James O’Keefe’s book, Breakthrough: Our Guerrilla War to Expose Fraud and Save Democracy, should really come with the following warning for summer readers:
CAUTION: Compelling book causes intense concentration; sunburn is possible.
As I recover from being toasted by the California sun, I wanted to share the reason for my full focus.
O’Keefe is the innovative, young citizen journalist who gained national attention when he partnered with Hanna Giles in 2009 to videotape ACORN workers providing the “pimp” and the “prostitute” guidance to set-up a brothel filled with El Salvadoran teens. As a Tea Party activist, I followed their story closely and originally compared them with Woodward and Bernstein.
As O’Keefe points out in his gripping saga, this is not a sound analogy. After Woodward and Bernstein broke the Watergate story, their newspaper compatriots started investigating the Nixon administration.
After ACORN video broke, the journalists focused their investigation on O’Keefe and his partner.
Breakthrough is a fast-paced, action/adventure autobiography with a side of personal introspection. O’Keefe recounts the start of his citizen reporting career by noting his implementation of Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” in 2004….5 years before the rest of my Tea Party friends discovered how to use them to counter statism.
In fact, O’Keefe cleverly heads his chapters with “Veritas” rules as a counter to those offered by Alinsky. “Veritas” is the Latin word for truth, which he uttered as he was hauled away from Senator Mary Landrieu’s New Orleans office by security barbarians, after his team was caught attempting to tape staffers’ admissions that they were ignoring citizens’ calls complaining about the senator’s vote for Obamacare. It also refers to his 2010 formation of a 501(c)(3) organization, Project Veritas, with the mission to “investigate and expose corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud, and other misconduct.”
Of all the Veritas Rules offered, the one that struck me the most was Veritas Rule #16: Know who your friends are and stay loyal to them.
O’Keefe offers many examples of how supposed allies in the conservative movement have caved, buckling under the pressure to be accepted in the elite Beltway community. It is borne out by many examples I have observed during my own tenure as a citizen activist.
One case was conservative pundit Pat Buchanan, who naturally assumed that the news reports of O’Keefe’s Team bugging Landrieu’s office were true. As O’Keefe noted, “You would think that conservatives would have learned to distrust the media narrative, that they would wait before piling on.”
A more outrageous example involves the Leadership Institute, which has as its objective the training, recruiting and placing of conservatives into government, media, and political positions. This vivid episode involves O’Keefe’s initial, cutting-edge video on questionable Planned Parenthood operations in Los Angeles.
O’Keefe recounts what happened after that video hit The O’Reilly Factor:
I got called into another meeting with a couple of execs, Director of Publications Jeff Fulcher and Vice President Steven Sutton. “What you do is important,” they told me, “but you can’t do it here”. Perplexed, I asked, “But if you are going to get rid of people who do what I do, how are you going to raise money?” I never did get an answer to that one. They fired me on the spot. I was shocked, but it soon got worse. A colleague forwarded a fundrasing letter LI was sending out in which they were bragging about my direct-action campaigns during the course of the year with two different students……Getting fired I could take. This duplicity I could not. I was devastated.
O’Keefe’s encounters with Andrew Breitbart and Glenn Beck were insightful and entertaining. He conveys the spectrum of emotions felt by citizen activists admirably. I felt joy at his team’s wins, and outrage at the blatant harassment by bureaucratic bully-boys, leftist extremists, and the media minions that serve the politically connected.
In Breakthrough, the American press is most justifiable target of ire and derision. While there were so many great quotes to share that I could practically reprint the whole book, this one really hit home for me:
If today’s reporters found themselves in revolutionary France, they would be endorsing the head choppers, and their audience would cheer as each head hit the basket.
Given how fast our press has dropped the IRS-scandal, how we may have to rely on the foreign press to cover the one involving the National Security Agency antics, and the overall boobery associated with with the reporting on an array of key items (e.g., lack of a national budget Benghazi, Fast & Furious), it is hard not to agree.
President Obama was in his early 30’s when he penned his first autobiography. And while O’Keefe only turns 29 at the end of this month, I suspect his autobiography offers far more substance and facts. I look forward to seeing where life takes this dynamic and savvy young man for his sequel!
I will just have to be better about applying sunscreen next time!
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