Matt Taibbi, Your Fifteen Minutes Has Arrived: How a Once Great Reporter on Wall Street, Race and the Poor Has Become a Rich “Get Off My Lawn” Suburban Jerk

Part 7 of our series, "Glenn Greenwald, Other Useful Idiots & Cancel Culture": From Ace Reporter to the Tom Friedman of Substack, Matt Taibbi's decline has been sudden and tragic.

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“Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization. Progress is born of agitation. It is agitation or stagnation.” —Eugene Debs

Left to right: Thiel, Greenwald and Taibbi. Location undisclosed. Credit: @BinkytheRabbit

It’s time to bring down the temperature (perhaps) on this series about Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, Michael Tracey — who barely needs mentioning as he is so feeble and impotent — Max Blumenthal (peripherally) and other writers and “thinkers” in the toxic Crypto Fash ecosphere. So let me start with a lightly edited comment I posted on Facebook last night. (Click on this link if you want to see the original and the response.)

Please read and reflect. Just to be clear, when I critique Greenwald or The Grayzone, it’s not press criticism exactly, it’s because I think they both are a threat and do tremendous damage, especially Greenwald. Yes, I obviously don’t like Greenwald or Blumenthal, et al, but it’s more than a personal dislike. Do you want a New Left — I don’t mean DSA, I mean a radical, progressive left, a mix of the Yippees, Black Panthers, feminist movement, gay and trans rights, etc? Or do you want the crypto fash left that Greenwald represents? Because he’s dangerous, he has a huge following and if you want to be a part of his “revolution” with “socialist” Tucker Carlson, count me out.

Also count me out if you want to be an apologist for every shit regime that is an “enemy” of the US, like Grayzone. No fucking thanks. I like smart, creative, people. I’m on the left mostly but am open-minded — but no Tucker and no cheerleading for China or Assad. That’s pathetic. I think people believe I’m just throwing a temper tantrum. I’m not. I believe in radical political change, from the left, and overthrowing the tech/financial bipartisan oligarchy that is strangling the county. Maybe I’m stupid and I certainly don’t have delusions of grandeur about what I can achieve with my little site, but I’m getting old(er) and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life whining about how shitty things are. I want change.

That said, let me return to a slightly more heated tone in discussing the Three Stooges of Crypto Fash, but this time focusing more on Taibbi. What can I say? What a disappointment. It kind of reminds me of this:

What’s sad about this is that Taibbi is a Hall of Famer — he once wrote brilliantly about, among other things, Goldman Sachs and Tom Friedman — but he’s now suddenly gone bankrupt, and apparently is past the point of no return.

Let me also say that despite my personal and especially political animus towards Greenwald, he’s also a Hall of Famer. His work on the Snowden and the Operation Car Wash leaks, which freed the great Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva from prison, could end up on the Twenty Stories of the Century list. But I still maintain that he has always been an advocate, not a reporter — both those stories were dropped in his lap and he nearly bungled them, and in the case of the Snowden leaks, almost all the unpublished material is currently in the hands of Pierre Omidyar, a tech oligarch with close ties to the US government. (Read the multipart series by the great Tim Shorrock about that topic, published here at Washington Babylon, starting with Part I, of course. Meanwhile, look for my stories here tomorrow and Friday about the myth — and I mean myth — that Greenwald is a great reporter.)

So now we have two reporters who have broken huge stories that are effectively in — and senior leaders — of the repellent Crypto Fash camp, along with people, institutions and podcasts like Tucker Carlson, Red Scare, Angela Nagle, Michael Lind and the Claremont Institute, all who we recently covered, but will have more on coming later this week, and in this story.

What’s sad, indeed tragic, is that these two one-time greats have become, with their incessant shrill harping about Cancel Culture, court jesters, members and tools of a rancid American oligarchy — specifically of the Democratic Party and the major corporations they claim to despise — that has weaponized a cucked brand of Cancel Culture to make themselves look “progressive,” as opposed to being the looters and pillagers of working people that they truly are.

It’s worth noting that Greenwald’s transition from progressive hero to Crypto Fash Gauleiter — I have already said he’s not a Nazi, but plays fast and loose with some — has been smoother and less obvious than Taibbi’s. That’s because he’s still got street cred, in Brazil anyway, because of his work, with significant help from other The Intercept Brasil reporters, on the Car Wash scandal. And in Brazil, people don’t know as much about how he helped ultimately bury the Snowden leaks and effectively turned them over from his possession to Omidyar’s, an unbelievably bad decision and betrayal of Snowden. Or that he had a role in sending Reality Winner to prison, which he vociferously, and preposterously, denies. Or even that he supported George W, Bush’s Iraq War of 2003, and so was a participant, along with most of the US media, in the gravest journalism failure of modern times.

That’s an even worse error — though it’s close — than the Russiagate scam, which Greenwald was largely if not entirely correct about. He’s correct in that the #Resistance idiots promote the stupid and specious argument that Donald Trump was an asset of Putin’s and actively pushed a pro-Russia agenda while in office. Sorry libtards, go back to watching Rachel Maddow on MSNBC and stoking each other into a rage about a man who hasn’t been president for about 4 months and who’s lived rent-free in your demented minds since 2015, at a minimum. Greenwald was wrong in his knee-jerk dismissal of any suggestion that Russia interfered in the 2016 US election. Of course it did, and in 2020 too — just like the governments of France, Israel, Saudi Arabia and China, among others.

Anyway, Greenwald has a dual persona. In Brazil, he’s a hero to the left. In the US, he still has fans on the left, but they are dropping quickly as he embraces white supremacist Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and rancid Fox News, which is to conservative mouth-breathers what MSNBC is to libtards. (Disclosure: I do have libtard and conservative mouth-breathing friends, but I prefer commies and radicals on the left and libertarians, at least on foreign policy, on the right.) Why the dual persona? Because Greenwald has no moral compass. He’s out for himself and his fame and fortune. There’s no other explanation, unless he is textbook schizophrenic.

The irony is that if Brazilians knew more about his US persona they would drop him like a flaming turd. The same goes for his US fans if they knew of his persona in Brazil.

I’m about to turn back to Taibbi, but first I want to share some comments about Greenwald, and why he’s so dangerous, that I received last night from a Washington Babylon reader and financial supporter. (Desperately needed, I’m not rich on tech bros money like Taibbi and Greenwald. Patreon here for monthly donations or PayPal here for one-time donations.)

Her name is Julie Swoope, and here are her devastating remarks about Glenn, and his fanboi Matt as well:

I appreciate the Greenwald series, it’s long overdue that someone wrote it. I’ve been a reader of his since I was a reader of yours during Bush’s second term, and I finally gave up on him after he peddled some pretty nasty moral panic misinformation about trans people in one of his first substack posts. I emailed him about it and he blew me off and sent me a few indignant replies but of course never corrected his article, and like clockwork Matt Taibbi repeated the same bullshit a couple of weeks later on his substack.

He’s not even principled about free speech, the one thing that even some of his detractors say he is principled on. A few weeks ago there was a story where the CEO of a prominent tech company effectively banned talking about anything other than work on company time, but apparently Greenwald saw a more insidious threat in the story: one of the employees used woke language to push back on the ban. I think your diagnosis of him as not having political views beyond what is good for himself is basically true.

I can forward the thread if you want, but I doubt he would even address the substance of it because that would just draw attention to his own mistakes. For what it’s worth this was the main bit I emailed him about from his piece:

On Friday morning, Abigail Shrier — author of a new book exploring the rapid, massive increase in teenage girls self-identifying as trans boys and undergoing permanent gender reassignment therapies and surgeries in their teens.

The first link there is to a study that includes surgeries for adults, so it’s not about trans kids. The second doesn’t have any data at all, it’s just an article about the theory that Youtube is making kids trans. You’ll notice a few updates at the end of the article at the second link because of the backlash. The trans kids panic is implausible for a variety of reasons including our insurance based healthcare system, but Greenwald stopped responding over email when I didn’t back down.

As a side note, I think the tech oligarch angle on this particular strain of American political thought is very interesting. A lot of technolibertarian VCs on Twitter have become very approving of Greenwald and Taibbi’s work over the past year. I’m honestly just waiting for the Peter Thiel/Glenn Greenwald nexus.

Right-wing Oligarch Peter Thiel, Court Jester Glenn Greenwald and Greenwald fanboi Matt Taibbi. Image by Melissa Garriga. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaAGarriga.

I don’t think Swoope — and others, like Socratic Gadfly — are far off at all in foreseeing a Thiel-Greenwald Political Pact, which is a scary thought. By the way, check on that link to Socratic Gadfly. I don’t agree with him about everything — the same goes for everyone else I know, including myself; unlike Taibbi my views evolve over time as I acquire new information and knowledge.

Taibbi’s DM to me, and my reply, earlier today. Curious profile pic. Is he mocking the oligarchy or has he joined it? The answer is obvious. Fair Use.

Taibbi’s views, to the contrary, have changed with money. Just like Greenwald, he’s a guy who once cared deeply about the poor and working people (Glenn, not so much) but now, drunk and besotted with tech money from Substack — which it should be noted has given fat advances to a few libs, like White Bread Sandwich With White Bread filling Matt Yslesias, but mostly Crypto Fash figures like Taibbi first, Greenwald second and sad sack Tracey bringing up the rear. The insufferable trio relentlessly promote each other, as Swoope noted, and the suckers, played for fools without the slightest inkling of how, fatten their bank accounts by subscribing to their poorly written and ludicrously argued Substack op-eds.

Taibbi was never poor, being the son of a well known NBC reporter. He was surely paid very well by Rolling Stone, and got big book advances. Taibbi also was paid very well by tech oligarch Pierre Omidyar, like Glenn and I, until he was dismissed, in my view unfairly. Here’s an account of my time there. I quit in frustration a little over a year after being fired. It was a terrible blow to my finances, and one I’ve never recovered from, but I’m glad I did it nonetheless. Also, let’s just say my views on Taibbi and Greenwald have evolved since I wrote that story, and my views on Adnan Syed may have as well. (*)

But now Taibbi is flat out rich, if he wasn’t already, with Substack money, as is Greenwald. He famously coined the term “Great Vampire Squid” in 2009 to describe Goldman Sachs. Now one has to wonder if he doesn’t have a Goldman Sachs private banker in Zurich. One also has to wonder how much he’s making from Substack? And did he or Greenwald get an equity stake? (Greenwald, incidentally, has a history of hiding his wealth. He reportedly was paid $500,000 his first year at First Look Media, publisher of The Intercept and one of Pierre Omidyar’s corporations. But multiple sources told me he got paid roughly twice that, with roughly half paid as a bonus through an anonymous Florida LLC. I have asked Greenwald about that in the past and he never replied.)

Which probably explains why the pair are so obsessed with the issues of Cancel Culture (that’s the right link, go to Question 6) and Identity Politics. But are they obsessed or is it just a convenient pose that allows them to bilk money out of their increasingly conservative fan base? Because neither one of them is stupid, but they repeatedly write stupid, self-serving things about Cancel Culture, so who knows?

What’s especially sad is that Taibbi once was a great reporter and writer. Now he’s mediocre, at best. He does less and less reporting and whines more and more (profitably) about Cancel Culture. It’s clear he’s phoning in his lame and lamer Substack, which turned on a dime from being generally progressive to being quite reactionary once his new buddy Greenwald signed on to Substack, too. Incidentally, it’s revealing and rather pathetic to see Taibbi embrace Greenwald now (that it’s profitable), after the latter did nothing to stop Omidyar from fucking Matt back when he was a First Look employee. Sort of remind me of the way Donald Trump (Greenwald, if you aren’t following the analogy) humiliated Mitt Romney (Taibbi), who groveled for a position as secretary of state in the new administration after Trump had mocked and shamed him during the 2016 GOP primary race.

Fair Use.

The truth is that Taibbi was always overrated as a reporter, because he was such a good writer. He’s a humorist but ultimately a lightweight, so his transition to pure was far more abrupt than Greenwald’s, who to this day is still shielded in part by his progressive image emanating from Brazil. “Taibbi is not a journalist anymore,” Eric Draister of CounterPunch wrote to me in aptly summarizing the sorry state of affairs. “He is a freelance PR man, a hack’s hack, an opportunist of the most boring variety. I mean, if you’re gonna be a hack, at least be a good writer.” (See more delightful commentary from Draister below.)

Apropos of nothing, I’m not rich. That’s the keyboard on my roughly 5-year-old laptop below. The “E” is missing. I can’t afford to buy a new one but if you want to help out, click on the link to Patreon or PayPal above. And I’m middle class, not poor, so don’t send me money unless you can afford to, but I am legit pressed for cash.

Now, to close, let me offer a sampling of readers’ comment about the series, pro and con, that we’ve been receiving. They are overwhelmingly supportive of the WB line as opposed to that of the Crypto Fash SS [Substack] division, and not just because I’m selecting them. Yes, probably because these are comments sent to me, but I also think I may have changed a few people’s minds about Taibbi and Greenwald. (I needn’t mention Stooge 3, Curly Howard, aka Michael Tracey.)

Michael Tracey, 50 years ago or so, when he was young, fun and alive. Fair Use.

Ari Paul: Taibbi’s midlife crisis has been a sad thing to watch. He’s literally become “kids today, I tell ya,” 24/7.

@armchairsophist, replying to Taibbi on my Twitter: You work for a tech company, bro. Then in comments to me: Glenn and Matt whining about big tech after working for Omidayar and SubStack is rich. Taibbi doing reads for Pet Smart is the most pathetic shit I have heard in my life. Here is Taibbi beclowning himself for Pet Smart at the 12:30 mark.

Milton Wiltmellow @Wiltmellow: Taibbi fancies himself another Hunter Thompson. Greenwald fancies himself another HL Mencken. They overlook Putin’s murders bc McCarthyism; overlook Trump bc Clinton; overlook cruelty bc Obama (Biden); overlook Rs bc Ds. Their brand™ is their contrarian message du jour.

Theodore Papathanasis: I admit I’m out of the loop about online political shop-talk, but that’s on purpose. (Why would I give time to know what Angela Nagle’s saying when I could be translating Homer? You and the new crew are doing good work here, Ken. Somebody’s got to go knife-fight in the trenches.

Eric Draister: Taibbi lost whatever credibility he built up with me when he decided to smear CounterPunch and my original reporting which exposed this fake progressive candidate for Congress here in the Hudson Valley a few years back. Taibbi did a multi-part fluff piece about this war criminal who worked for the State Department (and CIA?) during the Iraq occupation under Bush. Taibbi helps him launder his progressive cred in Rolling Stone while I broke the story that Beals was being managed by Bennett Ratcliff, the loathsome Clinton apparatchik, and that they were running a fake progressive campaign to ride the coattails of Bernie 2016. I had leaked emails and voice recordings, all of which I offered to Taibbi after he published his first fluff piece. Taibbi not only ignored my emails, he then went on to suggest that I (and CounterPunch) were just conspiracy theorists smearing a good progressive. As I said back in 2002, and I say now in 2021, anyone associated with the Iraq War and occupation is a war criminal, especially those in key senior positions. To help launder such a creature’s public image, and to lend him credibility without so much as looking at evidence, is reprehensible. [Eric, embarrassed to say I just saw this story on Greenwald that CounterPunch ran last October, by Will Solomon. People, check it out.)

Matěj Schneider: Matt is getting KILLED on his Russian writer knowledge these days! (Citing the work of Evgenia Kovda, on Yasha Levine’s Substack. My guess is that Yasha is not getting rich on Substack and he and Evgenia can use your support as well.)

Ethan Young: DSA is a lot better than you give it credit for. They are a pluralist group in a desert of sectarianism and political incoherence. Big problems but just surviving is a big deal. [Go to this link for a fascinating back and forth between Young and Andrew Stewart, who is considerably more skeptical of DSA.]

Paul W. Mason (click on link to see a short film he made): You made declarative statements that cannot be proven. If there’s one overriding theme to the work of Taibbi and Greenwald over the last few years, it’s the tendency of Americans to accept hearsay (and often outright lies) as fact. [Note: Paul wrote this before seeing this story. I hope I have persuaded him, at least a little.]

Sam Alcoff: While you are making interesting points vis-a-vis whatever is going on with Taibbi and Greenwald, lumping the Grayzone in with them is weak. I don’t have to agree with everything that Max, Ben, et al, argue for, but their heart is in the right place, their hate is pure, and I read them just like I read Washington Babylon: the left should read and engage with the heretics, journalists, and pariahs who challenge whatever party lines remain. If you have something to say about Ben, write it (and have an editor look it so it doesn’t read like 15-year-old’s spankbank version of Counterpunch) and let us read it, but if it’s just corny “durrr, virgin,” somebody comes off looking like a chump and it ain’t Norton.

[Note to Sam: I have written about The Grayzone loony tunes many times. Here’s just one example. If you’re still embracing Maduro now, you’re a mental midget. I oppose a coup or any attempt at a US overthrow of his government, oppose sanctions, and despise the opposition leadership. But it’s a bad situation. There is ample evidence that Maduro and close associates — mostly senior military and intelligence officials, by the way — are corrupt, incompetent and bloody. The horrifying level of police and militia violence against the poor — supposedly the government’s base — has been amply documented, by the mainstream press and Human Rights Watch, which apologists like Grayzone dismiss as imperialist propaganda — and some is — but also some in the alternative media who generally support Chavismo. Like me, but never Maduroismo. You can’t even say the damn word.]

(*) I co-wrote several stories about Syed back in 2015 that strongly suggested he was guilty of killing Hae Min Lee, a tale made famous in Serial, a podcast I never liked and still don’t. I believe Sarah Koenig basically fell in love (metaphorically) with Syed and the story was slanted in his favor. But having reviewed more evidence in recent years, I may have to rethink my position about Adnan’s guilt. I still think he likely killed Lee, or helped whoever did, but the state stacked the deck against him so at minimum his trial was unfair, and perhaps he was falsely convicted, that can’t be ruled out. Let me end this footnote by saying my view of Jeremy Scahill is unchanged. I loathed him then and loathe him now.

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