Matt Taibbi's Puff Piece On Tucker Carlson Is Proof He Can't Do Journalism Any More
After defending Tucker Carlson, we must now accept that the once great reporter is now a shitty one who peddles in conspiracy theories for clicks.
by Ben Cohen
Like many other political journalists, I have watched in horror at Matt Taibbi’s bizarre decision to throw his considerable reputation down the toilet and join the outer regions of far left/right conspiracy land.
Taibbi’s transformation in recent years into a mouth piece for right wing propaganda has now resulted in him going to bat for America’s most prominent White Supremacist propagandist, Tucker Carlson.
In what can only be described as a puff piece, Taibbi interviewed the Fox News host and trotted out a mixture of easily disprovable propaganda to defend him against accusations that he made up a story about the NSA spying on him. In his newsletter, Taibbi paints Carlson as a victim of liberal hysteria and goes to great lengths to convince his readers that he is in fact a brave truth teller railing against the establishment. Even the title of his piece, ‘Spying and Smearing is "Un-American," not Tucker Carlson’ is ridiculous and a testament to how far Taibbi has fallen.
Five years ago, no one could have ever predicted that Taibbi would be defending a racist conspiracy theorist who makes a living on the most repellent, corrosive network in history. Carlson, it must be remembered, has claimed immigrants make America “dirtier”, promoted white replacement theory, and insinuated that the FBI instigated the attempted coup on January 6th. And those are some of the more benign theories he has floated on his nightly show.
Taibbi is so impressed with Carlson that he even dedicates a significant amount of time to showcasing his debate prowess and ability to own neocons. “Carlson’s gleeful arson of GOP shibboleths in 2017-2018 was inspired television,” he writes.
Defending Tucker Carlson is one thing, fawning over him is another thing entirely.
Anyone who has followed Taibbi recently knew this day was coming. His ideological compadre Glenn Greenwald has been doing the rounds on Fox News’s best and whitest for several years now, and it was only a matter of time before Taibbi joined him. It is a sad day though that should mark the end of Taibbi’s reputation as a respected journalist.
Peddler of conspiracy theories
On his show late last month, Tucker Carlson claimed that he had spoken to an anonymous whistle blower who told him that the NSA was “monitoring our electronic communications and is planning to leak them in an attempt to take this show off the air.” His show ran the banner: "NSA LEAKED TUCKER'S EMAILS TO JOURNALISTS."
To be clear, there is a chance that the NSA did intercept Carlson’s attempts to secure an interview with Vladimir Putin because they do monitor foreign enemies, but there is no evidence the NSA targeted Carlson specifically, knew who he was, or want to take his show off the air. The organization has refuted Carlson’s claims categorically and stated that:
Tucker Carlson has never been an intelligence target of the Agency and the NSA has never had any plans to try to take his program off the air…We target foreign powers to generate insights on foreign activities that could harm the United States. With limited exceptions (e.g. an emergency), NSA may not target a U.S. citizen without a court order that explicitly authorizes the targeting.
Given Carlson presented his extraordinary claims with no accompanying evidence, they can also be dismissed without evidence. According to Taibbi though, the “odds favor the NSA scandal being true,” because there have been other alleged examples of the NSA engaging in illegal activity in collaboration with the White House and the press. Taibbi conveniently doesn’t present any actual evidence in Carlson’s case either, preferring instead to take the Fox News host’s word for it, even suggesting he could be “whisked away and testicle-whipped in a Langley garage,” or, as Carlson told him, arrested suddenly for “having a meth lab in my basement””.
Oddly, Fox News has said nothing about Carlson’s shocking claims and has refused to engage in any reporting on the issue, much to Carlson’s apparent anger. Carlson is, as Vox’s Aaron Rupar notes, “a serial fabulist” with a long history of lying to his audience, so when you weigh up the evidence it is safe to say the story is almost certainly utter nonsense.
Carlson good, liberals bad
Citing a truly devastating piece in the Washington Post that lays out in excruciating detail Carlson’s ruthless exploitation of white grievance politics, Taibbi claims the Fox News host is being subjected to “propaganda” that “goes unnecessary miles beyond reality.” Taibbi’s defense of Carlson is bizarre given the Post piece not only describes multiple examples of Carlson’s appalling demagoguery, but also exposes some of his egregious lies. Carlson, for example, made up a particularly cruel story about his former first-grade teacher that turned out to be completely untrue, and totally mischaracterized and lied about an exchange he had with civil rights leader Rev. Sampson for a piece he wrote in Esquire. Carlson doesn’t just bend the truth, he literally makes things up.
Taibbi however, claims this is all noise to cover up the real enemy in America: liberals.
The adoption of right wing myths
According to Taibbi, it isn’t Carlson lying to his fans about being spied on by ‘The Deep State’, but liberal media pundits smearing him in a desperate, “subconscious” attempt to create “a click-generating replacement for Donald Trump.” It isn’t Donald Trump or Tucker Carlson fanning the flames of racism in America, but “Carlson’s haters” who “don’t realize how easy they’ve made it for him, turning themselves into such caricatures of illiberalism that they’re practically handing him the top spot, in addition to a rollicking time.”
According to Taibbi, the “liberal media” is censoring reactionary leftists like Glenn Greenwald and Jimmy Dore because they “have continually narrowed the range of voices on their “side,” eliminating nearly all intramural disagreement”. Tucker Carlson, according to Taibbi, is merely providing his audience with a broader perspective.
It apparently hasn’t occurred to Taibbi that Greenwald and Dore are now so notorious for spreading right wing disinformation that no reputable news outlet would risk their reputation having them on.
It’s all about Russiagate
Having followed the Taibbi train wreck for some time, it is clear that one issue has forced him into this bizarre space on the fringes of mainstream politics, and that is the Russiagate scandal. Early on, Taibbi and Greenwald both took the position that Trump’s obvious links to Russia and Putin’s blatant attempts to get him elected in 2016 was all a big distraction. Taibbi and Greenwald believed centrist liberals and ‘the establishment media’ were to blame for Trump’s election and were the source of all things bad in America, so they decided anything contradicting that narrative had to be vigorously opposed. Taibbi even admits this in his piece:
During Trump’s first run, I nearly lost my mind trying to explain to fellow reporters that he was succeeding in part because of us, that the prestige media’s ham-handed, hysterical, anti-intellectual approach to covering the Trump phenomenon was itself massively fueling it, making a case for establishment corruption and incompetence more eloquently than he could.
No word on Fox News fanning the flames of racial resentment and relentlessly smearing Democrats to distract their viewers from Trump’s insanity. Given Taibbi was writing about this lucidly in 2017, one wonders exactly what changed.
Ignoring the evidence
No matter how much evidence stacked up against Trump, Taibbi has steadfastly refused to ever take it seriously, resorting to ever more ludicrous positions that isolated him from his peers and most of his followers. One of the weirdest moments of Taibbi’s career was when he claimed Russiagate was over because Trump’s Attorney General William Barr had exonerated him moments before the release of Robert Mueller’s report. Both Taibbi and Greenwald confidently asserted that there was ‘nothing to see here’ despite the fact that the Mueller report explicitly stated that Trump exerted “undue influence over law enforcement investigations” and found massive evidence of a Russian plot to elect Trump.
According to Taibbi and Greenwald, they are now the lone voices on the Left willing to tell the truth, willing to stand up to ‘the Woke mob’, and willing to do real journalism while the rest of us suck up to Joe Biden and the DNC. In reality, they have become stooges for the Right and now make a living regurgitating extremely dangerous propaganda about the Left. As Current Affairs editor Nathan Robinson noted in a lengthy essay on Taibbi and Greenwald’s new alliance with the far right:
The cases of Greenwald and Taibbi offer evidence for something that should alarm us all: conservative stories about the world are powerful, and even though they often aren’t true, it is easy for people (especially but not exclusively white men) to come to believe them without even really noticing they are gliding away from reality.
Having anticipated the backlash from his Tucker Carlson interview, Taibbi made sure preempt the arguments he knows are coming. He hasn’t changed, it’s all you.
What is this, the ninth grade? Just a few years ago, when people like Rachel Maddow were engaging in cheerful repartee with Carlson for MSNBC debates on things like gay rights and sex education, it was understood that adults didn’t need to “distance themselves” from the views of other adults, because people’s views are just that — their own. Now we’re being asked to constantly tend to our statuses, make sure they’re clean at all times of all disreputable associations, by people who themselves want a pass on bringing the joys of Stasi-style surveillance to American culture.
Just a few years ago, Carlson wasn’t calling immigrants dirty, shilling for a fascist madman, or pretending the NSA was trying to get his show off the air. This only started when Trump came on the scene and Carlson saw an opportunity to cash in on White grievance politics sweeping through the nation. Carlson, it should be remembered, was an abject failure on television before he picked up this new persona.
Taibbi appears to have missed all of this and instead wants to see the best in Carlson. In fact, Taibbi is positively happy that Carlson is having a moment and is now the number one show on network news. “Carlson is right. Fuck these people,” he writes “They deserve whatever they get, including him.”
As a young journalist I was inspired by Taibbi’s writing, particularly his work after the financial crisis in 2008. I bought all of his books and devoured everything he wrote on Rolling Stone. To watch him abase himself like this isn’t just sad, but deeply upsetting. Journalism has not only lost a great voice, but the Right wing propaganda machine has won yet again.
Roger Ailes, wrote Taibbi in 2017, was “the Christopher Columbus of hate,” and created the Fox News network in order to monetize political and racial tensions in America.
“When the former daytime TV executive and political strategist looked across the American continent, he saw money laying around in giant piles,” Taibbi continued. “He knew all that was needed to pick it up was a) the total abandonment of any sense of decency or civic duty in the news business, and b) the factory-like production of news stories that spoke to Americans’ worst fantasies about each other.”
After shilling for Tucker Carlson, Taibbi is now officially part of this money spewing hate machine. And Roger Ailes is no doubt laughing in his grave.
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Polls show a staggering uptick in Republican support for regional secession inside the United States.
Image: Carlos Barria / Reuters
by Bob Cesca
WASHINGTON, DC -- This week, a new survey by the Bright Line Watch showed a staggering uptick in support for regional secession inside the United States. And it’s pretty obvious why this is happening.
American politics has once again de-evolved from citizens debating the issues in good faith to a brutal and often unforgiving bloodsport where political opponents can’t simply be proved wrong, they have to be personally destroyed.
While Republicans whine about “cancel culture,” many of their top influencers have filed frivolous defamation lawsuits -- SLAPP suits -- against liberals who’ve called them out on Twitter. Everyone from Devin Nunes to Jason Miller to Trump himself has attempted to cancel their various enemies by burying them in legal fees. Personal confrontations are now commonplace, with activists accosting their enemies in restaurants or outside their houses. Domestic terrorists have driven their cars into crowds of protesters. Donald Trump attacked peaceful protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets to clear the way for a photo-op, while threatening to execute leakers. Of course the most brutal example in recent memory is the January 6 insurrection in which Red Hats, incapable of losing with dignity, launched a violent invasion and occupation of Congress.
This is the bloodsport.
One of many reasons for this often deadly disintegration is the lack of a common source for objective reality -- the truth.
Without any linkage to facts, the political debate has crumbled into nothing more than a Mobius Loop of crapola -- a screaming match based on loudness and zingers rather than who’s justifiably right and who’s justifiably wrong. It’s about destroying the other side personally because that’s the only remaining way to “win.”
Nevertheless, while there have always been absolute truths in politics, one particular side of our modern debate, the Trump-controlled Republican Party, is operating on the basis of lies invented by a well-known professional con-man. Supporters of Trump have become so brainwashed -- their value as people has become so tangled up in Trumpism, it’s not just that they won’t concede to the facts, they’re utterly incapable of conceding. They will never acknowledge reality. They will never back down. Thus, the difference between the Right and the Left is that the Right is now permanently tethered to Trump’s fiction, while, even though we can be wrong sometimes because, after all, we’re human, the Left continues to base its arguments on facts more often than not -- science, statistics, journalism, historical analysis, and so forth….