Speaking with podcast host Russell Brand, former Rolling Stone contributing editor Matt Taibbi explained one reason for many Americans having contempt for journalists, asserting, “They see us as people who write about them as hicks and losers and idiots and who are not on their side. And why wouldn’t they hate us?”
Brand asked if there was a base of a “professional class of people” that doesn’t like “sort of working-class people.” Taibbi answered:
I think a ton of this has to do with class and certain natural class antipathy. Just in my business, when my father was coming up in journalism in the 60’s and 70’s, journalists were not upper class people; it was more like a trade than a profession. The people who worked the newspaper, they were more like the sons and daughters of plumbers and electricians. They were never Ivy-League educated rich people. And then a lot of things happened, including the movie “All the President’s Men,” and it became like a sexy profession for upper-class people to go into.
“By the time I went into journalism, it was all people like me, it was upper-class kids who had gone to good schools and whose attraction to the job was being close to figures in power,” he explained. “They wanted to be kind of behind the rope line; they wanted to have a beer with Hillary Clinton’s aide at night. That was sort of their ambition in life was to socially hang out with all these people and they did not have a connection to the ordinary working class person, which journalists once did because they were those people; that’s where they came from.”
He delineated how former President Trump sensed during the 2016 campaign the genuine anger much of the American electorate had for journalists:
So I saw this very graphically in 2016; I covered Trump’s campaign and we would be going from place to place. If you’ve ever been to a campaign event, the press is usually on a riser in the middle of the hall and they’re kind of roped off and they look like zoo animals; they’re on display in this really uncomfortable way. And everybody inside the press section looks like an upper-class nerd; they wear the same smart glasses; they wear the same corny Urban Outfitters outfits, right?
And Trump picked up early in the campaign on the fact that the people in the hall did not like the people on the risers. And he started to —like a comedian, he started to feel out the crowd a little bit, and he would say things like, “Look at those bloodsuckers; they hate me; they hate you; they want nothing more than for me to lose” … and people would turn toward us; they’d throw stuff at us, and a lot of people inside the press section couldn’t handle it and didn’t understand it.
“I was saying, ‘What about this doesn’t make sense? Of course they hate us,’” he continued. “They see us as people who write about them as hicks and losers and idiots and who are not on their side. And why wouldn’t they hate us, right? And this is — this is — this is the fundamental cultural divide in America. It’s between upper-class, college-educated, mostly cosmopolitan city people and kind of everybody else. And there is, the — you know, the — the — the media class in particular, it just does — it has no idea what people in red states or out there think like or what they’re like, what — what they care about, what their lives are like, what — what working three jobs to support kids without health insurance. They just don’t know. There’s this natural tendency to have all kinds of fantasies about what those people are like and they’re often wrong.”