Penn & Teller    PCC articles by Penn Jillette        Reprinted with permission.

I Want More Bias and Less News

Penn Jillette

There's more to replacing the newspaper
than finding a CRT that fits on the
bottom of bird cages.

CompuServe every day. I write to friends and use it for FAXes and snail mail. The only drag is I can't receive FAXes on my CompuServe account. (Note to the geniuses: Why don't you quit whatever you're doing and work on better character recognition software so I can get FAXes without having to download graphics? I want to scan and then be able to manipulate [plagiarize] the text. . . Unless you're a genius working on an itty-bitty-feather-light-8-hour laptop battery . . Or a genius working on soundproofing so I can play music later and louder without employed neighbors pounding on my door. . . Or a genius working on a vaccine for any disease that strikes my personal high risk group . . . You geniuses not working on any of those should dedicate your lives to better OCR.)

When I first got on CompuServe in 1985, I browsed around. I'd stop into the CB simulator (great name, huh? Technology jumping on that C.W. McCall "Convoy"). I like sex talk on the CB simulator. It's a good place for a human being with genitals like mine to experience typing as a 5'10" 19 year old fun-loving, lonely red-headed woman named "Uma" who loves nerds. (It's too bad they don't have Academy Award nominations for best E-mail female impersonator, then there would have been some competition).

I also tried getting my news from CompuServe. It seemed perfect for me, up-to-the-second pure news with word searches. "Uma Thurman" was the first string I had it checking. Then I had it search for "Penn" and "Teller" within 10 words of each other and thought I was really cool until a bank in Pennsylvania was robbed and I was flooded. But CompuServe couldn't replace the newspaper because there was too much information and not enough bias.

I read the New York Times. I don't agree with it much (except Frank Rich's praise of our show). During the campaign, the Times kissed Clinton and I didn't. My politics are different. (Hint: The man and woman team I voted for were on the ballet in all 50 states, weren't in any of the TV debates and you could type out the full names of all the people that voted for them, uncompressed, on 6 floppies with room left over for WordStar [not 2000]. Of course, now that Bill's my President I'm behind him 103%" because that's the kind of American I am, goddamn it.)

I fancy that I can factor in the Time's slant, but it would be better if news didn't even pretend to be objective. Let them speak their minds. I'd like the meat puppet on the nightly news to say "Today, Perot, the big-eared psychotic, unveiled his so- called economic plan." Perot supporters would then know who was selecting the sound bites. A concealed bias will make you crazy, an overt bias is just more fun.

I read the Times because other people read the Times. If you're going to have a delightful screaming match over current events, you want everyone to start with the same information. That makes it a fair fight. With the same information, you don't just learn about your discussion partner's sources you learn about his or her heart and soul and that's why we're alive.

To replace the newspaper, we have to make a CRT that can get folded up on the subway -- there are people that will be able to do that. The hard part is taking the gigabytes of information available every hour -- throwing most of it away and slanting the rest. People need to know when they're finished reading and it needs a good solid slant so you have a good reason to throw your electronic newspaper across the damn room.