Candidates, Stand Up for Talking Dirty

Penn Jillette, the louder, bigger half of the magic/comedy team of Penn & Teller, is author of the novel "Sock" (St. Martin's Press, 2004).

Where is the god**** “freedom of speech” candidate? Isn’t it about time someone running for president said, “I’ll work to get the government out of the censorship business. My fellow Americans, I just read the Bill of Rights again, and I’m going to remind Congress of the ‘Congress shall make no law’ thang”? He or she would have my vote.

Of course Michael Badnarik, the Libertarian candidate, is all for ending government censorship, but nobody wants to hear it. Instead we’re being told: “This election is too important to vote your heart and mind. This is such an important election that we must only use our vote against people we hate.” Our choice is anyone but Bush or anyone but Kerry. It’s game theory -- keep voting for the lesser of two evils and watch things get more evil. There are even some liberals trying to keep Ralph Nader off the ballot in swing states. That’s how important it is to win. I’m not a Nader guy, but a two-party system is only one more than totalitarianism. Shouldn’t we be allowed to vote for someone we like?

Anti-freedom of speech is on a roll. You got your bipartisan campaign finance reform, which limited what people could say and do and spend in elections, and now we have bipartisan support to get rid of all the 527s, the independent organizations that are set up to influence elections. Of course it’s bipartisan -- all the incumbents want to keep private citizens out of the marketplace of ideas. A two-party system is way too good for those two parties.

How come freedom of speech doesn’t include the freedom to spend as much money as you want, on as many ads as you want, saying whatever you want? How did everyone get sucked into wanting the government to control what the people can say about the people who are the government? And I thought bottled water was a scam.


There is no reason for the government to limit political speech. And there’s really no reason for it to be involved in showbiz. No reason at all. The unconstitutional-from-the-get-go and now-completely-outdated Federal Communications Commission, which has been fighting against profanity on the networks, is now yapping about going after pay TV -- and the anyone-but-Bush candidate hasn’t said that’s a bad idea. They all love the FCC.

And why can’t there be cigarette ads? How come Philip Morris can’t have freedom of speech? All the anti-smokers can just boycott any network that runs those ads, right?

The "****" in “god****" in the first line of this article is not censorship. I did that myself, guessing that’s what The Times would want. That’s my right. I’m writing the god**** thing; I can write it how I want. The newspaper is printing it; so they can do what they want. Anything outside of the government isn’t censorship, it’s merely taste.

I don’t care if Disney doesn’t want to put out a movie by a fat white guy who hates fat white guys. Disney hasn’t put out a lot of stuff by me and I’m a fat white guy. I’m sure they have a lot of reasons for not putting my stuff out -- in addition to me not having asked them. Many newspapers (including this one) won’t print the name of Penn & Teller’s Showtime series. Wal-Mart won’t even sell DVDs of the show. That’s not censorship -- they own the stores, it’s their joint. We’re free to sell them somewhere else and we do, quite a few of them, thank you very much.


Disney turned down Michael Moore’s politics-by-blooper-reel before he really got started (he just waited for a more opportune time to complain about it). Pretty much all of Hollywood turned down Mel Gibson’s S&M-fun-with-his-imaginary-friend; flick right after he finished. Cool. Ha ha ha, Mel and Mike did fine for themselves. If they feel they were censored, I’m sure they’ll both use all the money they earned to put out sucky movies by filmmakers they disagree with to make sure that no one else has to deal with that kind of “censorship.”

Look on the bright side, Eminem and the “South Park” guys, some of the most-skilled writers of our time, don’t seem to be slowed down at all. Whatever you think of the very successful Moore/Bush entertainment team, we have a movie trashing our president and it’s not only out there, it’s making tons of money. How cool is that?

I didn’t like anything about that movie. I didn’t learn anything from it other than Shaggy was a Marine, but I love that that movie exists. I didn’t like the movie, but seeing the marquees for it gets me all patriotic and teary-eyed.

Showbiz is just there to give people something to talk about. Houdini appeared in a press photo with just a few bondage chains hanging over his genitals. People talked about that picture. Some went to see his show because of that picture. Some probably boycotted him forever because of that picture. The government just stayed out and let the hype play itself out. I don’t believe in reincarnation, but if Houdini did come back as a modern African American woman, he’d be sure to have pierced nipples and a wardrobe malfunction on TV.

We need a president who realizes that there’s no government business in show business.