R.I.P. Ben Stein

Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you. Beloved Writer/Actor/Game-show-host Ben Stein is not dead — he’s just left the human race.

I first became aware of Ben Stein from his game show, Win Ben Stein’s Money, where his dry, arrogant stuffed-shirt persona bounced brilliantly against the couldn’t-give-a-rat’s-ass persona of co-host Jimmy Kimmel. It was a terrific show, perfect television, a cross between Jeopardy, You Bet Your Life and Firing Line. Through watching the show, I learned that Stein had worked for Nixon, and also had appeared in a number of ’80s teen comedies. Not to mention Visine commercials. So far, so good — seemed like a fascinating guy.

Then, in the past year or so, Stein started to make these bizarre appearances on news programs, where he would say things that weren’t merely “conservative” in their viewpoint (which I could respect) but demonstrably wrong. And then he would underline his points by saying something completely insane. And I thought “Gee, maybe Ben should stay at home more.”

Alas, he has decided to go in the opposite direction. He is the star of Expelled, a new “Michael Moore-style” documentary on this ridiculous piece-of-crap notion of “Intelligent Design.” When I first read of this new documentary, I thought perhaps Stein had regained his sanity and had made a movie about the obvious stupidity of not only Intelligent Design but of the stupid, bullying zealots who actively campaign every day to make American children dumber. Surely, I thought, a man as intelligent and well-read as Ben Stein wouldn’t be caught dead supporting a cause as ridiculous as this, would he?

Well, turns out, yes. He would. He has.

Look at that title again: Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. That sure sounds like a movie in favor of intelligence, doesn’t it? Good trick guys! Make a movie designed to blunt the edge of scientific achievement and make it sound like it’s arguing in favor of intelligence! Classic Rovian strategy of attacking your opponent where he’s strongest — if schools exist to make students smarter, let’s make a movie that says that they make students dumber!

I was about to chortle about how this movie has no chance of making its money back, but guess what? The producers beat me to it!

Unlike most movies, “Expelled” may be looking to effect policy change more than rack up B.O.

“It’s not important to me whether it makes money. I’ve already been paid, and I might add quite modestly at that,” says Stein, who is making the rounds from college campuses to “The O’Reilly Factor” to evangelical church screenings to promote the film. “I’m hoping that (schools) will at least allow in science classes someone to say, ‘What if it’s not Darwinism, but what if there was some intelligent designer who created the universe?’ “

See? All Ben Stein wants is to create an environment where something besides science is taught in science class! What’s the matter with our world, when we are so caught up in our mania for categorization that we insist on teaching only science in science class! Why can’t we teach Pet Care in math class, or Industrial Welding in Home Economics, or Skydiving in English class?

hit counter html code


23 Responses to “R.I.P. Ben Stein”
  1. gdh says:

    I always thought Ben Stein had entered firmly into the public consciousness with Ferris Beuller’s Day Off.

  2. urbaniak says:

    This 2005 masterpiece, in which he compares George W. Bush to Lincoln, Churchill, Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Paul II and states point blank that his Presidency was literally a gift from God, will never be equaled.

  3. Your title was a trifle deceptive 🙂

    Ben Stein has been saying rather crazy stuff for a bit longer than a year, in my honest opinion.

    The first time I noticed an essay written by Ben Stein, he argued that Deep Throat was responsible for the Khmer Rouge coming to power (and the resulting genocide in Cambodia). And that was in 2005.


    Part of me wants to call him crazy. At any rate, I arrange the facts in a very different way than he does.

    And I agree: the Kimmel/Stein era of Win Ben Stein’s Money was great.

  4. jtron says:

    Wasn’t he a Nixon speechwriter?

  5. noskilz says:

    This sort of move is very much in keeping with adding so much irrelevant noise to discussion that “reality” is whatever one wants it to be – movies probably go over better than think tanks. It sounds like he’s OK with whatever they paid him, so we won’t see a repeat of anything like that Regnery business

    He seems to be kind of a flake – I realize he used to work for Nixon, but there’s a point where selective memory leaves off and fantasy begins. I’m still assuming that he knows the Trojan war wasn’t launched by wild Alaskan seafood, but maybe not.

  6. seamusd says:

    Stein may be a master of the deadpan delivery, but that’s his only trick. He’s a wingnut through and through.

  7. I was gonna say… he just visited my town on that tour, that would be weird if suddenly he’d dropped dead.

    This is all kinda funny since Ben Stein was the science teacher in The Wonder Years!

  8. Anonymous says:

    I worked with Ben Stein in the mid-1990s as his editor, when he was a columnist in a magazine I ran. The column was terrific–well argued and always entertaining. Conservative, yes, but not loopy. It never occurred to me that he was the actor from Ferris Bueller until I got a fan letter to forward to him. He told me about the concept for Win Ben Stein’s Money when they were developing it–I loved that show.

    But now? Yikes! I wish the office movers hadn’t thrown away my Rolodex, so I could call him up and ask him what the hell is going on.

    I date his nuttiness to his father dying in 1999. Herbert Stein was a famous economist: chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under Nixon and Ford, and also a “humorous” columnist. Ben Stein revered him. And now he seems unhinged.


  9. teamwak says:

    I’d laugh more at Creationists, but they’re that well funded that they frighten me more!

  10. monica_black says:

    I thought Ben Stein left the human race when he divorced reality.

    And I hope that one of his viewpoints that you are referring to includes his belief that Wal-Mart is good for America.