette to know this. He doesn’t know much. And that’s why he’s a libertarian.

And I don’t know why he’s an atheist. But it’s OK not to know.


POST-POST THOUGHTS: Maybe Penn Jillette is a charity machine — a moral exemplar by which all people should live. Maybe he teaches blind children how to saw scantly clad women in half. But most wealthy people are not so generous, and if it takes pointing guns at the rich (that is to say fairly taxing them) to achieve social justice, I say, lock-n-load!

  • http://www.hardleft.org/ Mike C.

    “Libertarian” is the red flag. Whatever else they supposedly adhere to, you can reasonably predict they’d arrived at it the same way they did their political ideology: it sounded cool.

    When they were thirteen.

    Then again, most people can’t justify ANY of their inherited or self-acquired labels, religious or political. Ask them. You’ll get back absolute shit.

    (BTW, what a whiney little bitch, bawwwing about being a street hustler or whatever the fuck he was before he became an overpaid charlatan known for torpedoing his peers’ trade secrets. And after decrying the only programs systematically capable of raising people from a social class circling poverty’s drain. I say the same to private charity’s efficacy as I do to the free market: ANYTME NOW. Anytime that shit wants to start working, let’s fucking see it. What’s stopping them? Did public animosity hurt their widdle squishy m/billionaire feeeewwinnggss?? This country needs a serious deworming.)

  • http://staircasetwit.blogspot.com/ Dragon-King Wangchuck

    The argument that private charities should do all those things that government does boils down to this:

    “People need to be fed, medicated, educated, clothed, and sheltered” – but only those people that the wealthy deem worthy.

    Even if ALL rich people were charity machines that donate substantial portions of their wealth to the needy, you still have an ugly dystopian world. One in which the not-rich must avoid upsetting their betters lest they go hungry, sick, ignorant, naked and homeless.

  • http://www.cinemasucks.com/ Mike C.

    It amazes me how they can pretend the hobby horse of private charity is — even potentially — comparable to programs meant to affect the whole of impoverished America, and not only whatever pet causes dilettante philanthropists take up in their glorified PR campaigns. Ooh, David Koch very conspicuously donates to ballet. I’m sure twinkletoes’s wine and cheese mixers elicit standing ovations in the barrios. Or how about education funding? You know, the kind that stipulates that corporate brainwashing become part of the curriculum.

    Private charity is a duck fart in gale force wind. It barely registers, but libertarians refuse to acknowledge it because it contradicts their unconditional love of childish/vain ideological pretenses. For people that are often tremendous losers themselves, you’d think they’d sympathize with people in the same class. Instead, they’re like that girl in “Welcome to the Dollhouse” who disses her only friend to when she thinks she has a shot at popularity. Yes, lower class libertarians: you’re invited to the financial “ugly party,” and what a show you are.

    I’ve worked with non-profits which — thanks to cuts in government funding — are dependent upon private sponsorship (and all it entails). What’s in it for panic-spreading vaccine hoarders like Gilead? High visibility (e.g. advertising to a captive audience) in connection with people actually doing worthwhile work for society, tax write offs, and an unwarranted sense of smugness. But what of causes that can’t be easily parlayed into photo ops? Bill Gates can stand by, cameras rolling, stroking his peach fuzz at inoculations given to emaciated children in countries ravaged by disease almost as much as they are by Monsanto’s (one of Gates’s investments) genetically-modified suicidal grain (ever heard of the farmer suicides in India?), but what of less glamorous things, like the unemployed? With a 5:1 queue for jobs that would’ve given an embarrassed high schooler just enough for a stereo and a 12-pack a few decades ago, it takes a heroic feat of cognitive dissonance (libertarian grade delusion) to suggest that people aren’t looking. How about single mothers wanting to feed their kids something other than the lamp-warmed, ground cow vaginas that we call fast food?

    They call it “charity” when poor people are given even the barest minimum of assistance to escape the death spiral of debt, plus wages both insufficient to pay it off, and well short of the promise that a full day of work should at least make selling one’s life away a trade off for the financial means to sustain that life. Meanwhile, since none of them question what compensation to a CEO or other executive should be. They’ve given them carte blanche to arbitrarily raise their own salaries (regardless of performance), and as they’ve gone from making 3x that of their average employee, to more than 300x it, there’s zero willingness to ask when it’s enough. As for regular employees, libertarians seemed appalled that they’re compensated at all; as though they should be working for the sheer joy of it (see Apple’s explanation that working for their retail stores is “an experience” that transcends reasonable pay; or the Kochs’ memo assuring under-payed workers that it’s what’s best for them). They baselessly chide them for not “living within their means,” even when the means toward a perfectly ascetic and mediocre life aren’t even provided for by their own sweat (there’s a little something called bills, and many people have forgone them, and thus gone without their benefits, when confronted with luxuries like health insurance). Libertarian idiocy the hazard of maintaining values galvanized during puberty; a simple-minded, untenable comprehension of how things work. They’ve drawn eyes on a tomato box and called it a “robot.”

    That a juggler only capable of notoriety by selling out his peers can somehow gain credibility as a piercing intellect is a sad indictment of our moribund culture.

  • http://www.cinemasucks.com/ Mike C.

    Sorry for the shit grammar. I was in a hurry.

  • Anthony

    If libertarians had their way we would be living in a modern day feudalism. Maybe we already are to some extent, but they seem to want to push us over whatever brink may yet exist.

  • Rick

    @Mike C: For a guy in a hurry, that’s pretty damn good.

  • malachi

    Mike, you should actually write for the Beast. Don’t give that shit away for free.

  • joe Dixon

    @Malachi: Writing for the Beast IS giving it away for free.

    Anyway, I can’t add anymore to everyone else has said. I’ll re-post this. Good stuff.

  • Beast_Fan

    AND worst of all, he totally axed Bullshit! after its eighth season. Hey, it was a good show, when it wasn’t doing libertarian-themed episodes like World Peace, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Taxes, Going Green, etc. Debunking astrology, Creationism, ghosts, cryptozoology, and all that other B.S. was great. I miss that. In fact, one might call that sort of thing loathsome.

  • http://vectorpress.blogspot.com Trevor

    Penn is a damn good clown but he should really leave all that “thinking” to more enlightened folks. Like 8th graders.

  • Legion

    Jillette strikes me as one of those Libertarians who got into it because he didn’t think that the police ought to interfere with his love of hookers and cocaine. He probably bought into the rest of it because… well… as a rich guy why wouldn’t he? Oh, it would be great if he didn’t think the poor (an ever growing pool of people, nowadays) should be allowed to rot away, but very few rich guys want to pay more taxes. They all figure, “If I want to help someone out, I’ll do it.”

    Also, back before society completely collapsed, it was OK to be Mr. Pink and give your philosophy of why “I don’t tip,” without people immediately wanting to slit your throat. You could even be a performer (and seriously, why become a stage magician if you don’t want adoring crowds?) and expect people to just think you were “charmingly eccentric.”

    I’m hoping the day will come when, due to their Social Darwinist pro-plutocrat economic program that announcing yourself as a Libertarian in public will run the very real risk of someone jabbing you in the eye with an icepick. We’re part of the way there I think, and Jillette sounds like a clueless relic of a more prosperous age to me.

  • http://www.hardleft.org/ Mike C.

    Yes, Scrilly, enthralling commentary as always. Really raising those tough, already dealt with questions. Now stop pussyfooting around and get to the real ism that resembles your half-hearted trolling: jism. A master at baiting, you are.

  • http://nanobotswillenslaveusall.wordpress.com/ Josh Bunting

    I actually skimmed through some of Riordan’s comments (which is rare for me) and he seems to be missing kind of a big point. It wouldn’t matter if every single atheist were as evil as Stalin. It wouldn’t even matter if it were actually true that Stalin did the terrible things he did because he was an atheist (and not because he was a communist dictator, for instance). That would still not be evidence for a deity – or alchemy or astrology for that matter, both of which Newton also believed in.

  • admin

    You are so fucking retarded, Chris Riordan. But I will feed yonder troll.

    Of course, historically, there’s not been a necessary correlation between atheism and morality. The implicit point of this article is that there should be one. And in terms you’ll appreciate, this should be done by shunting these nefarious isms of which you speak. Atheism shouldn’t be some fucking club, fad, belief system, or dogma. It should represent the logical end to evaluating the empirical evidence or, more accurately, lack thereof. The goal is to discard magical thinking in all its various guises — whether that’s homeopathy, Judeo-Christian myths, the Cult of Ayn Rand or…whatever Chinese tiger bone-snorting bullshit you can think of.

    My point, which you either don’t get, or you’re pretending not to get, is that not knowing facts about the world in which we live is a bad reason to be either atheist or libertarian. We’re trying to be rational over here, got me?

    And as for the definition of morality, if forcing people to do the right thing — whether through trickery, incentive, disincentive, or brute physical power — is wrong, well, I don’t want to be right.

    As a very straightforward example, I would shoot you in the face with a gun if you went charging after a bus-load of kids, intent on cutting them up with a ninja sword. Cutting up kids with a ninja sword is unambiguously immoral. And so would be not shooting you in the face.

    And Newton? Man, how many times are you going to trot out that tired fucking bullshit? He was a fucking alchemist! Well informed, for his time, but even you have a much firmer grasp on how the world works than he did. Um…maybe. You know you can’t turn copper into gold via magic, right?

    So in summation, fuck off, Chris Riordan.

  • robert van bakel

    Actually there is a wonderful site Chris could visit called Uncommondescent where a decreasing number of blow hards perform group onanism over the wonderful (I will use them sorry) “theory”, of Intellyjunt dezine. There, they always agree, never argue, and quote the bible, as scientists do, oh and you are not allowed to comment after presenting reasoned empirical evidence, many have tried all failed.

    I’ve watched Bullshit, and enjoyed it, I also saw P&T on Westwing when they burned the flag and gave a valid reason as to why he could; the 1st. But I’ve also always known of his libertarianist views and always kind of stammer, ‘but what if….you know if…and then the shit fails and…storms and shit and help is required…and earthquakes you know who…who…’ but then I just shake my head and leave. Ignorance is truly a dense phenonmenon.

  • Marco

    There is little doubt that soft-socialism is a superior political system to any type of libertarianism; but for a people to accept socialism, they must feel a strong sense of commonality with their fellow nationals. I believe your country is way too fractured and ethnically diverse to embrace it(voluntarily).

    Until one of your groups takes full demographic control again(perhaps hispanics by 2030), individualism will reign. Equally, if the Scandanavian countries became too ethnically diverse they would naturally lean to neo-liberalism.

    Also, questions of religion and atheism are inconsequential to socialism as both types of societies are compatible with it(as long as there is a strong majority of one or the other).

    I suggest reading some of the research of Prof. Robert Putnam about demographics and their effects on people’s levels of national altruism.

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