There are few coastal media elites who would admit on purpose to genuine contempt for the entire middle and south of the country. It just isn’t sporting.
But then there’s Matt Taibbi. He’ll admit it, on purpose and at great length. He really does think he’s better than you. And he’s really, really pissed off. Again. Taibbi’s prose - be it about Tom Friedman, the 109th Congress, or the Pope - lurches over an arid emotional range between umbrage and fury. But this time, it’s not them - it’s you.
Taibbi’s latest tantrum in Rolling Stone, though titled “Mad Dog Palin,” is actually an attack on the voters themselves. (This would be a good place for a link to the article. It’s not on the Rolling Stone Web site yet, but you can read it here.) In a way, Taibbi’s just keeping it real. He’s not into paternalistic, passive-aggressive hand-wringing about why voters just won’t acknowledge their own best interests and get liberal already. Taibbi knows why:
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.
And none of it matters, so long as you remember a few months before Election Day to offer them a two-bit caricature culled from some cutting-room-floor episode of Roseanne as part of your presidential ticket. And if she’s a good enough likeness of a loudmouthed Middle American archetype, as Sarah Palin is, John Q. Public will drop his giant-sized bag of Doritos in gratitude, wipe the sizzlin’ picante dust from his lips and rush to the booth to vote for her. Not because it makes sense, or because it has a chance of improving his life or anyone else’s, but simply because it appeals to the low-humming narcissism that substitutes for his personality, because that image on TV reminds him of the mean brainless slob he sees in the mirror every morning.
The main problem Taibbi sees with Palin isn’t that she’s an “obviously unqualified, doomed-to-fail joke of a bible-thumping buffoon.” It’s what the Palin nomination - and its spectacular success so far - represents about what Americans value, which is apparently “being a fat fucking pig who pins ‘Country First’ buttons on his man titties and chants ‘U-S-A! U-S-A!’ at the top of his lungs while his kids live off credit cards and Saudis buy up all the mortgages in Kansas.”
The spluttering gist is that Palin is a caricature of America - the American Right in particular, though Taibbi’s rancor is as bipartisan as that resolution establishing July 2007 National Watermelon Month. (Seriously. That passed unanimously. Yes we can.)
It’s ironic, though, that Taibbi himself is an even better, more thorough caricature of the supposedly America-hating left. Taibbi actually does hate America and Americans, and he makes no apologies for it. It’s refreshing to see someone explicitly insult every citizen of every red state while other coastal “elites” like Brooks and MoDo (cf. Campaign Desk circa April) pretend in their even more condescending way to “get” them.
But as CJR has pointed out before, Taibbi’s vituperation is not ad hominem. It’s ad everyone.
Kathy Gilsinan is the associate editor at World Politics Review