F-U journalism from Matt Taibbi

Following on the heels of yesterday’s post on a 1993 long-form, take-down profile of Gregory Clark, readers might be interested in taking a look at Matt Taibbi. He is a true master of what I call fuck-you journalism, something of a subset of gonzo style. If you thought the reporter for The Australian was a little harsh, you haven’t seen anything. Taibbi has got to be the biggest out-and-out dickhead in the entire business, though I am sure he could find far more biting insults for himself. Some choice bits:

On the death of Yeltsin:

Death of a Drunk
At long last, former Russian president and notorious booze-hound Boris Yeltsin dies

Boris Yeltsin probably had more obituaries ready in the world’s editorial cans than any chronically-ill famous person in history. He has been dying for at least twenty consecutive years now — although he only started dying physically about ten years ago, he has been dying in a moral sense since at least the mid-Eighties. Of course, spiritually speaking, he’s been dead practically since birth…I once visited Boris Yeltsin’s birthplace, in a village in the Talitsky region of the Sverdlovsk district in the Urals, in a tiny outhouse of a village called Butka. I knocked on the door of the shack where Yeltsin was born and stepped in the soft ground where his room had once been. Boris Yeltsin was literally born in mud and raised in shit. He was descended from a long line of drunken peasants who in hundreds of years of non-trying had failed to escape the stinky-ass backwater of the Talitsky region, a barren landscape of mud and weeds whose history is so undistinguished that even the most talented Russian historians struggle to find mention of it in imperial documents.

Reviewing Thomas Friedman’s latest book:

When some time ago a friend of mine told me that Thomas Friedman’s new book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded, was going to be a kind of environmentalist clarion call against American consumerism, I almost died laughing.

Beautiful, I thought. Just when you begin to lose faith in America’s ability to fall for absolutely anything—just when you begin to think we Americans as a race might finally outgrow the lovable credulousness that leads us to fork over our credit card numbers to every half-baked TV pitchman hawking a magic dick-enlarging pill, or a way to make millions on the Internet while sitting at home and pounding doughnuts— along comes Thomas Friedman, porn-stached resident of a positively obscene 114,000 11,400 square foot suburban Maryland mega-monstro-mansion and husband to the heir of one of the largest shopping-mall chains in the world, reinventing himself as an oracle of anti-consumerist conservationism.

Where does a man who needs his own offshore drilling platform just to keep the east wing of his house heated get the balls to write a book chiding America for driving energy inefficient automobiles? Where does a guy whose family bulldozed 2.1 million square feet of pristine Hawaiian wilderness to put a Gap, an Old Navy, a Sears, an Abercrombie and even a motherfucking Foot Locker in paradise get off preaching to the rest of us about the need for a “Green Revolution”? Well, he’ll explain it all to you in 438 crisply written pages for just $27.95, $30.95 if you have the misfortune to be Canadian.

I’ve been unhealthily obsessed with Thomas Friedman for more than a decade now. For most of that time, I just thought he was funny. And admittedly, what I thought was funniest about him was the kind of stuff that only another writer would really care about—in particular his tortured use of the English language. Like George W. Bush with his Bushisms, Friedman came up with lines so hilarious you couldn’t make them up even if you were trying—and when you tried to actually picture the “illustrative” figures of speech he offered to explain himself, what you often ended up with was pure physical comedy of the Buster Keaton/Three Stooges school, with whole nations and peoples slipping and falling on the misplaced banana peels of his literary endeavors.

Remember Friedman’s take on Bush’s Iraq policy? “It’s OK to throw out your steering wheel,” he wrote, “as long as you remember you’re driving without one.” Picture that for a minute. Or how about Friedman’s analysis of America’s foreign policy outlook last May:

The first rule of holes is when you’re in one, stop digging.When you’re in three, bring a lot of shovels.”

First of all, how can any single person be in three holes at once? Secondly, what the fuck is he talking about? If you’re supposed to stop digging when you’re in one hole, why should you dig more in three? How does that even begin to make sense? It’s stuff like this that makes me wonder if the editors over at the New York Times editorial page spend their afternoons dropping acid or drinking rubbing alcohol. Sending a line like that into print is the journalism equivalent of a security guard at a nuke plant waving a pair of mullahs in explosive vests through the front gate. It should never, ever happen.

And on Tom Daschle (Glenn Greenwald dug this up when the tax problems that cost Daschle his cabinet position surfaced):

I know several reporters who are either officially or unofficially on “Whore Factor” duty, watching the rapidly kaleidoscoping transition picture and keeping track of the number of known whores and ghouls who for some reason have been invited to befoul the atmosphere of the next administration.

Obviously there has been some dire news on that front already. When Obama picked Tom Daschle to be the HHS Secretary, I nearly shit my pants. In Washington there are whores and there are whores, and then there is Tom Daschle. Tom Daschle would suck off a corpse for a cheeseburger. True, he is probably only the second-biggest whore for the health care industry in American politics — the biggest being doctor/cat-torturer Bill Frist, whose visit to South Dakota on behalf of John Thune in 2004 was one of the factors in ending Daschle’s tenure in the Senate.

But in picking Daschle — who as an adviser to the K Street law firm Alston and Bird has spent the last four years burning up the sheets with the nation’s fattest insurance and pharmaceutical interests — Obama is essentially announcing that he has no intention of seriously reforming the health care industry. . . .

Regarding Daschle, remember, we’re talking about a guy who not only was a consultant for one of the top health-care law firms in the country, but a board member of the Mayo Clinic (a major recipient of NIH grants) and the husband of one of America’s biggest defense lobbyists — wife Linda Hall lobbies for Lockheed-Martin and Boeing. Does anyone really think that this person is going to come up with a health care proposal that in any way cuts into the profits of the major health care companies?

That image has been burned into my head over the past week or so…

Of course, in Japan Taibbi would find himself up to his ears in defamation suits. In the US, he appears merely to be ignored as a sensationalist who can only get published in Rolling Stone.

11 thoughts on “F-U journalism from Matt Taibbi”

  1. Are my eyes conspiring to kill me, or did I actually see somebody who writes for “Mutant Frog Travelogue” taunting Matt Taibbi because he “only gets published in Rolling Stone”?

  2. I don’t think I was taunting… My point was more that it’s bullshit that the so-called establishment journalists get so much respect and attention when they do such a crappier job informing people than Taibbi.

  3. so where is your post refuting any data that he talks about.
    Read his latest article in Rolling Stone about AIG, it’s fucking brilliant.
    Also: Both Yeltsin and Friedman were quite worthy of those columns. Fuck both those assholes..

  4. I actually don’t know enough to “refute” most of what he said, but then again I was more interested in his colorful language. And just because he writes like a dickhead doesn’t mean he’s wrong – sometimes we need dickheads to point these things out. I would probably lean toward agreeing with him, and in fact I am totally on board with what he said about Friedman. Also loved his AIG piece

  5. Alright then, you don’t like Taibbi’s nastiness. When the nastiness is reserved for the likes of Sarah Palin, Thomas Friedman and Goldman Sachs (among others), who’s complaining? If the news media in general were doing its job in regard to clowns and swindlers like Palin and GS, there would be no need to vent. I think Taibbi is a serious journalist who also happens to be entertaining. What’s wrong with that?

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