Matt Taibbi on Reality Asserts Itself with Paul Jay  (pt2)

Matt Taibbi talks about the rise of Putin, Russia-gate, and Rachel Maddow and Russophobia in the U.S. He joins Paul Jay for part two of Reality Asserts Itself on theAnalysis.news

Paul Jay

Hi, I’m Paul Jay. Welcome to theAnalysis.news. I’ll be back in a second with part two of my Reality Asserts Itself with Matt Taibbi, and please don’t forget the donate button.

Hi, welcome to Part two of Reality Asserts Itself with Matt Taibbi. Matt’s the author of four New York Times bestsellers, an award-winning columnist for Rolling Stone, his reporting and commentary on TK News is among the top five for numbers of subscribers on Substack, and sometimes I think he’s at the top of Substack. His podcasts, Useful Idiots, cohosted with Katie Halper, is wildly popular. Thanks for joining us, Matt.

Matt Taibbi

Hi, Paul.

Paul Jay

Let’s keep the history going for a bit. What year do you leave?

Matt Taibbi

I left in 2002.

Paul Jay

Oh, you’re there all through the rise of Putin.

Matt Taibbi

Oh, yeah. And I was close friends with well, I was friends with a lot of the reporters who were really initially quite negative about Putin. The Russians, we had no illusions about what he was early. Interestingly, a lot of the Western reporters did. If you look back, you’ll see that there were a lot of stories about how being in the KGB wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, that it was just a profession that upper-middle-class people went into in the 70s in the Soviet Union. He was a refined, cultured, educated person, a man with whom we could do business, but we knew right away that he was going to be a step in a different direction and we did a lot of reporting on that.

Paul Jay

Hmm. Well, that’s interesting because the interviews I’ve done with people in today’s Russia who are very critical of Putin but also see his rise as something that was frankly necessary. That the chaos of the 90s, there had to be somebody that can construct a viable state.

Matt Taibbi

Oh, absolutely, yeah, and he was absolutely a reaction against what was happening. So, Yeltsin was essentially a puppet of Western-backed interests. He posed as a Russian populist and a man of the people. He had this sort of everyman quality that some Russians thought was very attractive. He drank a lot, but really, he was there to be sort of a typical front person for neoliberal politics. That wasn’t working for Russia. The country was really going downhill and Putin, I think in many respects he wasn’t better, but he at least kept the stolen money in the country, and Russians viewed him as something, they would say like, yeah, he’s corrupt, but he’s ‘nash’ right, in Russian that means ‘he’s ours’. So there was a sense that the Russians were getting their own autonomy, even if it was becoming more repressive. So, yeah, I totally understand that point of view, and there was a little bit more prosperity too when he came along.

Paul Jay

So, you know, in the course of this, we’ll jump back and forth from the present to back then. What do you make of this demonization of Putin now? He’s as close to the foreign devil as you can get in American politics.

Matt Taibbi

It’s so funny because he’s gone back and forth between being the symbol of absolute evil and somebody we can do business with and somebody who’s pragmatically going to be our partner in the war on terror. He’s been exactly the same person the entire time. It’s been the Western image of him that’s changed multiple times since he’s come to power, but he’s been the same guy who, where, journalists are routinely attacked. I knew a couple who got assassinated while I was there and that’s been true from the very beginning. I think this, obviously, I’ve written a lot about the Russiangate story. I think he’s just been a convenient foil who just happened to be there when there were some developments in American politics that required the presence of some kind of foreign enemy and he stepped into the shoes of, you know, Milošević, Saddam Hussein, whoever the Hitler of the week is in American politics, he plays that role now.

Paul Jay

And what truth is there to that depiction of him?

Matt Taibbi

Well, he certainly every bit the repressive well, maybe not every bit, but he’s certainly, the issue with political freedom, the thievery, all of those things are, I think, if not 100 percent sure, in the ballpark of true. There are some … I’m not so sure, though, how much the idea of Russia as this chaos-like superpower that is deeply enmeshed in the affairs of every Western country from England to the United States to France. I don’t know how much that’s true. Russia is still comparatively a pretty weak country compared to the United States. Its entire economy could fit inside South Korea or New York State. It’s got a big military, but it’s nowhere near on the level of China in terms of its actual power. So some of that, I think, is stagecraft. You know, Putin’s has been built up in the American media as an all-powerful figure. And I don’t think that’s true. I also think that there are aspects of the Russiangate story that just don’t coincide with reality.

Paul Jay

Yeah, I’ve always … My line has been from the beginning, even if Russia is guilty of every single thing, they’re charged with one, we should thank them for exposing what happened at the DNC and the undermining of the Sanders campaign, and two whatever they did to “undermine American democracy.” It doesn’t compare to what the American oligarchy has done to American democracy. I mean, it’s such a distraction.

Matt Taibbi

I was there in 1996  and we openly meddled in the Russian presidential election. If you go back and look at Time magazine in July of 1996, you’ll see a picture of Yeltsin holding a flag and the headline is ‘Yank’s to the Rescue.’ we had American advisers working in the Kremlin and we spent millions of dollars we funneled to sort of pro-democratic organizations in Russia that basically ended up paying for commercials for Yeltsin and his run against Gennady Zyuganov. Putin would end up closing up shop for a lot of those organizations later. So the hypocrisy is kind of ridiculous. You compare that to what is it, $46,000 in Facebook ads. It’s a silly thing.

Paul Jay

Yeah. I don’t know if there’s a country in the world in most of the 20th century and this century where the United States hasn’t directly gotten involved in the elections, including Canada. Just very quickly, it was Kennedy that sent the pollster, Lou Harris, with a phony passport and a phony name to Ottawa to run Lester Pearson’s election campaign because they wanted to overthrow Diefenbaker because Diefenbaker wouldn’t allow nuclear-armed Bomarc missiles into Canada and they succeeded. Pearson became the prime minister and then came the Bomarc missiles. Yeah, the hypocrisy is beyond belief, but even if you forget the hypocrisy, the significance of whatever the Russians did or didn’t do is just so irrelevant to the outcome of any of this.

But let me just add one thing. It’s partly a question too. The way the Democratic Party used this was to evoke all the demons of the Cold War and blow this all out of significance because they thought this would sink Trump. It’s quite interesting that the right-wing base of Trump couldn’t care less about it all.

Matt Taibbi

Yeah. I mean, it was so overtly phony that I think it had … it’s interesting because it worked for the Democrats, like the Democratic voters were very impressed by that propaganda campaign, but the confusion was incredible. I mean, Donna Brazile was saying things like ‘the communists are dictating the terms of the debate’. Everybody was tweeting hammers and sickles. Like they didn’t understand that there was no longer a Soviet Union. There was the whole concept that they were spreading everywhere that Donald Trump had been recruited in the 80s or the 70s by the KGB and people would say that and never bring up the fact that this was a different country, and maybe the security services had different people, but you’re right, the right-wingers didn’t tune into that. Partly because I think it was their guy and they didn’t believe it, but also because I think that nobody really buys modern Russia as the same kind of enemy that the Soviet Union was and for good reasons. Again, the Soviet Union was a massive superpower compared to today’s Russia. So I think it made sense that it didn’t work.

Paul Jay

You wrote an article recently, which I’m a fan of, which critiques Rachel Maddow, and partly on this whole point. The way she comes from the supposed, kind of left of the Democratic Party, although in reality she’s certainly been more Obama, more Clinton than Sanders. In fact, she’s probably been anti-Sanders, but it’s interesting how popular she’s become and to a large extent because of her Russiagate stuff.

Matt Taibbi

Yeah and, again, you asked me before about whether my politics have changed, and what I’ve seen is that what used to be the kind of left-leaning or progressive media landscape has stepped into the same role that Fox News used to have and still does to some degree, but, you think about the Bush years when Fox was so jingoistic and was so aggressive about its portrayal of the foreign enemy. It was constantly sort of hyping a very aggressive military posture towards whether it was Iraq or Iran or some other, you know, any foreign nation that got in our way during the War on Terror. That’s what MSNBC does now. You turn on the television and everything’s about Russia, whether it was the 2020 Democratic primaries where they constantly evoked it to talk about Tulsi Gabbard or Sanders, there was the Afghan bounty story last year. They were always talking about Russian trolls and flaming this thing or that thing. It’s just become a foil that we use to try to I think clamp down on opposition thinking and dissidents in this country. I don’t see that as left at all or progressive. I see that as very regressive and jingoistic.

Paul Jay

It’s outright McCarthyite.

Matt Taibbi

Mm hmm. Yeah, absolutely, and it’s been kind of amazing to watch people who you would think would have a lot of sensitivity to that, because the progressive, I would say, intellectual tradition that was such a part of, sort of my upbringing was being sensitive to, those kinds of themes, whether you’re talking about The Manchurian Candidate or you’re watching movies like Guilty by Suspicion or anything that has to do with McCarthyism. That was the number one villain of progressive thinking growing up, and now suddenly it’s become a thing that we’re not necessarily against. It’s just very odd to me.

Paul Jay

Is there also a little problem? I shouldn’t say little if I’m right. It’s more than a little problem, but on the critics of Russiagate, some come down to acting almost like what I would say apologists for Putin and, here’s the problem. Demonizing Putin is more, in my opinion, more dangerous than being an apologist for Putin. So let me start from there because being an apologist for Putin doesn’t lead to feverish hysteria that could lead to nuclear war. So while I don’t want to be involved in any apology for Putin, the demonization of Russia is far more dangerous to the world. That said, Putin is involved in some, not just domestic repression, he’s involved in encouraging the far-right in Europe and he certainly encouraged the rise of Trump and the far-right in the United States. I think that needs to be said too and I find sometimes the critics of Russiagate don’t want to go there.

Matt Taibbi

Yeah, I get that. My attitude has always been that I just think Putin’s irrelevant to our domestic discussion. I mean, he is probably a minor factor in American politics, but I certainly don’t want to come across as somebody who’s pro-Putin. I mean, I was very critical of him from the start.

Paul Jay

I’m not I’m not suggesting you are. I’m actually not including you in what I’m saying.

Matt Taibbi

Yeah, no, I don’t understand what you’re saying. I think it’s a fine line because you don’t want to come across as demonizing this sort of foreign boogeyman figure, because it’s such a familiar trope in American media, and I hate to go there because not only is it a cliche, it’s a kind of a destructive cliche that we regularly indulge in. But he’s not a good guy, I mean, there’s no question about that, and the influence on American politics, or at least his type of politics, having lots in common with other right-wing movements and even Trump. There’s a danger there that I think people who are in the United States need to understand, which is that Putin was an outgrowth of, he was a reaction to very poor policies by Yeltsin in the 90s. There was a desire for order and stability

Paul Jay

And very much encouraged by the United States. I mean, shock therapy was an American idea, not Yeltsin’s idea.

Matt Taibbi

Absolutely. I mean, in so many ways, I think Putin was a preview of what the Trump phenomenon was all about. He happened for a reason. This is this has been my criticism of American media with Trump is that, yes, you can say all these terrible things about them. They’re all true, but you have to understand why people voted for him and they voted for him because the country was kind of a mess. There was a tremendous lack of attention to what ordinary people were going through. There was a lack of faith in institutions. I think that was something that was very true in Russia in the 90s as well. So there was this desire for somebody to just come in and kind of put things right. And Putin promised to do that. Trump very much did the same thing. You know, leave it to me. I alone can handle it. These are very Putin-esque themes and you can recognize that and understand that diagnosis without also believing the conspiracy theory at the same time.

Paul Jay

You mean that there was some direct collaboration in the election and all that?

Matt Taibbi

Yeah, I mean, if I believe that then I need more to go on.

Paul Jay

Yeah, I never got into the real specific weeds of this. As far as I could see, there was nothing to go on, but I also thought I couldn’t care less because even if there was it didn’t determine any outcome. It was so irrelevant.

Matt Taibbi

Right. That’s what Chomsky’s position was on the whole thing from the start.

Paul Jay

Yeah, I agree with him. This critique of the shutting down of voices, the censorship that’s going on in high tech, the critique you were making, the Russiagate stuff. I’m in agreement with all of that critique and I’ve been saying the same stuff, I don’t know who’s listening, but I’ve been saying the same stuff for years, but I would never, I guess just to be straightforward about it, I wouldn’t go on Tucker Carlson and say any of that stuff. I think that’s crossing a line. I’ll back up. I’m not saying don’t go on, Tucker Carlson. I’d go on Tucker Carlson five nights a week if he had me, but I would critique Trump and I would critique the Democrats. I wouldn’t just say what Tucker wants to hear. So I get invited back on. What do you think of that?

Matt Taibbi

Well, I haven’t been on Tucker, so I’ve had kind of a policy about Fox always. It’s not that I wouldn’t go on. I think my feeling is kind of like yours there and I understand what you’re talking about. I also understand the argument of people like Glenn Greenwald, which is, one of the things that people leave out about that is that he’s been kind of frozen out of American, of other cable stations, it’s not like he’s been drowning in green room invites from CNN and MSNBC and all those networks. Neither have I, by the way, ever since the Russians story has started, none of us have been invited on. So, I kind of understand the thought process of, well, they’re not going to let me on here and this is a way to reach my audience and I’m not saying anything that I don’t believe in. It’s a difficult question. I can see both sides of it. I’ve obviously taken a different approach, but I can see both sides.

Paul Jay

Yeah. I’m a little more critical of it. I don’t make a big thing out of it because I so appreciate everything Glenn does otherwise that I don’t make a big deal out of it, but all of us have been shut out. I mean, Thomas Frank used to be on, all the time.

Matt Taibbi

Oh yeah.

Paul Jay

And he’s not on not because of Russia, because of his critique of the Democratic Party and the corporate leadership. He doesn’t get invited on anymore.

Matt Taibbi

There’s a whole slew of people who haven’t been invited on for a whole host of bizarre reasons. Some of them are like the most famous people in our business, and they’ve just been kind of left by the wayside.

Paul Jay

Well, I became pretty good friends with Gore Vidal. I knew him for the last two or three years of his life and interviewed him a bunch of times, and there was no more famous left-liberal voice than his. In the last years of his life, he was shut out. I mean, you go from 1968 where he’s doing this debate with Buckley Jr. during the Democratic Party convention, and he’s that prominent to he doesn’t get invited on anywhere except European television.

Matt Taibbi

Well, I mean, to me, modern-day MSNBC is closer to being in the politics of Bill Buckley than it is to being in the politics of Gore Vidal. It’s become patrician, upper class, cosmopolitan. That’s sort of the vision of sort of modern neoliberal politics, it’s more an Ivy League upper-class type of politics, except that it’s a different look. I think it’s very much in that vein, but people who are actually kind of hard-core progressives or outright idealistic. They just tend not to make it on TV that much anymore.

Paul Jay

Yeah, go back to some of the biographical stuff. So you’re there to 2002 and you come back to the U.S. How do you break-in at Rolling Stone? Because you wind up being one of the better-known progressive media personalities in the country by 07/08 anyway.

Matt Taibbi

So, Rolling Stone had done a story about my newspaper in 1998 or 1999. So the editors had an eye on me from that time and when I came back to the country in 2002. I guess it was 2003 they gave me a call and gave me sort of a try-out to write about the presidential campaign that season and it worked out and they gave me a job and that was my first kind of square job in journalism. I stayed with them until about a month ago.. I loved it there for a long time. It was a great period in the magazine’s history and my career kind of took off when the financial crisis happened in 2008. They somewhat randomly assigned me to do a finance story. I ended up spending like ten years on that. That was an incredible challenge and really interesting and a weird turn for the magazine, too, but it worked out great.

Paul Jay

Yeah, that’s when you crossed my radar. So how much does your coverage of the looting of what had been the Soviet economy inform your understanding of the 07/08 crash?

Matt Taibbi

Totally. The stories were so similar. So just a tiny bit of background. What happened in 1996 and 1997 in Russia was that a gang of sort of plutocratic banking interests agreed to funnel lots and lots of revenue to Boris Yeltsin in exchange for preferential treatment at the privatization auctions of big oil and mineral concerns. So, basically, Yeltsin made oligarchs overnight out of some of these big sort of private business figures and that concept of this interrelationship between the extremely wealthy and political monetary influence. These guys were funneling money to the Yeltsin government in exchange for sort of regulatory relief and turning the other way on crimes and that sort of thing, all of that came into play with the crash in 08. All these banks were intimately connected with the American government, and they got bailouts and they got regulatory relief in the form of not being prosecuted for crimes. It was very much the same story, it was just a little bit more sophisticated on a much bigger scale in America.

Paul Jay

What were your main sort of discoveries of that crisis in terms of the dynamic of how it worked?

Matt Taibbi

So I struggled with it at first because it was pretty technical. I remember talking to a banker, a guy who worked in the industry early, and he said, your problem is that you’re looking at this as a finance story, it’s a crime story, and once you get that, you’ll get it. He was absolutely right. Once I started looking at it as a fraud scheme, which is what it was, it was basically the banks were selling things that really weren’t valuable mortgages as AAA-rated investments. Once you got that basic, none of it, the rest of it was just jargon and, language that had to be learned like a foreign language. So that was the great insight, which was that even these very big, sophisticated banks, which drape everything they do in this sort of grandiose language, actually, when you get down to it, they’re just pretty grubby little crime schemes.

Paul Jay

Yeah, I’m in the midst of doing a series of interviews with Bill Black.

Matt Taibbi

Yeah, he would now.

Paul Jay

Several times I would say I don’t get this. Why would you get appraisers to overpraise a house? How is that good for the bank? And he’d say, Paul, it’s not the banks, it’s the bankers. That it’s the bankers making the fees and it’s the bankers that are profiting from the fraud, not the institutions as much, although some of the institutions came out pretty well, too.

Matt Taibbi

Yeah, and also ended up usually selling those notes on to a third party pretty quickly. So even if they were taking on something that was overvalued, what they would do is they would turn it into a security and dump it on, an insurance company or a pension fund. So the people who ended up owning the bad thing, the bad property was people who are retired and just had retirement accounts. So, yeah, they would take risk, but then they would move it on to somebody else pretty quickly.

Paul Jay

I’m not sure how much this has been analyzed or talked about, but it just occurs to me the fact that the leaders of Wall Street got away with out and out fraud, and they did not only not go to jail, they are still, most of them, the leaders of Wall Street. They are still most of them, the ones that determine the Treasury department’s policies, in both parties, but very much so the Democratic Party. It’s kind of a qualitative shift, I guess, in the power of finance and the character of the Democratic Party.

Matt Taibbi

For sure, I would say the Democrats started to be sort of infiltrated by that in the Clinton years, you saw people like Bob Rubin come on board. There was this new type of person that kind of appeared in the scene, and that was the Wall Street CEO who was socially liberal, but economically, still very, very conservative and sort of laissez-faire. They started to be very prevalent in the Clinton government. They helped repeal the Glass-Steagall Act in the late 90s. Then by the mid-2000s, late 2000s, Goldman Sachs was Barack Obama’s #1 private campaign contributor. So there was a lot of banking money. There were a lot of Citigroup people in the Obama government. This intertwining of Wall Street interests with the Democratic Party. That hasn’t been undone yet. There’s still quite a lot of that going on, which is why you haven’t seen a lot of regulatory action in that arena, since they’ve been in power.

So, we only have so much time. So I’ll kind of bring us up into the current moment, and I hope another time we can dig more into history. So far, what do you make, in this context, of the Biden administration, both in terms of is there going to be any kind of serious regulation of Wall Street? Is this infrastructure plan, does it have any kind of progressive character or is it simply something Wall Street’s going to find a way to cash in on? I just went through the plan with Bob Pollin, the economist from PERI (Political Economy Research Institute, UMass Amherst), and we were both kind of astounded that one of the most important things that could be done in terms of climate change, retrofitting buildings, but in the statement explaining what’s in this big infrastructure plan unless I misread it or there’s a typo. I didn’t misread it. It says they’re going to do two million houses. That’s not even a midsize, maybe it’s a midsize city, but it sure ain’t the country.

Matt Taibbi

Right.

Paul Jay

The most effective thing they could do on climate change, the biggest thing they could do to create jobs, is symbolic.

Matt Taibbi

Well, right, you’re also in Canada and you’re used to those kinds of politics being real. In America.

Paul Jay

Oh, no. First of all, I lived the last 14 years in the U.S., and number two, there ain’t nothing real about Canadian environmental politics, nothing. We’re the country of the tar sands, but go on.

Matt Taibbi

OK, well, I’m mistaken, but, I would say a lot of politics is performative with the Democratic Party. They know they don’t have to do a whole lot to have the appearance of taking action on certain things. So in place of investing heavily in America’s inner-cities, you instead have the speaker of the House wearing kente cloth scarves and talking about racism. You can talk a big game on climate change, and as long as you spend a little bit of money, it’s going to be more than the Republicans, and that’s all you need to do is be better than the Republicans. That kind of transactional politics, I think, is pretty typical.

In my view, talking to people about Biden, they’re surprised that he’s even taken some of the steps that he has because his entire career, he was a very aggressive sort of deficit hawk. So the idea that he would even do something like this relief bill, just spending the money, regardless of what it was on, is a little bit unusual, but at the same time, to me, it’s the same old Democratic Party. I mean, look, they’re trying to reverse the caps imposed on state and local taxes that Donald Trump put in, which is a gift to the wealthiest taxpayers in the country of about $600 billion over eight years. They want to do away with it completely. Like they’re willing to hold up the entire relief bill for that. So that tells me that it’s kind of the same corporate-funded party that it’s been for 20 or 25 years now. So not terribly surprised by that.

Paul Jay

There’s a very unique moment where Wall Street wants all this spending, again, in this interview with Bob Pollin, he was saying 50 percent of American workers were laid off during this pandemic.

Matt Taibbi

Wow.

Paul Jay

And Wall Street was really freaked out. They want this massive spending. So the spending they’re doing is nothing Wall Street doesn’t want. And none of them are afraid of inflation right now, so he’s not bucking finance by doing it. I will say there’s the odd thing that’s going on in some of the appointments that are positive, you might not have seen.

Matt Taibbi

Lina Khan.

Paul Jay

Better than Obama, and the one that, I’m sorry, I forget her name, the one that just got through the Senate, who’s going to be an associate attorney general, the Indian American.

Matt Taibbi

Oh, Lina Khan. At the FTC?

Paul Jay

No, assistant Attorney General. She’s an assistant attorney general and I should know her name [Vanita Gupta]. She wrote a tremendous report on the Baltimore police force when the DOJ stepped in under Obama and said maybe a dozen times in the report that every day the constitutional rights of people of Baltimore are being violated. The language was very strong. So there are some appointments that are kind of better than one expected, on the other hand, the foreign policy so far is aggressive as one might, no hope for.

Matt Taibbi

I would say the foreign policy is maybe even a little bit more hawkish than I expected, but domestically, they’re a little bit, maybe slightly better than I thought. It’s still the same campaign that annihilated Sanders last year and went after him as somebody who was going to bring down the state with his unrealistic ideas. So I don’t have a whole lot of expectations for them, but there are a few things that are better than terrible.

Paul Jay

Yeah, I’m not saying they’ve changed their character. The historical moment is so unique that it’s creating some openings. I mean, who they are, I think, is who they are, I don’t think that’s changed.

A fair amount of the liberal left has been promoting the need for censoring on the far-right. I think you know that theAnalysis actually was censored by YouTube. We had one story deleted and the reason it was deleted is we had a section in it of Trump speaking to the crowd on January 6th and the algorithm picks it up and thinks we’re promoting Trump, even though the piece the clip was in there to show, because, you know, my take has been January 6th was the final act of a failed attempted coup by Trump. So that video got pulled down. So I put up the same video somewhat ahead of it and took out the Trump footage, figuring I could avoid the algorithm, and I guess I did because they left the video up, but they banned me from advertising on Google forever.

Matt Taibbi

You’re kidding.

Paul Jay

Forever. I’ve been banned individually, so I can’t buy ads and promote my stories on YouTube. I’ve written, appealed three times. One of the leading lawyers at the ACLU wrote Google on my behalf. They didn’t answer. And it’s not just algorithm at this point because I actually got a letter from somebody saying, we’ve reviewed the case and our decision stands. Of course, no reason.

Matt Taibbi

It’s unbelievable.

Paul Jay

So the censorship is crazy, but I’m a little on the fence in some way on this issue. Like we in Canada a hate law. If you publish language against an identifiable group, ethnic or religious or gender-based or sexual, you don’t have to directly call for violence, if the hate language is such that it might inspire, and I’m not so sure I’m against that. I’m not so sure I’m against the suppression of overtly racist, overtly fascist content, even though I know people like me might get caught. Well, I wouldn’t get caught. I might have a video that showed one of those things as an example and then I’d get caught in it. I don’t know. What do you think?

Matt Taibbi

So. I think it’s a difficult question, but I still come down on the side that, you know, a lot of the American justices did in cases like the Brandenburg v. Ohio, this idea that, you have to protect all that speech as much as you possibly can, because the alternative is worse. What you end up risking with that. So let’s just say that you’re going to have some kind of authority that’s either quasi-private or private, that filters out hate speech and has some kind of a system for locating that and taking it off the Internet. Already you’re going to have a problem. We’ve already seen this everywhere, and your case is an example of this, of algorithms and even human reviewers not being able to distinguish between covering something and promoting it. But even worse than that is the total lack of a process that’s transparent and open for how this is done.

I think in the American system, it’s all been in the open. So we had a very tightly regulated media landscape throughout my entire career. You can’t lie about somebody. You can’t accuse somebody of a crime that they didn’t commit. Libel per se is a very powerful concept where you can’t even go near a subject that could be ruinous to somebody’s career or life like, implying that they’re a pornographer or pedophile or anything like that, but it’s enforced by a court system. The incitement is enforced by a court system.

The problem with what we’re dealing with now is that it’s done behind closed doors. It’s unilateral. There’s no way to appeal, and there’s no way to tell whether you’re dealing with, a private company that’s acting that way out of its own self-interest or whether it’s acting in concert with security agencies who they do already liaise with. We know that. For intelligence reasons, for the military. The NSA has cooperative agreements. The FBI has cooperative agreements with almost all of these companies. So it gets very thorny really quickly. I just think it’s going to become a very serious problem. I think something has to be done to clean up all the bad speech and dangerous speech that’s on the Internet, but it can’t be this. It can’t be a handful of oligarchical companies just acting without any kind of oversight. That doesn’t work for me.

Paul Jay

Yeah, that I agree with completely. I was quoting a federal law on hate speech and someone has to be charged and it has to go to court. The person has a right to fight it. To leave this up to Big Tech and Big Tech’s connivance with whoever is in power in government at that time. That’s another piece of fascistization, I think. So that’s why when it comes down to, the position you’ve been advocating and others critiquing big tech for this, I’m all for that, but there does need to be something and that something has to have a real public process to it.

Matt Taibbi

Yeah, I get that. My suspicion about this has been driven the entire time by the people who are the most aggressive in wanting these kind of new censorship rules don’t want to do anything to dilute the power of these companies. They want to leave those companies as powerful as they are and keep the media landscape as concentrated as possible so that they’re able to have this kind of instantaneous lever over speech. That’s what makes me suspicious, is they’re not doing antitrust cases against any of these companies, and yet they’re calling them to the Hill all the time and asking them to do this or that, which to me sets a bad precedent.

Paul Jay

Yeah, I agree, it’s another piece of Mussolini-style corporate fascism.

Matt Taibbi

Right.

Paul Jay

These things have grown to such a point they should be public utilities and there should be a big national conversation about to what extent they get regulated and how there’s public participation. I think the point you just raised is the most important point. This concentration of ownership of what’s become. It’s like the education system, like imagine the entire educational system being privatized and private companies can determine what the curriculum is. It’s at that level.

Matt Taibbi

Yeah, they are so much more powerful now than even the banks are. The speed at which they’re making money and have political influence and have control over the information landscape is just…it’s mind-boggling. So, yeah, it’s a big problem.

Paul Jay

All right. Well, let’s stop here, and I hope we do it again soon. Thanks very Matt.

Matt Taibbi

All right, thanks a lot, Paul. I really appreciate it. Have a good one.

Paul Jay

And thank you for joining us on theAnalysis.news. Please don’t forget there’s a donate button at the top and subscribe on YouTube and all that.

Play
Select one or choose any amount to donate whatever you like
$

Never miss another story

Subscribe to theAnalysis.news - Newsletter
Name(Required)

Similar Posts

5 Comments

  1. Dear Paul:
    why are you stock with the Ruling class?” Putin is Bad”, what you expect from Putin? which ruler on the world stage is pro-worker?
    It is time to talk about organizing workers that are suffering in general.
    We need to know what David Harvey, Ric. Wolff and people like them are thinking.
    all these people in power are a bunch of gangsters is different forms.

  2. MT: “we spent millions of dollars we funneled to sort of pro-democratic organizations in Russia”. should be: “pro-western corporation neo-liberal anti-democratic organizations.” Capitalist hate democracy, they love fake democracy that they have purchased, but they don’t like real democracy, nor did America’s founding fathers. May 29, 1787, Edmund Randolph, governor of Virginia, opened the Constitutional Convention by identifying the underlying cause of various problems that the delegates assembled to solve. “Our chief danger, arises from the democratic parts of our constitutions.” None of the separate states’ constitutions had established “sufficient checks against the democracy.”

    PJ: “I would critique Trump and I would critique the Democrats. I wouldn’t just say what Tucker wants to hear. ” (1) That you would think this about Glenn Greenwald reflects back on what you think you might do if you could get invited on to MSNBC/CNN, etc. Please check yourself. (2) What you say here sounds just like something that would come out of Hillary Clinton’s mouth. Again, Check yourself. Lets not have any out reach to anyone who thinks differently than our own little bubble, right?

    1. As I said in the interview, I have no problem being a guest on Carlson, but I wouldn’t pander to his right wing politics. On MSNBC I would attack their Russophobia and defence of corporate democrats. Of course, that’s why I don’t get invited on either.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *