Matt Taibbi Swings Hard—and bashes a skull

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.

5 thoughts on “Matt Taibbi Swings Hard—and bashes a skull”

  1. Jeff, clearly Lara Logan is not a dolt. While I agree with much of what you and Taibbi had to say, the implication that reporters are now worse than ever because some of them won’t report personally/professionally damaging information is false. This lack of disclosure has always been the case and likely always will be – and not just since the 70’s and not just with network news. Now, though, we seem to have a lot more folks out there willing to publish the ‘non-spin insight’ which tends to go viral very quickly. I’m okay with both philosophies.

  2. You have been on f—ing fire lately, Pearlman. Keep speaking the sooth.
    Threw up in my mouth a little when Logan said she empathizes with military officials who criticized Hastings anonymously. Who can blame them for withholding their names? she said. They’d lose their jobs!
    Heaven forbid we prioritize bravery and honesty over the job security of a few Pentagon suits.
    Can’t ever trust Logan again…

  3. Jeff: I’m sure you’ve answered this, but at some point during the Rocker interview, you must have thought, “Holy shit, I cannot believe what this guy is saying.” Did you ever think of burying the piece? Or warning him, like, “Uh, dude, this crap you’re spewing is not gonna go quietly into that good night.” ?

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