Matt Taibbi and the New Age of American Communication

By Barry Eitel

Veteran Rolling Stone journalist and best-selling author Matt Taibbi is giving one of two keynote addresses at the 2017 DMA Email Evolution Conference this May in New Orleans. The provocative choice might have some prospective attendees wondering: What is one of the leading political and cultural commentators of our age doing at a conference about email?

At a time when politics seem to invade all corners of life and polarization is at unprecedented levels, communication is more important than ever. And email remains one of the most dominant forms of personal communication in 2017.

In this light, the choice of Taibbi makes a lot of sense.

He is the author of The New York Times best-seller The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap, a book published in 2014 that feverishly explores income inequality in America, especially in how the justice system treats white-collar criminals and blue-collar criminals differently.

“What I ended up finding is that it’s incredibly easy for people who don’t have money to go to jail for just about anything,” Taibbi said in an interview with NPR. “There’s almost an inverse relationship between the ease with which you can put a poor person in jail for, say, welfare fraud, and the difficulty that prosecutors face when they try to put someone from a too-big-to-fail bank in jail for a more serious kind of fraud.”

He is also the author of Griftopia, about the 2008 financial crisis, and The Great Derangement, loosely covering the Iraq War and the homefront’s reactions to it. He skewered the Democratic Party in his 2004 campaign diary Spanking the Donkey.

His latest release, Insane Clown President, collects his reporting from the past two years about the political rise of Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States.

“This is the most extraordinary political story, I think, in our history,” he said in an interview with Democracy Now about the book. “I don’t think anything has ever—on this scale, has ever happened before. Trump—what people need to remember about Trump is—they’re overwhelmed by the horror of it right now, but they have to remember also that this was an extraordinary story about how democracy, in a weird way, does work.”

Much like his writing, Taibbi’s talks are both extremely funny and often profound. He frequently leaves listeners contemplating the fundamental American institutions we don’t often question in our everyday lives.

“[Trump] penetrated all of these different layers, these barriers to power that had been thrown up to ordinary people,” he continues. “And he was a true outsider, who somehow made it past all those barriers, through all these loopholes that we had left open. And I think that’s an amazing story that we need to focus on. How did that happen?”

Part of the goal of organizers of the Email Evolution conferences is to ask big questions about not just email, but the society it connects every minute. Taibbi promises to challenge and enlighten attendees by highlighting the varied and rich tapestry of human experiences beyond the realm of digital marketing.

This article is brought to you by the DMA. Click here to register for Email Evolution Conference, May 1-3, 2017, in New Orleans.