By Ray LeMoine
Matt Taibbi hates half of America
Portfolio Media critic Jeff Bercovici destroys Matt Taibbi’s Rolling Stone RNC essay (thanks for sending me this Jeff N). Taibbi, RS’s National Magazine Award-winning political writer, may have extraordinary writing talent, but he rarely gets beyond name-calling and cliche. Here’s the best stuff form Bercovici’s take down:
What is the point of Matt Taibbi?
His rhetorical style consists of little more than in-your-face vulgarity, hyperbole and cliché. Read his latest column, on Sarah Palin, if you don’t believe me.
Reporting from the convention, Taibbi sets the scene by describing the “four-chinned delegates from places like Arkansas and Georgia” and “their turkey-necked female companions.” (The resort to physiognomy is classic Taibbi, by the way — greedy politicians are always fat, and hypocrites are always ugly.) Palin, we’re told, is a “provincial tyrant.” Her “meanness” is “of the small-town variety as understood by pretty much anyone who has ever sat around in his ranch-house den dreaming of a fourth plasma-screen TV or an extra set of KC HiLites for his truck.” She is “a two-bit caricature culled from some cutting-room-floor episode of Roseanne.” (Certainly, two-bit caricature is something Taibbi knows about.) And she was chosen, he says, in the hope that:
“John Q. Public will drop his giant sized bag of Doritos in gratitude, wipe the sizzlin’ picante dust from his lips and rush to the booth to vote for her. Not because it makes sense, or because it has a chance of improving his life or anyone else’s, but simply because…that image on TV reminds him of the mean brainless slob he sees in the mirror every morning.”
Oh, yeah, and he also compares Republicans to Nazis (“It was like watching Gidget address the Reichstag”).
What’s he trying to accomplish here? If his language or imagery were a little fresher, his towering contempt for average Americans and their ways might at least be humorous. But Doritos and double chins? Not exactly virgin comic territory. Yet as a serious bit of commentary, it fails utterly: No attempt whatsoever is made to understand his subject except in terms of the broadest stereotypes. I can’t imagine Taibbi’s going to win over any wavering swing voters by insulting them and the culture they inhabit.
The only real achievement of writing like this is to encourage already like-minded readers to congratulate themselves on their superior tastes and disdain for the other side….
Here’s some more hyperbole from Taibbi’s RNC story:
Sarah Palin is a symbol of everything that is wrong with the modern United States. As a representative of our political system, she’s a new low in reptilian villainy, the ultimate cynical masterwork of puppeteers like Karl Rove. But more than that, she is a horrifying symbol of how little we ask for in return for the total surrender of our political power. Not only is Sarah Palin a fraud, she’s the tawdriest, most half-assed fraud imaginable, 20 floors below the lowest common denominator, a character too dumb even for daytime TV...
How many different ways can you say one thing? “All that’s wrong with America,” “too dumb even for daytime TV.” Really? All that’s wrong with America is best summed up by the air war waged over Pushto civilians, by torture, domestic spying, and Iraq—not the female Governor of the Frontier State. Ask anyone in Alaska about Palin and the last thing you’ll hear is “fraud.” In fact, I was up there last week, and both Democrats and Republicans alike described her with words like “natural,” “charming,” and “brilliant.”
Yes, Palin’s disgusting anti-gay, pro-life social views may be a window into a lot of America’s wrongs. But her record as Gov actually isn’t that bad. She never pushed her social views as state policy. And she was often more popular with centrist Democrats (ie, Alaska’s Obamas) than the GOP establishment. Even the left-wing editor of Anchorage’s biggest paper admits he underestimated Palin and that she’s been tough on big oil and “great spectator sport.”
Taibbi admits, “The Palin speech was a political masterpiece, one of the most ingenious pieces of electoral theater this country has ever seen.” He then goes on to call Palin a “puffed-up dimwit.” Where’s the credit for the “dim-wit” who gave the masterpice speech? And where’s the mention that Obama’s rise is of a similar ilk—luck combined with hard political tact.
Look, there’s a lot to dislike about Sarah Palin, but Rolling Stone shouldn’t be publishing blatant, baseless hit jobs of national political figures. The Palin story is complex; she’s obviously not a moron, having risen so fast so quickly. Journalists are supposed to try and present true portraits. Matt Taibbi has failed.