As most of my readers probably know, Rolling Stone reporter, Matt Taibbi is the latest trophy taken in Pierre Omidyar’s conquest of the fashionably leftish. He is the first of Omidyar’s First Look employees that I actually read for pleasure, something I have done for several years. With his work on Wall Street, he teaches me things I don’t already know, in a style that frequently makes me laugh out loud. Reading Greenwald, by contrast, has always been a religious ritual of sorts: a glide over tedious, tone-deaf prolixity, in search of a few kernals to affirm that, yes, some small part of my politics has a public proxy, if only an insipid friend o’ Digby’s.
Taibbi is much smarter, has a sense of humor that goes well beyond the pointed use of scare quotes, and a much lower eyeroll quotient overall. So while I am not thrilled to see Taibbi scooped up by the eBay Ministry of Truth, I will at least enjoy the spectacle of watching him be vastly better than Greenwald, putting out a halfway decent magazine on an interesting topic, while Greenwald and his newsletter staff continue their comic journey up Glenn’s ass.
One of the things that is most grimly amusing about Greenwald and Omidyar parlaying a whistleblowing event into cash and power, are the lengths Greenwald’s besotted fans go to see it as something else. Greenwald’s custodianship of the leaks has been equal parts self-serving, reactionary, and subservient, and, since cutting the deal with Omidyar he has tirelessly covered for his boss’s past adventures in free-speech killing and predatory lending. However, there will be no recognizing this among his besotted fans, for whom a sweet deal between Greenwald and Goldman Sachs would surely foretell the imminent decimation of Wall Street.
Since Omidyar has purchased any reporter who might offer an opposing opinion at a bargain bin price — that is, the slim chance of a dream job — there is no one of consequence to talk any sense about this. Even media watchdogs like Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting and the UK’s Media Lens have shamefully stood down entirely. The British independent journalist Jonathan Cook recently got a grim and revealing lesson in how this renaissance in fearless, adversarial journalism now works:
- Here he is politely expressing some misgivings about comments Greenwald made in an interview.
- Here he is a day later remarking upon the inevitable beatdown to which even polite critics of Greenwald are now routinely subject, and tempering his original position.
- Here’s Greenwald giving him a stern talking to, beginning with an objection to the impertinent title of his post.
- Here’s Cook capitulating completely, as if he’s just had a visit from the mob.
It bears mentioning that Cook one time believed himself hacked by the Israeli Secret Service, yet nonetheless continues to write critically about Israel. But one brush with the Omidyar/Greenwald syndicate and he’s down for the count. It is amazing that the people who contemplate an extraordinary spectacle of this kind with indifference, or worse, delight, don’t consider themselves, or Greenwald, authoritarian, but rather, very much the opposite. But then, as I have said before, Greenwald is an alchemist of sorts, who makes things the very opposite of what they actually are: not leaking becomes leaking; opacity becomes transparency; lying becomes truth-telling; subservience becomes defiance; beatdowns become ‘debates’.
There is no winning with the rubes self-destructively signing on for this bullshit; there is only finding the odd laugh at their expense. Me, I like to watch them twist themselves in knots attempting to reconcile actual facts with their childish Batman/Robin view that something radical and ‘game-changing’ is actually taking place. To that end I offer the following facts about Taibbi, which aren’t likely to cause any dissonance for Greenwald’s myriad libertarian fans, but might create a little heartburn for the disaffected liberals and those to their left. It will be fun to see Glenn’s and Pierre’s Marxists, easily the most idiotically deluded of all their clowns, talk their way around this:
1. He crossed picket lines during a Writer’s Guild strike in 2008 to appear on The Colbert Report and The Bill Maher Show. (source)
2. He thinks Roe v. Wade, the Supreme court decision upholding a woman’s right to an abortion, should be overturned. (source)
3. He doesn’t feel there should be a Federal ban on anti-LGBQT discrimination.
4. He considers himself “more of a libertarian than anything else” and believes in “capitalism, small government, etc.” (source)
My buddy Walter Glass did an excellent job reading between the lines of a recent piece by Taibbi which Glass described as “a police ridealong through the apparently apocalyptic wasteland that is 2013 Camden, New Jersey.” Glass writes:
…Taibbi glosses over the pernicious effect of the corporate sector on this area of the country in favor of a half-baked partisan attack on Chris Christie. …he downplays the inherent horror of the “Baghdad-style security technology” police state currently being erected in Camden, commenting plaintively that “it looks like it’s working — only the whole thing might be rendered moot in the end by the collapse of the rest of America.”
…in an article in which he speaks to a small handful of people who aren’t cops, he refers to the majority of them as “junkies.”
…Taibbi is always great when he’s fragging his rich-white-dude peer group …but he’s completely lost trying to explain how the oligarchs’ bad behavior impacts everybody else.
You can find the rest here.
For me, the biggest problem with Taibbi is the problem that afflicts all of the more marginal lefts. Behind all the ‘gonzo’-scented smoke and fire is just one more incrementalist, a rich dude telling tales on the worst-behaved members of his class, while pleading the case for their reformability. Yes, you guessed it regular RH readers, Taibbi is a classic heat vampire, a particularly seductive one, in fact, reconciling some of the harshest critiques of people in power with deftly timed bouts of starry-eyed faith. (Reader Lorenzo explains how Taibbi put this to work for Obama in 2008 and 2012)
There’s a lot of loose talk about sellouts these days, but I think that word is usually mis-applied. People rise because they are already what the person/institution paying them requires. By the time most of us are even aware of them, the crucial filtering is a fait accompli. The necessary shaping happened at home and in school. For Taibbi, that was a wealthy home and private schools. A so-called sellout is, more often than not, just a smart buy. Taibbi, like all the new First Lookers, is fit for an oligarch, just as he is.
UPDATE 1 (link to this update)
Above I said that UK ‘watchdogs’ Media Lens ‘have shamefully stood down entirely’ on the questions raised by First Look Media. A source close to Glenn Greenbacks told me that this morning Media Lens RT’d the tweet below, and then undid it, no doubt upon realizing it was parody. It’s an understandable mistake since the tweet perfectly reproduces GG’s smeary non-responsiveness, which Media Lens clearly endorses. Way to prove my point, guys! (more comments below tweet)
This is not the first time Media Lens has attempted to ‘engage’ with the questions I’ve raised here in relation to Greenwald’s leak custodianship. In September, after Greenwald’s disgustingly fallacious reply here on my blog, Media Lens extracted a particularly pathologizing passage for their readers’ forum, under the title: ‘Superb response from Greenwald’. Some Media Lens readers complained and they walked it back. The exchange has dropped off of their board, but here’s the tweet where they recanted.
There is no question that bulk buying of left journalists by a tech billionaire implicated in the Wikileaks blockade should be a natural object of concern for groups such as Media Lens, particularly when going alongside the reactionary hectoring Greenwald has been unleashing on anyone who objects. Yet as far as I can tell, they have not seriously addressed it, nor any of the other questions raised by the Snowden Spectacle, at all. But then, as I’ve said, Greenwald makes things into their opposites, and clearly Media Lens is in thrall to the magic.