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July 27, 2011 5:40 PM   Subscribe

“You’re from The New York Times,” he said. “How can I be sure you’ll be objective and accurate?”
posted by Renoroc (68 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Seems like a fair question.
posted by spoobnooble at 5:50 PM on July 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


I agree - it takes a lot of courage to be so unrepentantly mendacious.

That, or he's just another hyperpartisan sociopath out to engage in political performance art, stroke his own ego and line his pockets at the expense of others.
posted by darkstar at 5:50 PM on July 27, 2011 [8 favorites]


I thought about posting this earlier today but decided to instead enjoy some daydreams of him being eaten by velociraptors. Technically, everyone wins.
posted by elizardbits at 5:51 PM on July 27, 2011 [27 favorites]


I thought this was about the guy who used to be married to Bonnie Raitt.
posted by jonmc at 5:53 PM on July 27, 2011


“Have you ever heard of a Russian named Solzhenitsyn?” he asked.
This asshole is really comparing himself to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn?
posted by grouse at 5:53 PM on July 27, 2011 [12 favorites]


But no matter what [the sting] exposed, I doubted it would be more frightening than the fact that two young guys, one in a kilt, the other equipped with a video camera, can film the Statue of Liberty, the New Jersey docks and a major international airport without attracting any attention.

Yeah, nobody ever takes a picture of the Statue of Liberty.
posted by axiom at 5:56 PM on July 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


“You’re from The New York Times,” he said. “How can I be sure you’ll be objective and accurate?”

You can't. Objective and accurate reporting is a myth.
posted by Ardiril at 5:57 PM on July 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


James O'Keefe and Anna Paquin bear an uncomfortable facial resemblance to one another.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 5:59 PM on July 27, 2011


“You’re from The New York Times,” he said. “How can I be sure you’ll be objective and accurate?”

Depends on who lights the first joint.
posted by clavdivs at 6:00 PM on July 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Seems like a fair question.

Seems like a troll is gonna troll.

Seriously: NYT is about as center-right as you can find in the States these days. Exhibit A: They pay David Brooks shitloads of money to churn out pablum that justifies the status quo and somehow Ross Douhat is supposed to provide the counterpoint? Fuck off.
posted by joe lisboa at 6:01 PM on July 27, 2011 [23 favorites]


Backpfeifengesicht
posted by Trurl at 6:04 PM on July 27, 2011 [8 favorites]


It takes a lot of what you could call courage to go into the opposition’s presence and tell a story under a false name

Ah yes, the bravery of lying.
posted by Chipmazing at 6:04 PM on July 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Seriously: NYT is about as center-right as you can find in the States these days

But that doesn't seem relevant: O'Keefe is not center-right but far-right. The NYT is still "the enemy" to him.
posted by wildcrdj at 6:12 PM on July 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's relevant; any positioning other than center clouds any claims for objectivity and accuracy. What is irrelevant here really is O'Keefe himself and whatever story he decides to tell.
posted by Ardiril at 6:21 PM on July 27, 2011


It takes a lot of what you could call courage to go into the opposition’s presence and tell a story under a false name

You could call it courage.

You could also call it trolling, being a complete prick, fraud or rampant dickery.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:22 PM on July 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


He's basically a modern-day muckraker, except he exposes and embarrasses the poor in service of the wealthy and powerful rather than the other way around.
posted by Rhaomi at 6:26 PM on July 27, 2011 [32 favorites]


Talk about missed opportunities. If only Tom Friedman had gotten this assignment...
posted by grounded at 6:29 PM on July 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's relevant; any positioning other than center clouds any claims for objectivity and accuracy.

That is rubbish. It is possible to be objective and accurate, while still maintaining a non-centrist position. You are using the fallacy that has ruined journalism, that you must stay in the center and report both sides, conservative and liberal. That is a counterfactual assertion, and lead to abuses like the Overton Window. In many situations, the objective, accurate story is quite partisan, since one faction is objectively wrong. Reporting something that is factually wrong, without exposing that wrong, does not serve anything but partisan ends. There is a saying, "truth has a liberal bias."
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:32 PM on July 27, 2011 [21 favorites]


It's relevant; any positioning other than center clouds any claims for objectivity and accuracy.

Not really, or it would be the middle way fallacy. The center is arbitrary. Neutrality is best viewed as neither for or against something, rather than moderation itself.
posted by Brian B. at 6:33 PM on July 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Trurl: "Backpfeifengesicht"

Bleirohrengesicht.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:33 PM on July 27, 2011


Muckrakers raked through the muck to uncover truth. They went through garbage cans and hid in closets and reported what they found with sensational enthusiasm. This guy finds loopholes and exploits them for profit.
posted by gjc at 6:41 PM on July 27, 2011


I don't mind that they interviewed the guy; I do mind that they soft pedaled the deceptive editing he does, and didn't mention the whole sleazy "boat rape" scheme he tried that one time.
posted by fungible at 6:41 PM on July 27, 2011 [8 favorites]


He extracted a cellphone from the pocket of his work shirt. “Have you ever heard of a Russian named Solzhenitsyn?” he asked.

It's OK Grouse, if you look at the proceeding sentence, it's obvious O'Keefe simply forgot to add the HAMBURGER tag.
posted by Panjandrum at 6:44 PM on July 27, 2011


“You’re from The New York Times,” he said. “How can I be sure you’ll be objective and accurate?”

Yeah, after they allowed Judith Miller to act as a mouthpiece for Chalabi and the Bush administration for so long, I really can't take them seriously any longer. Or do you suppose he was referring to something else?
posted by gngstrMNKY at 6:53 PM on July 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


“How can I be sure you’ll be objective and accurate?”


"Well, first of all, I'm not YOU."
posted by louche mustachio at 6:54 PM on July 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


He's not a muckraker, he is a panhandler. He's a servant begging for orts from the table.
posted by Max Power at 6:56 PM on July 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


"objective and accurate" sounds an awful lot like "fair and balanced"
posted by LogicalDash at 6:56 PM on July 27, 2011


Rhaomi: "He's basically a modern-day muckraker, except he exposes and embarrasses the poor in service of the wealthy and powerful rather than the other way around."

If you swap out "exposes" for "lies about", yeah.
posted by brundlefly at 6:57 PM on July 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


He has a keen eye for the absurdity and hypocrisy of others, but it is unmatched by self-deprecating humor or a discernible sense of fun.

It's funny how this seems to come up again and again. Remember when that "Conservative answer to the Daily Show" crashed and burned? There's no introspection at all. Of course, nothing I do could ever be questionable, they're the problem.

I also like how it seemed to me that the writer of the article was slyly mocking him in a way that I'm not sure he'd pick up on.

It isn’t exactly a secret that some Medicaid money winds up in unqualified hands, but it was surprising to see how willingly minor officials turned a blind eye and, in some cases, even offered advice on how to game the system.
There are so many people who need Medicaid and don't get it because of red tape, or they have too many assets that don't do anything to put food and medicine on the table, that I'm really just fine with this kind of thing going on. Why is he only interested in going after workers who are trying to help those who ostensibly need help, instead of all the other injustices going on? The mind boggles.
posted by bleep at 6:58 PM on July 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


He's basically a modern-day muckraker, except he exposes and embarrasses the poor in service of the wealthy and powerful rather than the other way around.

Are you saying he comforts the comfortable and afflicts the afflicted?
posted by TedW at 7:04 PM on July 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


> Why is he only interested in going after workers who are trying to help those who ostensibly need help, instead of all the other injustices going on? The mind boggles.

Because he doesn't want "his" money going to black people.
posted by mrzarquon at 7:13 PM on July 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


I like the Brooks Brothers polo. That's what I wear when I speak truth to power too!
posted by pullayup at 7:14 PM on July 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


This "objective and accurate" coverage of O'Keefe shows how craven and cowardly the New York Times has become. A totally waste of wood pulp.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:17 PM on July 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


I like the Brooks Brothers polo. That's what I wear when I speak truth to power too!

Whoa there buddy, I rock Brooks Brothers polos as well. And I damn well speak....... who am I kidding, the only thing I speak to power is "Sure thing, I'll get right on it sir!"
posted by Ad hominem at 7:23 PM on July 27, 2011


Well, if you are about to get right on it, then it's the truth, right?
posted by speedo at 7:30 PM on July 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


oneswellfoop: This "objective and accurate" coverage of O'Keefe shows how craven and cowardly the New York Times has become. A totally waste of wood pulp.

I liked the sidebar graphics and the last paragraph:
Had the videos revealed a larger injustice, O’Keefe’s stated goal? Had they demonstrated waste and abuse in Great Society initiatives run amok, or were they simply exposing the failures of some well-meaning, low-level bureaucrats in a basically worthy government program? It depends on your perspective. As for James O’Keefe, he is already looking for the next target.
Both of those paint an interesting picture, and push the article towards balanced (in my favor of finding the kid to be an egocentric prick).

Do you really think someone wearing a costume and professing a movie role for a life to be taken seriously? Just like the pimp in the ACORN "sting", what is captured are low-level employees being nice (but saying stupid/illegal things) to wacky people in costumes.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:22 PM on July 27, 2011


“You’re from The New York Times,” he said. “How can I be sure you’ll be objective and accurate?”

You can't. Objective and accurate reporting is a myth.


This is what they call "poisoning the well." Mission accomplished, conservative activists.
posted by verb at 8:29 PM on July 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism - which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place. He looked so good on paper that you could almost vote for him sight unseen. He seemed so all-American, so much like Horatio Alger, that he was able to slip through the cracks of Objective Journalism. You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful."

Hunter S. Thompson
Better than Sex
posted by Relay at 9:08 PM on July 27, 2011 [13 favorites]


I couldn't get past the Solzhenitsyn bit. Christ, what an asshole.
posted by RakDaddy at 10:10 PM on July 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


What completely disqualifies the article is that it mentions O'Keefe's conviction, but conveniently forgets to explain what the conviction was for. It wasn't for selective editing.
posted by Skeptic at 10:26 PM on July 27, 2011


People are so busy "rocking" clothes these days that no one seems to, you know, "wear" them.
posted by adamdschneider at 10:53 PM on July 27, 2011


Thanks for giving this asshat even more attention, NYT.

BTW, fuck you and Judy Miller.
posted by bardic at 12:38 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


O’Keefe grew up in Westwood, N.J., and still lives with his parents.

i suppose i might respect him if he moves out and gets an apartment on his own.
posted by lester at 1:30 AM on July 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I doubted it would be more frightening than the fact that two young guys, one in a kilt, the other equipped with a video camera, can film the Statue of Liberty, the New Jersey docks and a major international airport without attracting any attention.

I refuse to believe that is the attitude of a real person.
posted by Peztopiary at 1:53 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


As the Times frets about noble existential questions of perfect balance and unreachable ideals of objectivity, the Fox News-hosted, -written, and -operated website Fox Nation runs with headlines like:
Making Obamacare Bureaucrats Play by the Rules

Tea Party Keeps Boehner from Selling Out USA

New York Times Reader Kills Dozens in Norway
posted by Rhaomi at 2:05 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow.

I thought you had to be joking about the "New York Times Reader Kills Dozens in Norway" headline. That's intense.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 4:03 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


“But I speak truth to power."

Where truth is shit that he makes up.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:35 AM on July 28, 2011


I too thought those headlines were a joke.
posted by destro at 5:19 AM on July 28, 2011


I spoke to a tea partier recently. I mentioned the sign "Don't Take Away Our Medicare" and he said it was just one person who didn't get it that the left was presuming to stand for all of them--an argument I'd never heard before because, let's face it, I don't get to talk to the tea crowd that often. But isn't that picture just a reverse O'Keefe--treating the whole as represented by one person caught on film? (OK, it was digital, but . . .)
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:43 AM on July 28, 2011


I enjoyed the link. Thank you.
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 6:02 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think this kid is a real jackass, but I have the nagging feeling that a lot of liberal people I know would be totally fine with his tactics if he were using them against, say, Christian anti-abortion organizations, or Republican congressmen. Isn't this really just a question of whether the ends justify the means? Which is completely in the eye of the beholder?
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 6:13 AM on July 28, 2011


Yes, it is partly* about the ends justifying the means, which is why I think you're wrong that a lot of liberals would be OK with these tactics if they were repurposed. Do you have any examples of anyone on the Left doing anything like O'Keefe's bullshit?\


* The other part is that the ends he's after are evil.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:18 AM on July 28, 2011


No, I don't have any examples. It's just a feeling. I think it's worth examining why we think this guy is such a scumbag, and how much of it is just a function of the targets he goes after and the success he has had in doing it.

Basically, I'm with Prof. Kroeger: “For years, advocacy groups such as those for a better government have partnered with journalistic organizations,” Kroeger says. “Last year the Humane Society released an undercover video of the inhumane treatment of pigs in Virginia that got picked up by media around the country and won applause from animal lovers. Many of those same people vociferously went after O’Keefe for his exposé of NPR. It’s basically a question of what you care about and what side you are on.”
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 6:33 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Most of it has to do with the ways that he willingly takes quotes out of context and edits situations to seem much more damning for his 2 minute highlight reels, and then absolves himself by saying "buried deep in the 2 and a half hour unedited video I released is the actual context. If you were a real journalist, you'd watch the whole thing."
posted by to sir with millipedes at 6:44 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


filthy light thief: Do you really think someone wearing a costume and professing a movie role for a life to be taken seriously? Just like the pimp in the ACORN "sting", what is captured are low-level employees being nice (but saying stupid/illegal things) to wacky people in costumes.

That's not what was captured.

This is a common misconception. O'Keefe went exactly two places in his ridiculous pimp outfit: he walked the stairs of an office for a B-roll video (but didn't go in), and to a Fox interview. In the actual sting videos he was dressed normally.

O'Keefe nodded when asked in that Fox interview whether he had gone in dressed like that. He didn't. He's a liar.
posted by LanTao at 7:05 AM on July 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


“Last year the Humane Society released an undercover video of the inhumane treatment of pigs in Virginia that got picked up by media around the country and won applause from animal lovers. Many of those same people vociferously went after O’Keefe for his exposé of NPR. It’s basically a question of what you care about and what side you are on.”

Unless the Humane Society video contained faked inhumane treatment of pigs, no, it's not a question of what side you're on. O'Keefe's videos are fiction that he and his fans claim are fact. That's not doing anyone a service.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:12 AM on July 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


“We should expose the incentives that the system gives for fatherless families.”

“What agencies do this?” O’Keefe asked.

“Welfare,” Jean-Louis said.

“A couple could approach a caseworker and say they’re thinking of getting married, but they can’t decide if they should because it might be a loss in benefits,” Adeleye offered.

“A mom and a baby daddy, and the caseworker telling them not to get married,” Jean-Louis added.

“Even if they love each other,” O’Keefe said, giving the story an emotional center. “If the caseworker still says not to get married, that would be really powerful. Of course the headline will say, ‘O’Keefe Goes After Welfare,’ but some people actually need welfare. We’re looking to expose people who don’t. Maybe we should give the couple good jobs. That way there would be no economic justification for telling them to stay on welfare.”

“Right,” Jean-Louis. “A caseworker telling a black man not to marry.”

“A white caseworker,” Adeleye said.

Jean-Louis laughed. “A white male caseworker telling a black male.”

“You won’t find a white male caseworker,” Adeleye said.

“O.K., a white woman caseworker telling a black man not to marry a black woman. You know sisters are going to be outraged at that!”
This is the life work you want to be known for?
This is like Little Lord Faulteroy bopping servants on the head with his lollipop.

There is so much to be done in the world, but you want to spend yourtime inventing scenarios to plant ideological concepts about undeserving poor people?

I can't help but feel he gets an adrenaline rush, like it is some awesome videogame he's playing, whereby if he destroys compassion and empathy in the world he gets bonus points.

The evil way of approaching this: Make a quick video to be taken out of context to make a swathe of people angry at welfare.
The non-evil way of approaching this: "Maybe we should give the couple good jobs."
GOOD IDEA, WHY NOT RUN WITH THAT?
posted by Theta States at 8:56 AM on July 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


“I have to get government permission to accept speaking dates, which is how I make my living. I can’t travel to work on new projects. And I can’t leave to train others.”

Ahem.
posted by Dodecadermaldenticles at 10:46 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


In the end we all discover that this is all part of some Eve Online LARPing.
posted by Theta States at 11:27 AM on July 28, 2011


No, I don't have any examples. It's just a feeling. I think it's worth examining why we think this guy is such a scumbag, and how much of it is just a function of the targets he goes after and the success he has had in doing it.

Wait, seriously?
Michael Moore has, as far as I am aware, never done anything as questionable as any of the stunts this character pulls, and every liberal person I know makes a face like they just smelled a fart every time they hear his name. For a while there, people were more willing to admit to being Roman Polanski fans than Michael Moore fans.
posted by 235w103 at 3:03 PM on July 28, 2011


After graduating in 2006, O’Keefe went to work at the Leadership Institute. “James was an extremely hard worker,” Blackwell says.
Shouldn't that be "Mr. Blackwell"? Or did the times suddenly drop their style guide?
posted by delmoi at 11:14 PM on July 28, 2011


Wait, seriously?

I'm very, very late getting back to this thread, but, yes, seriously. I am not saying that liberal analogs to O'Keefe are worse, or equally bad. I am just saying that I think if you were to post about the liberal equivalent of O'Keefe to Metafilter – say someone who is selectively editing interview footage of himself with a pro-life group to make them seem more racist than they are – that the response would be very, very different indeed, and I think that response would be largely along the lines that the ends justify the means. This is not a criticism of Metafilter per se, but of political ideologues in general.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 11:05 PM on July 29, 2011


I think you're wrong. Absent any corroboration of your belief, I am going to continue thinking you're wrong.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:19 AM on July 30, 2011


Also, I do not believe there are any "liberal analogs to O'Keefe." Michael Moore is certainly not one. If you know of a liberal who creates falsified videos and has the ear of elected Democratic officials and the media to anything like the extent that O'Keefe does on the Right, trot him out.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:24 AM on July 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Metafilter loves calling out insidious bullshit on all sides. If there was a faked video mocking an anti-choice group and it was being presented as legitimate political fodder than I am almost positive it would be called out.
posted by Theta States at 5:53 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would just like to point out that Metafilter canned the post of the Guardian article about the "undercover" look in to faith-based pregnancy counselling services.
And that one wasn't even lying.
posted by Theta States at 7:38 AM on August 3, 2011


The only even remotely similar case I can think of is that blogger who called Scott Walker pretending to be one of the Koch brothers. But even that was more above-board than O'Keefe's schtick -- the guy may have misrepresented his identity, but the fealty Walker showed him and the despicable plans he admitted to considering were all very real, no deceptive editing required.
posted by Rhaomi at 2:46 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


...and many of us did call that out as a dirty tactic.
I don't like the standard that deception and secret recordings are OK, provided it, to paraphrase James O'Keefe's own words, "shows someone to be as despicable as we knew they were".
posted by Theta States at 5:55 AM on August 4, 2011


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