John Stossel, co-anchor of ABC's 20/20, just wrote this in a column:
So let me stop here to repeat that. We are not in a depression. We are not even in recession. Get a grip, guys. We ought to point out that whatever today's problems bring, we are far away from reliving the Depression.
Who cares what's happening to average Americans, if John Stossel can still get work writing pro-corporate-fat-cat garbage, then all is fine in Stossel Land.
Hearing that John Stossel still exists takes me back though. When I was in high school, I was the president of our school's Science Olympiad team. (Think Math Decathlon, only cooler.) One of our coaches was targeted by a group of students who set up a webpage calling several teachers satanists and describing various violent acts that should be committed against them. The coach, along with several other teachers, thought that the school's punishment was too light, so they sued.
A couple of months later she told all of us that she was being interviewed for an ABC special that was going to be hosted by John Stossel. She was glad that the case was getting publicity - she wasn't doing it at all for the money, just to make sure that the school's policy changed. Here's a woman who devoted most of her life to education, and when she was the one who was threatened, the school let the students off with a slap on the wrist. She was making a fuss.
After the interview, she explained how everything went, the lighting, the hours of questions, all the producers who were in her home. It was going to air in a few weeks, and she was going to make sure that we all watched.
In a one hour ABC News Special, John Stossel observes that a dangerous new commandment has appeared in America: Thou shalt not hurt others with words.' Increasingly he says, 'People in power have come to believe it's their job to stop dangerous or hateful speech.'
That's a pretty accurate description of what I saw. She was put alongside people who were suing about hate speech and colleges that instituted free speech zones. Her interview was cut down to a few sentences that made her sound like an idiot (she was a sharp lady in reality, already knew that), and they didn't mention the implied death threats on the website.
All part of making your point, I guess.
The next day that coach was in tears. A few of her students wrote letters to ABC and didn't get a response. It was my first run-in with how TV distorts reality and how some journalists will do anything to propagandize their views.
The guy's made a career advocating for big business. But here's what he says after railing against the liberal media, a year after it cheer-led us into the war in Iraq:
"ABC, God bless them, they don't always agree with me," he said, "but they let me do most of the things I want to do."
Stossel passed up the opportunity to talk about the work of other ABC News journalists, including World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings. The Media Research Center, the parent organization of CNSNews.com, has criticized Jennings for biased reporting on the Bush administration and the Iraq war among other issues.
"I think as long as ABC is paying me," Stossel said, "they have a right to have me shut up about my opinions about what other people at ABC are doing."
When a member of the audience later asked Stossel why he had not joined a network with "journalistic integrity," such as Fox, the ABC newsman defended his employer.
"I'm going to stay with ABC," he said. "ABC has 10 million viewers typically, Fox has 1 [million], so the three networks can say, 'Fox is not doing good journalism, and the proof is that nobody's watching. We have 30 [million]; they have 1 [million]. Those are all right-wing nuts.' "
A network "journalist" flirting with the idea of working for Fox News? And check out how they silence conservatives - they hire a conservative ideologue to host their news magazine.
"[B]ig government hurts consumers much more than business. However That doesn't mean that businesses aren't ripping us off. They are, and they'll do it every chance they get."
Considering his disdain of injury lawsuits, he really ought to consider giving away a free whiplash collar with every purchase of his book.
The existence of corrupt, unethical or scammy businesses, however, is, in Stossel's world, self-correcting -- because competition takes care of them. "Competition, media coverage, and (occasionally) legal prosecution limit their opportunities to scam consumers," he assures us, after his chapters on "Clueless Media" and "Monster Government." And though he casually mentions that, sure, there are some corporations who "rip us off" -- "Enron, WorldCom and Tyco became famous for it" -- he fails wholly to address the troublesome dilemma of monopolies.
Indeed, the only this Stossel values Stossel is being a corporate whore. Businesses don't rip people off, except when they do. When they do, the media will catch them, except it's so liberal that journalists have to be careful about criticizing businesses, so they shouldn't. Then lawsuits work, but they should be used infrequently, as in never.
A while ago I worked at a summer camp for rich kids. Not private school rich, but "show up in a helicopter" rich and "have your dad visit you in a hovercraft" rich. John Stossel's son went there while I was working there, and the lesson is clear: defend the wealthy, prop up this vast imbalance of wealth distribution, make sure that people have internalized their place in our economic hierarchy, and you'll be well-rewarded.
For all of his victimization, Stossel's doing well for himself. If only he could realize that not everyone else is.