Everybody be cool, this is a snobbery: Why Graydon Carter was and is the most dangerous man in media

... and he's partially to blame for Toby Young

Graydon Carter pictured with some ‘friends’. The friend at the front is very normal…

But now… here’s the actual content of today’s newsletter:

Bono has a thing called ‘the talk’. The ‘talk’ is a speech he inflicts on young rockstars who are just starting to become really famous.

Here’s what the goddess Courtney Love — don’t email me to disagree on this characterisation, I will put a hellhound on your trail — has to say about the ‘Bono talk’:

"I had a sort of quibble with Julian [Casablancas] about the 'Bono Talk' when it comes and how when it was my turn and Kurt's turn for the 'Bono Talk' we were idiots and turned him away and were too embarrassed. I sort of begged Kurt to take the 'Bono Talk' because, fuck it, if I had listened to it I'd have avoided a buttload of trouble for myself. And Julian sort of made a face about the 'Bono Talk' and Winona got up and said, 'That's fucking it. I'm out of here. Bono's family to me. Fuck this, fuck you,' and I had to calm her down with one hand and say, 'Look, Winona, when you come from punk the "Bono Talk" freaks you out. Ease him in.

Don't get all huffy - he's a punker kid.' So, I was holding her hand and holding his hand and I said 'You know, I'm a little bit older than you.' Julian points to Winona and me and says, 'I'm just fucking overwhelmed.' And I was like, 'Dude, there are supermodels back here who probably breastfed you and you're overwhelmed?! Get over it.' And that's sort of it. I wonder if his tale is different than mine. There's more to it, but that's as much as I'm going to put into an overlong article."

Bono’s talk arrives whether young rockstars want it or not. In the world of rock music, Bono is the Pope. No one elected him — not even some sex offender cardinals — and he will never step down. Bono cannot be shamed or tamed. He has willingly called himself Bono for decades and shares a band with a grown man who calls himself The Edge; his levels of shame tolerance are superhuman.

In the world of media, there is an equivalent of ‘the talk’ for young journalists on a meteoric rise. It’s called The Five Rooms talk and its a creation of a monstrous ego that survives in the host body we know as Graydon Carter. There is no human, there is only Ego Zuul. Here’s how he discussed it in a horrendously self-regarding interview he gave to New York magazine in 2013 when he was still at the helm of the bad ship SS Vanity Fair:

In his memoir How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, a former editor at Vanity Fair named Toby Young quotes Carter as saying: “ ‘You think you’ve arrived … I hate to break it to you but you’re only in the first room. It’s not nothing—don’t get me wrong—but it’s not that great either. Believe me, there are plenty of people in this town who got to the first room and then didn’t get any further.’ ”

Did he really say that? “A version of that, yes,” Carter says. And does he believe it? “I do,” he says. “It’s part of what makes a big city like New York effective. New Yorkers are constantly moving along and going to another stage. In a lot of societies, you get your car, your boat, your house. And then you stop. New Yorkers are constantly propelled to move on to the next thing. And that’s what makes the city a turbine of the culture.”

Graydon Carter’s journalistic career began with a genuinely snarky, groundbreaking magazine called Spy. It was the magazine that mailed out 1c cheques to see which rich people were venal enough to cash them. Donald Trump cashed the cheque. But Graydon Carter didn’t stay an iconoclast. He decided he wanted to be an icon and, over his 25 years in the editor’s chair at Vanity Fair, he went totally into orbit, incapable of even remotely knowing what was normal. He began writing about celebrities and ended up befriending them, and, ultimately, became on himself.

Graydon Carter’s ego can be seen from space. Graydon Carter’s ego is so monstrous it could be fed live mice on a daily basis. Graydon Carter was a good editor — in so much as he made Vanity Fair a provocative and readable publication — but he believes he is the greatest editor, practically vibrates with it.

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Air Mail, Carter’s current project, was described by The Nation as ‘Graydon Carter’s E-mail Newsletter for the Rich and Boring’. That’s accurate. It’s not — as you would expect from a captain of the establishment — a ‘scrappy’ affair.

An Air Mail annual subscription costs $50. It carries adds from Hermés and Ralph Lauren, despite asking subscribers to pay for the product, because those ads subsidise the production, but also because that’s the only way Graydon Carter knows how to do it. And who is bankrolling Graydon’s grand adventurer into newsletters? TPG Growth — a private equity firm run by three billionaires which also back that plucky little can-do outfit… Vice Media. Air Mail had, when The Nation wrote about its operations in August 2019, that it has 15 full-time employees and 32 names on its masthead.

What room is Graydon Carter in now, out of his famous five rooms? He’s in the annexe he built for himself, a pampered panic room where the celebrities he treats like gods can comfortably lounge, certain that they won’t be criticised. When Jeffrey Epstein just seemed like another semi-famous rich guy, Graydon Carter went into bat for him:

Don’t forgive. Don’t forget. And don’t care about what room Graydon Carter thinks you’re in.