BACK IN BLACK (AND, UH, WHITE)
Back after a too-long absence…client work, business trips and the like. I’ve got a few entries stored up on the laptop, so I’ll spool ’em out once a day this week. First off, an entry I had up a couple weeks ago, but deleted when I got into conversations with a Rolling Stone editor about pitching ideas to them…this seemed too kiss-ass then. Here it is now:
When I was an impressionable young high schooler in suburban Atlanta, Rolling Stone magazine did as much to make me a writer as any other inspiration. Reading the magazine’s take on everything from the Manson family to Lennon’s murder to a host of presidential elections galvanized me. (Of course, the smug tone of their reviews also stained my style in a way that’s taken years to rub off.) But in recent years, the magazine had seemed to lose its way, publishing only a few quality pieces of journalism every year, instead diving headlong into charticles, rewritten press releases, and hack celeb journalism–really, how many times can you start an article talking about what your subject is dining on at a sidewalk cafe in Venice Beach? Rolling Stone appears determined to test the limit.
But their last few issues have been a pleasant surprise. Three weeks ago, Matt Taibbi penned an exceptionally painful piece on the inner workings of Congress entitled Four Amendments and a Funeral, and if you harbor any illusions that this country is still any kind of democracy, even a representative one, don’t go near that piece. And the latest issue boasts some solid stories on the White Stripes and a Brazilian slavery ring. Plus, Taibbi hits another one out of the park with a story about war prostestor Cindy Sheehan, which rightfully pulls no punches for either the president or the pack of left-wing leeches who would start calling the sky green if Bush called it blue. He nails why Sheehan’s an important figure and why she’s got hardline Bushies running very scared:
“In the Sixties, the anti-war movement was part of a cultural revolution: If you opposed Vietnam, you were also rejecting the whole rigid worldview that said life meant going to war, fighting the Commies, then coming back to work for the man, buying two cars and dying with plenty of insurance. That life blueprint was the inflexible expectation of the time, and so ending the war of that era required a visionary movement.
“Iraq isn’t like that. Iraq is an insane blunder committed by a bunch of criminal incompetents who have managed so far to avoid the lash and the rack only because the machinery for avoiding reality is so advanced in this country. We don’t watch the fighting, we don’t see the bodies come home and we don’t hear anyone screaming when a house in Baghdad burns down or a child steps on a mine.
“The only movement we’re going to need to end this fiasco is a more regular exposure to consequence. It needs to feel its own pain. Cindy Sheehan didn’t bring us folk songs, but she did put pain on the front pages. And along a lonely Texas road late at night, I saw it spread.”
I’ve busted on Taibbi before, but in recent work he seems to have reined in his sanctimonious-jackass persona and focused on the subject at hand–and turned in some of the best political and cultural writing of the year as a result. I look forward to more from him and more from Rolling Stone.