Taibbi’s Journalism Techniques: Describe U.S. Senator as 'Elderly Sumo Wrestler in Drag' to Interest Readers
Most probably wouldn't think of Rolling Stone magazine as a primary source for information on something like financial regulation reform. However, if you listen to some of the left-wing talking heads like Ezra Klein, Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi is in the know on major policy issues.
In the May 26 issue of Rolling Stone, Taibbi's article, "Wall Street War," lamented the impact lobbyists in Washington, D.C. have had on the legislative process of the financial regulation reform. And in order to keep readers interested, he painted Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., as a villain with a degree of insult:
Dodd worked overtime trying to craft a "bipartisan" bill with the Republican minority - in particular with Sen. Richard Shelby, the ranking Republican on the committee. With his dyed hair, porcine trunk and fleshy, powdery-white face, Shelby recalls an elderly sumo wrestler in drag. I happened to be in the Senate on the day that Shelby proposed a substitute amendment that would have stuffed the CFPB into the FDIC, effectively scaling back its power and independence. Throughout the debate, I was struck by the way that Dodd and his huge black caterpillar eyebrows kept crossing the aisle to whisper in Shelby's ear. During these huddles, Dodd would gently pat Shelby's back or hold his arm; it was like watching a love scene in a Japanese monster movie.
Taibbi appeared on the Fox Business Network's "Imus in the Morning" program, where host Don Imus heaped praise upon him. Imus applauded Taibbi for making the uninteresting, interesting:
IMUS: Seventeen until the hour, talking with Matt Taibbi from Rolling Stone magazine about this financial reform bill which I can barely, barely pay attention to.
TAIBBI: That's one of the problems. I mean, it's that - It's so confusing that nobody is really interested in it except, you know - all the richest people in the world are desperately interested in it.
IMUS: I can only read your articles because, and it sounds like I'm patronizing you and I'm obviously not, but, only because you're willing to write colorful - in a colorful manner and assign icky names to these various people, including a-holes and so it makes it - I can't wait for your book on this, because it makes it - I mean, the guy who came up with vampire squid, I mean, is worth reading about this financial mess but the problem is, not only does it make my neck and hair hurt, it makes everybody's, as you just said.
But how did Taibbi pull this feat off? According to Taibbi, with inserting more insults at the behest of his editors:
TAIBBI: I know. We actually had that problem with this article ... My editors actually asked me to insert more insults in there, so I described Richard Shelby as - I said he looked like an elderly sumo wrestler in drag in this, in this one. There's a few of those in there.
IMUS: Name calling - that's our level.
TAIBBI: It's a beautiful thing.
IMUS: It is a beautiful thing.
One has to wonder what's next, cap-and-trade legislation analysis from Taibbi with fart jokes?