Matt Taibbi on Misogyny, the Left vs. Free Speech, and the Killing of Eric Garner

Few journalists have tossed more hand grenades or built more of a reputation for themselves than Matt Taibbi. We spoke with him about his new book, free speech and the left, and the recent negative attention that his work has received.

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Few journalists have tossed more hand grenades or built more of a reputation for themselves than Matt Taibbi, who covers politics and culture for Rolling Stone when not writing bestselling books, such as Griftopia, Insane Clown President, and most recently I Can’t Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street, a powerful account of the death of Eric Garner, who died in police custody after being arrested for selling loose cigarettes in Staten Island. In 2008, Taibbi won a National Magazine Award for his columns and commentary at Rolling Stone.

With fame comes controversy. A 2005 piece for the defunct free weekly The New York Press was titled “The 52 Funniest Things About the Upcoming Death of the Pope.” It was denounced by everyone from Hillary Clinton to Matt Drudge to Michael Bloomberg to that paragon of good taste, Anthony Weiner. With the publication of I Can’t Breathe last fall, Taibbi has come under attack in a wide array of places ranging from Twitter to Facebook to The Washington Post for work that critics say is flat out misogynistic and sexist.

Taibbi has published at least two apologies about past work (much of which appeared in The eXile), but the firestorm has barely abated. He says that his support for Bernie Sanders throughout the 2016 campaign—even after Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination—is part of what’s motivating the attacks on him, and is leading to something approaching a media blackout on his book about Eric Garner.

Reason’s Nick Gillespie spoke with Taibbi about his new book, free speech and the left, the recent negative attention that his work has received, and issues on which progressives and libertarians overlap in powerful, if always uneasy, ways.

Interview contents:

1:48 – I Can’t Breathe and the Eric Garner case

9:55 – Cell phone videos and their effect on criminal justice reform

11:43 – New York City and the origin of “stop and frisk” policing

18:37 – George Kelling and the origin of “broken windows” policing

22:44 – Crime reduction since the 90s

32:15 – Erica Garner’s activism and death

34:56 – How libertarians and progressives can work together

37:29 – Journalism and “the new anti-speech movement on the left”

44:04 – Political tribalism and third party candidates

48:23 – Russian politics and U.S. election interference

51:49 – The sexual harassment allegations against Taibbi and his view of #MeToo

1:00:35 – How to promote heterodox, independent thinking

Edited by Justin Monticello and Todd Krainin. Camera by Jim Epstein and Andrew Heaton.

“Blammo” by Podington Bear used under a Creative Commons license.

Erica Garner, credit: Raffe Lazarian/ZUMA Press/Newscom

George Kelling Photo, credit: David Swanson/MCT/Newscom DIEGO OGAVE Notimex/Newscom

George Kelling Photo, credit: David Swanson/MCT/Newscom