New Rule: No More Scalps for O’Keefe

So let’s say I’m wearing a hidden camera and ask you about murder. You think I’m joking, so you humor me with hypothetical murder scenarios. Then let’s say I edit the video creatively, announce that I have proof you are a psychotic killer, and put the video on the internet. Do my actions in fact make you a serial murderer? Of course not.

But if I do this same thing to people over and over again, you could justifiably call me a serial smearer.

That’s exactly what James O’Keefe III is: a serial smear-merchant. Every explosive new video from O’Keefe turns out to be yet another fabrication made in the same pattern: instigate awkward conversations, record them, and turn the footage into fake accusations. We should be immune to this by now, but instead he has claimed yet another scalp:

The son of Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), who had served as his father’s field director, resigned from the campaign Wednesday after an undercover video showed him talking about how to forge documents to cast fake ballots.

[...]

Patrick Moran responds:

“In reference to the “O’Keefe” video, at no point have I, or will I ever endorse any sort of illegal or unethical behavior. At no point did I take this person seriously. He struck me as being unstable and joking, and for only that reason did I humor him.

“In hindsight, I should have immediately walked away, making it clear that there  is no place in the electoral process for even the suggestion of illegal behavior, joking or not.

“In regards to my position on the campaign, I have stepped down because I do not want to be a distraction during this year’s critical election.” (Emphasis mine)

Politicians and organizations generally display no patience with scandal, which is why Shirley Sherrod got fired before it became clear that she had been the victim of a vicious smear-job. It was the same with Juan Carlos Vera, the ACORN worker in San Diego who called the police to report the suspicious visit by O’Keefe and Hannah Giles only to get fired anyway.

Moran can stop kicking himself, because it wouldn’t have mattered if he had walked away — some ACORN employees tried that, and it didn’t help. Until everyone adopts a new, less credulous attitude towards hidden camera videos made by someone with an extensive record of fabricated smears, O’Keefe will continue to gather scalps.

Everyone in Democratic or progressive politics needs to understand that strangers with strange conversations are a danger to whatever organization or cause they serve. Volunteers and staff must be trained to pay attention to the inner voice calling out that something is wrong. The best way to keep O’Keefe from gathering more scalps is to unmask his agents in the act.

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About Matt Osborne

Veteran blogging the culture wars from Alabama. Video journalist, mash-up artist, aspiring novelist, and metalhead. Expect bunnies, geekery, dark humor, and snarky empirical analysis to annoy idealists of all stripes. You can follow me on Twitter, but be ready 'cause it might get loud.
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