The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing -- Edmund Burke

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Penn Jillette is a Hypocrite

Warner Todd Huston

whuston@americasvoices.org     
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July 1, 2004


Being a fan of Chicago Radio, an inveterate dial flipper, I had occasion to hear the entertainer, Penn Jillette, on a Personality style, afternoon FM radio show.  The host was a long time Chicago personality named Steve Dahl.  I have listened to Mr. Dahl for a couple of decades here in the Windy City, generally in small doses as that is about all I can take of him at any given time for his tiresome self aggrandizement and corresponding lack of introspection.  Mr. Dahl, who has been a successful Chicago mainstay, though seemingly unable to break the local host envelope, has had many fascinating guests over the years several of whom are recurring.  Over the last few years, Penn Jillette has been one of Mr. Dahl's recurring guests and he is always a fun listen.

For those of you unfamiliar with Penn Jillette, he is an iconoclast who has made a name for himself in the Las Vegas entertainment industry and TV with his humorous debunking of magic tricks with his long time, silent literally silent partner Teller.  He is a huge, hulking fellow, manic in speech and personality, who has a wide range of interests, is avuncular and compelling to listen to.  Though I do not agree with all of his views he seems quite sincere, intelligent and would be one of those people whom you would always remember should you have had occasion to meet.

He, being in Show Biz, also has some prosaic PC ideas, too.  To get back to the radio interview to which I am referring, Mr. Jillette, early in the segment, asked the host if he was all worried about FCC Chairman Powell's current efforts to bring radio back into line with the long standing FCC community standards rules.  Naturally, Mr. Jillette assumed that Mr. Dahl was upset over the rules, even as Mr. Dahl said that it was not really that big a deal to him at the time.

Jillette went on about how the entire U.S. government was coming down on the radio industry and that the government was wasting time and money doing so instead of chasing terrorists.  Of course, Mr. Jillette was oblivious to the absurdity of his polemic.  Certainly the entire Federal government is NOT coming down to oppressively inconvenience the radio industry.  It is one man's department that is re-enforcing already existing directives that have long been ignored.  Further, this Chairman will be replaced at some future date at which time we may get a man who could not care less about the "rules" and allow them to lapse once again, as they did during the Clinton administration.  In other words, this is no Government jihad, but simply a single Chairman doing his job.

But, still, Jillette railed on about his and the radio industry's loss of freedom of speech (yet he had the freedom to so moan on the public airwaves without recrimination) and he preached how evil this oppression was.  He bemoaned that we all had lost the ability to say what we want, that right here in America our freedoms were being quashed.

All right, all well and good as far as that bit of supposition goes and one might even be able to agree with Mr. Jillette in theory.  No one wants the Federal government to quash freedom of speech, certainly.  Though there is something to be said of preserving the right of the community to set standards, too.  After all, the Supreme Court affirmed the proscription against being able to yell fire in the proverbial crowded theater, it should be remembered.  There IS a limit to free speech.  But, that aside, some common ground can be found with Mr. Jillette's desire for free speech, naturally.

But, now for Mr. Jillette's hypocrisy.  Not five minutes later, Jillette himself brought up the movie "The Passion Of The Christ" and, in true PC Hollywood/entertainment industry fashion, began to rail against Mel Gibson's freedom of speech!  He brought up an interview with Mr. Gibson where Gibson was asked if he thought his movie anti-Jewish in tone.  Gibson said that he had seen "Schindler's List" and that did not make him hate Germans for its depiction of Nazi atrocity.  Mr. Jillette scoffed that Gibson should not have used such an analogy as talking about Jews like that is just forbidden subject matter!  Imagine that, Mr. Jillette advocating that Mel Gibson should be shut down for his injudicious language?  I must confess here that Mr. Gibson's analogy seemed quite apt to me.

Jillette also began damning Mr. Gibson with guilt by association because of Gibson's father's indelicate quotes abut the holocaust during the pre publicity for Mel's controversial film.  Not very "tolerant" on behalf of Mr. Jillette, I'd say.  Should we assume that Penn is a misogynist if we were to discover that HIS Father had said all women are whores one might ask?  Are the "sins of the Father" to be forever revisited upon the son?  That wouldn't be Cricket, would it?

But, what struck me the most about this whole little incident is its delineation of the typical, liberal I-am-more-tolerant-than-you line of thinking and the assumption that the Left is more in tune with liberty than anyone else.  Though, don't get me wrong on one point, I am NOT claiming Penn Jillette is the typical modern Leftist, though he runs in that crowd and must feel the pressure to toe their line quite often.  Like I said, some of his opinions are quite in line with today's Left.

No, what was funny was that, while Jillette was putting on airs as the protector of our freedom of speech, while he was presenting himself as the arbiter of all our freedoms, he ALSO had speech he would like to see squelched.  Proving that no one tolerates all or just any kind of free speech and we all want to see limits on what others say in the public square.  Some want to see no holds barred on the radio, allowing the hosts to say what ever pops into their minds at any given moment as Penn seemed to advocate.  Yet he also seemingly would stop Mel Gibson from being able to create and sell his movie about Christ as well as say what was on his mind in interviews about the work.

The dirty little secret the Left does not want you to know is that "free speech" does NOT include just any and all kinds of public displays and they know this as well as anyone whom they would label an "oppressive" conservative.  That everyone has their own personal limits to what they feel should be and should not be allowed in the public arena.  The key to it all is how we arrive at the compromise as to what rules we make and what they entail.  Of course, the Founders never imagined that the term free speech would ever be used as a sledgehammer to batter down public discourse or community standards, anyway.  They thought of free speech in terms of political discourse, that of allowing all parties the right to advocate for their point of view and political candidate.  They never had the slightest thought that free speech gave a public figure such as a disc jockey on the radio the right to engage in obscene conversations and vulgarity with impunity.

But, perhaps freedom of speech only goes for the things Penn Jillette feels are "proper"?  I wonder if Chairman Powell might step aside for Mr. Jillette to assume the role so that he might let us all know what WE should think is "proper", too?

 

Copyright Copyright 2020 by Warner Todd Huston & America's Voices, Inc.  All rights reserved.
Warner Todd Huston is a publisher/printer by trade and has enjoyed writing articles on history and current events which have appeared in several publications and many websites over the years.  He agrees with the old axiom that "those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it" and many of his opinion editorials use history as a lesson for us today.  You may contact Warner at whuston@americasvoices.org.

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