Monday, March 14, 2011

Crashing the System

James O’Keefe is a handsome young man who proves looks can be deceiving. In a speech at Mount St. Mary’s University, he quoted G. K. Chesterton, “‘The position we have now reached is this: starting from the state, we try to correct the failures of all the families, all the nurseries, all the schools, all the workshops, all the secondary institutions, that once had some authority of their own; everything is ultimately brought into the courts. It seems like the world has become one giant divorce court. . .’” James O’Keefe has set about to remedy this situation, it seems, by destroying those institutions.

O’Keefe self-identifies as an “independent, free, renegade video journalist. . . [who] . . . seeks to correct the wrongs in the society we live in. (YouTube)” Assuming that the dictionary has not been subject to liberal meddling and revisionist re-wording, a journalist is someone engaged in reporting news. This definition does not include creating news, which is what O’Keefe has been doing for the past few years. The term “provocateur” has been suggested by some.

Many Americans know about ACORN because of James O’Keefe. According to Wikipedia, “The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) was a collection of community-based organizations in the United States that advocated for low- and moderate-income families by working on neighborhood safety, voter registration, health care, affordable housing, and other social issues (Wikipedia).” The organization disbanded after O’Keefe released deceptively edited video tapes of purported wrongdoing by low-level ACORN employees. Later, the organization was cleared of wrongdoing, after it was disbanded. James O’Keefe almost single-handedly destroyed the organization, and for naught. The fact that federal judges have exonerated ACORN will never help anyone, and now, neither will ACORN, which arguably was the point.

O’Keefe has also attempted to destroy a journalist, discredit the Census Bureau, and prove that a U.S. Senator ignored calls from constituents. This last caper landed him in trouble with the law. Most recently, he attacked NPR by publishing a video showing NPR fundraisers laughing at jokes about bringing sharia law to the United States and promising to keep the identities of a big donor secret from the federal government. In fact, after a release of the unedited tapes, it became clear that O’Keefe intended to deceive viewers and influence them against NPR through selective and deceptive editing. Representatives of the news organization were very clear that donors had no say in editorial decisions or reporting. Unfortunately, O’Keefe managed to embarrass executives and force resignations. As with ACORN, regardless of the actual facts, the damage has been done.

The fundraisers at NPR acted appropriately after the recorded meeting, alerting their superiors to the fact that the organization did not seem to have the proper paperwork and that the supposed foundation was moving very quickly to donate $5 million, an unusual situation. However, they said things that could be and were distorted, and for this, they, the public, and public radio will take a hit.

O’Keefe’s thinking is that of a true believer, which, among other things, means ignoring facts and assuming that the end justifies the means. In May 2010, a federal judge admonished him that “perceived righteousness of a cause does not justify nefarious and potentially dangerous actions." O’Keefe seems to think that he has access to a higher “Truth” and therefore feels justified in doing whatever he pleases. Because NPR is editorially independent, destroying the reputation of reliable news source would seem a worthy goal. With true believers, destroying opposing viewpoints, no matter how valid is a prime mission. To use the terminology of George Lakoff, facts that do not fit the frame bounce off.

Hopefully, this is the final chapter in James O’Keefe’s career as a troublemaker. Perhaps he has finally and completely discredited himself. In his inaugural issue of a radical right publication at Rutgers University, he wrote, “Disguising truth has helped every blood-thirsty tyrant and dictator keep the shackles on humanity throughout history (Centurion).” I couldn’t agree more, and I cannot understand how he could understand this truth and act as he has.

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About Me

I love my country, that is why I criticize its absurdities; I love my freedom, that is why I do it publicly.