Real Talk

ReakTalk_AbbyMartin

Vibrant, artistic and outspoken Abby Martin is a self-defined “citizen journalist” who has been enthusiastically welcomed into the mainstream media. An avid painter, she sees the media as the spear in which to penetrate the selfish political objectives of corporations and governments alike. “If you don’t have a platform to tell your story and to get the message out no one’s gonna hear it.” Abby Martin is the host of Breaking the Set on RT USA, which focuses on U.S. issues on a national and international stage reporting news in the most uncensored and well-informed platform possible. You can find her at @AbbyMartin on Twitter.

What brought you into journalism?
I had a boyfriend in high school that joined the military after 9/11. I didn’t want him going to war, let alone fighting in one. I began to critically ask ‘What is really going on?’ At college I looked at the way the media was selling us the [Iraq] War. I was a pawn in the struggle. These ideas are so much bigger than me.

How do you navigate working for RT and being a Citizen Journalist?
It’s a fascinating thing. I remember I asked one of the reporters before the [RT] interview started. I said, ‘What is RT? What is this channel?’ And she said, ‘Look, if I have to work for the Russian government to tell the truth about what’s happening to my country, then I’ll do it.’ That stuck with me. I thought critically about what battles I wanted to pick. Did I want to remain as a citizen journalist, completely decentralized-funded by very grassroots [organizations], or take the leap and go to D.C.? RT American is strictly the American angle. That’s how they differentiated. It’s funded in a similar way that BBC and Al Jazeera are –- by public grants. Going on an international platform to say and do the things I’m doing and would be doing whether or not I was on RT is crucial. Knowing that I’m reaching the widest audience I possibly can on a platform that allows me to criticize ‘corpritocracy.’ You have to make a choice.

Is there a conflict of interest in owning your private media organization and working for RTTV?
When I first started at RT that was one of my stipulations. I told them I had built an organization I could not discard. I needed to know that I could still write. I said, ‘I’m not going to throw you any curve balls out of left field, but I need to know I can still operate this site.’ I see doing this show as continuing to grow my own operation to bring the ideas of Media Roots into fruition.

Abbymartin.org is an artist’s website. Can you talk about who Abby Martin the artist?
I needed an outlet for my activism. Nina Simone was an amazing musician, who said, ‘an artist’s duty is to reflect the times.’ You can look at art and say ‘every artist is reflecting their consciousness’ but I see it as a necessity to reflect. I needed a therapeutic outlet. I needed an escape to channel my feelings. It’s our duty to relay how we view and see the world through whatever expressions that we do and the art has been an amazing tool to do that.

How do you see the role of social media?
The dinosaur media, the talking heads on TV, and I guess you could say I’m one too, but it’s a dying breed. I started as a citizen journalist and I’ll die as that because there is so much self-censorship. From top-down censorship to smearing sensationalism, we know that corporate media is a purely profit-making industry. People are turning to social media like Twitter. I love Twitter. It’s like the best aggregate you can get or wish for. Follow who you want, get the stories that you want.
You could say that we are selectively reinforcing our own worldviews in that way but at the same time we weed out all the trash and go straight for the source. Social media is an amazing revolutionary thing. The Internet is one of the last bastions of free communication. A neutral Internet is the future if we want to pave a better path for us, to share ideas and galvanize, to be able to restructure society in ways that benefit the future of humanity.

So can we guess that Twitter is your favorite form of media?
Yes. If you have a prowess in condensing your thoughts into a succinct fashion, that’s the best way to reach people right now.

You said Twitter can be self-fulfilling. What medium might push the reader to learn more and push past their confirmation biases?
That’s a big con in general and a big con for the Internet revolution. People are so apathetic and tune out. It makes me think: are we just reinforcing our self-selective paradigms? You can find anything that backs up or validates your own theory. I don’t know what the next big thing is, although I know there will be a big thing after Twitter.

Where do you get your stylistic inspiration?
If you asked me before RT, you wouldn’t. I was super grunge. I tried to bring my personality into a businesswoman style presentation. But I refuse to take out my nose ring. I’ve had it since I was 14. This is me.

Do you have any parting words for our readers?
Tune In! Don’t tune out. Bad information is enlightening. The truth is enlightening even if it’s hard to hear. We’re all in this together.

Text by Jeremy Koss
Photography by Ian Sbalcio

THE SPRING ISSUE

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