In right-wing nutjob circles, “The Twitter Files” are an even bigger scandal than Benghazi or Pizzagate or Migrant Caravans or Tucker Carlson’s edited highlights of that innocent January 6th tourist visit.
No one has done more to help preach the “Twitter Files” disinformation gospel than former “liberal” journalist Matt Taibbi who in recent years has transformed himself into a wilfully bonkers alt-left shit stirrer.
Taibbi’s shift not only proves the point that those who move far enough to one extreme on the political spectrum will eventually join up with the most radicalized voices on the other side. It has also—conveniently—allowed him to cash in on the new era of fascist-friendly grifting.
Using Elon Musk’s Dark MAGA Twitter patronage, Taibbi has generated national and international attention, helping him expand his YUGE and lucrative Substack audience, bringing him an estimated seven-figure annual income.
More money, less reporting
Taibbi’s shameful alliance with the Saudi-backed, journalist-hating Twitter owner has resulted in him making the leap from independent reporter to, in the words of Mehdi Hasan, a “Musk scribe.”
It’s a transition at odds with Taibbi’s previously stated but now abandoned journalistic principles.
As Sam Seder noted in December 2022, in 2021 Taibbi told Joe Rogan that the worst thing for a real reporter was getting information “spoon-fed” to you by those who might be looking to manipulate a story: “Once you start getting handed things, you’ve lost… They have you… You can’t cross that line.”
On 9 March 2023, Taibbi was invited by GOP Rep. Jim “The Knife” Jordan to testify to Congress about the Benghazi—oops, sorry—Twitter Files “scandal.”
The smirking Taibbi told the friendly Rethugs on the committee that the Musk nothingburger he had flipped and garnished was “by far the most serious thing” and “the most brave story” he had ever worked on.
But Democrats shredded his contentions.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz read to him from the Society for Professional Journalists’ code of ethics: “Journalists should avoid accepting spoon-fed, cherry-picked information if it’s likely to be slanted, incomplete, or designed to reach a foregone, easily disputed or invalid conclusion.”
Wasserman Schultz then dunked on Taibbi with the clip of him saying virtually the same thing to Joe Rogan.
Of course, Elon’s bestie was undeterred by the facts or the ethics lessons he had to endure in the hearing.
The now Fox News friendly Taibbi was soon eagerly posing for a photo op with Senator Ted Cruz who, as Mehdi Hasan noted on Twitter, the former reporter had previously called an “incurable skin condition.”
Hasan continued using Twitter to get under Taibbi’s thin skin until March 25 when Taibbi responded to a comment referencing Musk’s censorship of Twitter in India with a challenge to invite him onto Hasan’s show.
The bad news for Taibbi: Hasan accepted his challenge
The full interview is posted at the top of this page and it’s worth watching in full. But here’s the short version, via Techdirt:
Hasan came prepared with facts. Lots of them. Many of which debunked the core foundation on which Taibbi and his many fans have built the narrative regarding the Twitter Files….
Since the interview, Taibbi has been scrambling to claim that the errors Hasan called out are small side issues, but they’re not. They’re literally the core pieces on which he’s built the nonsense framing that Stanford, the University of Washington, some non-profits, the government, and social media have formed an “industrial censorship complex” to stifle the speech of Americans….
A key (error) is Taibbi’s claim that the Election Integrity Partnership flagged 22 million tweets for Twitter to take down in partnership with the government. This is flat out wrong. The EIP, which was focused on studying election interference, flagged less than 3,000 tweets for Twitter to review (2,890 to be exact).
Meanwhile, on MSNBC’s The ReidOut Blog, Ja’han Jones writes:
Taibbi had asked to appear on Hasan’s show to discuss the suppression of anti-establishment voices in India — but he had virtually nothing to say on the matter when it came time to put up or shut up.
You can see Taibbi refusing to talk about India when Hasan asks him (at 22:53): “What is your view on Musk working with Modi to censor speech?”
When Hasan asked Taibbi to say a word of criticism about his patron Elon Musk who, as Ja’han Jones notes:
Has publicly pondered fomenting coups; banned American journalists on Twitter after buying the platform; falsely labeled the NPR news organization as “state-affiliated media”; and whose platform is actively suppressing voices in India that are critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” Taibbi refused.
Here’s how that dialogue specifically reads:
Hasan: How did you go from being the scourge of Wall Street to being unable to say anything critical of a rightwing billionaire, Elon Musk?
Taibbi: I like Elon Musk.
Hasan: Would you like to criticize Musk now?
Taibbi: No I don’t particularly want to.
How the mighty have fallen. The once-respected Matt Taibbi now has less credibility than Catturd.
Update: Taibbi Now Says He Is Leaving Twitter
I finished writing the above article on Friday afternoon April 7, ending (I thought) at the point where Matt Taibbi, in the midst of being humiliated by Mehdi Hasan, was still ignominiously refusing to bite the hand that was feeding him.
But on Friday, Taibbi himself fell victim to Elon Musk’s latest petty assault on free speech and finally realized how swiftly—because it belonged to Elon Musk—the hand feeding him could become the hand now punching him in the face.
As Taibbi wrote on his own Substack:
Earlier this afternoon, I learned Substack links were being blocked on Twitter. Since being able to share my articles is a primary reason I use Twitter, I was alarmed and asked what was going on.
It turns out Twitter is upset about the new Substack Notes feature, which they see as a hostile rival. When I asked how I was supposed to market my work, I was given the option of posting my articles on Twitter instead of Substack.
Apparently, the “Twitter Files” author is able to get answers from Elon Musk’s Twitter quicker than the President, the FBI or the CIA—and not just the poop emojis that real journalists receive.
But Taibbi has decided to quit Twitter anyway, based on the principle he was only in it for the money.
Meanwhile: My Substack “Stay-or-Go” Debate
In mid-December 2022, I talked to @LOLGOP here about my reservations about staying on Elon Musk’s Twitter before resolving to quit Twitter at the end of 2022. In that conversation, I also brought up my reservations about the Twitter-alternative Post because, like Substack, it has the backing of Andreesen-Horowitz.
As I said to @LOLGOP:
What bothers me most about Post is that Marc Andreesen’s VC firm is the number one backer. Andreesen’s the number one backer of Substack, too, which we’re both on, but which created the Matt Taibbi’s, the Glenn Greenwald’s, the Bari Weiss’s.
There are other things that irk me about Substack, but inertia has kept me here so far. However, recent news that Andreesen-Horowitz is not only courting investment from Saudi Arabia but is, like Elon Musk, already-backed by the butcherous Saudi regime, has pushed me over the edge.
That means that I will be looking to move to Ghost quite soon. It’s open-source and run by a non-profit. Whether you’re a free or paid subscriber, the migration should (theoretically) be seamless to you.
Thanks for reading—and see you on the other side!
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