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As of 10 December 2009, John Stossel (b. 6 March 1947) was the latest mouthpiece of the right-wing to out himself by jumping from the "mainstream media" to Fox News. He claims to be a libertarian and not a right-winger. He claims that movie character Gordon Gekko's mantra "Greed is good" is a good philosophy for individuals and societies to follow. He even made several specials for ABC-TV illustrating this belief.
If you can believe it, Stossel was actually once an upstanding advocacy journalist in his early career on 20/20, exposing corruption and fraud in both the public and private sectors. In 1998, Stossel also hosted a prime time special, The Power of Belief, challenging quack, New Age, and supernatural claims. That special also featured interviews with magician-turned-skeptic James Randi. Since his conversion to libertarianism, however, he mostly deals in Reaganism, global warming denialism, and general fact distortion. Unfortunately, due to his frequent criticism of various forms of woo, he has suckered other skeptics into appearing with him to promote his laissez-faire bullshit and denialism.
Give us a break!
His catch phrase "Give me a break!" was coined from segments he did for ABC's 20/20 where he would find an issue and give a slanted take on it, all the while pretending his take on the issue was the actual truth, and not an opinion. These reports also had a history of Stossel, himself, fabricating and distorting data which he then presented as "evidence" of his beliefs.
Conversions take place for different reasons. In Stossel's, case candidates for motivations include reflection, ambition and family ties. His older brother is Dr. Thomas P. Stossel of the Manhattan Institute.
Or perhaps his motivations were more base. In a 1996 address to the Federalist Society, Stossel was asked why he gave up being a consumer advocate in favor of being a corporatist/libertarian shill. His response:
“”I got sick of it. I also now make so much money I just lost interest in saving a buck on a can of peas.
Now for the really crazy stuff
Stossel has been known to support and defend amazingly batshit things as well. He supports the legalization of blackmail, believing it encourages people to be more moral and responsible. He once went so far as to support that on his show in response to the infamous blackmail incident involving David Letterman's affairs with his female staff members. If that wasn't enough, he also interviewed economist Robert Hanson who also supports the use of blackmail.
Stossel is arguably one of the most prolific poster children for vulgar libertarianism. His heavy favoritism towards capitalism and other sorts of questionable nonsense puts him in direct opposition with more genuine, consistent libertarian values.
For example: he once claimed that communism almost destroyed the American Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony with capitalism and private property saving them. Left-libertarian Kevin Carson has taken him to task for this.
- But is he a Libertarian?
- Grove, Lloyd. "Fitting in at Fox", The Daily Beast website, 6 December 2009, accessed 7 December 2009.
- Example: archived ABCNews.com page from Apr. 1998. We should note, however, that he thinks that Gordon Gekko and George W. Bush are actually lefty socialists masquerading as conservatives.
- Transcript, Video part 1 of 6 (this Youtube user uploaded all 6 parts)
- Arm or Leg?
- Open letter to skeptics
- Thank You, John Stossel, for Teaching Libertarians How to Do Cable News", Reason.
- Stossel apology for organic food report.
- One of many examples of his bias
- Stossel Fabricated Data on Organics, Researchers Say
- "The Stossel Beat: Soundbite", Fairness and Accuracy in Media (FAIR.org) report "Extra!", November/December 1996.