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Steve Likes to Curse
Writing, comics and random thoughts from really a rather vulgar man
Was John Stossel always this crazy? 
Thursday, July 8th, 2010 | 07:49 pm [commentary, television]
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The ABC newsmagazine 20/20 was appointment television for me when I was growing up. Every Friday at 10 p.m. I watched a few other similar shows — Primetime Live, Dateline NBC when it started, though not 60 Minutes, which struck me as too serious — but 20/20, hosted at the time by Barbara Walters and a rapidly withering Hugh Downs, was the only one I tried never to miss. Always a highlight were the segments presented by John Stossel.

Back then Stossel wasn’t on every week. His reports were a treat, like a crumb of sugar cookie or an extra ladle of gruel at evening mealtime. (I never mentioned it before, but I was raised in a Dickensian workhouse. I hated it at the time, but now, you know, I wouldn’t change a thing. I wonder whatever happened to those lads at the spike . . .) Stossel would report on things like government waste, or irrational fears. He’d challenge popular notions like the supremacy of the United States, and question conventional wisdom. He was an advocate for the consumer, and a champion of common sense. Bill O’Reilly sells himself as the guy who’s “looking out for you,” but Stossel seemed to actually be that guy.

So what the fuck happened? How did John Stossel go from the guy I used to watch on 20/20, keeping corporations honest, calling bullshit on superstition and pseudoscience, to the guy who now hosts a show in the Fox Business Channel and argues that private businesses should have the legal right to refuse service to any customer whose skin pigmentation is a shade too dark for the liking of the owner?

The answer, according to Stossel himself, is that he gradually grew (or shrank) from a liberal wanting to see fairness and justice for all, to a libertarian who believed that the free market was the best way — the only way — to secure those benefits for people. He, like his more overtly batshit colleague Glenn Beck, is a believer in the great libertarian fairy tale that if only the government would withdraw completely from private life, eliminate the income tax, and rescind all health, safety and environmental regulations, the profit motive would ensure that everyone got along, behaved themselves, treated each other right, and lived happily ever after.

That I find this total bullshit will be no surprise if you’ve read this blog before. But it’s not just Stossel’s libertarian utopianism that makes me wonder what broke his brain since I watched him on 20/20 in the mid-1990s. It’s the fact that he joined the chorus of reactionary right-wing douchebags who called President Obama asking BP to set aside money to pay for damages caused by its oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico — the worst environmental disaster in history — a “shakedown.” It’s the fact that he accepts the existence of man-made global warming, but insists it’s no big deal and that attempts to minimize its effects will be far more dangerous. It’s the fact that he doesn’t seem to be a very honest man — he’s misquoted sources, massaged statistics, and failed to disclose conflicts of interest more than a few times according to his page at the Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting website.

Stossel isn’t Glenn Beck. He’s got brains and the ability to project competence and trustworthiness. Yet don’t let the newsman polish and porn star mustache fool you. Stossel might sincerely be looking out for you, but you owe it to yourself to listen to another lookout.

Comments 
Friday, July 9th, 2010 | 10:13 am (UTC)
wow, you make it sound like Glenn Beck is a Libertarian! Last time I check, he was just an idiot spreading the stupid disease.
Friday, July 9th, 2010 | 12:53 pm (UTC)
I think Beck's paranoia, hysteria and phony outrage at everything that conflicts even slightly with his narrow-minded world view takes him beyond libertarianism, or conservatism, or any other political philosophy. You're right, he's just an idiot. But he fancies himself a libertarian, and spends hours every week on radio and television pushing the silly and simplistic notion that government is the problem and unfettered private enterprise is the solution.
Friday, July 9th, 2010 | 01:04 pm (UTC)
I don't know that I've ever heard Beck refer to himself as a libertarian; not that I listen to him at all really. And frankly I don't think HE buys the crap that he's selling. He's just a rabble rouser whose job is to stir up the masses and make people fume. And I can say this because he's smart enough to insinuate something without coming right out. So if someone wants to call him on something, he can dance around it with semantics. “I didn’t say that, I said this…You THOUGHT I said that, and it’s probably because you’re a bigot. NEXT CALLER!”

Kinda like how Maury Povich used to be a respected journalist, but then he found a method of pulling an audience!
Sunday, July 11th, 2010 | 01:48 pm (UTC)
Anonymous
I can only assume this was what caused the change:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrX9Ca7LSyQ

- SJB
Sunday, July 11th, 2010 | 02:37 pm (UTC)
Yes! I tried to work this in to the article, but felt it wouldn't really fit.

Maybe Stossel saw the light, so to speak, after that incident and has been atoning for exposing the business by selling the head shots Schultz gave him these last twenty-five years, acting progressively crazier and crazier as the result of brain damage received at the hands of Dr. D. It's a great, subtle gimmick if you think about it. And if Vince suddenly brings Schultz back in out of the blue, you'll know it's finally time for the pay-off.

If Stossel had done some actual research before asking Schultz that question, he would have discovered that many wrestlers back in those days, especially journeyman territory guys like Schultz, were told to fight anyone who challenged the legitimacy of the business in public. Stossel's lucky he was a reporter; if he'd been some random smartass fan coming up and asking that question, Schultz might have really hurt him.
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