Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empireby Published 10 Oct 2007
|Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire.pdf|
|Publisher||Grove Press, Black Cat|
Smells Like Dead Elephants is a brilliant collection from Matt Taibbi, “a political reporter with the gonzo spirit that made Hunter S. Thompson and P. J. O’Rourke so much fun” (The Washington Post).
Bringing together Taibbi’s most incisive and hilarious work from his “Road Work” column in Rolling Stone, Smells Like Dead Elephants shines an unflinching spotlight on the corruption, dishonesty, and sheer laziness of our leaders. Taibbi has plenty to say about George W. Bush, Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay, and all the rest, but he doesn’t just hit inside the Beltway.
He gets involved in the action, infiltrating Senator Conrad Burns’s birthday party under disguise as a lobbyist for a fictional oil firm that wants to drill in the Grand Canyon. He floats into apocalyptic post-Katrina New Orleans in a dinghy with Sean Penn.
He goes to Iraq as an embedded reporter, where he witnesses the mind-boggling dysfunction of our occupation and spends three nights in Abu Ghraib prison. And he reports from two of the most bizarre and telling trials in recent memory: California v. Michael Jackson and the evolution-vs.-intelligent-design trial in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Equally funny and shocking, this is excellent work from one of our most entertaining writers.
Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire Reviews
My first reaction when I read Matt Taibbi was that
he's a little too similar to H.S. Thompson, right down
to the syntax.
On the other hand, I could think of worse things to be than
similar to H.S. Thompson. You literally cannot do politics better than 'Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail'. But you sure can try, I suppose.
I could probably pay a handsome sum to have Thompson at his prime writing about the Bush years, but since he's dead, I guess Taibbi would be the next best thing.
As it is, I love the way Taibbi savages all the idiots we have for leaders, and does it so effortlessly. There really is a severe lack of acknowledgment for the sheer absurdity in so much of the writing and coverage of what has happened to this country, and I love when it happens.
The thing that struck me about this book is the fact that the stories were written in 2005-2006 and here we are, six to seven years later dealing with the same issues and worse. Which only goes to prove, I guess, that the more things change, the more they remain the same.
Most of the politicians come off in a bad light - not a big surprise, but I didn't realize just how underhanded they are. There are exceptions - Representative Bernie Sanders is one who deserves a medal and/or sainthood.
Matt Taibbi is a pissed off but thoughtful writer and he covers everything from the Michael Jackson trial to the Jack Abramoff scandal to the aftermath of the levee failures in New Orleans. The last story is titled, The Worst Congress Ever, but it's dated November 2, 2006. I'm wondering how Mr. Taibbi would categorize our latest Congress?
"Elephants" is an critical, often harsh firsthand account of some of the most important political events/stories of the recent past: Abu Ghraib, Abramoff, Katrina, Enron, etc. Hilarious, insightful, and with a voice sorely needed in an era of media conglomeration and corporatism, "Smells like dead elephants" is "a shocking portrait of our government at work, or rarely working." His 4th is collected work of articles compiled form his column in Rolling Stone. Although still reminiscent of H.S. Thompson, "Smells like Dead Elephants, Dispatches From a Rotting Empire" strays a bit thankfully from Taibbi's more overtly Thompsonseque title' "Spanking the Donkey." Written In true Gonzo form (noted twice on the cover)"Elephants" is Damn good and Further defines Matt's place in that style championed by Wolfe. Damn good
You can catch his appearances on Real time With Bill Maher as a "real time political correspondent."
Episodes or dispatches from the disasters of Bush’s second term. Taibbi retains interest whether reporting on the corrupt do nothing congress, or where the thin veneer of civilization is wiped away to reveal the uncaring face of reality. For these later parts his trip into post-Katrina New Orleans with Sean Penn is piece of reporting worthy of Heller or Thompson, a piece of apocalyptic comedy equal parts satire and deadly serious, and three surreal days in Abu Ghraib.
Towards the end of the year 2006, this former "Conservative Christian" Bush/Iraq War apologist began to have second thoughts. Iraq was really the big issue that made me rethink - I still thought we did the right thing by going and removing Saddam, but the fact that we were still there just didn't make any sense to me any more. In the lead-up to the 2008 election, I actually began listening to the other side a bit, and kind of liked that Obama guy. When McCain argued that we needed to stay in Iraq, it was all over for me. That began my trip from Conservative to the fully credentialed Liberal that I am today.
This book by Taibbi is a collection of storied about the corruption, greed, lies, and just full blown idiocy that went on during the Bush years. Taibbi gives us a tour of the House of Representatives, and we see how they have completely shut out democracy - pushing through bills that would never survive a popular vote by writing them in fascist committees in dark backrooms and then presenting them for a last minute "emergency" vote with no time to actually read the bill that is being passed.
It was surreal going back and reliving some of the events of these years that I was practically asleep for. I was sitting at Champy's Chicken - a joint in Chattanooga that looks like it was air-lifted out of the bayou's of New Orleans into the center of town - reading about how Taibbi went into post-Katrina New Orleans with Sean Penn and observed the dystopian reality the town had become. If for no other reason, that chapter makes the whole book worth it. But it is amazing to me how far on the inside Taibbi was able to get for so many of the events during this period, and the resulting look behind the curtain is powerful and important.