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The Napolitano Revolution Hits Television

Jacob Hornberger
Campaign For Liberty
June 15, 2010

In October 2009 in an article entitled “Judge Andrew Napolitano’s Libertarian Phenomenon,” I wrote:

If Fox News were to decide to put Napolitano on the air, his show would undoubtedly shake up the nice, little comfortable world of the statists. Both conservatives and liberals would undoubtedly be stunned, shell-shocked, and dumbfounded over how to deal with a television show filled with purist, hard-hitting libertarians challenging the fundamental premises of the welfare-warfare state that is so beloved to conservatives and liberals.

Well, I can’t say that the statists who appeared on the judge’s inaugural show this past weekend were stunned, shell-shocked, and dumbfounded, but I can say that for the first time in television history, they were challenged to address libertarian positions by a libertarian television talk-show host. For that reason alone, it was an absolutely incredible hour in the history of the libertarian movement.

After all, for years libertarians and the libertarian perspective have, by and large, been shut out of the television talk-show circuit. The debate has almost always been between liberals and conservatives. In other words, it’s always been a debate — if you can call it that — involving one form of statism versus another form of statism — that is, over which statist reform program should be adopted — the liberal one or the conservative one. The libertarian perspective — abolishing and dismantling statist welfare-warfare programs in favor of freedom, peace, and the free market simply has not been presented, much less discussed.

That all seems to be changing. Libertarianism is on the rise, as reflected most recently by the spate of articles attacking libertarianism, from both the left and the right. The statists are undoubtedly sensing the rising number of people who are now exploring libertarianism or even calling themselves libertarians. The statists are obviously getting nervous or even running scared.

The Fox television channels are at the vanguard of this monumental shift in focus on libertarianism. The big breakthrough came when Fox Business Network lured libertarian television news reporter John Stossel away from ABC to Fox Business Network, where he has been advancing libertarian domestic policy positions on his new weekly television show.

Even conservatives on Fox News are now addressing libertarian philosophy. For example, conservative television commentator Glenn Beck has been promoting libertarian ideas and books on his show. And Fox News conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly devotes a segment of his show each week to an interview with Stossel, in order to get the libertarian perspective on current events.

And now the Fox Business Network has elevated Judge Napolitano’s Internet show “Freedom Watch” to a one-hour, first-class-produced show on television, knowing full well that this is a man whose passionate commitment to libertarianism, the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, economic liberty, and civil liberties comes through his every sentence, along with his deeply seated disdain for socialism, interventionism, empire, and big government.

The judge’s inaugural show was billed as the Tea Party Summit, and featured such politicians as Sarah Palin, Sen. Jim DeMint, former congressman Dick Armey, congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendall, Senate candidate Rand Paul, and libertarian congressman Ron Paul. What fascinated me about the program was how the judge, in his inimitable friendly and diplomatic style, caused the conservative and liberal panelists to point out where they stood in the context of libertarian positions on the burning issues of the day.

When was the last time you saw a television program in which statists were asked to explain or justify their position on the drug war, the Patriot Act, civil liberties, Iraq, Afghanistan, the U.S. government’s overseas military empire — and all from a standpoint of libertarianism? My answer: this was the first time ever.

What I found fascinating about the Tea Party types was their almost-exclusive focus on federal spending and debt while never talking about abolishing any of the welfare-warfare programs on which all that federal spending and debt are expended. I wish the judge, for example, had said to Dick Armey, “Dick, you Republicans are now railing against federal spending and debt. But when you Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency, you didn’t abolish any major welfare-warfare programs when you had the chance, and instead caused federal spending and debt to soar. Why shouldn’t people conclude that railing against federal spending and debt is nothing more than another clever political strategy to regain political power?”

In a follow-up article I wrote last April, entitled “The Napolitano Phenomenon,” I wrote: “I think it’s a fantastic decision that Fox has made. Clearly they had to have sensed that libertarianism is rising in popularity among the American people. Clearly they had to have sensed that libertarianism might yet become the predominate political and economic philosophy of our time. Napolitano’s new show won’t just be riding that wave, it will be helping to produce it.”

Today an excellent analysis of Judge Napolitano’s new show appears in the business section of the New York Times entitled “Libertarian Talk, Now on Fox Business Network by Brian Stelter. It even quotes Lew Rockwell and me on the significance of the judge’s new show!

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