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30 October 2017


As a leftist, I've followed and valued Matt Taibbi's writing for a while now. I've also been following the recent controversy over the stunning misogyny of some of his early work, particularly his co-authored memoir of his years as an expat in Russia, including its jovial prose about sexual assault (see, for exp, https://m.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2017/10/27/twenty-years-ago-in-moscow-matt-taibbi-was-a-misogynist-asshole-and-possibly-worse and https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/matt-taibbis-not-so-secret-russian-past_us_59f729e9e4b06acda25f4b8e
I hadn't known of his earlier work and like so many others am disgusted by both its sexism and Taibbi's apparent defences (that it was satire, that his co-author, Mark Ames, wrote most of it, etc). I know Taibbi would like to confine this misogyny to the past and pass it off as satire, but even some of his more recent, single-authored journalism reveals a level of frat-boy sexism that is nauseating. In 2009, for instance, he published a piece critiquing Michelle Malkin (whose politics I disdain and staunchly oppose) that centered on imagining her with a pair of testicles in her mouth: http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/21319
Does this kind of writing mean that Taibbi would condone, for instance, a white writer critiquing Clarence Thomas by “humorously” imagining him as a black slave being whipped?? Led by people of color, we have plenty of powerful activist voices on the left speaking out against police brutality. Someone like Taibbi, compromised by a crippling sexism, should NOT be given a pass simply because he has written a book on Eric Garner. As feminists, anti-racists, and leftists, we should hold Taibbi to account!

Thank you for the comment. I have read both the articles you linked to--this is another reason I have to take a break from CR for a while--it's like that old rule of going home before midnight or 1 a.m. because nothing good is going to happen after that. Every time I read anything on the Internet lately, nothing good comes of it.

I can't say I'm surprised by this news. I started to read Taibbi's book about The Exile and stopped because I was bored and it was a bit horrific, but to see some of the quotes out of it now is a bit...ahem...well, a bit. You really only have to read a bit of Taibbi's writing to see the anger. Sometimes I feel he has rightly placed anger--at the wholesale bombing of other countries, at Barack Obama's and Hillary Clinton's collusion with Big Finance and Big Pharma--but of course anger is very hard to control, isn't it?

I thank you for the comment because it's an important reminder that we needn't think authors we like are saints. But I think what is being emphasized in the news of late is how much all these horrible crimes and cruelties are perpetrated by The Other. I don't believe there is an Other. I believe that as being humans we are all complicit in some way. And I think we all struggle these days with devaluing the bodies and souls of other people--not just men toward women, but also the rich to the poor, the privileged to the not, the consuming to the consumed.

It's good to hold people to account. But it is also going to become increasingly important to look for ways to provide mercy and a WAY FORWARD--for all of us. Because, unfortunately or not, in the grand picture, we are all in this together. There's no way around that.

DS - thank you for posting that. I too was a big fan of Taibbi who had just recently learned of his earlier writings, and was horrified; but I have done so much angry posting of late that I was reluctant to "go there". You brought the topic up in a much more measured way than I could have.

And *thank you*, CR, for your thoughtful response. I struggle so much with the friends, family, and colleagues who are not only complicit but enthusiastic (!) in their support of in so much of the horror I see around us. How indeed to we go forward? But what other choice have we?

I hope your "break" is restful and inspiring. But don't forget to come back!

And since all that is such a bummer, here's a review of what sounds like a terrific "doctor" book: http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/review-admissions-by-henry-marsh/

Oh, Hapax,
Yeah, Taibbi. Actually, I still like Taibbi's reporting, I think he can make complex financial and political ideas understandable, but I'm pretty sure I knew this all along. I have been so clueless in many ways--largely such "frat boy" writing never bothered me because I've mainly just found frat boys laughable--but my life experience has been very different than that of most women. To some extent I think it's a brand of humor that will always be with us--and which to me seems present in a lot of other pop culture, including everything Judd Apatow has ever made (except Apatow doesn't even offer reporting skills as a counterpoint).

Thank you for the good wishes. And for the doctor book suggestion. I'm worn out by the health care system currently, but I might be ready to read about it again soon.

Have a wondrous month off, friend! And never ever read the comments -- they are a nightmare and a hellscape and you must save yourself from that nonsense.

Jenny dearest,
But the comments are the best part of this blog! (And your site gets a lot of great comments too.)

But the comments section at Yahoo--I only clicked on the Weinstein story comments because there were nearly 5000 of them! And all horrifying and depressingly the same? I'm interested in the psychology of who takes the time to comment after there are, say, 1000 comments or so. "Oh wait, I've got something totally new to say!" Oh wait, no you don't. But thanks for the Internet tips: Book blog comment sections, yes. Every other comment section, no.

Have a great month yourself!!

Yes, comments on book blogs are often insightful rather than rage-inducing. Have a great break. I love your lists/posts. Thank you.

You are a dear. I love your blog too; thanks for keeping it up!!
Yes, I am being careful this November, although I am still online too much, to mostly read book blogs only.

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