Saturday, June 25, 2011

Matt Taibbi's "Attribution Issue"

Imagine my shock, Matt Taibbi's recent article failed to attribute some of his sources.

The Cutline reports:

It's been a few months since we've had ourselves a good-old plagiarism incident to get riled up about. But thanks to Rolling Stone, our sleepy summer Friday just got a bit more scandalous!

The magazine is taking some heat today for lifting quotes in Matt Taibbi's hit piece on Minnesota's 2012 Tea Party hopeful Michele Bachmann.

In the story, posted online Wednesday, Taibbi borrows heavily from a 2006 profile of Bachmann by G.R. Anderson, a former Minneapolis City Pages reporter who now teaches journalism at the University of Minnesota...the larger issue for journalism's ethical watchdogs concerns the several unattributed quotes Sauer spotted in Taibbi's piece, which Rolling Stone executive editor Eric Bates explained away by saying he'd cut out the attributions due to "space concerns" and that he would "get some links included in the story online."

At least one plagiarism "expert" doesn't buy Bates' logic.

"Attribution is the last thing an editor should cut!!!!" Jack Shafer, who is known to grill copy-stealers in his media column for Slate (and who used to edit two alt-weeklies similar to City Pages), told The Cutline via email. "How big was the art hole on that piece? Huge, I'll bet."...

"I did in fact refer to the City Pages piece in the draft I submitted," Taibbi told The Cutline. "I did not see that those attributions had been removed. I grew up in alternative newspapers and have been in the position the City Pages reporter is in, so I'm sympathetic. They did good work in that piece and deserve to be credited. But you should know also that this isn't plagiarism--it's not even an allegation of plagiarism. It's an attribution issue."

I'm shocked. Shocked I tell you. This is what I wrote about Taibbi last November:

Taibbi has been running for some time a sort of long-con, a grift, if you will, on America's intelligentsia. The intelligentsia, naturally, don't have the time to study, excess reserves, the regression theorem or praxeology, or anything else that might enlighten them as to what is currently going on in the economy. But they sure can picture Goldman Sachs as a vampire squid sucking money out of their pockets. Taibbi did paint this picture for them and, thus, Taibbi, the financial expert was born. It's doubtful he understands excess reserves, the regression theorem or praxeology, either, but by borrowing from a web site here, and a web site there, he does put together a string of paragraphs in a form the intelligentsia can appreciate, by also borrowing from the writing style of Hunter S. Thompson...

[Taibbi's book] Griftopia has the most unusual acknowledgements I have ever seen in a book. It is really more of an explanation as to why Taibbi doesn't need to acknowledge anyone.
So I say, fire my ashes out of a cannon, who would have thought an attribution issue surrounding Matt Taibbi?

(Thanks 2 a Comment left by Lila Rajiva)


  1. There's also the constant diversion of attention on the Fed. And anytime the subject of Ron Paul comes up, he's strangely disparaging. Goldman Sachs does make a great bad guy, and Blankfein's "doing God's work" is so deliciously over-the-top and makes great fodder for aspiring ambitious Gonzo journalist Taibi. But there's no way Taibi can logically ignore the Fed as the real villain behind the bubble. This is no surprise at all. But I am surprised that he thought he could get away with it. This was a highly covered article. It's impossible that the connection wouldn't be noticed, immediately. But for some reason he's not taking the fall, even though there is no way this guy would do something so unprofessional.

  2. After any crisis, people want some villain to demonize and string up. Of course it's never themselves, or the institution as a whole. Enters this guy Taibbi who vilifies Goldman Sachs to a sufficient degree(who did deserve part of the blame), and now we have someone to throw stones at so we can feel righteous. Of course the whole institution is the problem, and our own greed and foolishness played a part in it as well.

  3. "a bubble in morons in the media..."

    HAHAHA, I like it,... plus, it's true.

  4. Technically, the Tiabbi article did not include plagiarism. Attributions to Anderson showed up, albeit sparsely, throughout the piece, which I thought was a very accurate portrayal of Bachmann's true nature. Those of us who have followed her career are "shocked. Shocked I tell you." (no attribution) that people could actually support such a person.