Matt Taibbi is a great reporter. He is sometimes referred to as a gonzo journalist, which is not unreasonable given Taibbi’s wild early days, and given that for years Taibbi was the politics journalist for Rolling Stone, following in the footsteps of the legendary Hunter S. Thompson. But Taibbi is, at least now, very different. He is incredibly hard working, meticulous and very careful with his words. Which is why it was striking when, a few days ago, Taibbi told Europe to go suck a bag of dicks.
The object of Taibbi’s scorn was Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market and a censorious asshole. Last week, on the basis of EU’s Digital Services Act, Thierry sent letters to Musk and Zuckerberg, warning them of “illegal content” and “disinformation” on X and Facebook. Riffing off of a hilarious Louis C. K. bit, Taibbi indicates exactly the manner in which Musk and Zuckerberg should tell Breton to go to hell:
I don’t think it’s enough for Zuckerberg and Musk to reject Breton. I think they should hire Louis C.K. and have him flown to Brussels to tell Breton in person, American-style, to eat a bag of d—:
Taibbi goes on to explain his now uncharacteristically gonzo tone:
I don’t often go on jingoistic rants, but my tolerance for European bureaucrats in smart glasses instructing Americans what to do on civil liberties questions is zero. The Digital Services Act is a grotesque, nakedly authoritarian law written in language so obnoxious in its pompous inscrutability that it would have impressed Orwell or Huxley. Breton’s mention of “qualified sources” is a reference to the law’s most heinous and dystopian portion, the so-called “trusted flagger” program, which puts a clutch of elitist NGO busybodies in charge of poring through content to decide for the rabble what is untrue or “harmful”, as a means of “defending European norms.
Does one of those “European norms” involve politicians spending a generation patronizing American-developed Internet technology (including, one presumes, porn sites) before turning around after decades and telling American Internet companies how and by whom they should submit to European-chosen decency committees? Silicon Valley execs should respectfully invite the EU to launch its own fully-policed Deutschebook platform, send a middle finger emoji back over the pond, and spend the rest of the day blowing up IKEA shelf units with M-80s in their office parking lots.
Taibbi is as an old-fashioned liberal. He values free speech above all, in the traditional, intelligent manner of the ACLU and Ira Glasser; few others now do. More and more people, including very many “liberals” who should damn well know better, are willing and keen to have The Right People determine both what is correct and what is legal to say. It is idiotic and it is abhorrent.
Thank God for journalists like Taibbi who, when the correct move is to tell a censorious asshole to suck a bag of dicks, will tell a censorious asshole to suck a bag of dicks.