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Matt Taibbi on America's Conmen, Hustlers, and Kingmakers [VIDEO VERSION]

Taibbi’s exploits are legend. From debauchery in post-soviet Russia to the aptly-coined Great Derangement of American Society, banks behaving badly, how today’s news media makes us despise one another, and the business secrets of drug dealing—Taibbi’s covered all of it. Here are some key points from our conversation.

1.) Today’s Media Establishment is Designed to Make You Despise “the other side.”

One of Matt’s main points is that our media establishment is fueled by hatred—your hatred. Journalism has become outrage porn. Cable news has become sports. In all of this, terms like Right and Left, Republican and Democrat, Socialist and Libertarian—they function as meaningless descriptors that don’t ultimately matter. We are the losers. CNN and Fox are the profiteers. That is the point. The house is the only one who wins. Think of the 1849 Phenomenon. In a gold rush, it’s the guys selling picks and shovels. And in today’s day and age, atomization has bred every stripe and flavor of pick and shovel there is. We just can’t help ourselves. And we buy them.

What’s happening around the country and the world is important of course, but I’ve grown increasingly apathetic. And that apathy is a product of my incredulity that this issue, this time, today is going to be the thing that really makes a difference in my life and in the lives of those I love. The outrage porn sellers on the left and right want me to believe that every issue is the end of the world. Is it though? Is it really?

To illustrate the point, a clip from The Ides of March (Start at 2:55)

Salient Dialogue

Stephen Meyers: He [Presidential Candidate] has to win.

Ida Horowicz: Or what? What? The world’s gonna fall apart? It won’t matter. Not one bit. To the everyday lives of the everyday fuckers who get up and work and eat and sleep, go back to work again..He’s a nice guy. They’re all nice guys. He will let you down sooner or later

2.) We Talk Past Each Other because Opponents use Different sets of Facts

When writing a geometry proof, first you gotta clearly state what is assumed, what’s given. That’s the starting point. Then you can build an argument on top of those assumptions.

The problem with discourse around policy issues is that oftentimes, people are using different givens (hard data) and arguments (extrapolations from cherry-picked data). Take policing, immigration, abortion, or any other hot-button issue. Often people engage neither with the givens nor the arguments of their opponent. They simply use different data and different arguments to talk past each other about the same nominal issue. No wonder nothing ever gets done. We could learn a lot from geometry class.

To illustrate the point, a clip from Thank You for Smoking

Salient Dialogue

Joey: But that’s not what I’m talking about…you didn’t prove that vanilla was the best

Nick: I didn’t have to. I proved that you’re wrong, and if you’re wrong, I’m right.

Joey: But you still didn’t convince me.

Nick: I’m not after you. I’m after them [points into the crowd]

3.) Do we live in a country with kingmakers?

“Oh yeah, absolutely. And they brag openly about it,” Matt said. Man’s not wrong. Does that mean we’re not living in a democracy? No, not really. It’s still democratic, kind of. But let’s not pretend we’re not living in America—a wonderful idea, a dream factory, a land of opportunity, an imperfect but glorious city upon a hill, but ultimately, at the end of the day, a business.

To illustrate the point, a clip from Killing them Softly  

Salient Dialogue

Jackie Cogan: “This guy [Obama] wants to tell me we're living in a community. Don't make me laugh. I'm living in America, and in America, you're on your own. America's not a country. It's just a business. Now fucking pay me.”

Until soon beautiful Ruffians. Until very soon!

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Scott Newman