Elon Musk tapped journalist Matt Taibbi to lead other writers in the release of The Twitter Files, which revealed the questionable tactics of Twitter’s previous management. A look at the career of the investigative journalist.
- Born in New Jersey, Matt Taibbi started his career as a reporter in Uzbekistan (where he was kicked out), then Mongolia, and finally to Russia in the 1990s, before returning to the U.S. in 2002.
- The independent journalist has drawn attention to himself since December 2 when he released the first of The Twitter Files, revealing details of how the social-media giant has collaborated with politicians and the intelligence community to suppress critics and allowed internal biases to shape policy.
- Musk says he believes in “citizen journalism” and in keeping with the way Twitter works aims to empower more voices on the platform while using fewer rules to limit speech.
- Taibbi’s current Substack writing, where he has 30,000 paid subscribers, has focused on the censorship and the cancel culture.
- He wrote more than a dozen articles for Rolling Stone about financial corruption by Wall Street firms and federal regulators during and after the 2008 financial crisis, earning him a National Magazine Award.
- His record of independent journalism and books finds him with allies and critics on all sides of the political divide.
Why it’s Important
For the most part, the mainstream media has yet to respond to the claims from the Twitter Files. It has mainly ignored them—claiming that since they are published in tweet form, they are not independently verifiable.
Taibbi is not a Republican, despite what his critics say. He wrote three books during the Trump administration critical of former President Donald Trump, systematic racism, and Fox News—respectively Insane Clown President, I Can’t Breathe, and Hate Inc. He drew criticism from conservatives in 2012 with his story Andrew Breitbart: Death Of a Douche. He says Bernie Sanders is one of the few politicians he admires.
Despite coming from a media background—his father was a longtime TV journalist in New York City—he’s been a notable critic of the media. He went as far as to join a December 8 Munk Debate with journalists Douglas Murray, Malcolm Gladwell, and Michelle Goldberg to argue that the media cannot be trusted.
“Taibbi’s works have mercilessly attacked economic and criminal injustice among other issues. His scathing 2014 book, The Divide, analyzes the increasingly large wealth disparity in the U.S. and was named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post and NPR,” says The New York Post.
He works independently from any journalistic publications and has more than 30,000 paid subscribers on Substack, making him one of the most successful journalists on the platform. His writing style has earned him comparison to late author Hunter S. Thompson and earned him the 2008 National Magazine Award for Columns and Commentary during his time at Rolling Stone. He has 1.3 million followers on Twitter.
Matt Taibbi’s targets have gradually shifted from sacred cows of the right to sacred cows of the left, which has drawn suspicion and anger from the left side of the aisle even as he claims his politics haven’t changed. His fellow Substack journalist Glenn Greenwald has praised his continued dedication to maintaining the same values as the world has changed around him and continuing to criticize both sides of the aisle.
“Taibbi is, arguably, as ribald and fearless as ever. It’s just that his targets and topics have begun to shift. He does not write as much on Wall Street or corporate skullduggery anymore, preferring to train his sights on the campus left and the talking heads at MSNBC. Taibbi’s defenders say he hasn’t changed. Rather, it’s the world that has grown more illiberal and hysterical,” says The Intelligencer.
Conservative readers have generally welcomed Taibbi’s reporting—praising the work he is doing with The Twitter Files and exposing policy failures and internal contradictions within the social-media giant, which had for years claimed it wasn’t suppressing conservatives.
“The internal communications obtained by Taibbi reveal how political operatives from both Biden’s and Trump’s teams wielded influence over Twitter’s content moderation, though Biden’s team had more success in shaping Twitter’s behavior, given the ideological predispositions of its workforce,” says National Review Online.
“He never struck me as a journalistic lion, but I happily named him in several columns for being a rare scribe willing, amid the febrile, herd-like embrace of the Steele dossier, to say the emperor had no clothes,” says Wall Street Journal’s Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.