James O'Keefe, the face of "conservative journalism"

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

Andrew Breitbart continues with his best who's-James-O'Keefe? routine in the wake of the prankster's arrest in New Orleans, where O'Keefe and his conservative pals allegedly went undercover as telephone repairmen and were charged by federal authorities after entering Sen. Mary Landrieu's Louisiana office.

Breitbart, who championed O'Keefe's ACORN work at every chance he's had over the last four months, who's been helping to raise money for O'Keefe's previously established defense fend, who routinely holds O'Keefe up as a role model for the new type of activist "conservative journalist" that Breitbart wants to empower, and who in the past has insisted that reporters who wanted to pose questions to O'Keefe had to ask them through mentor-Breitbart, now acts like he hardly knows the guy. (RW talker Hugh Hewitt tried to help Breitbart build his wall of deniability: "HH: Did you talk to him about bugging any offices? AB: No." Priceless.)

The truth is, O'Keefe is a product --a creature-- of the right-wing media culture that now eagerly pushes partisan propaganda as a placeholder for "journalism."

Indeed, O'Keefe was clearly star-struck by the all the right-wing media doors doors that were opened by his dubious ACORN caper, which he filmed with Hannah Giles. And O'Keefe clearly believed that more outlandish acts would help his RW media career [emphasis added]:

The more bold you are, the more opportunities will be open to you. The less bold you are, the less opportunities in life will be open to you. The less calculated risk you take in college, the more you're going to be looking for a job.

But the more you put yourself out there and you take those calculated risks--the contrary of what people actually think is going to happen--you're actually going to get opportunities. Especially with someone like Hannah [Giles], who is a college student in Florida, you know, everyone telling her 'Oh, don't dress up like a [explicit]. Don't do that, you're going to ruin your career.'

Well, now she's working for Andrew Breitbart! And she's a journalist for Breitbart doing investigative journalism for the new site BigJournalism. So, I would encourage everyone to take on the challenge in college of being as assertive as you can possibly be in going after the truth.

The good news for Breitbart is he (claims) he knew nothing about O'Keefe's master plan for New Orleans, even though, yes Breitbart pays O'Keefe a salary. (Ouch.) But the idea that Breitbart, or Fox News, or the entire GOP Noise Machine, which vouched for, celebrated and encouraged O'Keefe and his shoddy brand of "journalism" for months can now turn around and say they have nothing to do with him, just doesn't compute. Why? Because O'Keefe's alleged recent actions in New Orleans, where he treated journalism like a joke, and treating an elected Democrat like a common criminal, are in prefect sync with the ethos of today's "conservative journalism."

And make no mistake, O'Keefe views himself as a journalist:

I focus on content more than labels. I happen to call what I do shoe leather journalism and not advocacy journalism. So, I would consider it just journalism.

"Just journalism"? See, that's the problem. It's not just journalism to dress up in a costume, go undercover, videotape people surreptitiously (esp. if local laws forbid such action), capture hidden camera footage, and then post the raw clips online or give it to Fox News to hype. It's not journalism to pretend to be somebody you're not, record people without telling them, and then hit the play button so everyone can watch.

Has 60 Minutes or 20/20 ever aired an undercover sting story that consisted of nothing more than 18 minutes of raw footage? Of course not. Journalism means putting information in context, letting 'the other side' have a say, etc. And of course it's not journalism when legitimate discrepancies arise about the videos for film makers to then refuse to release all the unedited clips. And it's not journalism to deceptively edit out exculpatory material without telling anyone.

But with the Breitbart model, wildly promoted by Fox News, none of that fairness stuff matters. Instead, vilification is the driving force and facts are optional. That, in turn leads "conservative journalists" to allegedly hatch B-movie plots to finagle their way into a senator's office and mess with her phone.

Fox News Channel
Andrew Breitbart, James O'Keefe
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.