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Matt Welch: The Liberace Of Libertarians
If daily paper people were so smart, Matt Welch would be working for one of them.

For some super-prissy daily newspaper reporting about Matt's move to Washington to be editor-in-chief of Reason magazine -- one of my monthly must-reads, and some of the best and most original writing and thinking out there -- there's this goofiness, by Monica Hesse, in The Washington Post.

No, Matt Welch is not gay and auditioning to take over some role from Liza Minnelli -- Hesse just makes him sound that way.

And on Jan. 1, [Nick] Gillespie will leave his print magazine role to bulk up the presence of and His replacement is Matt Welch, a former Los Angeles Times opinion writer who wears pink vests with rhinestone buttons and has a French wife.

Uh, actually, I believe Matt has one vest that's a kind of western dusty rose-ish color, not "pink," and Matt Welch was not just an "opinion writer," but "assistant editor of the editorial pages of The Times." And he also wrote a damn good book on McCain, McCain: The Myth of a Maverick. Got Google?

As for the "French wife," referred to later in the piece simply as "Emmanuelle," her name is Emmanuelle Richard, and she writes for Libération, French Vogue, and others, and she's training to be a private eye.

The piece opens with this:

Four minutes into Reason magazine's monthly bash at the Big Hunt lounge, and every Libertarian-as-Bacchus fantasy you've entertained plays out before your widening eyes.

Nick Gillespie, the leather-jacketed, Mama-said-you're-dangerous editor of the political rag peers at you intently. "What do you need?" he asks. "Do you need a drink? A cigarette?"

A stranger reaches out to knead your shoulders. Maybe what you need is a relaxing back rub.

My, is that cloying smell in the stairwell . . . marijuana?

Yeah, they ran out of the stuff for the meth lab. Oops, seems I missed the part where they were having an orgy on the floor. Your "Libertarian-as-Bacchus" fantasy is a guy offering you a drink or a smoke? Right.

Jeez! Where'd they find this girl! I mean, I think Nick is probably snickering at both the free press and how he's made out to be "dangerous" for merely being...I guess, dangerously hospitable while wearing a leather jacket...and Matt is probably laughing, but maybe a bit less, since everyone who reads that article will expect him to show up for CNN talking-headers in a big lavender boa and matching feathered mules.

The one bit of trivia I will reveal about Matt Welch is that it's near fucking impossible to take a good picture of him.

I mean, he's a good-looking guy, and I have probably taken 100 photos of him, all told, but here's the single best one I have EVER taken of him, from the LA Press Club Awards, where he's seated next to his "French wife" Emmanuelle. Emmanuelle Richard to you, Ms. Hessssse.


Wait! I forgot. Here's one more rare shot that captures Matt accurately, from Maia Lazar's birthday at Cathy Seipp's house (sadly, Cathy didn't make it that long).


Matt's in the middle. Roman Genn is on the left, Andrew Breitbart is the one (in the shower shoe!) on the right.

Yeah, them Converse with them-there black socks; clearly the footgear of the Liberace of libertarians. (We may have to call him that from now on. In fact, I'm retitling this post was, up till now, entitled, "If Daily Paper People Were So Smart...")

There's more:

The crowd is more guys than gals, and the women who do arrive look gamine and mischievous, and like they wouldn't say no to a cigarette.

Oh. Please.

Does anyone else find use of the word "gals" by anybody who isn't eligible for Social Security a powerful emetic?

And then there's this about Emmanuelle:

At a recent event, Emmanuelle, Welch's wife, wears black leather pants with a yellow racing stripe running up each leg.

And? Is this code for something, Ms. Hesse? She probably made them look better than an Oscars dress on most women. For example, here she is on her way to your fuddyass town:


And then there's this on the rug:

Five months ago, Reason leased a space in Dupont Circle. Those high on the masthead had decided a 202 area code was necessary for clout; the new location is low on office equipment but high on sex -- flat-screen TVs, granite countertops and a large shag rug. Beige, yes, but shag.

Yes, libertarians are strange, near-extinct animals grazing between the shag. Silly, silly piece.

Oh yeah, and in typical daily paper fashion, the comments on the piece, which came out December 23, are already closed.

link via Kate Coe

Posted by aalkon at December 27, 2007 11:40 AM


"and the women who do arrive look gamine and mischievous,"

It pains me to admit I had to look up "gamine" but I felt better when I found it means "mischievous" (so gamine AND mischievous would be both pretentious AND redundant.)

Posted by: martin at December 27, 2007 8:15 AM

Thanks for this post. I'm a libertarian and regular Reason reader, too.

I imagine Hesse was slobbering over being able to pick on libertarians and an independent magazine at the same time - both of which are despised by traditional media. It seems like there have been more of these snotty little puff pieces lately and I take that as a good sign. They've finally started to acknowledge where their market share is going.

It's been amusing watching their response. My take is that on the one hand they are making "too little, too late" lame attempts to appeal to the demographics that they have lost while on the other hand they write this garbage to appeal to my grandparents and anyone else who still watches the evening news.

I'm not sure if we're seeing a permanent change in the way information is disseminated or just some lag time while old forces learn how to control new technology, but it has been fun so far.

Posted by: Shawn at December 27, 2007 8:42 AM

Boy, if I were a girl writing about politics for the Washington Post, I sure wouldn't make my column look like a piece on winter fashion for the style section.

And thanks, Shawn. PS My syndicated column is banned from the features sections of the LA Times -- although I kick their ass in the LA Press Club awards every year...beat them for first place this past year and two years before...their top op-ed writers, too, and with a funny (but science-based) advice column.

Good work, LA Times, keeping the Calendar readers safe from my writing!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 27, 2007 11:10 AM

Here, from Matt's blog, is the story, plus the letter they sent me:

My favorite line from the letter:

Additionally, we are not in the market for writers, so again, there's no need for you to continue to write us.

Translation: You don't sit around like a gray sparrow waiting for us to discover you. Also, you have a personality, and we find this threatening.

A features editor from one of the dailies that does run my column told me that a number of features editors wanted to ban me from their conferences because I...get this...wore hot pink pants. She said, "That's exactly why we need her." And argued to keep me in.

Pretty pathetic, huh?

The reason nobody reads dailies? The people at the paper doing their damndest to keep good writing out.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 27, 2007 11:15 AM

Ohhh, I can do one of those, too. And I don't even need to actually attend a party full of elite Washington liberal media types (found a photo of Monica Hesse at a party from awhile ago, but let's just pretend I was there and covered it the way she covered the Reason shindig) . . .

As I peered across the room, I saw the unmistakeably drab and stringy blonde hair of a 'serious' young editor who cares more about liberal causes than personal hygiene or proper appearance. Monica Hesse, associate editor of AARP, has the gauntness you'd expect from any serious liberal, conservation begins at home, and all eco-warriors know that self-abnegation is a big part of conservation. Despite her youth, she strives to fight for the rights of the retired, and identifies with their struggle, she even chooses outfits that would be more at home on a retiree heading out to their weekly canasta night, that's how dedicated she is to the elderly.

A few daring souls at the party at Left Bank drank the hard stuff (beer), but most were content with sparkling water, of course, those that chose bottled water over tap were chastised for their wasteful insistence on perpetuating the over-commodification of basic necessities.

All were respectful, none were flashy, and the party was festive without being too cheerful, as how can anybody be too cheerful as long as the current occupant resides in the White House. One day it will be the people's house again, but until then, there can't be any real joy in the DC area . . .

Posted by: xwl at December 27, 2007 3:37 PM

Props, xwl... Good work.

Never had the pleasure, but they say that to meet 'n greet Emmanuel is to fall hopelessly in... something... the kind of thing where a secret, quiet corner of your heart will hold masculine resentment for her loving husband until the day you die. With a missus like that, he can dress however he wants.

Spy magazine (they're on my mind because I got the anthology for Christmas) once did a full issue on Washington. (Remember the cover shot of a pinstriped Dan Quayle paralyzed in the headlights?) They made it clear that Washington is mostly populated by former high school class presidents driving Honda Civics, the sort of humorless weasel-children who feel nothing but resentment for a flesh and blood human being who has actual ideas. And principles.

Anybody been read the LAT editorial pages lately? Amy's appearance yesterday notwithstanding, we miss Welch already.

Posted by: Crid at December 27, 2007 5:59 PM

Absolutely. I've noticed, too.

I miss Spy.

I used to live across the street from Spy, and during my struggling years, snuck into a lot of parties at The Puck Building...theirs and others'. We used to leave our coats on my bed and walk over with cheap party glasses filled with a bit of something, like we'd popped out for a smoke. Can't remember why/whether they didn't allow you to smoke in there...must have been the fire laws...they didn't have smoking laws then.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 27, 2007 6:06 PM

Matt's not only a good guy, he's also my little long-lost brother (in spirit) and I'll attest to his integrity any time.

Heck, that's easy.

Posted by: Curtis at December 28, 2007 1:36 AM


Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 28, 2007 5:11 AM


Maybe you could explain the "banned from the features sections" reference.

I'm all for the paper having as many advice columnists named "Amy" as possible. And, for that matter, as many advice columnists in any sense; why stop at Chicago Amy, Carolyn Hax and Dear Abby?

But they don't print anything of mine, either.

Does that mean I'm "banned," or just that I haven't been able to interest their editors sufficiently to run something by me -- and paying for it -- instead of the increasingly-voluminous selection of pieces they pull (inexpensively) off the wire?

Or, is it just that I don't submit anything (among other reasons because their "editing" of the last piece of mine they did run was so atrocious I was embarrassed to have it under my byline)?

Posted by: TE at December 28, 2007 6:03 PM

The editor of my Rambler piece told me I was banned. The women in charge in features said, "It'll be a long time before her breasts are in the paper again." They were serious. They wanted to buy another piece from me and he told me they wouldn't let him because it was me.

See the Welch-posted letter for more.

Readers request me all the time. They are all refused. I know, because they send me the e-mails.

Tribune made LA Times run Amy Dickinson. I was told they get her column and Hax's for free.

If you and lots of people think Carolyn Hax and Amy Dickinson write better columns than mine, well, then I shouldn't be in the paper. I break news in my column, go to anthropology conferences, and my work is respected by Ph.D's in the field. My column is fair to men, and not the same old shit. And I beat LA Times writers -- the serious op-ed ones -- in the LA Press Club Awards, and for a funny advice column. And, for first place, and with some regularity.

My book I'm writing came about because the LA Times Magazine rejected my work. I pitched them the story of how, when telemarketers call me, I track down the honcho of the company, call him or her at home, chew him out for calling me at home ("How do you like it, Bucko?") and then invoice him for my time and use of my phone line, get him to pay me, and then, in some cases, get the companies to chance their ways. REJECTED! As of no interest to LA Times readers. They prefer to run pieces on cows farting in Kern County.

If you think my work sucks and should be kept out of the paper, fine. But, it's requested constantly, by local readers, and the editor in charge of syndicated content at the paper makes it her business to keep me out. How dumb. What bad business.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 28, 2007 10:22 PM

I seem to have touched a nerve; sorry. Actually, I'm on your side in this.

Blame it on my background in the music industry, where acts who can't get airplay routinely claim that they've been "banned."

But you'll have to admit, getting something free beats paying for it, especially when they can't tell the difference. Probably why they run so much stuff off the wire. One of my standard complaints about editors (at the LAT and elsewhere) is that they figure their readers are as dumb as they are.

Maybe the Times should take a cue from the New York (i.e., "real") Times, who hired Bill Kristol, then virtually bragged in today's (Sunday) edition about how venemously he's criticised the paper in the past.

Posted by: TE at December 30, 2007 9:53 PM

I didn't want to make this personal, so I didn't say anything about that, but a lot of people write entertainment stuff and very few people write advice, and I've made an incredible investment in my work.

I get letters every week that people only pick up the paper to read my column. Syndicated stuff is cheap. They don't run my column, not because it's too expensive, but because they have a seventh grade grudge. When I was last at the features editors' conference, and they were all beating the drum of "local, local local," the editor from the paper who went literally seemed to hide from me. Didn't even say hello. And she was the editor of the Magazine when they published my column.

And I'm not the only one. How often do you see truly talented local writers like Heather Havrilesky in the paper? Not often, huh? Cathy Seipp should have had a column in the paper. Nope. Another seventh grade grudge, going back to her days at Buzz as Margo McGee.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 31, 2007 5:21 AM

By "incredible investment," I mean that, for example, I go to the same conferences Ph.D.'s in ev psych, anthropology, ethology, and psychology go to (and on my own dime, and even when it's in Berlin, etc.), and read the same journals, and I'm working with an epidemiologist now to improve my thinking and to help me be better about how to discern what's a good study and a bad study. Just to name a few examples. You think Amy Dickinson does anything other than spout off what anybody with common sense already knows?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 31, 2007 5:26 AM

Methinks the writer was living out a fantasy. I think Matt does some of the best commentary on the net. More even handed than most.

Posted by: Richard Cook at January 1, 2008 3:38 PM

I agree, Richard. I call Matt a "common-sense moderate." I wish there were more like him. Instead, I find people defending to the death stuff of one party or another in lieu of considering it -- a dangerous idiocy.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 1, 2008 3:54 PM


"Defending to the death" saves them the difficulty of actually thinking about opposing arguements. Messy and all that.

Posted by: Richard Cook at January 1, 2008 5:58 PM

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