John Stossel's descent into madness

I used to respect John Stossel. He is one one of the few voices skeptical of paranormal phenomena that has broken through in the mainstream media. Yet, his reports have increasingly turned into screeds for his libertarian political philosophies. He has taken to using spurious arguments, ignoring important facets of issues and distorting the truth on such a regular basis that he succeeds in pissing me off even when I agree with the general gist of his story.

On Friday night, Stossel infected an entire hour of ABC’s airspace with the program John Stossel Takes on Myths, Lies and Nasty Behavior. I was jogging when the program came on (I think much of it was preempted for a basketball game in my market anyway) so I only saw the numbers one and two “myths” of the program. In these two “myths,” Stossel manages to create quite a few of his own myths.

A synopsis of the program can found here

His number two myth was that urban sprawl is bad.

First he creates straw-men critics of sprawl by saying

He provides no critics of sprawl who actualy say this. Then he tears up his staw-men by saying

Okay, first the loss of “open spaces” is way, way down the line of the list of problems created by urban sprawl. Second, the report showed several views of farmland shot from above when he describes how “undeveloped” America is. This brings us to…

Stossel Created Myth Number 1: Farmland is undeveloped.

Farms are man-made monocultures, cleared of preexisting natural conditions and doused in herbicides, fertilizers and whatnot. I’m not saying farms are evil, but to refer to them as “undeveloped” is disingenuous.

He went on to trash the city of Portland, OR which is under the boot of a tyrannical “central bureaucracy” that “approves all new development.” He accuses this policy of causing property values to go up in Portland, which raises…

Stossel created myth number 2: Rising property values are bad.

In reality, the opposite is true. When property values start to fall, a neighborhood is in serious jeopardy.

Stossel never offers any defense against other arguments against urban sprawl such as it causes environmental degradation, it increases America’s dependance on imported oil, it discourages healthy lifestyles in people who live there, it cost taxpayers a fortune to build more and more highways into increasing far-flung areas and so on.

After his treatise in favor of urban sprawl we get to the number one myth in (what? America? the world? I don’t know) - sharing is bad.

This report is basically an extrapolation of the Tragedy of the Commons. This is well accepted and isn’t all that controversial. A more accurate title would have been “Communal Property is Bad,” but that wouldn’t have been nearly as dramatic as “Sharing is Bad,” so there you go.

In the story, Stossel manages to go way beyond the Tragedy of the Commons, hoever, and turns his contention into a joke.

He builds the idea into an argument that all public property is bad. He shows footage of public parks strewn with used tires and mounds of garbage. The public parks where I live are absolutely beautiful. None of these were in the story. Stossel went out and found the worst places in America and presented them as if they were typical. Furthermore, he claims that private property is rarely dumped on. Really? That sounds like another myth to me. Do jackasses with trucks full of crap care who owns the land? I would think they just look for anyplace that’s deserted and let loose.

He shows the mini-fridge in his area at work which is a mess. This works as an example of an abused commons, but Stossel’s contention is that privately owned property is good. The fridge is privately owned. Stossel also had said that sharing amongst small groups is good. That is also the case with his fridge. The fridge shoots down two of his own assertions.

Then Stossel blames forest fires on public property.

Stossel created myth number 3: Forest fires are bad.

In reality, fires are part of the natural cycle and are vital to the health of the forest.

Timber companies saw down old growth forests. Hooray for that, I guess.

Then he talks about how the seas are overfished. He praises the government of New Zealand because…

Fine. But this is pretty much that same exact thing that Portland did in his myth number two. Why doesn’t Stossel chastise the New Zealander “central bureaucrats?” Didn’t this policy make fish prices rise in the same way the property values rose in Portland? If fewer fish are being taken, it follows that the supply of fish on the market would fall. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but Stossel is trying to have it both ways.

Hey John, give me a break!

I think his heart is in the right place, but he is somewhat lacking in the brain dept.

Anyone who called for Dan Rather to step down, but hasn’t done the same for Stossel is a hypocrite. Stossel was even more directly involved in HIMSELF either falsifying evidence or preparing a story in which the evidence had been laughly falsified.

Just another media whore, climbing on the career move bandwagon to be another conservative talking head. Sooner or later, the question becomes how many Coulters, Hewitts, Hannitys, etc. the ecology can support. Escpecially since they all pretty much say the same shit, over and over.

He’s probably just trying to assert some kind of distinction, cause he’s pretty much on the “B” team…

Oh, I don’t think so. Stossel, probably more than anyone on Tv, shares my values of skepticism and general distrust of common wisdom. It’s just that his methods are basically a crappy tabloid opinion-piece journalism. Which isn’t entirely his fault: that’s just the format of 20/20. But that format, I think, has led him to do some remarkably unbalanced and even factually false pieces.

I remember one of Stossel’s pieces on teenagers who wanted to work, but weren’t allowed because of the state’s age restrictions. He completely ignored the facts that younger teens are more vulnerable to being exploited and less likely to know their rights. He pretty much just assumed that all business owners were benevolent and wanted to hire kids to teach them valuable life lessons.
He also made no mention of the impact that having an afterschool job might have on their schoolwork.

Okay, I’ll bite. Stossel isn’t being a complete dumbass here, he’s saying things that you disagree with. First, he’s simply arguing that there is a lot of space still available here in America, and he’s right. You may consider farms “developed” but they’re what most people consider open-space and hardly reaching what most consider to be the number of people that it could reasonably support.

In regards to the property value increases, he’s right that these land restrictions can and will lead to enormous increases in housing prices. He wasn’t advocating a fall in housing prices, but pointing out that having prices double in ten years can have detrimental effects on a number of residents. I’m a student in Boulder, CO. Trust me, he has some points on this. Not to say that every city should open itself up to whatever developers want to come in, but all of these “Urban-Sprawl Fighters” can have negative consequences. Let each city decide.

And yes, I di think that private property land owners take more care of their land to defend it from potentially devaluing influences like jackasses with trucks full of crap to dump. I think that Stossel is right on in this. Most of the worst environmental sites in the world are government caused (again, I’m a 30 minute bike ride from Rocky Flats) such as Chernobyl, Three Mile, Groom Lake sounds like it, etc. Until somebody runs an experiment randomly assigning 1-acre plots of rural land to government and private owners, we’ll never know the answer, so you’re as big of dumbass as Stossel in making your argument.

In other words: cite?

I can’t quite follow your rant on the office fridge, but yeah, in my own estimation, the basic point stands. People take care of their stuff but they don’t care about public stuff. Again, living as an RA in the dorms, people trash the bathrooms, pull down doortags in the hall, and do some absolutely disgusting things in public spaces that they sure don’t do in their own private rooms.

Forest fires? I’ve seen the government fuck up it’s own forest-fire policies so badly that I don’t even know where to start. Forest fires are an essential part of forest ecology in part because they prevent huge, massively destructive crown fires from coming through later on, but the government has had an absolutely idiotic policy of spending literally billions on deep-forest first suppression that only prevents fires from taking their critical role in forest ecology and lays the groundwork for mega-fires later on. At least private forests allow thining to prevent mega-forest-fires.

The fish? Yes, it is both ways. In one case, you have stunning amounts of land available for development as opposed to artificially limiting supply and raising prices for the housing. In the other, you have a resource which is obviously already close to the breaking point and where continued unchecked exploitation will actually diminish the overall output of the resource. Do big houses get it on to make little baby houses?

In short: you fuckin’ card-carrying commie fuck-waffle, Stossel isn’t mad, you’re stupid. (Sorry, the GD tone was getting out of hand and we needed to bring this back in line with pit social-standards)

Oh yes, was Stossel wading out in some alluvial plane on the New Zealand cost putting Lesser Whitman’s Poach fish together and saying, “come on, you know you wanna’ screw!”

How has Stossel created factually inacurate material for this story? Using points in ways that you disagree is hardly the same as faking memos.


I’m not going to speak for Apos, but I don’t see anywhere in his post that he’s referring to this particular story. I’m guessing he’s referring to Stossel’s “Organic Food” comedy of errors.

Bingo. Now who’s the dumbass, threemae?

First, the point of urnag growth boundaries is to preserve farms. Without those restrictions farms are turmed into strip malls, apartment plexes, and McMansions. Intel’s huge complexes in Oreon are outside of the urban growth boundary and are named Hawthorne Farm and Jones Farm because they are built on old farms.

Second, Three Mile Island was a private facility.

urnag = urban

Yeah, if by “private” you mean Fabianist.

What’s tinfoil go for these days?

Of or relating to the caution and avoidance of direct confrontation typical of the Roman general Quintus Fabius Maximus? :wink:

No, the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant is owned by a private company, with some government oversight and some government subsidy. Just the same as most other power plants.


Stossel is good when he dispells conventional wisdom (like he did with the myth that gas prices are higher than ever) but his attempts to point out these interesting facts are tainted by his libertarianism slant which usually makes the moral of his mythbusting to be ‘taxes are bad, gov. intervention is bad, free trade is great, etc’. if he didn’t put his political bias into his stories he would be a much better investigative journalist, this is like James Carville reporting on the RNC.

Ah, John Stossel. Whenever I become irritated by his bullshit spewing factually challenged conservirants, I just close my eyes and remember the image of him being bitch-slapped by a professional wrestler.

Violence may not solve everything, but it does make some things easier to bear.

That’s not true.

Until this thread, I was only vaguely aware of John Stossel, and certainly completely unaware of the specifics of his stories.

Perhaps you add a qualifer along the lines of, “Anyone who knows what Dan Rather did and called for him to step down, and knows what John Stossel did but remains mute, is a hypocrite.”

I didn’t see this program. My only thought upon seeing the ad was “wow, he’s got a lot of nerve accusing anybody else of those things.”