As the brutal Bush years draw to a close we can reflect on how we got where we are. The twists and turns of missteps and outright chicanery can dazzle the most savvy newshounds among us. I mean, who would have written a plot in which the Vice President of the United States was so craven as to plant a story in the New York Times and then refer to that story as evidence for the need to invade a sovereign nation in an act of “preventative” war? It’s preposterous and yet that is exactly what happened. The list goes on and on and continues to grow and it’s hard for mere mortals to keep up, nevermind understand.
Enter: Matt Taibbi.
I wasn’t sure what I was going to do when Hunter S. Thompson killed himself. I mean, how am I supposed to make sense of such a depraved creature as Don Rumsfeld? How am I to put George W. Bush‘s bumbling management into any sort of modern context? Who am I to distill into plain English the mortgage and loan/credit crunch/economic culture fuck we’re living? I am few, Taibbi is many.
Sure, we had Jon Stewart and (previous Upright Standing Man of the Year winner) Stephen Colbert to shed light on the hypocrisy and lunacy of the last eight years, but they are essentially nice and decent guys. Times like these require savagery and Matt Taibbi is not afraid to call Sarah Palin “a fraud, she’s the tawdriest, most half-assed fraud imaginable, 20 floors below the lowest common denominator, a character too dumb even for daytime TV.” This while the rest of the media was politely accepting her as representation of “middle America” even though they knew too what Taibbi was able to put in print.
It’s not just political figures Taibbi tries to keep honest, it’s us too. Who else out there is willing to sum up the mass mentality that allowed a half-wit like George W. Bush to hoodwink us into war by highlighting our truly twisted priorities as anything less than what they are: shameful.
Here’s the thing about Americans. You can send their kids off by the thousands to get their balls blown off in foreign lands for no reason at all, saddle them with billions in debt year after congressional year while they spend their winters cheerfully watching game shows and football, pull the rug out from under their mortgages, and leave them living off their credit cards and their Wal-Mart salaries while you move their jobs to China and Bangalore.
Taibbi is not passing judgment from his ivory tower as a journalist though without casting that harsh light on his own profession. What Thompson lived in Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 and Timothy Crouse documented in The Boys on the Bus has become our slapstick reality when political reporting will dedicate hours and days and weeks to non-existent unsavory connections and tossed off phrases on the ropeline—all while tow wars rage and our economy essentially implodes. As Taibbi says about his own colleagues in the press, “Hell is much too good for all of us…”
And so it is with great honor that we bestow the 2008 Upright Standing Man of the Year award upon Matt Taibbi. It ain’t much, but it’s more sincere than a Peabody.
Matt Taibbi’s brutally funny book The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion is now available in paperback. Highly recommended by GLONO.