JEFF PEARLMAN

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Matt Taibbi Swings Hard—and bashes a skull

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Rolling Stone‘s Matt Taibbi isn’t exactly my type of writer.

Guy curses in his work all the fucking, oops, all the time. He makes some sweeping comments that, quite often, ruin the point of a piece. He also places himself in the center of most of his stories. I generally hate this, in that in conveys the arrogance of a writer. It screams, “Yeah, here’s the story—but surely you’d prefer to read about the story as it pertains to me!”

All that being said, the dude has a voice. A strong voice. And he uses it like a sledgehammer. He’s a writer who craves the truth; who grabs it, wrestles with it, fights for it, and doesn’t give a shit who gets pulverized with the pointy edge of the shovel. I love that and, because of it, I mostly love Taibbi. In this era, so many writers among us are, as Matt would hardly hesitate to say, pussies. They aim to please, not report. They want to make friends, not cover big stories. In sports, you see it every time a writer gets the giggles after an athlete calls him by his first name. It’s a plague, and it ain’t getting any better.

So, again, I have much appreciation for Taibbi—today more than ever before.

In case you’ve been sleeping on Planet Zubark, a Rolling Stone freelancer named Michael Hastings broke one of the bigger stories of the year—Gen. Stanley McChrystal slamming the Obama Administration for a variety of reasons. The aftermath involved the general being given the boot and a surge in attention to the disaster that is Afghanistan. It was a huge-impact piece; the sort of work we all should strive for.

Yet instead of praising Hastings’ piece, several political/military reporters and so-called “insiders” questioned the writer’s tactics, motives and approach. Nobody was more visibly critical than Lara Logan, the CBS News chief foreign correspondent. On CNN’s Reliable Sources program, Logan agreed that Hastings violated an “unspoken agreement” that journalists are not supposed to “embarrass [the troops] by reporting insults and banter.”

Uh … what?

Taibbi’s response is brilliant, and worth reading. It’s the exact way I, too, feel; a numbing exasperation with people like Logan, who somewhere along the way seems to have forgotten what it means to be a journalist.

And, for the record: No, you don’t lie. You never lie. But you do sometimes have to use your poker face. If a subject is spewing nonsense and spewing nonsense and spewing nonsense, it’s not a reporter’s job to stand up and say, “Hey, this might hurt you!” Just the opposite. You listen and absorb. True, non-spin insight is gold.

Only a dolt like Logan would toss it back.