Ethics, Irony, and James O’Keefe

James O’Keefe, the young freelance conservative operative who exposed the systemic corruption in ACORN by posing as a pimp in need of tax advice for a hidden videocam, was one of four men arrested yesterday for trying to tamper with Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office phones. It appears that he was attempting to pull off another sting operation, with O’Keefe’s compatriots posing as telephone workers.

The arrest has many of O’Keefe’s former admirers trying to  forget he ever existed, such as the Salt Lake County Republicans, who had him scheduled to be the keynote speaker at their upcoming convention. The ironic part of the arrest is that it proves that what O’Keefe successfully exposed at ACORN is true of him as well. ACORN is a well-meaning organization with some admirable goals and an ethically-flawed culture. O’Keefe and his colleagues are the same: they have no problem engaging in unethical conduct to achieve what they believe are worthy objectives.

His fake pimp and prostitute act was funny and successful, but it was also deceptive and unfair: the use of hidden cameras and microphones, not to mention lying about your identity and your motives, is always unfair, arguably  even when the police do it. It was predictable that he would go too far, because O’Keefe’s ethics alarms didn’t work much better than those of the ACORN workers who told his “prostitute” how to apply for government assistance. He had sniffed celebrity, and wanted to top himself. When unethical conduct pays off, as it sometimes does, it can become a habit. Gleeful conservatives should have been wary.

Unethical people tend to do unethical things until they don’t get away with them.

James O’Keefe’s lack of ethical values revealed ACORN’s corruption, and his own. Conservatives need to choose their champions more carefully.

3 thoughts on “Ethics, Irony, and James O’Keefe

  1. Indeed.

    Lies, even in the service of the greater good, do moral violence to the liar as well as the victim.

    Whether O’Keefe is guilty of wrongdoing in the Landrieu affair or not, this should be a warning to others. It may be sexy and fun to deceive in the name of exposing bad behavior, but immersing oneself in seediness and ethical freelancing can become an addiction that leads to an unfortunate end.

    It looks like that’s what happened here, so far at least.

  2. This is a consistent problem. One of your rationalizations. If it’s for the greater good, it doesn’t matter how we get there. Shame. And it puts all do-gooders on the line of mistrust.

  3. Pingback: Ethics and Irony: the Postman Rings Twice for ACORN « Ethics Alarms

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