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Politics Foreign Affairs Culture

Taibbi, Twitter, And The Narrative-Makers

As we learn more about Twitter's massaging the news, Matt Taibbi and Douglas Murray make hash of mainstream media and two hapless defenders
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Hey from the middle of nowhere in Turkey, where I'm on a six-day press tour of the Seven Churches of Revelation -- that is, cities and towns whose local churches were addressed by Jesus through St. John the Theologian in the opening chapters of the book of Revelation. We started in Smyrna (called Izmir today), went to the ruins of ancient Ephesus, which was dazzling, and spent most of yestdrday on the acropolis of Pergamum. We made a quick stop at the only church ruin in what was once Thyatira, then made our way to the hotel. Went to Sardis this morning, and then Philadelphia. Lunch now, and then to Laodicea, for whose second-century church Jesus had harsh words, delivered through St. John. We're going to be in Myra on the Feast of St. Nicholas, that city's famed bishop. Then back home. Quite a trip! I'll be blogging about it soon.

I tell you this to explain why posting has been light. What a kick to get to the hotel last evening and see what Matt Taibbi has revealed on his Twitter, about how the social media giant suppressed the Hunter Biden laptop story at a crucial point just before the 2020 election. Here's where Taibbi's tweetstorm starts; click on this to read the whole thing:

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Basically, internal Twitter documents show that its senior executives suppressed commentary on the Hunter Biden laptop story, even as they knew (documents show) that they were on very shaky ground in doing so. Even Jack Dorsey wasn't full briefed on what they were doing.

After Taibbi dropped the information, some in the Liberal Media Industrial Complex rushed to denounce him. We conservatives by now are not surprised by the lack of professionalism and the extreme bias by many in our mainstream media, but now we're at the "I used to be disgusted, but now I try to be amused" stage. But nah, I can't really be amused, because the stakes are really high, and we are seeing Left elites going berserk with anger at Elon Musk, not because he is a conservative (he certainly isn't), but because he is trying to make the most important social media outlet on the planet slightly more fair and balanced. That tells you a lot about the class that rules us. They believe they have a right to control the Narrative, and wail and gnash their teeth when that power is threatened.

If you don't want to read the entire Taibbi thread, Reason magazine has a good summary. Reason points out that it's interesting to see all this, but:

But again, the informed public already knew that the mess had been made by some combination of incompetence and employees' anti-Republican biases.

The most interesting revelation in Taibbi's thread is that Twitter's top executives were warned, over and over again, that this decision was going to create a backlash like nothing they had ever seen before. Rep. Ro Khanna (D–Calif.), a progressive lawmaker, repeatedly emailed a Twitter communications staffer to complain that the firm was violating "1st Amendment principles." (He raised some very valid points in his communications with the company, though strictly speaking the First Amendment does not apply in this situation.) NetChoice, a tech industry trade association, explicitly told Twitter that this would be the company's "Access Hollywood moment." (Unlike Twitter, both Khanna and NetChoice come off looking pretty good in all this.)

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It's true that most of this stuff was known, but it's still important to have it confirmed. And it's important that more people know about this, and pressure Republican lawmakers to take some sort of action to level the playing field.

See, this is why I keep pointing to Viktor Orban as a potential model for aggressive conservative government. Orban knows very well that the establishment media are dead set against him, and have no intention of being fair. But he's not simply satisfied to stomp his feet and complain about it. In Britain, for example, the BBC is entirely captured by the political and cultural Left, but what do the Tories do about it? Nothing much, as far as I can tell (I'm open to correction). It's like they satisfy themselves with this as if it were part of the natural order.

Boy, if you missed seeing Douglas Murray and Matt Taibbi beating the snot out of Malcolm Gladwell and Michelle Goldberg in a televised Canadian debate about the trustworthiness of the Canadian mainstream media, do yourself a favor and watch Murray in this clip:

Most of the audience began the debate siding with Gladwell and Goldberg, who claimed that the mainstream media were, in fact, trustworthy. By the end of the debate, Taibbi and Murray had massively swung the audience to their side, changing the minds of 39 percent of those who heard the debate. I can't find a transcript (yet), but in his subscriber-only Substack, Taibbi says that Gladwell kept accusing Taibbi of wanting to go back to the fifties, when women and people of color weren't represented in the mainstream media. Taibbi writes that in the old days, journalists were considered to be somewhat disreputable, and had an adversarial relationship with the ruling class institutions they covered. Taibbi:

Now a corporate press pass is a status symbol, reporters tend socially to run in the same circles as the people they cover, and when presented with the growing mountain of evidence that they’ve lost the trust of the public (see this recent Gallup survey), the reflex is to declare the public defective. Toward the end of the debate, Gladwell made this exact argument. After one last time invoking my longing for the fifties, when the press was so exclusive that “people like Michelle and I wouldn’t have been on the stage,” he shifted without any hint of contradiction to question the current wisdom of having mainstream media institutions “perfectly match” the makeup of the rabble:

What would restore the trust of Matt and Doug in mainstream media? With Matt, the answer is obvious: he would like if the world resembled 1955 again. That will fill him with joy, like more stories on the Hunter Biden laptop…

I think that they would be happier if they felt that the composition of prestigious journalistic institutions more closely reflected the full range of ideological attitudes in American public issues. That is actually a serious proposition.

I don’t mean to make light of it at all, but it is one that makes me a little uncomfortable. Because I don’t think that you can ultimately say that trust in institutions is reserved solely for institutions that perfectly match the characteristics of the general population. It is like saying that we don’t trust kindergarten teachers, because kindergarten teachers are over-represented with people having an enormous amount of patience for the temper tantrums of four year olds… I mean they are an extraordinary and very specific subgroup of the population that performs very well in that particular task more generally…

I watched this performance with awe. If douchebaggery were an ice cream cone, the guy would be melting all over the stage. I almost felt bad.

When the results were announced, he scurried off stage, doubtless already carrying the germ of a new bestseller (thought the fifties-obsessed white male, acidly).

Here's a fun exchange from the Munk debate transcript (I've just read the whole thing -- link here, from Taibbi's Substack -- and Douglas Murray's bitch-slapping Malcolm Gladwell for an hour was delicious!):

I don't know what it will take to convince the mainstream media that it is failing itself and the society it is supposed to serve. Most of them are so het up on moralism and self-regard that they are ineducable. I've mentioned here before hearing a senior-level editor at a major US newspaper lament that people don't trust the media because they don't know what's good for them. She really said that. When I read the Gladwell quote from the Munk Debate, I hear that same voice. These people are so full of themselves!

Konstantin Kisin is a political centrist, but he is furious over the left-wing media's reaction to the Hunter Biden story. Read his Twitter thread, where he says, in part:

I mentioned Viktor Orban before. Let me drop this on you, because you're not going to read it in the US media, and it's a great example of the kind of thing Taibbi and Murray brought up over and over again in the Munk Debate. I've said here that living in Hungary for a few months in 2021, and again in early 2022, during the election campaign, taught me a hell of a lot about the distorted picture the American media give about foreign affairs. Most of them who came to Hungary to report on the campaign had their narrative made up before they arrived, it seems. They were sure that Orban would be defeated because he criticized the Ukraine war effort. They made no real effort to talk to ordinary Hungarians (versus Budapest liberals), who were on Orban's side regarding the war. They were sure that the only way Orban could win was to rig the election. I never saw in American reporting any acknowledgement that the left-wing opposition was and is a shambles. Over and over this past spring, I had conversations with people I would meet in bars, in taxis, at parties, and so forth, in which they would rail against the Orban government ... but then concluded by saying of course they were going to vote for Orban, because the country is in a crisis, and the Left can't govern. I can't recall if I ever saw, in all the reporting about what a big bad right-wing monster Orban is, reference to the fact that the Left-led opposition coalition had brought into it a party called Jobbik, which criticized Orban from the far right, in an effort to unseat Orban.

As Douglas Murray says in that clip of the Canadian mainstream media -- that it is a handmaiden of the government -- the US mainstream media, when it comes to Hungary, is that, plus the handmaiden of globalist institutions and NGOs. Here's a story that has been news in Hungary for the past week, but which has made not a peep in the Western media. Noah Carl of the Daily Sceptic reports:

Very few people outside Hungary speak Hungarian, so practically all of the day-to-day news from that country passes us by. But an interesting scandal has been developing there over the last few months, which arguably merits wider attention.

As you may remember, Hungary held an election earlier this year, which was won decisively by Viktor Orbán’s Fidez Party. Their main opposition was the Everybody’s Hungary Movement, led by PĂ©ter Márki-Zay.

Several organisations criticised the elections on the grounds that the incumbent, Viktor Orbán, used elements of the state apparatus to promote his own party. For example, the OSCE described the elections as “well-run” and “competitive”, while noting that they were “marred by the pervasive overlapping of government and ruling coalition’s messaging”.

However, the scandal to which I referred actually concerns the opposition.

In a podcast discussion in August, opposition leader PĂ©ter Márki-Zay stated that his movement had recently received money “from America”, which was used to pay some of the campaign bills from the recent elections. The money, he explained, had come through an organisation called Action for Democracy, which was set up in February.

These comments sparked controversy, since Hungarian electoral law prohibits parties from receiving money from abroad. In Hungary, funding for election campaigns is provided to each party through the state budget. Donations from private citizens are also allowed; though above a certain amount, the donor’s name must be made public.

Carl goes on to report on results of a newly released Hungarian parliamentary investigation presenting evidence that the anti-Orban opposition was funded from abroad, in part by US government money. Here is a more detailed report from an English-language Hungarian site, which notes that opposition leader Peter Mark-Zay said this past August, after the election, that the Left had received millions in funding from abroad -- a possible violation of Hungarian and European Union law. Here's a chart produced by the parliamentary committee, showing the money connections to the Alliance For Democracy, which Marki-Zay said was the primary source of the funds (I wish the chart were entirely in English, but you can still get the point):

The gist of it is that the anti-Orban funding has been coming from the West, and it connected to prominent neoliberal NGOs. The National Endowment for Democracy is privately run but funded by Congress. If it has been pouring money into Hungarian opposition parties, then the US taxpayer has had its pocket picked to take sides in an election in a NATO ally. I remind you that the same American elite class represented in the photos above raised unshirted hell a few years ago about the idea that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election on the side of Donald Trump.

But see, when we do it -- in Hungary in 2022, in Ukraine in 2014 -- it's noble and right and democratic. And the US media won't ask any questions about whether or not is was wise or ethical for American money, including US taxpayer dollars, to go towards undermining democracy abroad in countries governed by conservatives the Washington establishment doesn't like. I'm telling you, this is the kind of thing that makes people overseas hate Americans.

One thing about Viktor Orban: he knows what he's up against, and is not shy about fighting back. At some point, it would be really nice if conservative politicians in America would understand it too, and act in their own interests, and in the interests of tens of millions of American conservatives who are exploited by these narrative-runners. This is a fight worth having.

I would love to see Douglas Murray and Matt Taibbi take their show on the road to roast the American mainstream media.

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Fran Macadam
Fran Macadam
$5 billion U.S. to overthrow the elected compromise government in Ukraine in 2014 to turn it into a satrapy under proconsul Biden. First they suppress and deny, then they blame others, but in the end they are unrepentant and openly celebrate what they did. So it is with their own internal election subversion as well, all of a piece. To putatively save Democracy, they had to pervert accountability to the public. Live not by lies? We already do.
schedule 6 months ago
    Zenos Alexandrovitch
    Zenos Alexandrovitch
    Not to mention Biden, state department representatives and DNC reps went to Alexandria and Jerusalem to call on the Patriarchs to recognize the violent Ukrainian schismatics. Alexandria did so after State Department visit. Jerusalem refused meeting and called BS on in a press release.
    schedule 6 months ago
Bogdán Emil
Bogdán Emil
There are no far-right political parties in Hungary. You can take that to the bank.

I speak fluent Hungarian, and can easily confirm that Hungary is a democracy because I have a very large family and about 95% of them seem to vote for Orbán out of genuine respect and love – I know, it’s shocking. But at this point, it’s way past time for all you guys in the Western media (Rod, I’m looking at you) to quit talking about Jobbik as some kind of racist Hungarian ogre, the secret fascist boogey-man.

Jobbik’s former leader, who resigned honorably after his party’s failed attempt to unseat Fidesz in 2018, is called Vona Gábor. I have seen some hyperventilating stuff implied about this man and his party over the years, so I like to make an effort to listen to his extended interviews. Currently he chats for hours on the radio with Schiffer András, another retired politician who was one of the founders of LMP, the committed Leftist political party claiming to be the most legit Greens of Hungary. So, the far-left chats amicably with the far-right on Hungarian radio? Please. Neither of them are extremists. Sorry. Not even close.

The infamous, intelligent, perceptive Vona Gábor aside, Jobbik is less right-wing than it ever was, it is now a small center-right party of the traditional European Christian Democrat variety. Not only did Vona Gábor leave Jobbik, who was probably the most potent force, but so did about half the party, the conservative hardliners. These previous Jobbik members have now formed the latest supposedly “far-right” political party in Hungary, called Mi Hazánk: Our Homeland. I repeat: Jobbik has moved to the center, Mi Hazánk are the hot new Magyar fascists.

Except they’re not even close. You see, the leading “far-right” figures of the Mi Hazánk movement are called Torockai László and Dúró Dóra, and although Mr. Torockai appears to want to chemically castrate pedophiles, so far that’s the most distasteful suggestion of his that I’ve been able to find. The Hungarian “far-right” are merely rock-ribbed conservatives, they’re not out of bounds conversationally in the least, in fact, they’re regularly and politely interviewed by center-left and hard-left opposition media.

Ideas are exchanged, debates are had, and yes, bread and butter issues are discussed by the “far-right” and the “far-left”, just like we often do here in America: jobs, the border, national security, international insecurity, domestic affairs, social programs, taxes, uplifting small business, families, the Roma/gypsy community, etc.

There are three conservative parties in Hungary: Fidesz, Mi Hazánk, and Jobbik, and not a single one of them is ultra-far-right, or even far-right. Mi Hazánk is hard-right, Jobbik is center-right, Fidesz is plain old right-wing. These conservative parties suck up about 70% of the vote, currently. That should tell you something, although it could speak of several things, really. But my most important point is that Hungarians are not a people of extremist bent. We are culturally developed and proud of it. We are sensible and realistic, our liberals are not really insane, and neither are our conservatives.

Hungary and the region are grappling with the legacy of four decades of communism, ultra-Leftism scientifically applied, which has turned into a giant global shame of the entire political Left, although it still hasn’t amassed the sickening reputation that fascism earned for itself. This is a point always worth hammering home: communism hasn’t been reckoned with, even though it has killed and tormented more people and strangled the natural development of societies for far longer stretches of time than fascism, and it still continues to be with us today.

If Hungary was your country: consider that you spent roughly 40 years as a legit one-party ultra-far-Left communist dictatorship, followed by roughly 20 years of economic and political transition to capitalism and democracy. During those 20 years, not only did the former communists get rich, but so did the Westerners who invested dirt cheap. I would say in such a situation, it would make sense for that society to center itself not by turning again Leftward, but more Rightward, which is what happened with Fidesz and Orbán’s second attempt at government, in 2010.

All those societies who experienced hard-Left, far-Left, ultra-Left Marxist totalitarianism and the resulting turbulence will want to try being led by conservative ideas, maybe for a few decades, at least.
schedule 6 months ago
    Fran Macadam
    Fran Macadam
    What's the situation about Marki-Zay?
    schedule 6 months ago
      Bogdán Emil
      Bogdán Emil
      Fran, weirdness shows its ugly head but the cosmic facts still speak for themselves: Fidesz and Orbán have longtime monopoly power over the apparatus, while Márki-Zay Péter is the longtime mayor of Hódmezővásárhely, he’s not in jail, and he’s not apparently heading there, for he is confidently leading his town locally and continues making his defense (and attacks) nationally. He doesn’t look the least bit worried, and appears to have no reason for worry. He claims that thousands of microdonations to his campaign were raised from Hungarian citizens living abroad, in the US and elsewhere, which I would think is normally legit practice, but for legal purposes the campaign nonetheless has to be separated from the political operation, and called a cultural transformation campaign, which then runs concurrently to the political campaign, by weird coincidence. It’s a mess, but that’s what’s happening. It's Kafkaesque legalism, so count on it.

      Márki-Zay Péter’s line is that sure, he perfectly legally and validly ran two simultaneous campaigns concurrently in the spring (one was to change the government, and the other one was to change “the culture”, which took foreign donations of… slightly murky origin?) and the Hungarian secret service’s report just recently strengthened the legitimacy of his case, meanwhile, “the system” is corrupt and full of thievery, meanwhile, he’s also the true conservative Christian, and a father of seven, who has even lived in America, who has voted for Fidesz and Orbán even as recently as 2010 (remember, Viktor Orbán has been a giant of Hungarian politics for three decades plus, and first became its prime minister in 1998), and who thinks Fidesz and Orbán are the ones that take have taken advantage of their voters’ trust, because of their corruption, thievery, and lies. You know, it’s pretty standard politics.

      Otherwise, he seems quite convinced that he is on solid legal footing with this double campaign business. I like him, I don’t think he’s a bad guy at all. The Left in Hungary is so discredited that they had to find a small-town Fidesz-critic conservative in order to lead them into battle, but without any insult to Mr. Márki-Zay, he still lacks the gravitas of an Orbán Viktor.

      (P.S. As you can see, I am making it a habit to return to the use of Hungarian name order, last name first, when referring to Hungarians.)
      schedule 6 months ago
      Bogdán Emil
      Bogdán Emil
      Probably I should add -- just in the interest of panopticon journalism -- that the longer Márki-Zay Péter sticks around the scene under the impression that he's some kind of samurai who will decapitate the dark shogun, the more rosier things may smell for Fidesz, although that's no longer something anyone should take to the bank, that's just an estimation on my part. I could be eyeing it askew, but more apt and able politicians than hizzoner have retired chastened from the arena, that's what all my eyes say, lids heavy as a stack of dictionaries. Take that, MZP, but not suggestively, again, it's just my opinion journalism, and I'm certainly not the only Hungarian who opinionates about how he is God's mesmerizing gift to Orbán, after all, I'd dare to estimate that most/many are wondering: who will follow his victoriousness, the Viktator, one day? One of these days. Right? All in due time, after years and decades pass, generations come and go, but who will _eventually_ follow the Prime Minister...

      ... the question rings out, and it echoes...

      ... it's a deep, dark well, and I wouldn't stare too long...

      ... Bull's Blood is available, too...

      I repeat: no term limits is not a problem, yet, but if someone is re-elected once, twice, thrice, then the fourth time, and the fifth time, sixth, seventh re-election, here comes the ninth term, and so on, I'm just saying: won't there eventually come a point where we start imposing term limits for philosophical reasons, no matter how much we happen to like the candidate, no matter how much we keep wanting to re-elect them? I mean, isn't that _obviously_ what happened to America with FDR? So how are term limits, are they a good idea or a bad idea? Anyway, I don't know why it should be a thorny issue, but it can be. Life, of course, is composed of plenty of thorns and toothaches, of all sorts. This is Orbán's fifth term in power. Personally, I'm a little surprised that the Hungarians are willing to be this traditionalist, but I shouldn't be. We like our kings shining and heroic and fatherly, winning battles, ruling wisely for a long time, preferably.

      MZP _possibly_ has the attributes to fill that national role, but I think so can others. And yet, no one can fill it better than Orbán Viktor, presently. That's why he sits where he sits.

      We are lucky and happy to have him. But just sitting back or clapping along is weakness. No, life is to be played. So, I do give mad shout-outs, props and respect to all the candidates who step up, including the honorable challenger, Márki-Zay Péter, and very much to the winner, Orbán Viktor.
      schedule 6 months ago
        Fran Macadam
        Fran Macadam
        I think that's the honorable course.
        schedule 6 months ago
JON FRAZIER
JON FRAZIER
Hunter Biden holds no office of public trust under his father in this administration, nor under the Obama administration.
At least Hillary's email as about someone who did hold office.
schedule 6 months ago
    Giuseppe Scalas
    Giuseppe Scalas
    Jon, but you see, that's not the point. The point is that the entire mainstream media system and social media covered up the story because they thought it could damage their candidate.
    schedule 6 months ago
      AMDG
      AMDG
      Exactly. For all of the Left’s wailing about the need for campaign finance reform because there is too much influence-peddling in politics, we had social media oligarchs doing exactly this in 2020 through ideologically-faithful gatekeepers collaborating with the Biden campaign (predominantly) to snuff out bad news leading up to November. Musk forced the issue and now the Libs have daggers out for Taibi, dragging him through the mud for showing what Dorsey already admitted was a mistake. The corruption reeks to high heaven.
      schedule 6 months ago
      Theodore Iacobuzio
      Theodore Iacobuzio
      That's his schtick. "Nothing to see here folks."
      schedule 6 months ago
    Fran Macadam
    Fran Macadam
    I realize the default position from the beginning has been "nothing to see here." However it's classic political influence peddling with millions of dollars paid into the Biden family kitty for no genuine services, with the evidence clear that the now-President shared proceeds and office space with the sshakedow, and isn't telling the truth he knew nothing about the business and didn't meet with the principals. What's particularly onerous is that much of the Ukrainian debacle that's resulted in death and destruction is tied in with financial chicanery and the cover up of corruption in Ukraine, of which this is a part.
    schedule 6 months ago
    Zenos Alexandrovitch
    Zenos Alexandrovitch
    But Hunter Biden did have his hands in Ukrainian Oil and bioweapon facilities while his Father got a prosecutor fired and personally appealed for the violent Ukrainian schismatics to be recognized by the Patriarch of Jerusalem. Not to mention the well established financial issues and influence peddling. You literally ignore all evidence for the sake of the child molester in the oval office.
    schedule 6 months ago
    Zenos Alexandrovitch
    Zenos Alexandrovitch
    Jon, why do you go so far out of your way to defend the child molester in Chief from obvious scandal?
    schedule 6 months ago
    Theodore Iacobuzio
    Theodore Iacobuzio
    Neither did Jared Kushner (OK, he was a White House "assistant", big deal), but Trump outsourced his mideast policy to him with disastrous effect. I don't think Bibi and his goon squad would be back without Jared. What do you think about young Jared, son of the ex-con?
    schedule 6 months ago
Zenos Alexandrovitch
Zenos Alexandrovitch
If Twitter was acting a proxy for the government (including receiving any kind of federal money or government agencies involved in creating a chilling effect), it was a first amendment violation. Secondly, there is a plethora of court precedent for Twitter being a privately owned public spaces. Coal mines that owned towns could not limit free speech in public areas of their townships - such is already applied to social media under the 5th circuit.
schedule 6 months ago
Theodore Iacobuzio
Theodore Iacobuzio
OK, but tag teaming Taibbi and Murray against Gladwell and Michelle Goldberg isn't what you'd call a fair fight, is it?
schedule 6 months ago
    Fran Macadam
    Fran Macadam
    Rod called it "bitch slapping" which is an unfortunate colloquial term.
    schedule 6 months ago
Eusebius Pamphilus
Eusebius Pamphilus
"I'm telling you, this is the kind of thing that makes people overseas hate Americans. "

I'm telling you, this is the kind of thing that makes Americans hate Americans.
schedule 6 months ago
    Fran Macadam
    Fran Macadam
    Fake "Diversity" is our stench - equity in evil doing.
    schedule 6 months ago