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Matt Taibbi Hypocrisy Watch

"There was a lot of anger out there at the underlying concept that the ultimate purpose of life was to acquire things, that the answer society provides us to each of our personal problems was a product…

"The country is lonely, self-obsessed and the individual members of the population are offered a thousand ways to improve their individual appearance and vigor. But there seems to be no solution on the horizon that anyone is offering to bring us more together, to give us the things we really need—love and acceptance and community."

- Spanking the Donkey: Dispatches from the Dumb Season, by Matt Taibbi (New Press, 336 pages, $24.95)

". . . the American present: the fictional democracy, in fact a ruthless oligarchy of corporate interests, with the state as the castrated referee." – Matt Taibbi, "Oligarchs R Us," New York Press, November 4, 2003

Since his self-righteous performance as the holier-than-thou, progressive conscience of the 2004 presidential campaign, Matt Taibbi has been writing features for Rolling Stone on the American political scene. (He also writes a weekly alleged humor column on "sports crime" for the Boston Phoenix.) In the April 20, 2006 Rolling Stone Taibbi has a typical piece about post Katrina recovery efforts, which is lousy with unproven assertions, lazy thinking, and - I guess - gonzo "humor" that drags on for three pages. Opposite each page is a full page ad for Intel, GM and Bridgestone/Firestone (yes, that Bridgestone/Firestone, of the notoriously defective SUV rollover tires), which is interesting for a writer who has taken such strong stands on corporate influence in American life.

Here's what the ads say:

"Intel©: Leap ahead® "I create my favorite music video play list with MTV Overdrive." Now with Intel Viiv technology, there's a new kind of PC that takes your entertainment to a whole new level. Download your favorite movies and songs. Record live TV with optional TV tuner card and remote. Organize and share all of your photos. Or play games with competitors from around the world. With Intel© Viiv® technology, you can do it all from the comfort of your couch—with just a push of your remote control. Discover the future of home entertainment."

"Call box: Motorists with car problems use this to call for help. It's amazing what you'll forget when you own a GM Certified used vehicle. All thanks to a 110+ Point Inspection. GM Certified: No Worries®."

"Bridgestone Potenza©: Performace first® Get up to a 100$ mail-in rebate* on a set of four select bridgestone tires purchased between April 6 and May 6, 2006!"

It's really nice for Matt that he's getting paid, but I got the impression from his moralizing campaign columns that taking corporate cash was against his principles. For example, in a July 6, 2004 column in the New York Press titled "DONKEY. ELEPHANT. CHICKEN?," Taibbi railed against "the scourge of corporate money in politics" and "corporate consumer culture"—"That's why, from the Democrats' point of view, it makes perfect sense to nominate a gazillionaire missile-humping aristocrat who'll have more corporate logos pasted on him than a NASCAR driver when he gets into office."

I never actually saw any corporate logos pasted on John Kerry, come to think of it, but there really are corporate ads plastered all over Matt Taibbi's prose in Rolling Stone.

It seems like just yesterday that Taibbi was blasting Kerry as a big business stooge for taking corporate campaign donations. So just why is it that we don't assume Taibbi's writing is corrupt by the same logic? It's sponsored by the exploding rollover tires of Bridgestone/Firestone, ain't it?

Of course, when Taibbi's magazine articles are plastered with full page product pimping spreads from Intel, GM and Bridgestone/Firestone, that's different because… well… er, because it just is.

And Rolling Stone's got bills to pay… Big bills for expense accounts, airfare, swanky hotels, six figure salaries, and Manhattan loft apartments. There's no way Taibbi could actually practice what he preaches and abstain from corporate money. He's got a big media career on the line after all. Nobody would expect him to get an honest job and work for a living and post his semi-coherent rants on some blog or Indymedia website like everyone else.

Except plenty of progressives have made it without selling out, e.g. Ralph Nader. But Nader had to make sacrifices for his ideals, like making do on very little money and wearing the same suit for decades.

Taibbi would never be that uncool. What a hypocrite.




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