As if Rolling Stone does not already have enough problems with its impending sale, its mutation of domestic terrorists into cover boys, and the ongoing legal and ethical fallout from its horribly botched University of Virginia gang-rape story, the embattled magazine now has to deal with an exploding scandal surrounding star contributor Matt Taibbi.
As of now, only two things can be true about the rabidly left-wing Taibbi. He is either a misogynist monster or a fabulist who invents stories to sell books and burnish his reputation as a gonzo journalist — a junior-varsity Hunter S. Thompson.
In 2000, Taibbi, along with co-author Mark Ames, published a memoir titled The Exile: Sex, Drugs, and Libel in the New Russia. To this day, using Amazon, you can open the first few pages of The Exile and find yourself reassured that “This is a work of non-fiction. While all of the characters and events depicted in this book are real, certain names and identifying details have been changed.” Emphasis added.
But now, after 17 years, Taibbi is suddenly claiming his book is not really all that true, that certain embarrassing, criminal, and misogynist events are “not a biographical reality,” that he and his co-writer went the fabulist route in a book sold as 100% truth.
So why would the 47-year-old Taibbi suddenly decide to come out and admit to such a thing? Conscience? Ethics? Decency?
No, this is only happening because the events depicted in this book [that] are real depict Taibbi and his co-author as misogynist monsters, shockingly cruel narcissists eager to brag about their horrific exploitation of young Russian women during a year the two men spent in Moscow.
Some excerpts from the non-fiction The Exile:
“You’re always trying to force Masha and Sveta under the table to give you blow jobs. It’s not funny. They don’t think it’s funny,” Kara complained. “But… it is funny,” Matt said. We have been pretty rough on our girls.
As you can see, Taibbi does not bother to deny engaging in what is very clearly a form of sexual assault. Just as disturbing is his admission that he finds what he did “funny.” The excerpt continues:
We’d ask our Russian staff to flash their asses or breasts for us. We’d tell them that if they wanted to keep their jobs, they’d have to perform unprotected anal sex with us. Nearly every day, we asked our female staff if they approved of anal sex. That was a fixation of ours. “Can I fuck you in the ass? Huh? I mean, without a rubber? Is that okay?” It was all part of the fun.
So Taibbi and Ames are two young Americans in Russia abusing their power to exploit the young women who work for them, threatening them if they do not “perform unprotected anal sex.”
Whether Taibbi is guilty of criminal behavior or guilty of the fabulism he sold as fact for 17 years, what also matters is Taibbi’s disgraceful intent in writing it. In his own depraved way, Taibbi is worse than Harvey Weinstein, who at least tried to hide his alleged behavior from the public. The then-30-year-old Taibbi was proud to portray himself as an abuser of young women and seems eager to show it off, to normalize his attitude towards women and sexual assault as something irreverent and cool.
But that is not even close to the worst of it…
The following Exile excerpt, that details getting an underage 15-year-old Russian girl drunk in order to have sex with her, is narrated by Mark Ames. But as one Reddit user points out, this does not get his partner off the hook: “Taibbi would be the Paterno to Ames’ Sandusky.”
When I went back into the TV room, Andy pulled me aside with a worried grin on his face. ‘Dude do you realize…do you know how old that Natasha is?’ he said.
‘No! No, she’s fif-teen. Fif-teen.’ Right then my pervometer needle hit the red. I had to have her, even if she was homely. I sat down next to her on the couch and fed her another double martini with pineapple juice, and asked her to take off her clothes, to prepare for the Jacuzzi.
After the sex, 15-year-old Natasha told Ames she was the mother of a three-month-old child. Here was his reaction:
It was hard to imagine that Natasha had squatted out a baby. Her cunt was as tight as a cat’s ass. …I’d slept with mothers before–they’re a lot wider. Sex with them is like probing a straw in a mildew-lined German beer mug.
After using her for sex, Taibbi’s co-author then brags about tossing the 15-year-old away:
A few nights later, Natasha tried coming over to my house at two in the morning. She rang the doorbell for a half hour straight. I got up, pulled the doorbell ringer out of the wall … and then went back to sleep. She called and called, but I didn’t answer.
Ames also brags about berating a different woman into getting an abortion. (NSFW picture at the link):
Katya sat on my lap and told me she had some exciting news: she was pregnant, and I was the father!
I panicked. Children are my worst nightmare–worse than worst
“No, Katya, you don’t understand. I cannot have a child. I do not like children. I hate them. They disgust me, physically.”
“But I can’t have an abortion,” she pleaded. “I was told that if I did, I’d never be able to have a child.”
I knew she was bluffing, so I countered with the RU-486 pill. I offered to fly to France, pick one up, and bring it back for her. “It’s totally safe,” I cheerily offered.
“I can’t do that,” she said. “I can’t kill our child.”
Right then, I stared at Katya with a look–I’m not sure how it appeared to her, but in my mind, I was starting to contemplate two courses of action: murder, or AWOL.
“What will you do, kill me?” she said, laughing nervously.
“Maybe, yeah,” I replied. “I’ll throw you off my balcony. I’ll make it look like an accident.”
She started to cry, but I was relentless. I told her that if she had the child, she would be killing me, so it was an act of self-defense. And if I didn’t kill her, then I would flee Moscow and she’d never find me….I was relentless. I attacked her the Russian way: I wore her down for hours during the KGB interrogation-style…
At 5:30 the next morning, Katya, acting the martyr, quietly slipped out of my apartment, made a beeline to the abortion clinic, and sucked the little fucker out.
For his part, Ames now writes at the website The Exiled and recently blamed the fact that his own book was published as non-fiction — with the declarative reassurance that every event is real — on his publisher:
I didn’t write that small print, nor did Matt. If you’re honestly asking, perhaps our publisher put it it [sic] there for some merchandising reason, or perhaps it’s because in some of our more straight chapters, especially Matt’s, many powerful people the book names in corruption and criminal scandals are real people with real names.
By my count that is two “perhaps” in a single sentence.
Ames is also now claiming that other parts of the book are fake:
Showing how little I paid attention to the small print in the front of the book — then or now, at least compared to every other sleuth swearing by this one page as “proof” we wrote pure non-satirical non-fiction factual facts — the name Johnny Chen (one of our fake personas) is listed as a contributor on the very same page that declares the book “non-fiction”.
How exactly does that show “how little” he paid attention to the small print? Ames is playing word games — using what he claims is another piece of fraud in his own book to prove he had no part in perpetrating that fraud. “Officer, I just found another body buried in my basement, so how can I be guilty of killing my wife?”
According to Taibbi, Grove Press, publisher of The Exile, recently issued a statement that only further muddies the water:
The statement on the copyright page is incorrect. This book combines exaggerated, invented satire and nonfiction reporting and was categorized as nonfiction because there is no category for a book that is both.
The only problem with that statement is that it does not and cannot explain why, on top of selling itself as non-fiction, The Exile also went out of its way to reassure readers that all of the characters and events depicted in this book are real.
When you sell a memoir with the claim that all of the characters and events are real when they are not real, that is fraud, that is fabulism, that is Stephen Glass territory.
The fact is, Russian women–with their tight skirts, blowjob-ready lips, and swinging, meaty chests–scare the hell out of Western women. They know that if large numbers of them were ever to invade the placid, polite, lesbian-literature-and-designer-coffee dating scene of their home countries, they’d be priced right out of the market. Russian women may not be emancipated, which I think most of us agree is a terrible thing–but what they haven’t gained in the professional world, they’ve at least retained in the sexual arena.
Within the context of The Exile, which would be published the following year, the final line of the above excerpt is loaded with all kinds of disturbing context, as is the final line in the closing paragraph of Taibbi’s overall piece:
Okay (and I’m laughing now, because this is so funny), so we’re A) not supposed to give you flowers, B) pay you compliments, or C) look at you. Anything else? Because I’m struggling to figure out the reason why after hearing that, I’m feeling like I’d rather get fucked in the ass by a Cape Buffalo than ever have to sit through dinner with you. Maybe you can figure it out for me. When you do, let me know. I’ll be at Natasha’s house.
Hopefully, he was referring to a figurative or different Natasha.
More recently, Taibbi’s attitude towards women was raised again in 2014 while he was running a now-aborted startup publication. According to the Intercept, a complaint from a female staffer “bolstered the case that he should not be the manager of The Racket.”
These simmering problems came to a head this month when a Racket staffer complained to senior management that Taibbi had been verbally abusive and unprofessionally hostile, and that she felt the conduct may have been motivated, at least in part, by her gender. Temple conducted an investigation, and First Look determined that while none of the alleged conduct rose to the level of legal liability, the grievance bolstered their case that Taibbi should not be the manager of Racket. Among their concerns were the staffer’s claims that Taibbi had been privately criticizing First Look managers, particularly Ching, that Taibbi’s abrasive demeanor was alienating some on his staff, and that Taibbi instructed Racket staff to resolve any grievances directly with him rather than going to upper management.
Taibbi claims the female staffer’s complaint had nothing to do with sexual harassment and that “a thorough investigation cleared me in the matter.”
It should also be noted that Taibbi’s current desire to distance himself from The Exile simply does not line up with the 40-year-old Taibbi who threw a mug of coffee in the face of a reporter who found it “redundant and discursive.”
As desperate as Taibbi and his confederates are to make this seedy story as complicated, distracting, and muddy as possible, this scandal boils down to a very simple conclusion…
Either Matt Taibbi published things that are not true in a non-fiction memoir that went out of its way to assure readers that the characters and events depicted in this book are real, and worse, dined off this fabulism for 17 years, right up until the day it became inconvenient to his personal ambitions… Or, he and Ames are lying today and are therefore guilty of unimaginable behavior, the worst kind of gratuitous exploitation of young women, including a 15-year-old girl.
Which one of those versions of Matt Taibbi is acceptable in the world of journalism?