John Stossel

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John Stossel.
Parroting squawkbox
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And a dirty dozen more

As of 10 December 2009, John Stossel (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[note 1] 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.[1] He even made several specials for ABC-TV illustrating this belief.[2]

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.[3] Since his conversion to libertarianism, however, he mostly deals in Reaganism, global warming denialism, and general fact distortion.[4] 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.[5]

In 2016, Stossel shifted to Reason TV.[6]

In 2000, one of his specials on organic food caused a stir, though at least he issued a correction on this one.[7]

Give us a break![edit]

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,[8] 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.[9]


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.[10]

Stopped clock[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Stopped clock

Stossel, while known for advocating for truly kooky things, has advocated for some reasonable and good things. He did shows supporting ending the War on Drugs,[11] legalizing prostitution,[12] opposing mandatory minimum prison sentences,[13] opposing regressive soda taxes,[14] as well as opposing American imperialism and endless war.[15]

Now for the really crazy stuff[edit]

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.[16]

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.[17] Left-libertarian Kevin Carson has taken him to task for this.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. But is he a Libertarian?