John Stossel to Bring Tales of Mythbusting and Muckraking to Nashville Event
By Mark Todd Engler Revere or revile him, those familiar with John Stossel are rarely ambivalent about the veteran television journalist’s investigative reporting or liberty-loving commentary. Today, Stossel is one of America’s most popular and recognizable broadcast personalities. The ABC News “20/20” co-anchor earned his reputation and numerous awards over a nearly four-decade career dishing out scoops, debunking popular myths, busting unscrupulous businesses operators and contravening conventional wisdom. On May 8, Middle Tennessee news junkies will get a firsthand opportunity to meet the formidable contrarian, whose weekly program airs Friday evenings on WKRN. Stossel is slated to deliver an evening presentation called “Freedom and Its Enemies” at the Hilton Downtown Nashville. He’ll amplify on the themes he explores in his two books, Give Me a Break (2004), and the recently released Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity: Get out the Shovel – Why Everything You Know Is Wrong. Later, he’ll take questions and autograph copies of his books. Both books highlight Stossel’s experiences over the years of challenging faulty assumptions and exposing the irrational prejudices commonly held by political elites and bureaucratic overlords that often lead to misguided public policy. “I want government to leave people alone,” proclaims Stossel. An unflinching proponent of an individual’s right to seek happiness on his or her own terms, Stossel is adamant in his belief that “people should be free to do anything they want – as long as they don’t hurt anyone else. I may disagree with their choices, but I don’t think The State should take their choices away.” For Stossel, any policy effort that leads to bigger government is likely not just misguided and irrational, but destructive and dangerous to human liberty. The “Stossel Rule” for effective legislative reform reads, “For every law they pass, they have to repeal two old ones.” Stossel has been demonized the past several years by those who detest his market-friendly perspectives. Ever since Stossel grew weary of playing predictable hidden-camera “Gotcha!” games with private-sector snake-oil pitchmen and fly-by-night fraud artists, he’s been more or less classified persona non grata in consumer-protection advocacy circles, where previously he was hailed a crusading American media hero. “My new enemies like to call me a ‘former’ consumer reporter who ‘sold out and became a corporate shill,'” declares Stossel in Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity. “(B)ut I’m still a consumer reporter. I just realized there were bigger fish to fry. I saw that big government hurts consumers much more than business.” The backlash began in earnest once Stossel started targeting the misallocation of taxpayer resources. It got worse when his inquisitive energies led him to question the alarmist cadres of activist “experts” who pursue lucrative careers promoting “victimhood” and misrepresenting scientific reality as they lobby in the “public interest” against personal freedom and individual responsibility. Predictably, the partisans and apologists for nanny-state regulatory intervention haven’t taken kindly to Stossel’s “less government is good government” message. Compounding Stossel’s ideological heresies, he makes no secret of his contempt for teachers’ unions and doggedly refuses to cloak or suppress his palpable distrust of public school “educrats.” Suffice it to say, Stossel’s won an enduring fountainhead of scorn from what he terms the “totalitarian left.” Somewhat surprisingly, Stossel has also been cast as a “scourge” among fellow journalists, and they make little effort to conceal their biases against him. In Reason Magazine senior editor Brian Doherty’s book Radicals for Capitalism, Stossel recalls how his former colleague, the late Peter Jennings, used to “jerk his head from facing me if we passed each other in the hall, as if I had betrayed the objectivity canon.” What’s irksome to Stossel is that when he spent most of his time “bashing individual businesses,” he clearly exhibited a point of view. And yet his colleagues praised him for it. The Dallas Morning News at one point crowned Stossel the “bravest and best of television’s consumer reporters.” Only when he began voicing his emerging conviction “that government regulation could be a problem” did his professional ethics come under fire. “Then suddenly I’m not objective,” Stossel told Doherty. “I had won 19 Emmys (as a pro-regulation consumer reporter) and haven’t won since. Not even nominated since.” Ultimately, however, the criticism probably doesn’t amount to much in Stossel’s estimation. It clearly doesn’t detract from his sense of accomplishment and pride at having dedicating his professional life to unmasking the hypocrisy, nonsense and deception that infects so much of our political culture.