Matt Taibbi's Wall Street Diatribe Upstaged by Real-Life Antics

Why didn't the latest white-knuckle rant take off?

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In last summer's infamous Rolling Stone diatribe, Matt Taibbi flung the name "vampire squid" at Goldman Sachs and the epithet stuck. The piece spurred reams of chatter, as did Taibbi’s December piece about cronyism within Obama’s economic team.

It's surprising, then, that his new Goldman takedown, "Wall Street’s Bailout Hustle," has been out more than a week with with hardly a whisper. The argument and language are no less provocative than Taibbi's usual fare: he thinks that post-bailout, Wall Street banks are back to their old swindling way. Banks, he says, have "raped the taxpayer" and "raped their clients" while Lloyd Blankfein has "giant, nuclear-powered testicles." But the piece hasn’t gotten much more than minor nods of approval or concern.

Why did it fizzle? Taibbi's explosive reports may be losing their shock value, a prospect that would not please a man who was recently depicted throwing coffee in the face of a reporter who expressed distaste for his work. This incident, along with one involving horse semen, pops up in James Verini’s new Vanity Fair piece about the demise of a Russian newspaper Taibbi edited. Here’s hoping the volatile reporter doesn’t take criticism of his new Wall Street invective too hard:

  • Dismissed by The Wall Street Journal  “Matt Taibbi has Goldman in his sights again, along with the rest of Wall Street,” writes Stephen Grocer. “This time he argues that Wall Street learned nothing from the financial crisis, is ripping off taxpayers and is back to its old ways. Nothing really new here.”
  • Salon Not Wowed  “Rolling Stone's latest on the financial crisis is a lurid, inflammatory cartoon. And not wrong, either,” Andrew Leonard’s subtitle reads. “If you like your financial analysis written as if during the middle of a bar-fight, then Taibbi is for you. Generally speaking, Taibbi doesn't break any news in his summary of how Wall Street screwed the country, got bailed out, and is back to its old ways. But his rampage is entertaining, and on the substantive issues, he is not wrong.”
  • Naked Capitalism Is Disappointed. "I’m a huge Taibbi fan,” writes Yves Smith, “but frankly, this isn’t up to his usual standard. But I’d be remiss in not linking to this piece. It’s a clever high concept, but the connection between his device and the underlying facts is often a bit too loose for my comfort."
  • The New Ledger Is Shocked, but not at Taibbi's argument--at the fact that he makes it in Rolling Stone. “Leaving aside the specific tales of Wall Street swindles,” writes Paul Cella, “what concerns me here is that underneath all the vulgar bluster and riotous sneers of Taibbi’s treatment of these matters, the careful reader will discern something extraordinary: Taibbi and Rolling Stone have assumed the office of public moralist.”

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.