Friday, May 26, 2006

Stossel Meets Steigerwald

In last Saturday's edition of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the paper's associate editor, Bill Steigerwald, interviews John Stossel of ABC News about Stossel's new book, Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel--Why Everything You Know is Wrong.

In the interview, Stossel confirms what I have long suspected -- despite disagreements on some issues, conservatives are closer to (and more comfortable with) libertarians than liberals are.

Steigerwald asks Stossel how he defines himself, politically speaking. Stossel replies:

I’d say I’m a libertarian. And I prefer the word “liberal” except that the liberals stole the word and have perverted it to mean “big government running your life.” So I’m stuck with “classical liberal” and no one knows what that means, so I call myself a libertarian.
The interviewer then points out that libertarians disagree with both liberals and conservatives -- with conservatives on issues like the drug war, with liberals on issues like the minimum wage. How, Steigerwald asks, do the two other groups treat libertarians like Stossel? The answer may surprise you:
I think homosexuality is all right. And yet the conservatives will pay me a $40,000 speaking fee -- which goes to charity, by the way – and invite me to their events and have me on their shows. But the liberals will have nothing to do with me.
This disdain extends to the mainstream media, Stossel says, with a complete lack of interest in his new book:
I've got no NPR, none of the big national NPR shows. No New York Times. No Washington Post. No Larry King....

The left only wants to talk to people they like. They view me as "icky." And these ideas are not even interesting enough to them to have them want to argue with me. They just don't want to think about it. ... I think a lot of journalists consider me somewhat of a pariah. I have betrayed the "objectivity" thing. There are some people at ABC who are furious at me who demand that I be fired for having a point of view. What's peculiar is that I have always had a point of view in my reporting. I won 19 Emmys doing consumer reporting where I had a point of view. I might say, "This company sucks" or "This product is better than that." I would do the research and say, "Here's my point of view" and "Here's what the other side says." What I do now is no different, but now I no longer win any Emmy awards and I'm criticized for not being objective.
I really like Stossel's answer to the question of how he became a libertarian. For Stossel, it was an important libertarian publication:
I watched government fail in the regulation I cheered on as a consumer reporter. And I kept reading, trying to find somebody who would explain to me what was going on. The New York Times and the Globe and the Post were all saying the same things, which didn’t make sense to me. And the National Review and American Spectator were all bashing Democrats and saying we should have soldiers more places. Then I finally found Reason magazine -- and that opened my eyes.
In my case, I like to say that it was because in the late 1980s, the Cato Institute served better food at its lunchtime seminars than the Heritage Foundation did. But that's just being glib -- the real story is more complex, and someday I might tell it here.

By the way, the interview with John Stossel also appears in that old war-horse of conservative publications, Human Events. I can't imagine seeing it reprinted in the Village Voice or Mother Jones.

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