The entire internet is raining fire on Abby Martin right now. Not because she stood up to her employer, RT, but because she was “outed” as a former member of the 9/11 truth movement in her early 20s.
For the sake of complete transparency, I have always known this about Abby. And that’s because we are (or maybe now were) friends.
This is something I probably should have disclosed in the article I wrote about her yesterday, lauding her for taking a giant career risk by calling out Russian aggression against Ukraine. At the time, I didn’t think it was necessary given how the story was a fairly big one and pretty much every major media outlet in America was talking about it. I thought (as pretty much everyone else did) that what Abby did was immensely brave and I explicitly drew a line under her particular political beliefs and the action she took. Specifically, I wrote:
Abby Martin’s refusal to be co-opted by her employer’s interests is genuinely a big deal, and regardless of her own politics, her act of defiance makes her a real example of journalistic integrity.
Much later on that night, Chez Pazienza wrote another piece on Abby, as the news that she is a former “Truther” started to make the rounds on the internet. I had no knowledge that Chez was going to write the piece, or what was going to be in it. That’s the way it works here at The Daily Banter — our senior columnists have complete autonomy when publishing their work and don’t get told what they can and can’t say. When it comes to investigative stuff (that we don’t do much of given our financial restraints) the process is obviously different. But opinion pieces are just that — opinion pieces, and established writers with experience like Chez can say pretty much whatever they want.
Anyhow, our social media manager Bryce Rudow duly tweeted the article at her early this morning, and Abby responded to us in the comments section of Chez’s piece and to me personally. And it wasn’t particularly friendly.
If I’m being completely honest, I was horrified by Chez’s piece, for both the right and wrong reasons. The fact that this was someone I knew, and someone I happen to genuinely like, makes me biased. I took a huge amount of criticism in the comments section of the piece I wrote about her because of her political ideology, and I spent hours defending her. I probably wouldn’t have done it for someone I didn’t know, and the same goes for my reaction to Chez’s piece. Had it been someone else, I probably wouldn’t be writing this.
I don’t agree with Chez’s piece, particularly the timing of it. I don’t see how Abby’s background as a Truther has anything to do with her defiant stand against her employer. They are two completely separate issues, and by conflating the two, the real story is diminished (Chez also accepted this in the comments section in his back and forth with Abby).
I can’t say I am enjoying this in the slightest.
I created the Banter platform to help foster an open conversation between our writers and our audience. For that reason, I can’t start censoring my writers when they write things I disagree with or piss off someone I know. That means being responsible for pushing out content that can hurt people, and I can’t shy away from the fact that one of our pieces has hurt Abby.
The modern media is particularly adept at raking up people’s pasts in order to smear them and, to be clear, I think Abby is being smeared. And I don’t want to be part of that.
But the truth is, I am part of that because it is ultimately my site, and I am ultimately responsible for what gets published.
As confusing as this probably sounds, I stand by Chez’s piece and I also personally apologize to Abby. I’m not sure whether I’m breaking any “ethics of journalism” rules here, as this issue is both professional and personal. I’m trying to be as honest as I can, and that means being open about all of it and letting our readers know exactly what is going on.
I can’t pretend to be unbiased as I’m clearly not, but I am trying to be fair.
Or maybe I’m just not cut out for this type of thing.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.