Tag Archives: Rolling Stone

In ‘The Last Mag’, Nishant Patel is Fareed Zakaria

DILIP CHAWARE writes from New Jersey: The Last Magazine is Michael Hastings’s novel which has been published a year after his death. This controversial young journalist, who worked for Newsweek as a war correspondent, died last year in a car accident in Los Angeles when he was just 33.

Very few were aware about this book, which was resurrected from his laptop.

The novel, though, is a portrayal of real life within a major news organisation, the nexus between the government and the media and broadly discusses the relevance and future of the print medium.

Hastings is back in the news owing to his Rolling Stone article published in 2012, surrounding the recent release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl by the Taliban. The article dealt with Bergdahl’s army platoon.

Various references in the novel The Last Magazine clearly identify its main players.

The character of Nishant Patel is in fact Fareed Zakaria, then international editor of Newsweek. Patel is painted as having a mega ego.

Zakaria’s bête noir is Jon Meacham, (Sanders Berman in the novel), the managing editor.

Patel and Berman vie with each other to appear on television.

Both want to be visible and compete to write cover stories for Newsweek.

Hastings captures a turbulent period of half a decade, beginning 2002. It is a difficult time for a sensitive journalist and centres on the war with Iraq.

Hastings implies by innuendo that the news media in the US collaborated with the government while covering the conflict. He lampoons all and sundry, based on his firsthand experience as a frontline war correspondent.

Hastings lost his girlfriend Andi Parhamovich, who was killed in 2007 when her convoy was ambushed in Iraq. She was an aid worker. He wrote a book I Lost My Love in Baghdad, based on that experience.

His second-last book, The Operators was published in 2012. It is about the US military presence in Afghanistan. That book was a result of an article Hastings wrote in Rolling Stone.

The incisive article proved to be the death knell for the career of Gen Stanley A. McChrystal, the US supreme commander in Afghanistan.

Hastings worked as an intern in Newsweek for a year 2002-3. This was the time the US escalated its war with Iraq. This was also the period when the electronic medium was seen overshadowing the print medium.

The Last Magazine deals with a professional’s dilemma and the dejection he felt due to the decline of professionalism of the print medium. His grim predictions proved too true in the case of Newsweek, which had to fold up.

His wife Elise Jordan was instrumental in publishing the unfinished novel on the first anniversary of his death. Hastings was 25 when he first went to Baghdad.

Due to the death of Andi Parhamovich, he was diagnosed of suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder. Jordan, a Yale graduate was a speechwriter for then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She was an avid advocate of war against Iraq.

Hastings and Jordan’s courtship started in 2010 in Kabul. While he was working on the McChrystal article, she was on a freelance assignment a magazine. They married in 2011.

Hastings died at 4.20 am last year on June 18 as his Mercedes crashed into a tree in Los Angeles. His death became grist for the conspiracy theorists for some time. But the coroner declared that he had marijuana and trace methamphetamines in his blood.

Hastings is no more but the debate he unleashed rages on.

(Dilip Chaware is a former journalist with The Times of India, Bombay)

Photograph: courtesy Amazon

Also read: Will this man be the next US secretary of state?

Fareed Zakaria: a barometer in a good suit

Iran to China, Newsweek has the world covered

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When a music magazine takes on Goldman Sachs

It is probably applicable to other spheres of journalism as well, but it is surely no exaggeration to state that business journalism has completely lost the ability to tell it like it is.

Unless, it is some small, worthless, unimportant target.

Reporters, writers and editors, fearful of losing “access”, are held hostage by PR, freebies, and worse. Publishers and proprietors, trying to squeeze every dollar, are indebted to advertising. Etc.

Result: readers, viewers, listeners, surfers are served up numbers and theories held up by hope.

Little wonder it took a comedian (Jon Stewart) to buttonhole a “mad” CNBC anchor (Jim Cramer).

Little wonder it has taken a music magazine to throw light on the “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”

Take a bow, Matt Taibbi (in picture).

The Rolling Stone columnist, who has been compared to Hunter S. Thompson, sticks a long, sharp knife into the investment bank in the latest issue of the magazine, calling it a “planet-eating Death Star of political influence”, accusing it of engineering every major market manipulation since the Great Depression of 1929.

The internet bubble, the housing bubble, the oil-price bubble, and the coming “carbon-credit” bubble (hello, Jairam Ramesh) are all the handiwork of Goldman Sachs, writes Taibbi, accusing the company of an incestuous old boy network to shut out competitors, prevent regulation, and stay out of trouble in perpetuity.

“They achieve this using the same playbook over and over again. The formula is relatively simple: Goldman positions itself in the middle of a speculative bubble, selling investments they know are crap. Then they hoover up vast sums from the middle and lower floors of society with the aid of a crippled and corrupt state that allows it to rewrite the rules in exchange for the relative pennies the bank throws at political patronage. Finally, when it all goes bust, leaving millions of ordinary citizens broke and starving, they begin the entire process over again, riding in to rescue us all by lending us back our own money at interest, selling themselves as men above greed, just a bunch of really smart guys keeping the wheels greased.”

Goldman Sachs responded to Taibbi’s article through Reuters blogger Felix Salmon, calling the Rolling Stone piece “hysterical”; “a compilation of every conspiracy theory ever dreamed up about Goldman Sachs”.

“We reject the assertion that we are inflators of bubbles and profiteers in busts, and we are painfully conscious of the importance of being a force for good,” Lucan Van Praag, Goldman Sachs’ top flack, writes.

Matt Taibbi responds in kind, answering every spineless reporter/editor’s feeble excuse about “giving the other side a chance”, about being “balanced” and “objective”.

“My feeling is that companies like Goldman Sachs have a virtual monopoly on mainstream-news public relations; for every one reporter like me, or like far more knowledgeable critics like Tyler Durden, there are a thousand hacks out there willing to pimp Goldman’s viewpoint on things in the front pages and ledes of the major news organizations. And there are probably another thousand poor working stiffs who are nudged into pushing the Goldman party line by their editors and superiors….

“Goldman has its alumni pushing its views from the pulpit of the U.S. Treasury, the NYSE, the World Bank, and numerous other important posts; it also has former players fronting major TV shows. They have the ear of the president if they want it. Given all of this, I personally think it’s absurd to talk about the need for “balance” in every single magazine and news article. I understand that some people feel differently, but that’s my take on things.”

There have been even wild accusations of “anti-Semitism” in Taibbi’s piece (he is Arab-American) against “the most prototypically Jewish firm around.”

Taibbi has also been accused of picking on Goldman Sachs when there were plenty of other bandicoots with their hands in the loot, like, say, Morgan Stanley.

“Why didn’t we write about Morgan? Because we didn’t. Because it’s your turn, you assholes. Maybe later someone will tell the story of the other banks, but for now, while most ordinary people are only just learning about the workings of the financial innovation era that blew up in their faces last year, the top dog in that universe is going to be first in line to get the special treatment.”

Read the Rolling Stone article: The great American bubble machine

Read Matt Taibbi’s blog: Taibblog

Read an interview with Matt Taibbi

Visit Goldman Sachs’ unofficial blog

If you’re full of shit but want to make a living…

Matt Taibi, Rolling Stone political reporter:

“If you have no real knowledge or skill set and you’re lazy and full of shit but you want to make a decent wage, then journalism’s not a bad career option.

“The great thing about it is that you don’t need to know anything. I mean this whole notion of journalism school—I can’t believe people actually go to journalism school. You can learn the entire thing in like three days.

“My advice is instead of going to journalism school, go to school for something concrete like medicine or some kind of science or something and then use the knowledge you get in that field as a wedge to get yourself into journalism.

“What journalism really needs is more people who are reporting who actually know something. Instead of having a bunch of liberal arts grads who’ve read Siddhartha 50 times writing about health care, it would be really nice if some of the people who are writing about health care were doctors.”

Read the full interview: The vigilante journalist