Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Matt Taibbi Speaks Well

I've said before that I'm lucky to live in Boulder because many good speakers come through this town. The latest was Matt Taibbi, who I heard speak last evening. I've been a luke-warm Taibbi fan, but not anymore. Now, I'm more in the admirer/groupie category. He speaks very well, is very likeable, and as an added bonus has the physique of a tall athlete. He played pro-baseball in Russia and pro-basketball for Mongolia.

For anyone unfamiliar with Matt, he is a Rolling Stone journalist, famous for writing some financial articles which went viral. "The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it's everywhere. The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money."

During the first half-hour of his talk, he described his time in Russia, his insights, the beginning of his writing career there, and the start-up of his own wacky, off-the-wall newspaper there, "The Exile". He said that "in Russia there's no pressure to succeed because there's no success. It's a paradise for a lazy, depressed person like myself." He did not want to become a journalist because that was what his father did, but it was his destiny.

He spoke of knowing Wall Street people who'd appreciate it if the bad players were captured by our legal system so they could be better respected. He described what it was like to work as a journalist on the presidential campaign trail, the spoon fed daily briefings which resulted in everyone reporting the same news at the same time each day, calling it "vapid and empty with no escape". He described editors who think that the public is "stupid" and says the public needs to demand better of their journalism.

Matt is newly married and his bride was in the front row of the audience. He claimed to have "a lot of baggage". In a lengthy Q & A period, one of the last audience questions posed, "You come across as such a nice guy, what happens to you when you write because you are such a mean and angry writer." He just said that that was his style.

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