A Merry Prank
It is still unclear exactly what Mr. O’Keefe and three other men were doing when they were caught on Monday, charged by federal authorities with fraudulently entering a federal building for the purpose of “interfering” with Senator Landrieu’s phone system. But the episode has raised questions about the nature of the journalism practiced by Mr. O’Keefe, even among his past supporters.
Mr. O’Keefe is a conservative activist who gained fame last year by posing as a pimp and secretly recording members of the community group Acorn giving him advice on how to set up a brothel.
Traditionalist journalists have to be cringing: Mr. O'Keefe, instead of reporting the story, has managed to be the story. To get the story, he manufactured it. This is a little different than Dr. Sanjay Gupta being filmed by his CNN colleagues as he performs emergency surgery on an injured Haitian. Dr. Gupta at least didn't whack the patient over the head so the surgery became necessary. Mr. O'Keefe had his own kind of agenda and his own theories on how to implement that agenda, as noted by one of his former campus colleagues:
“James always said, ‘Journalism is putting a camera in someone’s face until they do something stupid,’ ” said Cain Barry, who worked with Mr. O’Keefe at The Centurion, a conservative publication at Rutgers, until Mr. O’Keefe graduated in 2006...
I believe that is what Sarah Palin would call "Gotcha Journalism," something she accused the mainstream press of indulging in during the 2008 election. Mr. O'Keefe's latest endeavors, however, go even beyond that to setting up the subject so that he or she has to do something, anything, to stop the intrusion. Woodward and Bernstein didn't need to shove a camera down "Deep Throat" to get the biggest story of that decade.
The Times article refers to this as a "prank-filled brand of journalism." I think that an appalling statement, given the illegalities of the Mr. O'Keefe's latest effort. This is entrapment, something cops aren't allowed to do and something journalists shouldn't be allowed to do.
Apparently Mr. O'Keefe doesn't quite get that:
Shortly after news broke of his arrest on charges of trying to tamper with the telephones in Senator Mary L. Landrieu’s district office here, James O’Keefe III posted a brief statement on Twitter: “I am a journalist,” it read. “The truth shall set me free.”
The boy ain't right.
Labels: Free Press