I took out a (discounted) Defector subscription so I could read Dave Roth’s political posts, and I found a whole bunch of good writers creating informative content. Such as Drew Magary, on the Way We (some journamalists choose to) Live Now:
… Let me give you as much background as I can. Taibbi was once a star reporter—the only star reporter, really—at Rolling Stone, making a name for himself not merely for investigating fuckery within the financial sector, but for explaining it clearly to Americans who, at the time, were perhaps not up to speed on the depth and history of that fuckery. Wall Street makes a lot of things overly complicated so that their customers don’t understand it. Taibbi made those things simple. And pointed. This legendary story where he described Goldman Sachs as a “vampire squid” is probably the best illustration of his once formidable talents. I really enjoyed reading his work, so much so that when he asked me (and a handful of other writers) to help contribute to a gimmicky blog post he was compiling, I felt touched by greatness. Who wouldn’t? The guy was Michael Lewis and Anthony Bourdain all in one.
Then in 2017, Taibbi got called out for a lot of ugly shit that he (along with his partner Mark Ames) wrote and did while writing for a gonzo magazine in Russia around the turn of the century. Taibbi issued what appeared to be a sincere apology when that blowback hit him, but it clearly stung him to the point where he decided that he had been wronged by the Woke Police. After that, he left RS and booted up a Substack that enriched him via the now-familiar Free Thinker economy, profiting off the feedback cycle where nu–right wing media stars tell their readers, “I was cast out from the elite, and you might be next!”
That’s the exact same gripe that compelled Elon Musk to buy Twitter and refashion it in his own “I was the class clown you guys!” image. So you see how Musk would find Taibbi (and Bari Weiss) a mark to dump his Twitter Files, and why Taibbi would be willing to act as Musk’s sock puppet in “reporting” them. These are bros who just want the freedom to be bros again. And more important, they want money.
I’m probably giving Taibbi too much credit here (DISCLOSURE: We last corresponded in 2019, when I had quit Deadspin and was reaching out to anyone I knew in hopes of finding new employment), but I think he’s too smart of a guy to actually believe that he’s doing any kind of vital reporting for Musk. I think he knows this is all cynical horseshit, but he’s making a shitload of money in exchange for that horseshit, and that’s all he needs to justify it to himself. It’s good money, and it’s easy. That’s the nut of it.
And do you know what’s odd about the whole thing? It’s that none of these people HAD to stay canceled, if they were ever even canceled to begin with. All of them either forgot about America’s affinity for doling out second chances, or they earnestly believe that said affinity no longer exists. Matt Taibbi, along with many other self-appointed free-speech martyrs, could still be doing great investigative work today, and making a fairly handsome profit off of it. All he had to do was say the right things and then live those values. Someone would have given him a chance. He was just too much of a stubborn, lazy asshole to want it…
From Magary’s original post concerning some of The Worst People on Political Media:
Let’s start with Bari Weiss. I had no idea who that piece of shit was until one of my friends made me aware of her existence. That friend owes me money. Chances are, the only reason YOU know of Weiss isn’t because she used to write for The New York Times, but because people like ME would highlight her pathetic work and go, “Hey man, can you believe the Times pays people like this?” And now I owe YOU money…
Bari Weiss is a nobody. She can’t write. She can’t really do much of anything, outside of checking her personal Google alerts to see who’s destroying Western civilization by daring to make fun of her at any given moment. Weiss belongs to a cottage industry of what I’ll call credible shitposters: Andrew Sullivan, Matthew Yglesias, Bret Stephens, Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, Jesse Singal, JD Vance, and more. Some of these people are talented. Taibbi was the preeminent watchdog of the finance sector not too long ago. I loved Taibbi’s work. Now he’s writing increasingly reactionary stuff on Substack and making strange arguments about QAnon.
With Rush Limbaugh dead and Trump formally exiled from Twitter, there’s now a massive online power vacuum in a country where the line between being a leader and being a public shithead is indistinct. You can see any number of politicians vying to usurp Trump’s job as Chief Well Poisoner: Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley, Jim Jordan, Nikki Haley, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and other assorted neo-fascists. But credible shitposters like Vance are ALSO trying to get in on the action…
…[A]chieving that outsider status has proved lucrative. Yglesias, Greenwald, Taibbi, Sullivan, and Weiss all write newsletters that are at the top of Substack’s subscription leaderboard. They each have thousands or even tens of thousands of paying subscribers, and they are making a lot of money off their work. All the culture war scabs these people picked at while at their old jobs, and all the hate-reading that their work induced, has earned them exactly the sort of attention they needed to make the pivot to professional shitposting. That these pivots just so happened to coincide with the rise of a publishing platform that can make writing on one’s own profitable is probably less of a coincidence than it is the result of canny personal branding. And of exploiting their grievances, virtually all of them imagined, without guilt or an editor getting in the way…
Even if you’re amplifying someone like Weiss because you think they suck, and Weiss very much does, you’re amplifying them. You’re doing them a favor, especially now when their income is directly tied to their ability to posture as truth-telling outsiders who make their enemies angry. These fake thinkers—from Sullivan to Limbaugh to fucking Bill Maher—are parasitic organisms: latching onto whatever hosts they can find, feeding off them, and then multiplying within them. That’s how they root themselves deep inside the American culture despite having no good ideas, and certainly no remaining talent to speak of. They exist inside their own feedback loop and foster a massive creative drain that remains ongoing. Their stupidity, their bigotry, and their friends in high places are the only things keeping them relevant. They are a society of assholes, and we lose just as much as they gain from the attention that’s given to them…
Speaking of the Worst Online People:
— Centrism Fan Acct ?? (@Wilson__Valdez) January 5, 2023
He banned journalists covering him: 1984. He wants to put a chip in your head: Brave New World. He’s publicly supported government officials and candidates that are banning lessons on actual US history so there’s Fahrenheit 451.
They always misunderstand the literature. pic.twitter.com/Oynd3qSpfx
— Mikey O’Leary (@MichaelROLeary) January 4, 2023