Friday, March 18, 2011

James O'Keefe's Straw Man

In light of On The Media's magnificent takedown of James O'Keefe, I thought it might be worthwhile to address his weak arguments head on. I don't imagine that many people who dislike O'Keefe will be very sympathetic to his claim that there's a double-standard against him, but there clearly is a small group of people who seem to take the claim seriously.

O'Keefe's basic argument is this: it's unfair that people expect him to release the full videos of his interactions when we don't expect the same from other media outlets. I can see how, on a completely abstract level, and after ignoring or being blinded to O'Keefe's history, this might make sense. However, the fact is that there are pretty important differences between O'Keefe and other media outlets and O'Keefe does have a problematic history.

So there are two basic problems with O'Keefe's argument: first, he has a history of dishonestly editing video and lying about the contents. This was clearly demonstrated in the On The Media interview. So even if you thought that we should trust information from outlets generally, we certainly shouldn't trust information from outlets that have demonstrated track records of dishonesty. Hence, there's a good reason why O'Keefe and Breitbart should be held to different standards than people who have no track record of dishonesty.

The second problem with O'Keefe's claim is that mainstream media outlets are accountable in a way that he is not. People who watch news from mainstream media outlets expect them to be honest, so if they were ever caught being as dishonest in their editing as O'Keefe is, they would severely jeopardize their self-interest (both in terms of profit and in terms of credibility). On the other hand, as has been demonstrated time and time again, if O'Keefe is caught being dishonest, he does not really lose anything of significance. His extremist followers still love him, because they believe he's waging a holy war against "the enemy," and his wealthy backers still support him because they care more about ideological battle than about the truth. Thus, O'Keefe has no accountability because he has no incentive to be honest, whereas mainstream news outlets clearly do have this incentive, even as they are being driven by market forces.

So O'Keefe's strawman is doubly flawed. His documented dishonest and lack of accountability provide good reasons for "holding him to a different standard."


  1. James O'Keefe is a tool for the Tea Party and GOP. The saddest part is that the GOP is using him like he's using others.

    I had a person run in with Mr. O'Keefe a year ago when he attempted to hijack a rally I organized. James and his crew, bullying his way through our peaceful crowd pretending to be something he isn't - a homosexual. James and his buddy held hands, embraced and hugged each other just enough so they could be accepted as homosexuals.

    The rally was in front of the St. Louis Catholic Cathedral and it's purpose was to shame Archbishop Carlson on his homophobic action regarding his funding the ballot measure that overturned same-sex marriages in Maine. Maine, not Missouri.

    James O'Keefe was in St. Louis City for a previous Tea Party Rally where they gave him a microphone and podium. O'Keefe thought he could come to our rally, hold up a poster that said, "Free Abortions to All." Our rally had nothing to do with abortions or pro-life, nothing.

    With that said, James O'Keefe is no journalist, he is a con artist. He inserted himself into my rally, pretending to be something he wasn't so that he could change the results to suit his hidden cameras and microphones. When I took the bullhorn and called out James O'Keefe for his suspicious actions, O'Keefe and company refused to follow St. Louis police orders and even pushed some of our folks around to maintain front of the line status. O'Keefe knew what he was doing. He wanted the church members to leave that Cathedral, reading his sign and to become enraged at us. O'Keefe also wanted to catch women admitting if they had an abortion. O'Keefe wanted to make a mockery of our freedom to assemble. He and his crew were like a virus that Sunday morning and I did the best thing. I turned my camera on him. I turned my bullhorn on him, calling him out to those who showed up that day. I made sure I had the biggest gay bears follow him around on the sidewalk. And in the best action ever, I had several mature disabled lesbians flank his sides when the church services were over.

    This is what we must do St. Louis!
    This is what we must do America!

    We must be vigilant against the James O'Keefe's of this world. The vile con artists who prey off the unsuspecting. We must be far better at vetting our followers, members and supporters. We must be better at calling these fakes out when spotted and above all we must maintain a sense of peace in doing it. We must also pick up our video cameras and turn the recording on them.

    At the end of the day, James O'Keefe is a hack, a joker, a con artist who will live a horrible miserable life with zero respect from any decent human being. I am sure his own mother and father refuse to speak to him unless he is naked, in fear he might video record them. (Sorry for that image.)

    O'Keefe is a complete fake and we really should continue to reject his attempts to present himself as a journalist. We must stand firm on this fact - James O'Keefe is no Edward R. Murrow.

  2. Tell him to talk to Dan Rather about that double standard.

  3. Show me NoH8; your response to O'Keefe, in the encounter you detailed, was a perfect response.