This will be quick and appropriately dirty.
A couple of weeks back, Bob Cesca and I each put together a list of the people in cable news we disliked the most, then ran down our respective choices on our subscription-only podcast After Party. A couple of the names we both came up with were obvious -- the O'Reillys and Hannitys of the world -- but we did actually try to stay away from easy political targets and were for the most part successful. Topping my list of the most loathsome was of course Nancy Grace; anybody who's read me long enough knows that I consider her a dangerous, amoral monster who peddles sickening prurience in the disguise of righteous indignation, all in the name of nothing more noble than her own self-interest. Bob, meanwhile, seems to have a pretty deep-seated distaste for Fox News ultra-smug prick Greg Gutfeld. Either way, it was a fun little exercise in venting our frustration with the cable press minus actually having to do anything strenuous to effect change like chaining ourselves to a lamp pole in Midtown Manhattan or literally painting our faces blue and taking up arms.
A couple of days ago, though, I was reminded of a huge oversight on my personal list of the worst of the worst on cable news. It happened when I watched a video clip that featured John Stossel pushing the latest installment in a series he's been doing for Fox Business News called "Freeloaders." In the clip, Stossel was explaining to the crew of slobbering idiots on Fox & Friends how he made quite a bit of money dressing up as a homeless guy and panhandling on New York City's streets, the point seeming to be that you shouldn't give money to panhandlers since they're untrustworthy and could very well be douchey Fox Business News reporters out to trick you. If you can make sense of that circular reasoning, you win a prize -- and if you're lucky it's the opportunity to slap the shit out of John Stossel.
Now make no mistake: John Stossel is an asshole. He's a self-described libertarian, which these days is really just a fancy catch-all word for an asshole who's pompously aligned him or herself with an impressive-sounding but entirely BS political movement in an effort to lend legitimacy to and to outright excuse selfish, asshole-ish behavior. Stossel's willingness to carry the torch and wrap himself in the protective cloak of libertarianism explains why he can do a story that essentially targets the least fortunate among the American population, painting them with a broad brush as alcoholic parasites out to prey on the generosity of fine upstanding contributors to society, without putting his head in his hands and crying while pleading for forgiveness for being such a shitty human being the entire time. If Stossel has a heart somewhere beneath that 70s porn moustache -- and for the unfamiliar, he's in every way a poor man's Geraldo, who himself is in every way a poor man's dog turd on the end of a stick -- it's long since become little more than a dessicated husk.
Think about it for a minute. At the very beginning of his pitch on Fox & Friends, Stossel admits that it's the very wealthy who do most of the "freeloading" in this country, through corporate welfare, farm subsidies, etc. But of course, rather than attacking the powerful -- the ones whose crimes against average, hard-working Americans would have to be infinitely more profound and damaging than those of a guy begging for loose change -- Stossel instinctively eschews the precept that muckraking journalism should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable and kicks the people at the very bottom of the pyramid scheme in the nuts just for the hell of it. Sure there are panhandlers who rip you off, who buy drugs and alcohol with the money you give them; sure there are people on welfare who game the system and who simply refuse to work. But it takes a staggering lack of compassion to lump everyone accepting some form of assistance into the category of deadbeats who just need to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and stop taking what isn't theirs -- whose primary day-to-day goal shouldn't be survival but should instead be getting "off the dole." This, of course, seems to be the modern Republican line of thinking, which dovetails perfectly into the libertarian worldview: It's almost always the victim's fault that he or she is a victim and success is its own state of grace which buys you forgiveness for your sins, whatever they happen to be.
It's the way assholes think.
It's the way John Stossel thinks.
Can't believe I left him off my list.