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A quick note about James O'Keefe and 'undercover journalism'

James O'Keefe has a couple of NPR scalps on his belt, and good for him I guess. Jonah Goldberg tweets, "I remember when undercover stings are what made '60 Minutes' America's greatest journalistic enterprise," presumably hitting at hypocrite liberals who are irritated by O'Keefe's stings.

But O'Keefe's brand of journalism owes more to "Borat" than to "60 Minutes." In Borat, Sacha Baron Cohen's M.O. was to walk into situations and be the biggest, most annoying jerk he could. Sometimes people were irritated, in which case the comedy came from their consternation, or they remained polite—in which case the comedy came from them accommodating a huge jerk in their midst.

O'Keefe, I don't think, has ever unconvered real malfeasance at the organization he targets. Instead, he's mostly taken advantage of humankind's natural tendency to avoid confrontation or to be a little too solicitous. He's the kind of guy who'd videotape you listening to your grandfather's racist grumblings with a strained smile on your face, then release it to Fox News as an exposé of your own racism.

Most people aren't inclined to loudly confront wrongheaded people they've just met. As long as that impulse exists, James O'Keefe will have plenty more exposes he can release.

Comments

Rick Henderson said…
I don't consider O'Keefe's undercover stuff to be journalism, a la "60 Minutes." And he's made his share of misssteps. What he does is a form of performance art that I have no desire to emulate.

O'Keefe does have some pelts on the wall, however, primarily from finding particularly clueless (ACORN) or entitled (NPR) people who probably deserved to be taken down.

He'll run out of these targets eventually, and he'll be stuck doing shows in Branson, maybe.
Anonymous said…
Isn't he on probation for trying to break into congress womans phone system? Isn't taping someone without there knowledge illegal. Journalist report the news, they don't prefab, create or setup the news.
Trick said…
Is James O'Keefe on federal probation for trying to break into a congresswoman's phone system? Isn't taping or recording someone without their knowledge illegal? Won't that be a probation violation? Real Journalist report the news objectively. They don't create or prefab a story. They don't become part of a story. Calling this felon a journalist is an afront to real journalist and to the informed citizen. Prosecute this instigator.

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