Suddenly viral again: Penn Jillette's 2013 scolding of blame-society arguments

Yes, this is three years old — but it has 800,000 views on YouTube since someone reposted it on Friday, so it’s clearly touching a nerve now. And it’s not difficult to see why, although this uphill battle clearly was difficult for Penn Jillette at the time. The verbal half of the famed duo Penn & Teller appeared on Hot Talk with Wendy Williams and two other women in 2013 to discuss gun violence. Penn sat at times shaking his head as they blamed the guns, video games, society, politicians, and then most curiously Asperger’s syndrome for a rise in gun violence that, er … wasn’t happening in the first place (via Twitchy):

How bad does it get? All three women throw out supposed linkages to violence from a host of supposed societal ills, all without a shred of evidence — and none of which acknowledges that both crime and gun violence had been declining for years. Penn doesn’t even get an opportunity to point that out; in fact, he’s reduced to sadly shaking his head halfway through the segment as the triple-whammy demagogues get the audience cheering their support.

Why is this clip going viral this weekend, three years later? Probably because it encapsulates the debate over gun violence to this day. Gun violence is still declining, but the media just seizes on each incident more and more in order to fuel the “epidemic” narrative. No one wants to blame the perpetrators, but instead find ways to climb aboard their political hobby horses in order to demand action against … well, fill in the blank: guns, video games, society, politicians, and apparently Aspies, too. The ignorant just keep making ridiculous assertions to suit their own political purposes, and they get lots of people cheering them on — something that’s not limited to the debate over gun violence, either.

Penn brought facts and common sense to a demagogue fight, unfortunately for him, and that continues to this day. We seem to be living in a post-evidence, post-objective-truth world. Somewhere today, Penn is still probably shaking his head. We feel your pain, bro.

Addendum: Penn remains consistent on his defense of liberty and personal responsibility. He continued his argument in February of this year:

While Jillette doesn’t play very many games himself, the famed magician wasn’t afraid to defend the medium during this morning’s panel with Gearbox Software’s Randy Pitchford, titled “Assumptions and Expectations with Interactivity and Magic.”

“It’s where our culture is. It’s what’s important,” Jillette said of video games, likening its cultural relevance to that of Rock and Roll’s popularity a few decades ago. “I just don’t draw a line at art,” he added. “There’s one show business, and we’re all in it.” He also didn’t hesitate to lump the medium in with other art forms, saying, “it’s the 21st century, stop beating up artists.”

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Jazz Shaw 5:31 PM on December 01, 2022