With her family protected from death threats, Martin is ready to get on with her real work: “Exposing the criminals and exposing nationalism as a toxic cancer that perpetuates death and destruction.”
Journalist and activist Abbey Martin is receiving rape and death threats from Chirs Kyle fans, for pointing out their propensity to laud violence and glorify death.
MINNEAPOLIS — Journalist Abby Martin has never been afraid to speak her mind, no matter how controversial the topic. What she didn’t expect was that her choice of T-shirt would result in her address and other personal information being leaked online and provoke a storm of death and rape threats.
It wasn’t the first time she’d spoken out against the overwhelming popularity of “American Sniper,” or the way the cult of personality surrounding the film’s inspiration, deceased U.S. Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, supports America’s military-industrial complex, so the intense reaction to a recent social media post was unexpected. A week after Martin shared an Instagram photo of herself wearing a “Fuck Chris Kyle” T-shirt, a military veteran leaked her home address and other personal information to the Internet, sharing it on popular forums for current or former snipers:
Abby Martin – Some psychotic Chris Kyle fan just doxxed me… | Facebook
The practice of leaking personal information to the Internet to aid in the harassment of a political enemy is known as “doxing.”
Supporters of Kyle flooded Martin’s social media accounts with threats of violence, sexual assault, and murder, forcing the journalist to take action to protect her safety and that of her family:
— Abby Martin (@AbbyMartin) May 2, 2015
Martin first rose to public prominence through her coverage of the Occupy Oakland protests that began in 2011. She was subsequently hired in 2012 by Russia Today (RT) to host “Breaking the Set,” a TV program which combined original investigative journalism with outspoken critique of mainstream media propaganda. The show ended in February of this year.
A recurring topic on Martin’s program was the damage caused by America’s ever-expanding military adventures, and the ways nationalist and fanatically patriotic American culture supports the country’s deadly wars overseas.
In January, she spoke on “Breaking the Set” to journalist Rania Khalek about “American Sniper,” calling the film “patriot porn” and a “celebration of psychopathy.” Although she received backlash then, it was only after being doxed for a T-shirt that Martin faced credible threats to her life.
Angering the “American Sniper” cult
MintPress News interviewed Martin, who spoke with us by phone from an undisclosed location. We asked her why she thought the T-shirt, and “American Sniper,” provoked such a violent reaction.
“Of everything I’ve done, I never expected it would be Chris Kyle fans that would come down this hard,” Martin said.
“When Chris Kyle initially died, no one was really calling him a hero, they were just talking about how terrible it is that these soldiers are coming back and killing each other,” she explained. “What ‘American Sniper,’ the movie, did, was bring him up to this cult hero worship status where he’s on par now with Muhammad.”
Martin explained that she’s seen Kyle supporters make this hyperbolic comparison on multiple occasions.
“Literally, people are likening this situation to drawing cartoons of the Prophet,” she said, before reiterating that one is central to the religion of 1.6 billion people, while the other is a former sniper. “That is how insane this reaction has been.”
Taking threats seriously
“They’re making this about a ‘free speech issue,’ but they don’t understand that free speech does not entail rape, death and torture threats,” Martin told MintPress. “That’s actually a misdemeanor, a threat of bodily harm, or a felony in the case of actual legitimate death threats.”
For safety reasons, Martin did not reveal all the steps she’s taken in response to the threats, but she emphasized that she is doing what is necessary to protect herself and her family.
“I have stalkers, aside from this incident,” she revealed, “so having this information out there is actually really dangerous for me. So I did take immediate precautions. And for everyone who actually sent me an overt rape, death or torture threat, I filed charges with police. And then with this latest doxing, I filed that as well.”
Martin explained that reporting the actions to the police is the best way to create a paper trail, in the event that someone tries to act on one of these threats.
Michael Vincent Trautman, the veteran who doxed Abby Martin
Martin revealed to MintPress that through multiple, credible reports, she was able to trace the leak of her personal information to posts made on several sniper and veteran Internet forums. The author of the posts was a man named Michael Vincent Trautman.
“The fact that he posted my address and phone number on a bunch of veterans and sniper forums was a clear incitement for violence and harm on me and my family,” Martin told MintPress.
According to his Facebook, Trautman was born in Pittsburgh, and currently lives in Pleasant Hill, Pennsylvania.
In the “About” section of his profile, Trautman wrote:
“What have you or I done for our fellow man? As to do for your fellow man is to do for God as he is within us all. I truly hate nobody, yes as a flawed sinful man I dislike certain others but I still love them and seek to forgive them and desire to be forgiven by them.”
However, contrary to Trautman’s stated philosophy, a search of publicly available Internet records shows a troubling history of violent threats.
A Google search returned threatening posts to a Facebook page called “Dysfunctional Veterans.” In one example from August 2014, veterans and allies on the group respond to a Facebook user named Steve A Mattison, who wrote that the U.S. military should act more like Switzerland, a neutral country.
Trautman tells the group he sent Mattison the following reply:
“Hey shit knuckle run your fucking mouth on the military and it’s been posted on every military site. It’s really fucking stupid to think the people that keep America rolling by finding the hardest to find fuckers and wrecking their world. Tell me what it feels like as you are today’s most hated fuckface by almost 1.62 million active 1.8 million reserve and guard and millions of Veterans and the at least 275 million of the 300 million Americans pro-military. Yes I am recently retired Army have a BS and MBA both from Duquesne University were I am in my 3rd year of PhD studies. But my ass kicking Ranger comes out on keyboard cowards like you.”
If a 2001 brief from Pennsylvania’s Beaver County Times can be positively linked to Trautman, he may have a disturbing history of taking his threats into the real world. In the short article, police from Moon Township, Pennsylvania, report that a man of the same name “has been accused of calling a New Eagle[, Pennsylvania] woman pretending to be a state trooper and threatening to arrest her.”
The brief continues:
“Moon police said Michael Vincent Trautman, 26, of 1130 Lee Drive made the call to Deborah Lee, 23, around 5 a.m. Sunday [December 15, 2001]. Trautman was charged with harassment and disorderly conduct.”
Trautman’s Facebook is named “Mike.Trautman.75,” and social media users often place their birth year in their usernames. Based on this, Abby Martin’s doxer was 26 years old at the time of the arrest reported by the Beaver County Times. However, because MintPress was unable to verify that Trautman previously lived in Moon Township, and because his Facebook account does not list his age or entire birthdate, we are unable to fully corroborate this report.
The possibility that the same Trautman threatening Abby Martin today may have previously impersonated a police officer to threaten another woman adds a troubling note to an already frightening situation.
MintPress News contacted Trautman for comments on Thursday. Facebook indicated that Trautman had read the message, but he had not replied by Friday morning. This article will be updated if he responds.
A myth of an American hero
“American Sniper” author Chris Kyle poses for this 2012 file photo. ( Photo: Paul Moseley/AP)
After emphasizing that the threats are a crime verging on terrorism, Martin also critiqued the idea that oppressive behavior is a way to uphold the principle of free speech.
“You’re not doing anything daring, dude, you’re just riding a wave and then saying it’s all about free speech,” she said. “Sure it’s free speech, but you’re not standing up to the man.”
The First Amendment is meant to protect dissent, she told MintPress, adding: No one needs to protect the free speech rights of those who are just repeating the propaganda of America’s militaristic culture about one of its soldiers, Chris Kyle.
“It’s an insane, cult-like syndrome and they are on top of the world. The U.S. is the military machine, it’s the military empire. And here you have this war ‘hero’ who is in reality a xenophobic, racist bigot that bragged about killing savages,” said Martin.
She reserved some of her strongest criticism for those who claim that Kyle died defending the Constitution, when in reality he was slain by another soldier:
“Don’t get it twisted, he didn’t die in Iraq,” she said. “Just the fact that these people think the Iraq War had something to do with freedom, that’s how in denial they are and that’s how dangerous movies like ‘American Sniper’ are.”
Martin explained that “American Sniper” deliberately includes footage of September 11 as a way to emphasize the imaginary connection between Iraq and the 2001 terrorist attack.
She continued: “These kinds of psychotic people are the reason why Iraq is so messed up today and the reason why terrorism is on the rise.”
The gender factor
Gender plays an obvious role in the severity of the threats against Martin.
In July 2014, Jesse Ventura, the former governor and Navy SEAL, won a lawsuit against Kyle’s estate. Kyle invented a fictional fistfight between the pair in his book and repeated the story in a subsequent appearance on Fox News.
“I’m sure that he got his own share of threats, but what he didn’t get was people saying they want to rape him,” she said, comparing the reaction to Ventura’s lawsuit to the social media users who threatened to mutilate Martin’s genitals.
“Those are the threats that men don’t get, but with women all of them revert to this base level misogyny — where men on public Facebook and Instagram accounts are saying, ‘We’re going to put on our raping shoes and find this bitch,’” quoted Martin.
Electronic Intifada journalist Rania Khalek also received rape and death threats after she published unflattering quotations from Kyle’s book, “American Sniper.” And Khalek documented how viewing the film based on the book inspired Twitter users to make racist threats against Arabs and Muslims.
“Right now, I’m more scared of Chris Kyle fans than terrorists,” Martin said, pointing out that a person is more likely to die from an accident in their home than an act of terrorism.
The group threatening her now seems especially aggressive, and the fact that many have military training makes their threats more plausible.
She added: “There’s nothing more despicable than rape threats, because it really reveals who these people are and how low they go. I don’t doubt that some of them have raped women.”
On the topic of gender, Martin concluded:
“It just shows you that we don’t live in a post-sexism society. We live in a society where if you’re a powerful strong woman, they’ll try to take you down in a sexually demeaning and misogynistic way. That’s the number one target on your forehead as a woman.”
Abby Martin, unbowed
Martin told MintPress that her boyfriend is an Iraq War veteran, who is now a peace activist.
“It’s disgusting when people try to tell me that I don’t know what veterans do, but I actually know about veterans who respect life and who have turned against what they know was wrong in Iraq,” she said. “I don’t have any respect for people who are just brainwashed pawns who don’t see their role. And yes, they are pawns but wars wouldn’t happen if people wouldn’t fight them.”
Martin explained that the “War on Terror” is especially reprehensible, because it often involves the U.S. acting as an occupying force against much weaker nations.
While her views on Chris Kyle remain unchanged, Martin is ready to continue on to other, more important work.
“I don’t want to pay attention to ‘American Sniper,’ I just think it’s one facet of a more systemic problem,” she told MintPress. Rather than become fixated on the movie, she said she’d rather examine the culture that makes it so popular. “You can’t have true dissent with your fellow citizens wanting to rape and kill you for what they claim these people died for.”
“I’m not going to let these assholes affect my life or my family’s life,” said Martin, explaining that she’s made herself and her family secure.
Now she’s ready to get on with her investigative journalism, which she described as, “exposing the criminals and exposing nationalism as a toxic cancer that perpetuates death and destruction.”
Ultimately, she concluded: “It is really awful to get your private information exposed, but don’t live in fear of anyone. Don’t live in fear of the NSA and don’t live in fear of these assholes because that’s exactly what they want you to do.”