We’re big fans of maverick political writer and gonzo journalist extraordinare Matt Taibbi here at S&R. I’ve quoted from him extensively in articulating my political philosophy, and my fellow scholarly rogue Mike Sheehan scored a hilarious interview with him not long ago. We admire his brazen crass ruthlessness and willingness to say what people don’t want to hear, regardless of where we stand.
That’s why it broke my heart to find out that Taibbi recently crossed the Writers’ Guild of America picket line to appear on the Colbert Report, and that he might do so again for Bill Maher’s show.
Jesse Wendel at the Group News Blog has excoriated Taibbi as an unfunny sellout punk. I disagree with the “unfunny” part. Taibbi’s skill as a humorist is peerless in his venue, and as a Jew, him making fun of a dying Pope didn’t phase me in the slightest. But a sellout? Yes, I’d have to say so. For him to cross the line and ignore the writers as he has done is a major slap in the face.
I’m not an entertainment writer or screenwriter, but as a working writer myself, I support the WGA’s desire to not be shut out of the new media and the potential profits it can bring. These people are working hard to feed their families and build a career doing what they love, in the face of a pitiless corporate empire that is trying to crush what few creative voices there are in Hollywood, and squeeze every last drop of profit they can out of the hard work of the creative class for their own enrichment. Fuck that.
For Taibbi, a guy who has made his career slaughtering sacred cows and speaking truth to power, to cross the line is a serious jab in the eye to the writers and their supporters. It doesn’t bother me if some no-name actor or D-list celeb does it, because these people are about nothing but promoting themselves and hawking whatever crappy movie they’ve got going anyway. But someone like Taibbi should know better. He may not care about it, but to every writer that’s refusing to play the game any longer and doesn’t have the spotlight like he does, his appearances say “Yeah, I don’t give a fuck about you and what you’re doing. I got mine, and that’s all I care about.”
Writers are a notoriously fickle, independent bunch, so when we band together for a cause, it means something. Taibbi should understand this, and should show some more respect to the people who are fighting for the rights he’s already earned. That he doesn’t makes me a lot less inclined to want to read his work and support his antics in the foreseeable future.
It’s a damn shame when your idols let you down, let me tell you.