A few thoughts on Glenn Greenwald, ABLC, Raw Story and the nature of political discourse
I’ve had a lot of insults hurled at me over my many years of writing on the Internet: in addition to the standard ones that women get related to our perceived attractiveness and concomitant perceived intellect or lack thereof, I’ve been called an Obamabot, a Romney shill, a secret Ron Paul supporter, a Palinista, a Clinton-lover, a fake feminist, the real sexist, a baby-killer, a racist, a slut, a prude, a bad rape victim and illiterate, just to name a few. The truth of the matter is that I don’t fly a flag for any particular candidate — the closest I came was Mike Gravel in the 2008 Democratic primary — because I’m rather a purist on policy issues and voting tends to be an exercise in gritting my teeth and voting for the candidate that doesn’t outright reject at least a good part of the issues I prioritize.
But most of the insults I get related to politics come because I don’t support individual candidates with either my reporting or my opinion writing, and because I feel really quite free to criticize even the ones who come the closest to my own personal politics as our democratic process allows. In that, Glenn Greenwald and I have something in common.
Greenwald feels very strongly that President Obama hasn’t done enough to change this nation’s foreign and military policy directions from the path President George W. Bush started us down: from drones to civil liberties, from the prisoners at Guantanamo to the indefinite detention provisions written into the NDAA, Greenwald has slammed the President over and over again for policies that he truly believes are not in keeping with the promises of the President’s first campaign (and certainly don’t do much in terms of “Hope” or “Change”) — and he is not alone on the left. Though, because of the way the Internet and social media often serve to drive, mobilize and intensify hate, it probably feels that way some times.
Goodness — and Greenwald — knows I’m hardly in agreement with every position he’s taken, but I will absolutely defend his right to take those positions without being subject to the kind of stupid, reductionist criticism we on the left all decried during the Bush years.
In the years immediately following 9/11, anyone failing to march to the beat of America’s war drums — be it Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), who was the sole vote against beginning the war in Afghanistan, or the Dixie Chicks, who pronounced themselves “ashamed” that the President who started 2 wars from Texas, or even the French people, who lost their eponymous fries — was called unpatriotic, a helpmeet to (alternately), “the terrorists,” Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda and/or the Taliban, or even a traitor to this country (which has long valued the importance of political dissent, loyal and otherwise). Liberals decried the rhetoric, and talked about how it both possible to love this country, and the promise of this country, without providing unquestioning loyalty to its leaders.
So when Greenwald brought it to my attention that a Twitterer and blogger nominally associated with Raw Story (through the hosted blog Angry Black Lady Chronicles) had used that exact rhetoric to criticize Greenwald and The Nation‘s Jeremy Scahill, it was hard to do more than roll my eyes and sigh. But as the executive editor of Raw Story, I am obligated to do more than that.
So, to be clear: Raw Story Media, of which I am an employee, hosts under contract Angry Black Lady Chronicles, one of two opinion blogs hosted by but not directed by the company. Under the terms of the company’s contracts with both blogs, they have their own editorial discretion, their own direction and can bring on (and let go) of their bloggers at their own free will. Imani Gandy, the original ABLC blogger, told me that she has decided to use that discretion to ask two bloggers whose online pronouncements aren’t in keeping with and have interfered with what she sees as her editorial mission — reproductive rights and racial justice — to leave.
As the executive editor of Raw Story, I have discretion over the site’s reporters and this (relatively new) OpEd section but not over that which is published at ABLC or Culture Clutch. In my efforts to maintain the wall between the company’s business side and my editorial fiefdom, and to provide those blogs’ writers with the editorial discretion they were contractually promised, I admittedly did not spend much time communicating with Gandy, whose work on reproductive rights and racial justice issues attracted Raw Story’s management to her blog in the first place, as she made the transition from a small space to a larger platform with different obligations and privileges. Everyone will slip climbing up the ladder, and as someone who is personally committed to getting marginalized voices and untold stories heard, I should have done more to help her navigate the pitfalls of this recent transition, which can include trusting allies who might hurt you more than they help or being taken in by a planted story.
To Greenwald and Scahill, whose reputations were maligned by a person who used the platform of Raw Story in ways it was not intended and with whom I personally take issue, I have privately apologized. This is my public one. It is my belief that reasonable people at every point on the political spectrum can look at the same set of facts and draw different and even sometimes equally valid conclusions about policy issues, politicians and the political system, and that those disagreements need not and should not descend into unsupportable, hyperbolic personal attacks intended to silence those with whom we disagree.
Update: Imani Gandy has issued a response as well, which I encourage people to read.
Update (6/12/2012): Imani Gandy has decided to move ABLC elsewhere.