“Around me at that time, the world was changing in a revolutionary way. Everyone was online. Kids were getting cell phones, taking pictures of everything, going on Facebook, chatting, telling the world – forever – what they did, where, and when. “But even back then, I kept a light online presence. I don’t really take pictures. A big rule: Keep your face off the Internet. “Additionally: No Facebook. Stay the fuck away from Facebook. Even if you’re not dealing drugs.”

Thanks for all the questions, gotta run!

Comments: 144 • Responses: 26  • Date: 

pixelmonkey22 karma

I fell in love with your writing back when I lived in NYC and you worked at NY Press. I loved, especially, your take-down of Thomas Friedman's "The World is Flat" (the post was called "Flathead"). It was the first time I spit out coffee in laughter from reading a book review. In the years since that piece was published, I shared it with so many friends.

So, my question(s): Can you give us a little insight into why you found Friedman to be such a delicious target? And also, whether, now that NY Press is defunct-ish, there is any chance that "Flathead" could be republished somewhere so it can live forever on the Internet?

Taibbi23 karma

Hi pixel monkey! Great question. I was drawn to Friedman immediately -- I think it's a writer thing. This may seem a little odd but for me writing is sort of an auditory thing, I'm oversensitive to the way words sound in my head, and when I read Friedman it's like all the notes are off in this amazing way that you'd actually have to put work into to have it come across like that. His metaphors are ingenious, they never match! I actually feel kind of bad about it now, especially since I met him once and he was nice

mcereal16 karma

Hi Matt, long time fan of your work and am looking forward to the rest of The Business Secrets of Drug-Dealing.

My question is about the TARFU report. That was the best podcast I've heard in forever and was very disappointed to see it go. While I understand your reasons for putting it on ice, are there any plans on reviving it on working with Alex Pareene on a similar project? Thanks!

Taibbi18 karma

Hi all, sorry for the wait. I would love to work with Alex again, but this is twice he's joined me in a new venture only to have my problems blow up in his face. I wouldn't do it a third time. Alex is amazing, had so much fun working with him, he's a brilliant writer and will do great things

AtlanticandPacific13 karma

Do you think America stands a chance of any administration coming in and actually taking on Wall Street? And, if Obama had after the financial crisis, would it have countered the faux populism of Tea Partiers, w/ 2010 going a bit differently for Dems?

Taibbi27 karma

Hi Atlantic! One theme I heard constantly in the years covering Wall Street was that if Obama had been a better messenger at the peak of the crisis - if he had used his communications skills to explain the mechanics of the subprime scam (and also not shied away from the racial/exploitative aspect) -- it might have made a big difference in people grasping what happened. Instead, they swept it all under a rug with bailout money

kidfe1on11 karma

Matt, long time reader first time caller here. Will this book cover the different socio-economic circles of drug dealing? From suburban/collegiate dealers to inner cities, etc?

Taibbi8 karma

The book very specifically covers that issue, among other things because the fictional character Huey, who has a lot in common with co-author Anonymous, moved in all of those worlds. So there's a lot of commentary in there about the different dynamics of dealing in different places.

heimaey9 karma

what do you think of Chapo Trap House?

Taibbi10 karma

Love it, those guys are hilarious, I liked them from the first moment and am happy for their success. Politics has become so dreary, political commentary so vitriolic and humorless, and they're kind of an oasis and it's great.

jmike7187 karma

Also, your best guess as to why Holder and Obama were so easy on Wall Street after the 2008 crisis?

Taibbi23 karma

JMike, I think there was a genuine belief among a lot of the people at the top that prosecutions would disrupt the economy. There was also -- and this I know for a fact because I heard it from several upper-level prosecutor types -- an unwillingness to chance a loss in court with some of these cases. That is the inexcusable part to me. Also, thirdly, there was a contingent that simply didn't see these offenses as serious, and many of those people had been lawyers to those companies before serving under Obama (and would again after).

Superfister696 karma

Are you going to be on with Bill Mahar anytime soon?

Taibbi17 karma

I heard from them recently, but not sure. Possibly! I enjoy that show, although it's hard -- you have to fight to get a word in and I'm actually the kind of person who naturally sits and waits his turn to talk, so I always feel off a bit there. But it's challenging and fun

susannahlaura5 karma

Hi Matt, huge fan of your work and constantly amazed that your research into the worst, most spirit-crushing people & institutions hasn't made you fall into a pit of despair. How do you do it? Asking for a friend.

Taibbi13 karma

Hi Susanna -- that is a good question and I'm afraid the answer won't make me look so very good, but for instance with the Wall Street story, I was very excited by the intellectual challenge of it, having to figure out very complicated things in short periods of time and then explain them in ways that are simple to understand -- in the case of some of those scams, they were ingenious and it was kind of thrilling to follow them and learn. Also sometimes you just have to turn your brain off to the horror of certain things, which is easier with some stories than others

jmike7185 karma

Hey Matt. Your best guess as to whether or not Putin has Kompromat on Trump? And does Trump make it to 2020?

Taibbi10 karma

I don't like being in the business of guessing about things like this. It's awkward. Take Trump out of the equation, forget what you know about him, and the concept of the Russians having blackmail material on any president is extremely low-probability. However I do know they do this (I watched on Russian TV when Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov was outed with a sex tape) and I also know they conduct surveillance on foreigners with regularity. Beyond that however I can't say anything one or the other. I do think he'll make it to 2020 unless he quits, because successful impeachment would probably require both houses going blue.

crylenol4 karma

How do you like the serialized-subscription model for your writing? Do you think you'll use it in future projects, and does it have the same promise for writers without, say, a built-in audience or serious self-editing skills?

Taibbi6 karma

Hi Cryieno! I actually love the format. As a journalist I was raised on deadlines and so maybe that's been a difference for me, since I've never really been able to do this kind of storytelling, but this feels like it works. So yes, I'm going to continue on Substack and have a few ideas when this is done

Midtown_Guy3 karma

I'm a nurse, and just got off the phone with a friend who's concerned her 76 year-old mother-in-law is addicted to the pain killers her doctors are prescribing her; are you going to be touching on the "legal" side of the opiate epidemic?

Taibbi4 karma

Hi Midtown -- my anonymous writing partner doesn't have any experience in that world and doesn't believe in it. He only believes in selling what grows out of the ground. I think that's a subject for another time.

me2spike2 karma

Hi Matt! I'm a huge fan (in terms of influence in my life you're right behind my parents). I was wondering how your relationship with your sources has changed over the years. Anyone who's read The Great Derangement knows that you have a history of portraying the people around you with brutal honesty, even if that entails a degree of deception in gaining their trust. Now that your work deals more with issues of race and inequality, have you found it more difficult to ingratiate yourself within the communities you're trying to shed light on? Also, have you heard from the people belonging to the church you joined for TGD since Trump was elected?

Taibbi5 karma

Hi Me2. This is a good question. I think sadly the job kind of requires that you be ready to torch every relationship you have. Sometimes people will forgive you if you portray them harshly. Sometimes not. But you have to be ready to do it. For instance, there were some smart folks at certain banks who called me up after the Goldman story and tried to be my friend, gossiping with me about stuff. And then a story would come up about that person's company and if you tell it honestly, you briefly feel bad because you're losing that relationship. But you have to know those links are temporary. I did hear from some of those people in the church. One still calls every now and then. We get along. They were really nice people for the most part. I have not felt great about that sort of reporting since.

Cnemon2 karma

Hi Matt, long time reader of your work (The Divide is one of my favorite nonfiction books)!

  1. In researching I Can't Breathe, what was the most surprising thing you learned?
  2. What have been some of your favorite debate drinking game rules?

Taibbi9 karma

H CNemon -- I think the most surprising thing is something I found out almost right away, which was that Eric Garner wasn't selling cigarettes the day he died. At least, not in that timeframe. He was sick and working some things out in a bathroom... then came out, broke up a fight, and leaned up against a wall. That's when they tried to arrest him. The whole thing was a bureaucratic screw-up -- cops told to pick up a guy who wasn't doing anything.

kidbucket2 karma

Hey, you probably don’t remember me but I was the Marine who wrote on the Supreme Court of Assholedom. I just want to say thanks for giving me one of the best experiences of my life.

Who would you consider to be the biggest asshole in America at this point in time? I don’t remember the grading scale we used.

Taibbi3 karma

Ha! Thank you for your service! That was a fun time. Isn't Trump our Asshole-in-Chief by default?

DanIsTheBestEver1 karma

For a while you were attempting to start a new journalistic venture but it ended up falling through and you returned to Rolling Stone. Are there any plans to pursue new or similar projects for you in the future?

Taibbi7 karma

There are many things that I learned from the Racket experience, which was a real shame because there were so many talented people there and if I had gotten along better with management they might still be there and doing something weird and interesting. But one thing I learned is, I can't be a boss. I loved working with the writers but I just couldn't handle the administrative part. So, sadly, I think it's pretty much working alone and writing for me, but that's how it is for most writers I think.

IntelligentApricot1 karma

Who will be the Levi Strauss of the Green Rush?

Taibbi2 karma

I think I'd have to ask Anonymous that question, but he's not here right now. Check with the Joe Rogan show this week, I'll have an answer for you.

Felix721 karma

Are you going on Joe Rogan? Please say it's so.

Taibbi6 karma

I am! Leaving right after this for the airport, will be talking to him tomorrow. Looking forward. We have something very odd in common -- he just did a special in a Boston comedy club that I worked in as a demolition worker in my teens. By that I mean I helped dig out the cellar where that club is now, which is such a weird coincidence. We were laughing about it. His show is great, looking forward to it.

_themgt_1 karma

How likely do you think it is that Russiagate will end up essentially blowing up in the Democrats face? Does it seem more likely now than it did say in January 2017?

Taibbi4 karma

I've been trying not to speculate. It depends so much on how they would define success with Russiagate. If it ends in a money-laundering case that has nothing to do with Russia, will that be success? or will that be considered an abuse of the special prosector statute by Republicans (and maybe even the public)? Or both? There are so many balls in the air with this one that I think the range of political outcomes is enormous.

redditaccount14261 karma

Hey Matt. I first heard about you, as many did, during the Sanders campaign, and haven’t stopped following your work since.

I was curious, with all of the issues the country is facing (erosion of truth, hyper divisiveness, etc.), what do you think is the most pressing in the current era? Is there a solution? Rather, do you think that there will be a time in which America will be able to look back and laugh about our missteps in the early 21st century, or are we doomed to fall further into the pitfalls we’ve found ourselves trapped in?

Taibbi4 karma

I think the divisiveness itself is the main problem, and I don't see a solution, sadly, because the system of media is set up to stoke relentlessly the public appetite for conflict, and the Internet has accelerated some of these habits. I don't know how we reverse it.

resetplz1 karma

I don't have many favorite writers, but you and Robert Hughes are two of them. There's a sort of brutal honesty about what needs to be said and the words you choose to say them with. Are you aware that your writing style is different? Do you cultivate it or is it natural?

Taibbi3 karma

Hi rest -- nothing about writing for me is natural! I was in love with it from a very early age and wrote millions and millions of words and tried to steal the styles of lots of different writers, always unsuccessfully. At my advanced age now I feel it's a little easier, but for instance it took me years to kill the habit of overusing adverbs and other modifiers (my favorite writer Gogol did that), but the thing I love about writing is that it's an ongoing process and you always have to keep getting better and learning new things. It's a beautiful and difficult thing but I feel very lucky to be doing it for a living.

fmoss1 karma


nucleararms2 karma


fmoss4 karma


Taibbi6 karma

Glenn and I have had our differences but I really admire him, and Jeremy for that matter. I think Glenn embodies the rare thing in our business where you have to be willing to say the thing that is unpopular and turns off your core audience if that's how you see things. He does that and takes tremendous heat for it and I think someday people will look back and thank him for trying as hard as he does.

Mantisbog1 karma

Hi Matt. I enjoyed Insane Clown President, but I wonder: Is it ok to make fun of Republican's physical appearance while simultaneously denouncing Trump for his insults?

Taibbi7 karma

Mantisblog, that is a great question. Let me back up and off a comparison -- there are some illustrators who sit down to draw a family picnic and it comes out looking like a bunch of reptiles eating a corpse. That's the same with me and writing. I try to describe people just ordinarily, the way I see them, but they often come out looking like monsters (I think I once described Ted Cruz as looking like someone sewed pieces of a waterlogged Reagan mask together at gunpoint). Trump in this sense is a challenge to describe, but... I'm not sure what I'm saying, but I'll bet there are people who think the descriptions of him are out of bounds. I'm not there yet I don't think

vtthrower1 karma

Hi Matt - I've been reading your stuff since I first went to Russia in the mid-90s. Do you stay connected with people in Russia? Do you go back often? (Can you go back?)

Taibbi5 karma

Hi Vthrower, I do stay in touch a little bit, but ironically (ironically because I keep getting accused of being a Putin tool) I'm a little afraid to go back because many years ago I once published wiretaps of Putin's chief of staff Alexander Voloshin. It wasn't anything too damaging, but I was detained on my way in once after that (for having an unlaminated passport of all things) and I thought I was going to prison for life and... I'm only half-serious, but that incident really is in the back of my mind a little.

transylvaniancowboy-1 karma

Is this satire or no?

Taibbi11 karma


Young_Sleazy-1 karma

You ran a tabloid with a colleague in Russia and the two of you also published a memoir about it, both of which attacked fellow journalists (often with misogynistic attacks on the appearance of women reporters) and described lurid escapades including sex with with underage girls that resulted in forced abortions. How does that work reflect on your current projects and how should sources or colleagues who are women react to that behavior?

Taibbi16 karma

I've written at length about this. I want to add a few things:

  1. I never wrote about any of those lurid escapades, that wasn't my job at the paper. I was in a relationship with the same person the whole time I was there, so none of those X-rated passages and sexcapade diaries were mine. And the material that was written both under Mark's byline and under the byline of all the fictional characters in the paper, like "Johnny Chen," those columns were designed to be horrific, and they were satirical. In the case of the Chen columns, the concept of a USAID consultant by day and Mr. Hyde monster by night had everyone guessing who it could be really, since so many people were acting like that. That was satire; it was like an Andrew Dice Clay routine, only far more extreme. It was also not my area, and you won't find me writing about those things.
  2. We did write nasty things about reporters and others, and it's those passages that I do regret. But we wrote about the appearances of men as well, in fact most of the paper's targets were men. I thought a) I was an equal opportunity offender, and b) because we were a tiny, broke alternative paper, (that the only way to make an impact was to make the actually influential people in town personally uncomfortable, to "make it hurt." I don't believe this anymore, and I do regret that. The people I went after, I didn't just do it just because, I almost always lost my temper at people I thought were responsible, at least intellectually, for the horrible things I was reporting on -- but there were better ways to handle this, and I think my work over the last 16-17 years shows what I think those better ways are.

Superfister69-2 karma

Why do my farts smell like a tire fire?

Taibbi5 karma

I would imagine because you're eating something very specific. Rubber and asparagus?