Matt Taibbi '87 Speaks at CA

Posted February 26, 2009


Rolling Stone political columnist Matt Taibbi, a graduate of Concord Academy’s Class of 1987, shared stories of his unconventional career at an assembly Thursday, including his stints as a professional basketball player in Mongolia, as the founder of an underground newspaper in Russia, and, more recently, as chronicler of the American characters we know as politicians.

“My entire life story’s a lesson about what not to do,” Taibbi began, a believable intro to a variety of shocking anecdotes—mostly from his years in Russia—about publishing a fake issue of the Moscow Times that triggered diplomatic calls to Washington, conning Mikhail Gorbachev into believing the New York Jets wanted to hire him as the team’s “perestroika coordinator,” and finding three ex-KGB agents in his room the day after he wrote “one negative line” about the president of Uzbekistan.

Taibbi originally studied Russian so he could read favorite authors in their native language, then ended up spending several years in Russia, where, besides doing serious and less-than-serious reporting, he worked as a bricklayer in Siberia, a servant in a monastery, a student in a Russian high school, a clown, and a moonshine dealer.

The shenanigans continued when Taibbi started an alternative newspaper, The Beast, in Buffalo, and later wrote for Rolling Stone and other publications. He went undercover to run a Florida campaign office for the Bush campaign; covered John Kerry while wearing a gorilla suit; and, for research on a book about religion, joined an apocalyptic church in Texas.

Antics aside, incisive, bold, and descriptive writing has made a name for Taibbi, who won a 2008 National Magazine Award for his commentary. He has called Sarah Palin “a symbol of everything that is wrong with the modern United States” and Hillary Clinton a “factory-produced fraud.” But even Rolling Stone has its limits. “I was going to go to an event in a Dorothy costume,” he said, “but my editor wouldn’t allow it.”

Rolling Stone political columnist Matt Taibbi, a graduate of Concord Academy’s Class of 1987, shared stories of his unconventional career at an assembly Thursday, including his stints as a professional basketball player in Mongolia, as the founder of an underground newspaper in Russia, and, more recently, as chronicler of the American characters we know as politicians.

« Back