Part of a dying breed of liberals who predate the requirement to sync up with “thought leaders” 25 years and untold IQ points their junior – fellow Substack exile Glenn Greenwald and Bill Maher come to mind – Taibbi cut his teeth in the Hunter S. Thompson Gonzo Journalism Chair at Rolling Stone, where he covered politics in the early 2000s. Neither the Left nor Rolling Stone are what they used to be, but Taibbi hasn’t changed much.
Wryly noting the film, in which Matt Walsh takes on the radical transgender ideology movement by asking gibberish-spewing activists the film’s eponymous question, is “simultaneously the most talked-about and most ignored documentary in the world,” Taibbi dives in like a man who can no longer be canceled.
“What is a Woman?” A Movie That Should Be Reviewed, For One Thing,” reads the headline on Taibbi’s Substack. “Matt Walsh pranks the pants off America’s silliest intellectuals, and the sad thing is, it wasn’t hard at all.”
Taibbi doesn’t say where he stands on Walsh’s central question and even confesses to recently hesitating to post his own interview with a feminist critic of the ideology out of fear of “blowback.” He worries at one point about someone being legitimately transphobic and says he “violently” disagrees with Walsh on many topics. Yet Taibbi sympathizes with flyover folks who recoil as hulking biological male and reigning NCAA swimming champ Lia Thomas “massacres” a pool full of relatively tiny women. Castigating into silence people with questions is no way to win an argument, in Taibbi’s view.
But that is precisely the way the new Left enforces its groupthink compliance, and it is on display in Taibbi’s career arc as clearly as it is in “What is a Woman?” Taibbi credits Walsh for gamely and bravely engaging on what has become the latest third rail of neoliberalism. And he faults many of the film’s pro-trans interview subjects, who “mock themselves” by dismissing the most basic question of all with scornful gobbledygook.
“Most are used to having their bullshit rubber-stamped and don’t realize they’re playing themselves,” writes Taibbi, who cites a college professor triggered by Walsh’s “transphobic” use of the word “truth.” “Walsh is a ham and a satirist, a creature we never used to see on the political right decades ago. The verbose absurdity of modern leftist thought, coupled with the astonishing absence of a sense of humor in the landscape from whence the most extreme ideas come, has willed conservative comedy into being.”
One interview subject who Taibbi aptly describes as “well-meaning” and a “good sport,” does try to engage on the issue. Gert Comfrey, a Tennessee marital and family therapist, a biological female who claims to be a man, delivers an incomprehensible ramble about “modalities” and “certain imperatives” before cutting to the chase.
“We know now that… some women have penises, right?” Comfrey says. “Some men have vaginas.”
If humankind’s collective understanding of basic biology has done a 180-degree turn in the last five minutes, people have a right to scratch their heads, Taibbi posits.
“The message of “What is a Woman?” is not only are there no simple answers to the questions and reservations felt by millions of ordinary people about ‘gender affirmation’ (including huge numbers of Democrats, as polls in places like Florida show), but the movie shows academic after academic and activist after activist seething at the mere implication that they should have to explain themselves,” Taibbi writes. “Their attitude is positively medieval: ‘We keep the Bible in Latin for a reason!”
Noting that the liberal media has squelched as “bigotry” any earnest questions about “what by any estimation is an incredibly difficult subject,” Taibbi acknowledges that The Daily Wire is one of the few organizations able to make a documentary like “What is a Woman?”
Taibbi canvased a handful of fellow liberals “who’ve gotten in the soup over this issue.” They agreed that the film was skillfully executed, and one praised Walsh for taking himself “less seriously than the people he interviewed.” But some feminists bristled at the final scene, in which Walsh performs the purportedly deeply sexist task of opening a jar for his wife.
“But overall, I’d say these figures rated the movie a net plus,” Taibbi said of his focus group.
The Left’s hostile unwillingness to explain its ever-changing social and cultural doctrines is about to have political consequences, Taibbi warns. Democrats are poised to get blown out in the midterm elections, and at least part of the reason is their impatience with common people who keep missing memos about what is permissible to believe.
“There is a perception that these relatively new controversies have been declared undebatable, by a priesthood of experts who feel above talking to the unwashed,” Taibbi writes.
“Ignoring popular discontent or confusion on principle isn’t a strategy that can ever work, for any political movement,” he adds. “Walsh’s movie exposes this, and give him credit — he got the people inclined to hate him the most to make his arguments for him.”
If today’s hard leftists ever wonder what happened to their movement’s intellectual firepower, it may dawn on them that they purged people like Matt Taibbi for the crime of engaging the ideas – and films – of people with whom they “violently” disagree.