American Journalism’s Integrity Death Spiral, PART II: The James O’Keefe Conundrum

The past and present of investigative journalism.

The past and present of investigative journalism.

James O’Keefe calls himself an investigative journalist, but that’s not what he is. A real investigative journalist would look for the truth, whichever political party a particular set of uncovered and inconvenient facts happened to make look bad.O’Keefe is only interested in getting dirt on Democrats and their allies.

A real investigative journalist would also follow, or know he was supposed to follow, or at least make some effort to follow, the tenets of journalism ethics, which frown on using trickery, lies and surreptitious recording to obtain stories. This is all O’Keefe does. His oxymoronically named Project Veritas uses people posing as someone they are not, spouting misrepresentations,  to obtain video evidence of corruption in the bowels of political activism…Democratic political activism, that is. Recently, O’Keefe got various supporters of and volunteers for Allison Grimes—you know, that former Democratic National Convention delegate for Barack Obama running for U.S. Senator under the banner of Democratic Party in Kentucky who refuses to say that she voted for the current Democratic President?—to opine that that the candidate’s vocal support for the coal industry was a sham. As always with O’Keefe’s stings, the dedicated Daily Koses huffed and puffed and explained why the videos were misleading (the usual excuse is that the victims “caught in the act of being themselves,” as Candid Camera creator Allen Funt used to say, were “going along” with O’Keefe’s sham. This was also the excuse of many of the Congressmen filmed taking bribes in the Abscam sting. It is not persuasive.)

It’s a pretty sure thing that O’Keefe was on to something valid, just as he was on to something valid when he tricked an NPR exec into raving about how much he hated conservatives, and when he got some ACORN employees to demonstrate the kind of loose ethics that poorly trained zealots tend to display when a community organization operation gets too much money and continues to be run by amateurs. Most recently, O’Keefe caught various progressive activists enthusiastically endorsing voter fraud in Colorado.

O’Keefe’s theme is a good one: he targets areas of unethical conduct that the mainstream media refuses to investigate because their Democrat friends and allies deny the conduct exists. ACORN was a true cesspool of corruption; my favorite was the ACORN board treasurer who embezzled millions but was allowed to keep his job because he was ACORN’s founder’s brother. The media ignored the trail of rotten ACORN crumbs anyway, because the group registered voters for Democrats. Similarly, anyone who is fair and listens to NPR regularly knows that it is 1) excellent and also 2) smugly, relentlessly left in its choice of stories and coverage of them. Never mind: good liberals deny that NPR is biased.  “Voter fraud? What voter fraud?” is the mantra of the mainstream media, because Democratic voting blocs have long been more prone to voting early and often than Republicans, and Democrats know it. In such a complicit journalistic culture, a James O’Keefe was inevitable.

But this O’Keefe cheats. Not only does he employ unethical methods to get his targets to admit what he suspects is true, he also likes to edit the raw footage, and discard the tapes in which liberals display integrity and honesty.

He is, in short, scum. He is scum, however that has been created from the muck of mainstream journalism, equally unethically if not so scummily, taking sides. Over the weekend, Bob Woodward of Watergate fame said…

“The reality now in my view that in the Obama administration, there are lots of unanswered questions about the IRS, particularly. If I were young, I would take Carl Bernstein and move to Cincinnati where that IRS office is and set up headquarters and go talk to everyone.”

This true scandal has been revealing itself drip by drip for almost two years now. OK, Woodward and Bernstein are old, rich and no longer like Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, and Ben Bradley is dead. Why has no other team of real, public minded investigative reporters set out to get to the bottom of the IRS mess? The answer is that the vast majority of Woodsteins today have convinced themselves that there is no scandal, and if they suspected there was, don’t have the integrity or the guts to trace the evidence to the White House, if it happened to lead there. Everyone hated Nixon, after all: Woodward and Bernstein only had to worry about being wrong, not being right. A 2014 equivalent that brought down Barack Obama’s Presidency, however, would be as popular in the American journalism community as Ebola.

Thus the job falls to James O’Keefe and his ilk, which means that even if he found a a handwritten order from President Obama to the IRS saying, “Cut the legs out from under those tea party groups before the 2012 election!,” it would have no effect. The mainstream media wouldn’t report it, and at least half of the public wouldn’t believe it. If O’Keefe had any integrity, it would be different. If he had any integrity, he would be employing his unethical tactics to expose conservative groups, Fox News, lying GOP candidates and conservatives who favor voter fraud, as well as his targets on the left. He doesn’t have integrity, though. If he had integrity, he wouldn’t be James O’Keefe.

The absence of objective, non-partisan truth-seekers in the media leaves a vacuum filled by the likes of O’Keefe, polarizing journalism further and transforming it into a weapon of propaganda rather than a tonic for it, as journalism is supposed to be.

Oh…that quote from Bob Woodward?

It has only been reported by the conservative news media.

Of course!

[Read American Journalism’s Integrity Death Spiral, PART I: Illegal Voters and “Stonewalled” here.]

__________________________

Sources: Fox News, National Review

24 thoughts on “American Journalism’s Integrity Death Spiral, PART II: The James O’Keefe Conundrum

  1. All of today’s politics remind me of an adage I once read in, of all places, Mad magazine years ago: “Bad politics is what the party out of power says about what the party in power is doing, even though, if the party out of power were the party in power, they would be doing exactly the same thing, in which case in would be good politics.”

  2. “They’re all a bunch of crooks.” said my soon-to-be father-in-law, referring to politicians and the media in 1971. I was young and idealistic then and thought he was getting too old and jaded to be trusted to vote.
    He wasn’t wrong then and it’s worse now.

  3. If the swamp needs draining, and it’s infecting the town, I guess I prefer for the guy doing it to be a completely ethical, good looking, personable and upright citizen; I’ll settle for an asshole though, if that’s all that’s available, because the swamp really needs draining.
    Having somehow made it through Cronkite’s and Woodward’s biographies, I’m pretty sure that those guys are assholes, and Carl Bernstein is a partisan hack writer who lives pretty far up the Clinton’s tail-pipe.
    I’m not certain when in our history the terms “ethical” and journalism” could have been used in the same sentence without general amusement all around. Same goes for “non-partisan”. Journalists are supposed to be nosy, noisy, intrusive and generally a pain in the ass. They should be so annoying that there is no chance of them attending the same parties as the powerful. I want them physically thrown out of those parties after they bribe the caterer to let them in; then I want them to do it again. O’Keefe seems to meet many of these criteria.

    • I agree, talking about journalists forty years ago as if they were bastions of non-partisan initiative takes more than a few rose tinted glasses, but I’m not sure that’s what jack was getting at. More, I think it’s a level of professionalism. But that’s our fault as the consumer. Generally, the average consumer is more interested in being entertained than informed. We’re the generation of snarky bumper stickers and pigeon chess. We appreciate the got’cha more than the exposé.

    • We know Cronkite was a liberal tool, and Dan Rather eventually exposed himself as a propagandist, but once upon a time the news on TV was actually the most important news, not items put on the air because that’s what the suits guessed its audience wanted to hear about. It was never as good or fair as it pretended to be, but once journalists really did take pride in reporting—look at how the New York Times has declined. Look at the Today Show, or “Meet the Press.” Lois Lerner and the IRS scandal would have been a constant story in 1980, forcing a special counsel. Ditto “Fast and Furious.”

    • It’s really simple. “Journalism” is not a profession by any means. Unlike, say Doctors, Accountants, Engineers or even Chiropractors, there is no licensing authority, no governing association setting standards and holding people accountable and, sometime, revoking licenses. (Not that many of these do that, but still.) To be a Journalist, apparently, all you need to do is string words and sentences together, and get hired by someone who shares your same political/social values as demonstrated by your work. There are no ethics in “Journalism”. To expect any is foolish.

      • If you really want to get an indignant look, ask a reporter where the public’s right to know goes during a newspaper writers’ strike.

  4. We are in a Cold Civil War.

    And we know in War, ethics often takes a back seat.

    I donno. If people believe they are fighting for the future of the country and they believe that America’s basic institutions, that ideally should be non-partisan defenders of the Republic, have wholly betrayed that ideal and gotten in bed with the very forces seeking to upend the Republic, it’s hard not to engage like a guerilla.

    Which is unfortunate

    • I think that’s a little overly dramatic. Cold war? Who are the players? Conservatives and Liberals? They vote lock step more than 90% of the time. You and me, we might identify more with the message conservatives have laid out, but the vast majority of what they do is indistinguishable from their opponents, so really, who is the dog in our corner?

    • Oh, I don’t know, Tex. My granddaughter calls me a gorilla all the time. Especially when I offered to shoot her loser boyfriend. On a more serious note, you are right, and the members of those very institutions are obvious oblivious to their constituents needs, desires etc. I think, in part, that the left has gone so far into tactics that I consider bullying (race-baiting, religion-bashing, hetero-hatred, etc. that James may feel that he has to lose the ethics in order to compete. Just a thought.

      • Loser boyfriend?

        Simple solution: Involves a shovel, a forest, and a lifelong friend (preferably an old army buddy) who you know can keep a secret as well as maintain an airtight alibi for you despite pressures and deals.

      • It’s a great term; I almost used it myself and thought it would be original, then learned that it had been out there for a while. I don’t think it’s exaggerated at all. I think it is spot-on…a degree of entrenched partisan opposition that has hardened into distrust, disrespect and animus that in other times would have led to a shooting war. It is very dangerous, and the divisions actively encouraged by the Obama administration are the equivilent playing with fire in a drought-parched forest.

            • Barring a unanimous and simultaneous “rising up”, isn’t that a somewhat moot point?

              All it takes is goading the right group into insurrection that can be easily quashed and then scape goat the rest and incrementally disarm the rest of the Right.

              Did I mention before that conservative and libertarian ideologies will simply e diagnosed as mental illness so they can be incarcerated in health institutions?

              Ok. Playing “how dystopian can it get” can be fun sometimes. But I don’t like how real it could be if we aren’t careful.

              • And don’t kid yourself, the Left has plenty of guns. Ask Feinstein in California. Not to mention the current regime having the Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force at it’s disposal. Not entirely sure what their reaction would be if ordered to fire on fellow Americans, but if it was a lawful order…?

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