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Matt Taibbi on Misogyny, the Left vs. Free Speech, and the Killing of Eric Garner

"I'm just sort of accidental collateral damage to a larger thing that's going on."

Few journalists have tossed more hand grenades or built more of a reputation for themselves than Matt Taibbi, who covers politics and culture for Rolling Stone when not writing bestselling books, such as Griftopia, Insane Clown President, and most recently I Can't Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street, a powerful account of the death of Eric Garner, who died in police custody after being arrested for selling loose cigarettes in Staten Island. In 2008, Taibbi won a National Magazine Award for his columns and commentary at Rolling Stone.

With fame comes controversy. A 2005 piece for the defunct free weekly The New York Press was titled "The 52 Funniest Things About the Upcoming Death of the Pope." It was denounced by everyone from Hillary Clinton to Matt Drudge to Michael Bloomberg to that paragon of good taste, Anthony Weiner. With the publication of I Can't Breathe last fall, Taibbi has come under attack in a wide array of places ranging from Twitter to Facebook to The Washington Post for work that critics say is flat out misogynistic and sexist.

Taibbi has published at least two apologies about past work (much of which appeared in The eXile), but the firestorm has barely abated. He says that his support for Bernie Sanders throughout the 2016 campaign—even after Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination—is part of what's motivating the attacks on him, and is leading to something approaching a media blackout on his book about Eric Garner.

Reason's Nick Gillespie spoke with Taibbi about his new book, free speech and the left, the recent negative attention that his work has received, and issues on which progressives and libertarians overlap in powerful, if always uneasy, ways.

Interview contents:

1:48 - I Can't Breathe and the Eric Garner case

9:55 - Cell phone videos and their effect on criminal justice reform

11:43 - New York City and the origin of "stop and frisk" policing

18:37 - George Kelling and the origin of "broken windows" policing

22:44 - Crime reduction since the 90s

32:15 - Erica Garner's activism and death

34:56 - How libertarians and progressives can work together

37:29 - Journalism and "the new anti-speech movement on the left"

44:04 - Political tribalism and third party candidates

48:23 - Russian politics and U.S. election interference

51:49 - The sexual harassment allegations against Taibbi and his view of #MeToo

1:00:35 - How to promote heterodox, independent thinking

Edited by Justin Monticello and Todd Krainin. Camera by Jim Epstein and Andrew Heaton.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    He says that his support for Bernie Sanders throughout the 2016 campaign—even after Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination—is part of what's motivating the attacks on him, and is leading to something approaching a media blackout on his book about Eric Garner.

    He is a victim.

  • Quixote||

    Even more disturbing, he also tries to justify some of his offensive writings as a joke, or as "black humor," written to be "as grotesque as possible." Does he think "humor" is an excuse? Surely he wouldn't dare to defend the "First Amendment dissent" of a single, isolated judge in our nation's leading criminal "satire" case? See the documentation at:

    https://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

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  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    He says that his support for Bernie Sanders throughout the 2016 campaign—even after Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination—is part of what's motivating the attacks on him, and is leading to something approaching a media blackout on his book about Eric Garner.

    Once Hillary Clinton became the nominee, making her the only person who could stop Drumpf from winning, it was the duty of every progressive, libertarian, and indeed every non-Nazi to support her. I like a lot of Bernie's platform, but these dead-ender BernieBros made a huge mistake by failing to unite behind Clinton. Shame on Taibbi if he didn't fall in line. That's a serious strike against the otherwise impeccable record of Rolling Stone.

    Reason's Nick Gillespie spoke with Taibbi about his new book, free speech and the left, the recent negative attention that his work has received, and issues on which progressives and libertarians overlap in powerful, if always uneasy, ways.

    The most important such issue is, of course, our shared support for unlimited immigration. In fact, when my IRL progressive friends say mean things about the Koch Brothers, the first thing I do is point out the Kochs are leading the fight against white nationalists who advocate deporting undocumented Americans.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Why did so many sane, rational Hillary voters swing for Trump?

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    Many people who would have voted for Hillary were ultimately misled by months of sexist, unfair media coverage, causing them to either stay home or switch to Drumpf.

    For example, her minor fainting episode at the 9/11 memorial event was blown out of proportion. This created the (incorrect) impression she wasn't physically capable of being President for 4 to 8 years. Furthermore, the media spent way too much time trying to manufacture a scandal about her e-mails. The Comey letter may have been the final, decisive factor that handed the election to Drumpf.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Why, in you opinion, were Hillary voters so prone to media manipulation?

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    You're trying to trick me into stating that Hillary voters are uniquely gullible, but it won't work. In a presidential election, if even a single-digit percentage of either side's voters stay home, or switch to the other side, it can affect the outcome. The vast majority of likely Hillary voters saw through the media bias and supported her on election day.

    Unfortunately, the right wing smear machine was just powerful enough to give Drumpf an Electoral College victory. He narrowly won key swing states by margins of a few thousand votes out of TENS OF MILLIONS of votes cast nationwide. This is another reason to abolish the Electoral College, by the way.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Yes, but the argument's logic is that it was erstwhile Hillary voters that switched to Trump, so that means that Hillary voters were uniquely affected by Russian animated gifs. You keep making that argument, Hillary voters keep making that argument. The only alternative is that already-likely Trump voters would have seen how bad Trump REALLY was and would have voted for Hillary, but didn't because of Putin's guile. I haven't heard the latter argument being made.

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    The only alternative is that already-likely Trump voters would have seen how bad Trump REALLY was and would have voted for Hillary, but didn't because of Putin's guile. I haven't heard the latter argument being made.

    That argument can't be made because bad Hillary stuff was exposed. The only alternative that leaves is using "Trump is worse".

  • IceTrey||

    Yeah but he won ALL the swing states. BTW, I don't get Drumpf. Drump I get because it sounds like dump but what is with the F?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Supposedly Drumpf was the German spelling of the surname back when the Donald's ancestors came through Ellis Island.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    And then John Oliver found it funny for some reason, so he pushed from his television show that everyone should call Trump, Drumpf. Because he is one of the most respected comedians.

  • Trollificus||

    "Becaise he is one of the most respected comedians"

    "That's a serious strike against the otherwise impeccable record of Rolling Stone."

    You guys are going either break my Sarcas-Mo-Meter (exceeding max values) or my Credibility Sensor (values below zero).

    Fuck this shit. Trumps' failings in NO WAY create virtue for the sleazy kleptocrat Clinton or the dim bulb Chavez-worshipper Sanders.

  • Gorbag||

    Why is the only sane comment on this topic by someone calling him or her or itself a Troll?

  • JuanQPublic||

    Many people who would have voted for Hillary were ultimately misled by months of sexist, unfair media coverage, causing them to either stay home or switch to Drumpf.

    Or maybe the Clinton/DNC machine (virtually one in the same) condescended to Sanders voters, while simultaneously trotting out people like Gloria Steinhem to tell them how awful and sexist they are.

    Or possibly the Clinton/DNC openly lying about supposed "violence" from party outliers at the Nevada Caucus, then cheating the non-Clinton faction out of the voice vote.

    Seriously, Clinton and the DNC played dirty from day one. They had the media in their corner as well, obvious through the coverage and certain through the leaked DNC emails. Then Donna Brazile.

  • ThomasD||

    It wasn't so much the 'minor' fainting episode as the "don't believe your lying eyes" response from her campaign, coupled with the absolute dearth of interest in follow-up displayed by the media, that tended to turn people off.

  • JoeBlow123||

    Love the comment! Keep up the good work OBL!

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    :)

  • Migrant Log Chipper||

    Two idiots on one comment thread....hmmmm.

  • Kivlor||

    Once Hillary Clinton became the nominee, making her the only person who could stop Drumpf from winning, it was the duty of every progressive, libertarian, and indeed every non-Nazi to support her

    OBL, I agree with the general sentiment, but every "non-Nazi"... I just can't get behind this. I mean, what about monarchists like myself? Or Mussolini-style fascists? Those aren't Nazis, but surely they should vote Trump. Oh, and of course any whites who feel pride about the accomplishments of their ancestors, whose shoulders they stand on; shouldn't they have been expected to vote Trump as well?.

  • albo||

    Matt Taibbi? Ewwww. Hope you Purelled up after.

  • Rhywun||

    I'd hate to have pulled that short straw.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Never use Purell around Matt Taibbi. I heard he drinks the stuff.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    So Taibbi is a full-on "member" of the "alt-right" then.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Regarding the commentary about people "seeing disorder" giving them "permission" to add to or engage in more disorder is a theory I believe in. If you live in an urban area, there's lots of evidence for that. But I agree, trying to codify that into a policing solution has gone very awry. I don't have the answers, but it's a very interesting discussion.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Matt Taibbi is pro-Sanders who is a self-admitted socialist. Socialists are slavers.

    I am not going to waste my time.

  • Harvard||

    A liberal interviews another liberal and posts article on Reason. Another Brickbat

  • ThomasD||

    Not liberals, leftists.

    Liberalism is merely a means to an end for them.

    You simply cannot square support for Sanders any other way.

  • SchillMcGuffin||

    Sure you can. There are a lot of Sanders supporters whose reasoning doesn't go beyond "he seems honest", or perhaps "he's not in the pocket of Wall Street", and even all the self-avowed socialist stuff just doesn't even register with them.

  • ThomasD||

    I was speaking about the two people mentioned in the post. But mainly the subject of the interview.

    However, if your 'square' consists of "they are idiots, whose thoughts and behaviors do not necessarily correspond to one another," then in general I'll not argue with you. In the case of Taibbi, he has demonstrated enough neuronal activity to be held to account for his actions and statements.

  • Alcibiades||

    There is no overlap, none.

  • Kenrm||

    The Gardner issue was he was selling "loosies" outside of a LEGAL business that was also selling cigarettes by NYC guidelines. If Gardner has been selling them where no other businesses were being financially hurt by the transactions, the police would have looked the other way. As they say in real estate, "location, location, location".

  • someguy444||

    Taibbi compares himself to Sam Kinison, then denounces him, says he is "part of the problem" after bloviating for over an hour about how terrible this country is. This guy is a fool and a liar. He either harassed women or lied about it to make himself look edgy and cool and sell more book. Which is worse? If you think you are part of the problem then do the world a huge favor, shutup and go away. Also, if you drank every time he said "you know" you would be dead in five minutes. It is shocking how poorly he speaks considering he writes for a living.

  • Iheartskeet||

    Reason, when discussing the Trump administration:
    "Yeah, some individual things are good, but they just don't go far enough, and fall FAR FAR short of libertarian perfection, so it all sucks and is worthless, and by the way Trump is Satan and Hitler's bastard child who we hate. Hatey hatey hate hate hate. Hate."

    Reason, when talking to a guy who wants vastly more government intrusion into our economic lives, higher taxes, believes businesses are all just "profiteers" and crooks, thinks the 2nd amendment is a flaw, and thinks Bernie Sanders is "focused on reality":
    "Hey, we have some things in common ! A few things anyway ! Let's ignore the stuff we are polar opposites on, because we should work together where we can ! Plus, those right-wing types *rolls eyes* they've always sucked."

  • Trollificus||

    You didn't get the memo about open borders being THE top libertarian principle did you? Yeah, me either. Apparently, it is an absolute. There are no nuanced positions, reservations or acceptable complaints. It is as much a black-and-white decree from God as Trump being an unprecedented evil.

    Fuck. A lecturing article applauding Twitters' speech police and now Matt Tiabbi? My copy of REASON used to be a bright point in the month, a reassurance that there were sane, intelligent, principled people in the world. Now, I would feel no sense of loss if I cancelled my subscription, because that sense of loss is already present.

    Proggies in libertarian clothing continue the work of depriving me, personally, of the refuge of a rational political party.

  • NebulousFocus||

    Open borders in a Constitutionally limited Republic could work. Unfortunately, we abandon the "Constitutionally limited" part a long time ago. Maybe Reason should focus on thàt instead.

  • ThomasD||

    Open borders or a welfare state.

    I didn't chose the latter, but it is the situation we live in. Until that changes there is no realistic way we (or any nation) can sustain the former.

  • Iheartskeet||

    Yep, a certain sycophancy with progressives has taken hold. I bagged my subs a few months back, after more than 2 decades as a loyal reader.

    What's weird is that the vast majority of progs f'ing hate L's, and would be pleased as punch if we all dropped dead. Reason thinks they can win them over because they agree on marijuana legalization. The naïveté is stunning, and pathetic.

  • ThomasD||

    Don't kid yourself. there is nothing remotely libertarian about the current approach to marijuana. It is permission coupled with various expansions of the regulatory state. Once those government agencies and their workforces become entrenched there will be zero impetus for full decriminalization.

    The Eric Garner incident foretells how the MJ 'libertarian moment' will play out.

  • Trollificus||

    I have to concede, you are right. The only virtue that can be claimed for "regulated permission" as opposed to flat-out "decriminalization" is that there are so many powerful interests so very financially vested in the status quo, that they will have to be paid off somehow.

    Because the moral argument that they should not be ruining the lives of their fellow citizens for profit has clearly failed to impress them.

  • MaryCanary||

    Here's a quote Taibbi should tattoo on the inside of his eyelids:
    "It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly, one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts."
    - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

  • Trollificus||

    Wouldn't that interfere with his enjoyment of the primary desiderata of the punditry? That is, being able to smugly say "See? It all fits together!"

  • Woke Becky||

    Yuck to the Pleasantville where women can't be ridiculed for their appearance the same as men.

  • San Diego||

    Taibbi gets shited on by his own party, but can't bring himself to condemn their McCarthyite tactics regarding free speech and their abdication of independent objective journalism. And he tells us limp- wristedly "he doesn't really know what to do about it!" How about condemning it, and those that engage in it! But wait, that would be most of His fellow Bernie supporters. Couldn't do that.

  • JoeB||

    Matt who?

  • Lady in Red||

    Hell's bells. When I was a kid, I remember checking tv at home, after work, and listening to "This is Mike Tiabbi, for Channel Five News...." I had no particular feeling about ole Mike. But, I did learn to like his son, Matt.

    I am terrified of octopus banksters, and he understands them, clearly. Why, I wonder, does he not understand their goal: globalist banksters and "elites" in charge of a nationless, world of dumb, not educated slaves..

    I've subscribed to Reason for years. I'm a little left, a little right, a little libertarian.... Mostly, I try to think, and observe. I've always liked Nick. Mostly. ...smile... Again, like Matt he appears not to have a clue what is at stake in America, now.

    I'm a Trumpster and I hope that "you" do not kill him. He's America's -- and the world's? -- Churchill, the savior from the nationless, globalist bankster/elites looking to breed strong, but dumb, and uneducated, slaves in a world of.... ...I don't know. It is not going to be pleasant this Soros-funded, conceived new world order.

    Why, I wonder, does not Nick or Matt see this?

    I'm not giving up on either Matt nor Nick, but, gosh, guys.... Trump does NOT need this grief, his is only a gift to the American people.

    Try this:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHsZxJlxHYw

    Shoot him? Shoot his grandbabies? Think he doesn't know the danger. Why, why, why.... do the libertarians demean Trump?. .....Lady in Red

  • ipsum||

    Had Eric Gardner made the decision to cooperate and go with the police, he would likely be alive today.

  • Who needs a reason?||

    Taibbi: "Profiling isn't wrong but it's profiling and profiling is wrong!"

    Meanwhile, one cop causes a Negro to have a heart attack and die and the whole world bursts into flames.

    While every week hundreds of Negroes shoot hundreds of Negroes in America. Every week. Every week.
    .

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