By Ross Barkan
Obviously, I’m anxious about why I’m being profiled,” Matt Taibbi said at the end of our phone call this summer, which had already lasted an hour and a half. He was on vacation with his family. The day before, they went on a whale watch. “One thing that’s a little irksome, again, in my actual personal life, I could not be more the opposite of that …”
That could be, if you’ve read Taibbi over the last quarter-century, loaded with possibility: the acidic brilliance or the antic humor or, more recently, the savage scorn he has shown for “cancel culture.” There is a public Taibbi and a private Taibbi, and the more you speak with him and others who know him, the more you begin to understand the difference. The public self is not a lie or a performance — it’s just, in private, Taibbi is not going to punch you in the face, like his prose might suggest he would.
Not that Taibbi is apologizing for his combative posture. “I’m certainly not going to feel guilty for having success at Substack for saying things I believe are true. I’ve been very consistent over the years in saying the same things,” Taibbi said. “I feel pretty strongly that the only thing that’s changed is that the New York media world once agreed with the things I was saying, and now they don’t.”