Sunday, August 8, 2010

Penn and Teller+Nathaniel Branden+Self-Esteem=BULLSHIT?


"I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and, gosh darn it, people like me!"

Yeah, I saw it. It really didn't deal with Objectivism, or mention Rand, but I'd be amiss not to mention it, given the Rand/Branden history. But there was no "real" discussion of Nathaniel Branden's ideas, aside from the acute observation that he refers to himself in the third person:

PJ: But forget kids for a sec — how are we [adults] supposed to raise our self-esteem?NB (in his office): I think that one of the very best things a person could do, if they wanted to grow in self-esteem, would be to read the following books by Nathanlel Branden — [titles are repeated mockingly and sotto voce by PJ with a sound effect of scribbling notes] Honoring the Self, How to Raise Your Self-Esteem, The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem ... that's enough for now.PJ: Hey, thanks! So who's this Nathaniel Branden, anyway?NB (directly to camera, by back-yard fountain): I am Dr. Nathaniel Branden, I am a practicing psychotherapist ... [intro is plainly, by his rising tone of voice, cut off from continuing]
PJ: You were talkin' about yourself in the third person, recommending your own books? Your shit must work! ... For the past forty years, Dr. Branden's findings have been considered a reference point for the whole self-esteem industry.NB (in office): When I began doing psychotherapy, I was struck by the fact that regardless of the particular complaint the person came into my office with, one common denominator was a poor self-concept, underdeveloped self-esteem.PJ (over shots of NB reading and walking): Back in the '70s, Dr. Branden declared that virtually all psychological problems are traceable to low self-esteem. Anxiety, depression, fear of intimacy, spousal battery, child molestation, parking violations — all low self-esteem.

(Hat tip to Steve Reed for his transcription, posted elsewhere with his own commentary.)

After discussing some pretty cheesy exponents of self-esteem, Penn (and Teller) goes on to debunk Branden by contrasting his ideas with a study from the "California Task Force," emphasis on California, the one place that, following the logic of La-La Land, you'd think would be affirming his ideas.

I'm not the biggest Branden supporter, but I don't think P&T's "takedown" was their best work; it consisted mainly of the "weak man" argument, attacking the worst proponents. And Branden's work is not without merit.That said, Branden has shot himself in the foot, "objectivist-ly"-speaking, by his interests in esp or the work of Ken Wilbur. But putting that aside, considering that Penn/Teller and Nathaniel Branden both frequent some of the same Libertarian circles, It'd be interesting to read the fly-on-the-wall's blog from the next convention...

(Update 2/21/13: I've just recently learned that Penn Jillette has apologized for his treatment of Nathaniel Branden in this segment, according to a blogger named Judd Weiss, who discusses his confrontation with Jillette about it in an email. Jillette is said to have apologized, in a return email
:

"I’m very sorry. I don’t do all the research myself. We didn’t really know how to play that. We went back and forth with a few different takes on it and angles, and I guess didn’t get it right. I’m sorry."


2 comments:

  1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought that episode was a little...lazy almost.

    ReplyDelete
  2. (Update 2/21/13: I've just recently learned that Penn Jillette has apologized for his treatment of Nathaniel Branden in this segment, according to a blogger named Judd Weiss, who discusses his confrontation with Jillette about it in an email. Jillette is said to have apologized, in a return email:


    "I’m very sorry. I don’t do all the research myself. We didn’t really know how to play that. We went back and forth with a few different takes on it and angles, and I guess didn’t get it right. I’m sorry."

    ReplyDelete