Friday, April 23, 2010

The Napolitano Phenomenon (Jacob Hornberger)

Jacob Hornberger comments on the astonishing announcement that Judge Napolitano's Freedom Watch is coming to TV:

The Napolitano Phenomenon
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Last October I wrote an article entitled “Judge Andrew Napolitano’s Libertarian Phenomenon,” in which I stated: “Fox News legal commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano’s Internet program Freedom Watch is one of the most fascinating phenomena in the history of the libertarian movement. There’s never been anything like it and if it were to break out to the Fox News television channel, it would constitute nothing less than a revolutionary development in American politics.”

Well, guess what has just happened! Judge Napolitano recently announced that Fox has given him his television show! It will be on the Fox Business Network, the same network where libertarian John Stossel has his show.

This is truly an amazing development because as most everyone in the libertarian movement knows, Fox News is predominantly conservative while the good judge is a hard-core, take-no-prisoners libertarian. That has all the makings of a fascinating dynamic.

There had to be considerable handwringing within the group at Fox that decides these sorts of things. After all, in many ways conservatives are as different from libertarians as liberals are. While conservatives often use libertarian rhetoric (“free enterprise, private property, and limited government”), the truth is that they love big government, big spending, big taxes, big debt, and big inflation. Just look at the 8 years of the Bush administration.

Why, just this week famed Fox News conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly emphasized to libertarian Stossel how necessary it is for big government to protect people from those scary Wall Street bankers. In essence, he was explaining how the chickens need to keep looking to the fox (small f) to take care of them.

And as we witnessed for 8 years under Bush, conservatives also love undeclared wars of aggression, torture, indefinite detention, suspension of habeas corpus, kidnapping, rendition, foreign aid to dictators, empire, militarism, denial of due process, warrantless searches, illegal wiretaps, governmental immunity, and assassination, even while repeatedly proclaiming, “We favor limited government.”

Not so with Napolitano. As a libertarian, his perspective is entirely different. Unlike O’Reilly and the other conservative commentators at Fox, he correctly sees the federal government in the same way the Framers did — as the biggest threat to the freedom and well-being of the American people. And unlike conservatives, Napolitano has the deep visceral distrust of the welfare state, regulatory state, and warfare state that characterizes libertarians.

So, moving Napolitano’s show to television had to have presented quite a quandary for Fox management. On the one hand, Napolitano clearly does not have the same conservative mindset as O’Reilly and others at Fox. On the other hand, however, the Fox people know that Napolitano is an inspirational star for the entire libertarian movement, especially college-age libertarians and libertarians in their 20s and 30s. In fact, in personal appearances on college campuses he’s treated like Mick Jagger! His Internet show Freedom Watch has only grown in popularity, week after week.

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.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. Send him email.

Copyright © Future of Freedom Foundation

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