Penn & Teller’s organic food gaffe

A recent Green Blog article comments on an unfortunate gaffe by Penn & Teller.

In a recent episode of their TV show with a well-known and profane title often abbreviated to the letters “B.S.” in more polite circles, Penn and Teller question a so-called “food policy analyst expert” about organic food. (Not surprisingly, the YouTube copy of the video was pulled for a copyright claim, even though it’s arguably fair use to cite a portion of it for the purposes of Green Blog’s commentary, and mine. But, that’s another rant for another day.)

They fail to mention that their so-called expert, Alex Avery, is paid by the Hudson Institute, which is essentially a right-wing lobbyist organization funded by corporations like Monsanto which have an interest in discouraging the purchase of organic foods by consumers.

As if that was not enough, Penn and Teller are members of the Cato Institute (also see Sourcewatch entry for the show), which is also considered right-wing and funded by ExxonMobil.

It is inexcusable for a high-profile act like Penn & Teller to knowingly use their fame to mislead the public. The fact that the body of their work is entertainment as opposed to journalism does little to help their credibility. Usually, someone who works in television or radio will pick one or the other and stick with it.

So yes, I call “B.S.” on Penn & Teller.

10 thoughts on “Penn & Teller’s organic food gaffe”

  1. Though they pretty much present their point of view while telling you not to take their word for it, and they hardly disguise their views and affiliations.

  2. Still, if they're going to present people as unbiased sources, they should make sure they actually are unbiased. Otherwise Penn & Teller are being just plain dishonest.

  3. We all bring bias, whether you like it or not. They tried to show the other side of the argument, which is admirable considering the size of the organic lobby, not only here in the US either, but around the world. Let me know when you see the type of caveats you claim they should have provided on regular news programming and then an entertainment resource like Penn & Teller should be held to the same standards.
    I suppose they used trickery in the taste test as well?

    1. Biased opinions simply should not be presented as fact. Penn & Teller hid the bias of what is effectively a Monsanto sock puppet, implying he was impartial. That is what I call going over the line.

      As for taste tests: remember the Cola Wars and the Pepsi Challenge. I wouldn't call them rigged but they were definitely not conducted on the level either. Oh, and Coke still won the Cola Wars anyway. Cheaters never prosper.

    2. Biased opinions simply should not be presented as fact. Penn & Teller hid the bias of what is effectively a Monsanto sock puppet, implying he was impartial. That is what I call going over the line.

      As for taste tests: remember the Cola Wars and the Pepsi Challenge. I wouldn't call them rigged but they were definitely not conducted on the level either. Oh, and Coke still won the Cola Wars anyway. Cheaters never prosper.

  4. Cato is funded by Exxon? Nope. And Conservative and Right Wing are not synonymous.

    "The Cato Institute is classified as a 501(c)(3) organization under U.S. Internal Revenue Code. The Institute performs no contract research and does not accept government funding. For revenue, the Institute is largely dependent on private contributions.
    According to its annual report, the Cato Institute had fiscal year 2008 income of $24 million. The report notes that 77% of Cato's income that year came from individual contributions, 13% from foundations, 2% from corporations, and 8% from "program and other income" (e.g., publication sales, program fees)" Wickipedia

  5. I fail to see how tis is a "food gaffe" though. Fine they didn't explin fully who is funded by who….but how is that in any way a gaffe about any claim they made about organic food?

  6. If you look on the Exxonsecrets website on left sidebar, you will see "A Greenpeace Project" label. As much as you are damning Cato for being "secretly funded by Exxon"….that website you are using as "proof" is in itself suspect for having vested interest in the arguement.

    The problem is in situations like these, you get people like you and the other gentleman who spout facts…question each others facts…post websites or source material to back up and prove your facts…..but both cannot be true – there is so much misinformation out there; so many companies and organizations willing to falsify and lie to propogate their own beliefs that I don't know how either of you can accurately say "my sources are the right ones". The truth is neither of you know for sure that the sources you are pushing are entirely honest at all.

  7. When one company says the food is harmful and the other says it is perfectly safe they can't both be true. Someone is wrong…but the sad truth is that the real truth will probably never see the light of day. The biggest crime in todays society is the ability for large corporations (and with the advent of the internet – smaller groups also) to bury the truth under layers of misinformation and lies. People pick up the banners of opinion on both sides of the arguement and go on these crusades when the plain truth is you can't really claim to be any more "in the know" as any other person in the discussion. You are folling yourself if you think otherwise. You are doing these companies work for them, wake up and realize this.

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