“I can understand not caring about the plight of Michael Flynn, but cases like this have turned erstwhile liberals – people who just a decade ago were marching in the streets over the civil liberties implications of Cheney’s War on Terror apparatus – into defenders of the spy state. Politicians and pundits across the last four years have rolled their eyes at attorney-client privilege, the presumption of innocence, the right to face one’s accuser, the right to counsel and a host of other issues, regularly denouncing civil rights worries as red-herring excuses for Trumpism.”
—Progressive “Rolling Stone” columnist Matt Taibbi, in “Democrats Have Abandoned Civil Liberties: The Blue Party’s Trump-era Embrace of Authoritarianism Isn’t Just Wrong, it’s a Fatal Political Mistake”
I’m not highlighting Taibbi’s excellent essay as an appeal to authority, not at all. I’ve written about the situation he’s bemoaning for more than three years, and I’ve made my case. (Check the “Totalitarianism” tag—Taibbi should be using that term rather than “authoritarianism.”) I don’t need Matt Taibbi to prove my analysis correct. I’m calling attention to his essay because it’s a relief: so many people have told me that I am a Fox News, Trumper zombie for pointing out what should be screamingly apparent. For years I have been reading fevered warnings that the President was a dangerous authoritarian endangering democracy, when it seemed apparent that the party those critics supported were presenting the real threat by undermining our institutions and ignoring both the Constitution and the law. I was beginning to doubt my sanity, just like Ingrid Bergman in “Gaslight.” Only a handful of analysts with courage and integrity—Professors Turley, Dershowitz, Jacobson and Althouse; journalist Glenn Greenwald, a few liberal pundits like Taibbi and Andrew Sullivan (sometimes) kept me from self-commitment.
More from Taibbi, on Michael Flynn:
Warrantless surveillance, multiple illegal leaks of classified information, a false statements charge constructed on the razor’s edge of Miranda, and the use of never-produced, secret counterintelligence evidence in a domestic criminal proceeding – this is the “rule of law” we’re being asked to cheer.
Russiagate cases were often two-level offenses: factually bogus or exaggerated, but also indicative of authoritarian practices. Democrats and Democrat-friendly pundits in the last four years have been consistently unable to register objections on either front.
Flynn’s case fit the pattern. We were told his plea was just the “tip of the iceberg” that would “take the trail of Russian collusion” to the “center of the plot,” i.e. Trump. It turned out he had no deeper story to tell. In fact, none of the people prosecutors tossed in jail to get at the Russian “plot” – some little more than bystanders – had anything to share.
Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias.
Democrats have lately positioned themselves as more aggressive promoters of strong-arm policies, from control of Internet speech to the embrace of domestic spying. In the last four years the blue-friendly press has done a complete 180 on these issues, going from cheering Edward Snowden to lionizing the CIA, NSA, and FBI and making on-air partners out of drone-and-surveillance all-stars like John Brennan, James Clapper, and Michael Hayden. There are now too many ex-spooks on CNN and MSNBC to count, while there isn’t a single regular contributor on any of the networks one could describe as antiwar.
Democrats clearly believe constituents will forgive them for abandoning constitutional principles, so long as the targets of official inquiry are figures like Flynn or Paul Manafort or Trump himself. In the process, they’ve raised a generation of followers whose contempt for civil liberties is now genuine-to-permanent. Blue-staters have gone from dismissing constitutional concerns as [a] Trumpian ruse to sneering at them, in the manner of French aristocrats, as evidence of proletarian mental defect.
15 thoughts on “Ethics Quote Of The Month: Matt Taibbi, “Rolling Stone” Columnist”
Taibbi has been producing great stuff lately. His progressive politics remain on full display in nearly every piece I’ve read from him in the past six to eight months, but that doesn’t diminish the alarm bells he’s been sounding regarding press malfeasance, government intrusions into civil liberties, and other key issues. He, along with Glen Greenwald, are among a tiny handful of progressive journalists who are willing to buck the trend of groupthink on the left.
That counts as courage, in my book.
One must wonder why so many essays on AG Barr threatening the rule of law when an election is right around the corner. Unless . . . the essayists are concerned that Barr will find out what they dont want him to know.
Exactly how many hysterical essays can they write about the destruction of the rule of law from the dropping a single false statement charge before people begin to believe you are concerned that they are covering up wrongdoing?
Because the more they fog up the air with these accusations and statements the more they whip up their base, who’ll swallow anything, and confuse and maybe peel off a few independent voters. As far as the media and the left (but I repeat myself) are concerned, 2016 was a battle for the soul of America, and the decent people lost, because the sharp and amoral played the foolish and gullible to exploit an outdated procedural quirk in the Constitution. Now is the chance, maybe the last chance, for the smart, the decent, and the loving to win it back, and make sure the stupid, the immoral and the hateful can never take it again. You know the rest, God knows we’ve been talking about it long enough.
Where does groupthink cross the border into conspiracy? I guess it depends on explicit communication to collude on the presentation of news and issues. If that is true, then there is likely no conspiracy, except as conceived in their indoctrination camps once called journalism schools. This is where Alinsky’s evil brilliance can be most clearly seen. A purposely created iron-clad leftist perpetuating system incubated distantly enough and defended by the people who were supposed to tell us about news and issues as objectively as possible.
Hopefully these few beacons of rationality can cut through the intentional obfuscation and propagandizing of their erstwhile brethren. Clearly their willingness and ability to expose the deep-state clinical conspiracy puts them at significant long-term risk.
Where does groupthink cross the border into conspiracy? I guess it depends on explicit communication to collude on the presentation of news and issues.
It’s a fair question. There is no question that senior politicos – including some well-moneyed behind-the-scenes types – are so corrupt and so win-at-all-costs cynical that it COULD be described as conspiracy. There are no doubt some people high up in the journalism world who are part of that. Pinch Sulzberger comes to mind.
But honestly? Most journalists aren’t really that smart. They certainly THINK they are – but the talent to get people to say what they want and write it compellingly is a sign of talent, not intelligence.
Further, when one is surrounded by like-minded people – and remember, in any organization people who “fit in” have a decided advantage in hiring if the other top candidate doesn’t appear to be part of the tribe – it’s easy to succumb to that group think.
Jake Tapper used to be a highly independent-minded guy back in his days at ABC. His daily “The Note” web page on the ABC website was go-to reading for other journalists and news junkies everywhere. He didn’t tell you what to think. He told you what the stories were likely to be that day, and why. It was terrific.
Now look at him.
I don’t think it’s any accident that the progressive journalists who are most critical of what’s doing on are independent of the major media organizations – Taibbi, Greenwald, Sullivan and a handful of others. Yes, Rolling Stone and The Intercept are decidedly left-of-center outlets. But Rolling Stone is still primarily focused on the arts, and The Intercept is territory for iconoclastic journos who just didn’t fit in elsewhere. Besides, it has a much smaller footprint than the momentous nature of some of their coverage would indicate.
So yes, there’s certainly corruption, rot, and dare I say – conspiracy IN the media. But it’s smaller than most people realize. Hanlon’s Razor applies here. Many journalists just ain’t that smart.
If you teach them what to think, or more accurately just believe, then you are more assured of what they will produce for the masses to consume. In the main, it has worked brilliantly. But has it worked enough?
Come November, we’ll see how many voters they’ve taken in. At the moment it appears “journalists” are not winning enough hearts and minds to succeed. I hope this remains the case.
Is Bill Jacobson a liberal? Should he be included with Turley and Dershowitz and Greenwald, et al?
No, he’s a conservative. I need to fix that. Thanks.
And upon reflection, I’m not sure that Althouse or Turley can be fairly called “liberals” by the current state of that label.
Can anyone please tell me what is the difference between a liberal and a progressive? Also many people who call themselves liberal don’t act in any way that suggests that they believe in liberty, and what have progressives got to do with progress?
Liberal connotates classical liberalism. The belief in personal liberty.
Progressives believe in government intervention to achieve their political goals. Most progressives in the US are left leaning, believing in big government pushing their agenda.
Today, I don’t think there is a difference. Liberals decided to call themselves progressives when “Liberal” tested in surveys as a negative.
If progressives think being labelled a liberal is a negative then I’ll happily call myself a liberal.
Thank you Jack, that was a great article and one I probably would not have found without the pointer.
Taibbi is not alone. I did find this linked on Taibbi’s Twitter. It is a long but good article too.