Friday, June 24, 2011

Hot-shot Rolling Stone writer fakes trip to Stillwater and smears town

'Celebreporter' Matt Taibbi portrays Bachmann's hometown as 'no black people' and 'retro-Stepford'

By Karl Bremer

On June 20, I speculated about whether Stillwater was destined to become the next Wasilla as a result of clueless national reporters looking for the heart of Bachmann Country here in the St. Croix Valley. It only took two days for Rolling Stone celebreporter Matt Taibbi to prove my point when he posted his cut-and-paste story on Bachmann online and took the hatchet to Stillwater as well.

Taibbi has never set foot in Stillwater, but that didn’t stop him from coming up with this long-distance description of us, and how we are somehow responsible for producing Michele Bachmann:

“Moving back to Minnesota, she and Marcus settled in Stillwater, a town of 18,000 near St. Paul, where they raised their five children and took in 23 foster kids. Stillwater is a Midwestern version of a Currier & Ives set piece, complete with cozy homes, antique stores — and no black people. In short, the perfect launching pad for a political career built on Bachmann's retro-Stepford image. Stillwater's congressional district is the whitest district in Minnesota (95 percent) and one of the wealthiest in America (with a median income $16,000 above the national average).”
But that wasn’t Taibbi’s only crime. Virtually his entire article was based on Bachmann background information, stories and quotes from previously published work by local writers, including myself. Yet there was not one attribution or link given to anyone else. In fact, many of the quotes and passages like the one above leave the reader with the clear impression that it was Rolling Stone Correspondent Matt Taibbi who conducted the interview and on-the-ground research and not some unpaid blogger or alt-weekly writer.

Abe Sauer took note of the simmering controversy over Taibbi’s piece and ran with it on The Awl. He chased down Rolling Stone Executive Editor Eric Bates, who told him he cut out the attributions to Taibbi’s sources due to space constraints. Really? Space constraints in an online article? Does this guy think we just rolled off the rutabaga truck?

Bates did agree to provide some links to original sources in the online version, but those won’t appear in the print edition.

Sauer also talked to Taibbi, who ‘fessed up to never having visited Stillwater. That was obvious. But I’d still like to know how the Big City reporter came up with his racially-charged profile of Stillwater-as-Stepford.

Taibbi took some well-deserved lumps from Sauer for his theft of other writers' material. But that won’t matter to the millions of others who read his piece or saw him on Keith Olbermann’s show bragging about how he found all this stuff on the internet.

Matt Taibbi may know how to use the Google. But he seems to have forgotten how to use his ethics manual. The next time he wants to become an insty-expert on a Minnesota politician or her hometown, he should look a little beyond the Hudson River.


  1. The article looked a little too pat yesterday.
    "Cut and Paste Journalism"
    Lies and internet plagiarism are the in thing.

  2. Karl,

    Taibbi may not have provided links, but he interviewed numerous people for the article. Some were bloggers, others local leaders, others elected officials who worked with Bachmann. Some were cited, some were not. I know, because I'm one of those that was not cited. And I'm not mad about it; that's how the cookie crumbles sometimes.

    The fact is that you have absolutely no basis for these accusations other than that there *is* background information available on Congresswoman Bachmann and that Taibbi didn't cite any of it directly.


    Take the Rolling Stone piece for what it is -- a fairly brutal and honest assessment of Michele Bachmann's place in our national dialogue, heed the warning it issues, and accept the help from the first big-name traditional-media to say the things about her we here in Minnesota have long known to be true.

  3. "Accept help" from "big-name" Matt Taibbi's petty theft, sloppy reporting and smearing of Stillwater? No thanks. If Matt Taibbi is your kind of hero, Joe, you can have him. And if you agree with his assessment of Stillwater, I'd suggest you not show your face around these parts anytime soon.

  4. Joe, it's no honor to be robbed... read what G.R. Anderson has to say:

  5. So Karl, you're saying that if someone has a differing opinion from you about your town, it's okay to threaten them? Sounds exactly like what Taibbi was saying.

    And I'm going to post this anonymously so as not to endanger myself or family from those of your ilk.

  6. Not at all. Take off your tinfoil hat, "anonymous." I'm just saying don't expect Stillwater to roll out the welcome mat for anyone who thinks this town is a "retro-Stepford" with "no black people." Obviously, Joe thinks that's an "honest assessment" so I'm just suggesting he not bother coming over here.

    I'm still curious as to how Taibbi got that impression of Stillwater. Perhaps it was Bodell, since he talked to him.

  7. I was at a Breakfast with Gary (Schiff) event this morning. The topic was Independent Media. Schiff talked admiringly about this profile, so obviously it made an impression among some. It always irritates me when Bachmann is on TV against a Minneapolis backdrop - we never would vote for her. So I can fully understand Karl's annoyance with the portrayal this article did of Stillwater.

  8. How is Stillwater responsible for Michelle Bachmann? #1 The majority of us did not elect her #2 She doesn't live here, she lives in W Lakeland Twp which is closer to Afton #3 She wasn't raised here. I was anxious to read the RS article because of the great cover art of Ms B. But, I, too, was disappointed by the unflattering description of my adopted city by Mr Taibbi. But why anyone living here would slander their hometown to the national (albeit correctly-leaning political) media does not compute. If it's so bad, why not move? Now, I wonder just how accurate Mr Taibbi's portrayal of the dethroned General was and are his sources (?) feeling as Karl does?

  9. Jeff in St. PaulJune 24, 2011 at 9:45 PM

    The article is too pat in its efforts to paint Stillwater as an upscale Wasilla. In a heavily gerrymandered district that taken as a whole is a largely white conservative area, the Stepford handle does not fit nor does the "Midwestern version of a Currier & Ives set piece, complete with cozy homes, antique stores." Stillwater itself is a beautiful town with a few blocks visually fitting the sterotype Mr. Taibbi is trying to paint. The problem is, and this strikes a nerve with Mr. Bremer and others that have worked hard to expose Bachmannn, is that rather than be the conservative bastion portrayed, Stillwater is an island of sanity, A CITY SHE HAS FAILED TO CARRY TWICE.

  10. He didn't write he thinks this town is a "retro-Stepford" but that Bachmann cultivated a political career built on such an image. You then attributed it to the town. Straw man fallacy.

    He goes on to say it is a town that is 95% white and very wealthy. The implication is those would be the folks most likely to support a Stepford imaged candidate like Bachmann. It is a valid theory to explain how someone like Bachmann gets into office.

    At 95% white it is, for voting purposes, a town without blacks.

    I can be for splitting hairs but only when it maintains factual accuracy and does not twist original meaning or quote out of context.

  11. Just in case anybody else wondered, according to census data Stillwater does have 48 black people.

  12. dear karl, this comment, is not really anything to do with this story, per say, but, more about how broken, corrupt, and greedy, (just to name a few), our whole society is. It is an epidemic.
    Frankly, it makes me sick. I seen you on 'democracy now' today, and you made a comment about digging into finances, etc. I have been trying to find some info, on a public
    entity, (where I live), and with no luck. do you have an e-mail address or something, so, I could pick your brain about this? thank you Karl. sincerely marcy.

  13. "Executive Editor Eric Bates, who told him he cut out the attributions to Taibbi’s sources"

    Hard to accuse Taibbi of not quoting sources when the editor claims to have cut the attributions. Yes, one could blame Rolling Stone as a whole, but Taibbi?

    In any event, if you don't like all this scrutiny you have an easy solution - stop re-electing that lunatic Bachmann. Then she can go on to work as a commentator at Fox.

  14. Albatross: Then how come in his followup on his RS blog (, Taibbi still fails to quote local sources -- outside of Bill Prendergast, upon whom he showers all his blessings?

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