A life-long liberal Democrat is now a targeted enemy of the party he’s always supported, but he’s undeterred in his admirable defense of free speech.
Matt Taibbi has been a highly accomplished journalist and book author since his writing career began in 1992. He became especially popular with progressives and civil libertarians during his 16-year tenure as a journalist and contributing editor with Rolling Stone magazine from 2004 to 2020. In April 2020, Taibbi announced that he was leaving Rolling Stone to begin self-publishing as an independent writer on Substack where he publishes under the name of Racket News.
Taibbi is a self-described “died-in-the-wool liberal” who has been a Democrat voter and ACLU donor for years. However, on March 28th, he tweeted on Twitter that he was no longer a Democrat and now an independent. His long kinship with the Democrat Party and its progressive allies came to an end after Taibbi began reporting on the “Twitter Files,” the previously unknown communications between federal government agencies and Twitter management released by new Twitter owner Elon Musk starting in December 2022. The Twitter Files revealed shocking collusion between federal agencies and Twitter’s pre-Musk management in censoring conservative views and banning conservative users on Twitter.
Musk released a total of 19 batches of the Twitter Files from December 2, 2022 to March 17, 2023 to several independent journalists. Matt Taibbi reported on 12 of the 19 batches, including the first, third, sixth, and ninth batches during the month of December alone. His reporting exposed an astounding level of involvement by multiple federal agencies, especially the intelligence agencies, in colluding with Twitter to manipulate and block conservative political content. Perhaps the most eye-opening was Taibbi’s December 16th report on the sixth batch of released files, which he entitled, “Twitter, The FBI Subsidiary.” To the Democratic Party establishment and its allies in the mainstream media, Taibbi was committing traitorous sins that made him a major target for retaliation.
The retaliation in the mainstream news media came quickly, especially from Democrats’ favorite news network, MSNBC. This prompted a response from Taibbi in his January 9th Racket News article “On MSNBC and ‘Authoritarianism’” where Taibbi lists no less than 16 MSNBC talking heads that had conducted on-air and online hit pieces on him. Taibbi followed this article with a more detailed and colorful rebuttal of MSNBC’s personal attacks in his April 6th Racket News piece, “Eat Me, MSNBC.”
To be attacked in the news media is one thing, but to also face an unexpected investigation by the IRS is another. On December 24th, the IRS opened a case into Taibbi’s 2018 tax return (without Taibbi’s knowledge at the time) and made an unannounced visit to his home on March 9th, which, coincidentally, was the same date that Taibbi testified before the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government about the Twitter Files and the new threat of a state-sponsored Censorship-Industrial Complex.
Taibbi only became aware of the extent of the IRS investigation of him after the House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) sent a letter to the IRS on March 27th requesting an explanation of its unexpected visit to Taibbi’s house. Taibbi provides the details of his IRS case in his May 24th Racket News article, “My Crazy IRS Case,” in which he states that the House
Judiciary Committee’s investigation on Taibbi’s behalf “reveals new details about my IRS case that should unnerve any journalist, or any American, for that matter.”
Since last December, Matt Taibbi has demonstrated his outstanding proficiency and excellence as a journalist by consistently exposing the covert development of a wide-spread network of state-sponsored censorship. Taibbi explained the workings of an ominous new “Censorship-Industrial Complex” in his April 25th Racket News article “Report on the Censorship-Industrial Complex.”
Perhaps his most thought-provoking opinion piece was his June 23rd Racket News article “The Elite War on Free Thought,” which was based on a June 22nd free speech event in London featuring himself, British comedian/actor Russell Brand, and fellow American writer Michael Shellenberger. Some of the key excerpts from Taibbi’s fascinating article are provided below with its warning on the authoritarian path that the United States and the rest of the world is heading:
It’s heartening to see so many faces here in London, to talk about the crisis of free speech around the globe, or to protest censorship … Unlike Russell and the rest of our hosts, Michael and I, and a few of us in the crowd, are Americans. For us, belief in unfettered free speech is a core part of our character. It’s a big reason that we Americans enjoy the wonderful reputation we do all around the world, especially here in Europe…
… what the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution comes down to: the right to be an a**hole. We have a prettier way of saying it — a right to petition for a redress of grievances — but it’s the same basic idea.
Isn’t that a beautiful phrase, a redress of grievances? Great, memorable language. Like a lot of Americans, I know the First Amendment by heart. I’ve recited it to myself enough to know it doesn’t say the government gives me the right to speech, assembly, a free press. It says I have those things, already. As a person, as a citizen.
This is a very American thing, the idea that rights aren’t conferred, but a part of us, like our livers, and you can’t take them away without destroying who we are…
We’re building a global mass culture that sees everything in black and white, fears difference, and abhors memory. It’s why people can’t read books anymore and why, when they see people like Russell who don’t fit into obvious categories, they don’t know what to do except point and shriek …
We have been complaining about censorship, and it’s important to do that. But they are taking aim at people in a way that will make censorship unnecessary, by building communities of human beings with no memory and monochrome perception. This is more than a speech crisis. It’s a humanity crisis. I hope we’re not too late to fix it.