Penn and Teller's classic takedown of anti-vax bullshittery


#1

[Read the post]


#2

Needs a snappy titled!


#3

BAH. DIY! I did.


#4

So what they’re saying is DON’T VACCINATE would be a great advertising line for a funeral home.


#5

Great show, but they had their fair share of bullshit too. Their NASA episode for example.


#6

To be fair, their show was called “Bullshit!”. It didn’t specify whose.


#7

#8

I keep trying to like them, because I feel like they are the sort of people I would like. I like the general idea of the Bullshit show, but when I watched a few episodes, I just found them smug and condescending. I didn’t feel like there was any attempt to reach the people who are taken in by Bullshit and instead it was a mocking tone.

This is a great visual illustration but I think that a different approach in their language using the same visual could have had a lot more emotional impact.


#9

This is a genius superpower.


#10

I agree somewhat, though I tend to move the source of my discomfort with the show somewhat off of the smugness issue. I think the show was targeted at people who were already receptive to the message, which if you think about it, makes perfect sense. I read the smugness as just them playing to the audience. Really, the heady dose of libertarianism injected, often where it need not be, was perhaps the most obtrusive thing there. It also led to a weird-ass episode where they claimed addiction wasn’t real (actually the claim that it’s not a disease, but the impression you get from the episode is that it’s not a Thing), in part because libertarians feel this intense, almost pathological, urge to reduce all human behavior to personal responsibility. The reality of twelve-step programs is that they are kind of bullshit, but their entire approach to it was skewed along some pretty unnecessary lines of thought…


#11

Carl is, I think, some sort of existential genius. And only in that sense.


#12

Let’s also not forget the infamous episodes of Bullshit that “proved” that secondhand smoke was perfectly healthy or that “debunked” the myth of global climate change, which Penn refuses to believe in. I love their work as magicians. As debunkers, they need to shut the fuck up.


#13

Yeah, the show is about preaching to the choir, not actually educating or changing anyone’s mind.

FWIW, anti-vax is not really about science, that’s just a smoke-screen anti-vaxxers use to try to justify their beliefs in the face of science-based critics. Anti-vax is about the trust, or lack thereof, in the institutions that are supposed to be looking out for the public welfare. The news is full of things that cause people to lose trust - CDC mishandling of anthrax, medical journals with poor standards, FDA drug trials where negative results are swept under the rug but positive results get published, etc.

Never in the history of mankind has anyone been convinced to trust someone who yelled at them and called them stupid. It feels good to call them stupid, but it doesn’t make their kids any safer. I think it makes them dig in their heels and even less trusting.


#14

They “debunked” recycling, too. Apparently you should just throw your useless shit in the street and don’t worry about it, the invisible hand will totally clean it up.

Edit: I love Penn & Teller as stage magicians. The further they stray from that baseline, the less interesting I find their work.


#15

I am 100% for the idea of Houdini-style debunking of things in their wheelhouse; I loved their takedown of a “psychic”, for example, where they used their knowledge of magic, crowd forces, and trickery to figure out exactly how the guy was doing his fake predictions on the fly. But when they get into just random theorizing and, well, bullshitting about topics like global climate change, I’m reminded that they are both members of the Cato Institute, the Libertarian think tank founded by Charles Koch, and supporters of the recent, crappy Atlas Shrugged movies (in which Teller appears).


#16

Wait, how did I not know about this?

Is there a DVD/bluray? IS THERE A DRINKING GAME?


#17

There has to be a drinking game.


#18

They sound truly awful, and were made with increasingly less money for each of the three films, so the entire cast was recast with cheaper actors, sets were flimsy, etc. One day I’ll watch them. Until then, here’s reviews of Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.


#19

It was entertaining to watch the true believers facing the fact that the market decided the first film sucked and struggling to explain this away. Of course, they do cling to an intellectual product that fails dismally in the marketplace of ideas.


#20

Is there a non-crappy Atlas Shrugged movie in this or any other possible universe?