In 2005, Matt Taibbi, who describes himself as a former heroin addict, wrote a column for the New York Press titled, “The 52 Funniest Things About the Upcoming Death of the Pope.” In the piece, he listed things like Pope John Paul II losing continence and insects eventually eating the pontiff’s brain as especially humorous.
Taibbi’s editor subsequently quit, in part because of differences of opinion over publishing Taibbi’s work.
Taibbi has admitted he was high, in a Vicodin haze, at the time he wrote it.
According to journalist James Verini, who writes for publications including The New Yorker, National Geographic and Vanity Fair, Mr. Taibbi attacked him in a restaurant when he criticized a book he co-wrote with his former colleague.
I would advise anyone who dwells on insects eating a world leader’s brain (Pope John Paul II), or asserts that a man with more than 60 honorary doctoral degrees has no brain (Dr. Ben Carson) or writes that one of the world’s leading businessmen (Rupert Murdoch) is dirt (i.e. scum), ought to begin to wonder about the dead or dying parts of himself.
Now, Taibbi, who is a contributor to Rolling Stone, has an article in the magazine in which he calls Rupert Murdoch “deviant scum,” with media holdings “whose next step down was the Third Reich” and states that Ben Carson is “living proof that you don’t need to have a brain in order to operate on one.”
I have never evaluated Matt Taibbi and have never even met him. But it doesn’t take a psychiatrist to theorize why anyone would have such intense antipathy for men who believe deeply in individual autonomy and possibilities and would resort to grotesque jokes about them, who would revel in the death of one of them or engage in the kind of name-calling that would get a high school kid expelled.
It doesn’t take a psychiatrist to theorize why anyone would be thin-skinned enough to physically assault someone who criticizes his writing.
Such a person must feel very weak inside.
He must be disconnected enough from his own real self to reflexively despise anyone who stands (as I believe Pope John II did, and Rupert Murdoch and Ben Carson both do) for the idea that the self -- the authentic core of a human being, with unique, God-given potential -- is the source of our greatest individual and cultural possibilities.
People who feel weak because they are disconnected from the truth about themselves, perhaps fearing it, are vulnerable to addiction -- until they search inside themselves, for real. That’s why people like Matt Taibbi need the next ounce of heroin while they are using it: It insulates them from introspection. It makes them feel superhuman when they actually feel less than human.
This is why people like Matt Taibbi are drawn to nations like Russia, where Taibbi spent an extended period, where individual freedom and autonomy is denigrated.
Seen this way, I would advise anyone who dwells on insects eating a world leader’s brain (Pope John Paul II), or asserts that a man with more than 60 honorary doctoral degrees has no brain (Dr. Ben Carson) or writes that one of the world’s leading businessmen (Rupert Murdoch) is dirt (i.e. scum), ought to begin to wonder about the dead or dying parts of himself.
I would urge anyone who uses so many references to decay to search for what true possibilities for his life he has buried -- whether out of fear or frustration or having to forget about them, in order to deal with pain in childhood.
I would do this because I believe that even someone who hates greatly -- starting, no doubt, with himself and then projecting that antipathy toward others -- retains the possibility to heal and to realize his greatest possibilities. This is, after all, the promise of the Resurrection, of rebirth, available to anyone who believes that he has a soul, connected to God, and that he is, therefore, even more than a brain and much more than anything that insects can devour.
I’d like to have coffee with Matt Taibbi. Not as a psychiatrist, but as a fellow man. I know he might spew vindictive words. I know he might throw coffee. But I have sat with much more violent men in search of the best parts of themselves -- and helped to find them.
Keith Ablow, M.D. has held a fundraiser for Dr. Ben Carson's political campaign.