“Objectivity” and “neutrality” are a myth
Kit O’Connell, gonzo journlist at MintPress News

by Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik e.V.

Author photo by battle.medicKit O’Connell is a Daily Staff Writer for
MintPress News and Associate Editor at
. A writer for many years, he became a gonzo journalist full time
in 2012 after being inspired by his experiences at Occupy Austin. Kit’s work,
which focuses on social justice and popular protest, has also appeared on
Firedoglake, Truthout, and He answered our questions.

What are the main steps of
the historical development of Mint Press?
Mnar Muhawesh launched MintPress News in 2012, after working
for years as an independent

journalist and after becoming the first American
woman to wear the hijab as a reporter and news anchor. Mnar has never been
afraid to stand out in a crowd and MintPress has followed in that philosophy,
telling stories most other outlets won’t touch. 

In 2013, MPN’s report on the use of chemical weapons by
Syrian rebels was both groundbreaking and controversial. MPN and Mnar were
attacked heavily online and in the media for refusing to support the US buildup
to war with Assad, but soon even the mainstream media had to admit we were
right to cast doubt on the official story of chemical weapons use. I think
MintPress was a small but important part of preventing another needless war.
Since then, as we’ve built our audience, the site has become
more focused on exposing government and corporate corruption.

What are the main objectives of
your portal?

MintPress News is an independent watchdog media outlet
focusing on corporate and government corruption. We focus on some of the most
pressing topics facing our nation through issues-based, long form journalism.
We’re especially concerned with the effects of big business, special interest
groups, and lobbyists on American government including both domestic and
foreign policy. 
Mnar believes that the “Fourth Estate” — the
media, as defined by in the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment — is meant to
act as a watchdog over government, and that’s what inspires our journalism at
Why are networking and
translation so important for news portals and journalists today?
The great power of the Internet is that we can reach people
around the world in ways we’ve never experienced before. 
I first realized how much the Internet and social networking
have changed the world when I was involved with Occupy Austin in 2011. In late
October of that year, Austin police arrested dozens of activists after
escalating a conflict that started over a food table — police were insisting
it was somehow illegal to feed the hungry after 10pm at night (it
What amazed me was that, after news spread of the arrests
through Twitter, Egyptian activists marched from Tahrir Square on the American
embassy in protest! What an inspiring act of international solidarity that
would have been impossible in previous years. 
Their action in turn inspired us to go further and push
harder. When we marched up to the jail to receive our comrades as they were
freed, we walked on the the sidewalk, but on our return to the Occupy
encampment and for months after we marched in the streets, blocking traffic and
reclaiming the space for democracy — “Whose streets? Our streets!”
as the famous chant goes.
But we don’t all speak English, and too many Americans speak
only their native tongue (I can only speak a handful of words in French and
Spanish). We need translators to really make this new technology have a global
reach and discover the true potential of international solidarity.
How important is a true and
committed journalism about Islam today and why?
Let me stress that MintPress News is not a
“Muslim” news organization — our reporting is geared to all people.
I hope we’d treat Muslims the same regardless of the demographics of our staff,
who are actually very diverse. But unfortunately, Muslims are also one of the
most unfairly treated in the mainstream media, turned into scapegoats and
villains as yet another distraction from our real, common enemy — the global
We need real journalism to expose the reality about Muslims
— that they are human like the rest of us, with the same needs for love,
acceptance, and the necessities of survival. Real journalism can cut through
the propaganda and show us who we really need to be fighting.
Which are the most important
messages to Americans about Islam?
I think what Americans need to understand most is a lot of
what I said earlier, that the vast majority of the world’s over 1.5 billion
Muslims are just regular people like they are, trying to survive and thrive and
protect their communities. This is really true of anyone oppressed and anyone
the government tells us is our “enemy” — we need to emphasize our
common humanity, the common cause we all should share.

How important is the fight
against discrimination in journalism, and how can we bring the voices of
oppressed people into the media?
In addition to working with MintPress News, Mnar lectures at
journalism schools and other student groups about the importance of elevating
the voices of women and oppressed people in the media. It’s one of the things
that I really admire about her, and that keeps me working with MintPress News,
in addition to my support for our overall mission. 
The revolutionary civil rights leader Malcolm X said, “If
you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are
being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” 
That’s still true today, and it’s the opposite of what the
media should be doing. One of the guiding principles of my journalism is that
the poor are never our enemy, and any story that seems to suggest this isn’t
digging deep enough.
We need to be focusing on the voices of oppressed people of
all kinds. We need to not just be telling their stories, but also helping them
tell their stories directly. New media is very democratizing — it lets us all
become journalists, but now we need to find ways to ensure that this new school
of citizen journalists are rewarded, including financially, for what they
What are the most wrong things
mainstream media do?
I’m a follower of the “gonzo” school of
journalism, created by Hunter S. Thompson and practiced by other great American
“new journalism” writers of the 1960s like Ken Kesey, Tom Wolfe, and
Truman Capote. Going back even further we can point to pioneers like Nellie
Bly, who went undercover to at an insane asylum in the 1880s by pretending to
be a patient and getting herself committed.  
Like Thompson, I believe that “objectivity” and
“neutrality” are a myth. The facts are not neutral and there are not
always two, equal sides to every story. Climate change has become the classic
example — in the quest to “fairly” show “both sides” of
the story, the media continues to give an audience to climate change deniers
long after world science has moved on. It prevents us from truly addressing the
real issues that plague us by forcing us to revisit the same ground over and
over again. We can never really talk about fixing climate change as long as
we’re still arguing whether or not it exists and whether humans are to blame.
For MintPress, I recently reported on the tragic story of
Larry Jackson, Jr, a black man from my town of Austin, Texas (
Charles Kleinert, at the time an Austin police detective, brutally murdered
Jackson in 2013 after he made the mistake of trying to visit a bank that,
unknown to him, had been robbed earlier in the day by a completely unrelated
white man. Kleinert pursued Jackson, who was unarmed and not suspected of any crime,
even taking over a civilian vehicle like a cop in the movies. Then, under a
bridge near a hiking trail, Kleinert viciously beat Jackson until he fell to
his hands and knees, then shot him fatally through the back of his neck. 
What I’ve just described is not an objective version of
events, but to the best of my knowledge its the truest version of what
happened. In order to do right by Larry Jackson, his surviving family and
friends, and the larger community seeking justice in a racist, unjust society,
it’s the story that needs to be told.
As you can probably tell, I have a lot of thoughts on what
media the media does wrong and what journalism should look like in the future.
Here’s an essay I wrote for MintPress based on a lecture I gave at an anarchist
bookstore in Austin: