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Book Review: James O’Keefe’s Breakthrough (Update – new video)

Book Review: James O’Keefe’s Breakthrough (Update – new video)

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!

Update 6-17-2013 by WAJ:


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Leslie– Excellent article. Thanks. (Glenn Beck has double N’s)

So glad to learn about this book. I am intrigued by the Veritas Rules, which I now think should become as familiar to us as Alinsky’s rules. Implementing O’Keefe’s rules would immeasurably improve our ability to bring truth to the narrative.

I have been searching online for a complete list of the 39 Veritas Rules, but I have only been finding random reports that mention one rule or another. Perhaps O’Keefe’s book is the first publication of his list, so it’s a little early to find a complete list online.

Here’s what I’ve been able to compile so far — please help fill in the rest so we will have a handy reference, or provide a link if you have found a site that already has the complete list:
Veritas Rule #1: Content is King
Rule #2 The truth is Manifestingly Damning
Rule #2: You must do what you can with what you have.
Rule #5: The law will always surround you. Learn it.
Rule #13: Safely extract the tape. If you don’t, they’ll say anything and be believed.
Rule #17: Never Let Your Guard Down.
Rule #16: Know who your friends are and stay loyal to them.
Rule #24: Walk a mile in your enemy’s head.
Rule #29: Rock beats scissors. Journalism beats anti-journalism.
Rule #36: Mau-mau the flak catchers.

Note that I found two versions of Rule #2; they probably belong together in one longer statement.

    J. Motes: I hope O’Keefe doesn’t mind, but I do like to cater to Legal Insurrection fans. Please, please, please share a link to this post, which will now list the rules in order.

    1) Content is King.
    2) You must do what you can with what you have.
    3) Use their own flawed construct to put them in a position where either way they can’t win.
    4) Find someone who can act and take action.
    5) The law will always surround you. Learn it.
    6) Always use props.
    7) Resist the temptation to work or live in the Beltway. Restrict visits to 24-hours. (MUT note – my second favorite).
    8) Expect the media to invert Ghandi: First they fight you, then they laugh at you, then they ignore you, then you win.
    9) Think of the worst thing they can say and prepare your response.
    10) Your manner matters more than your costume.
    11) If you do your job right, expect to break new legal ground.
    12) If you’re creative, you can always make the news.
    13) Safely extract the tape. If you don’t, they’ll say anything and be believed.
    14) No journalist can speak truth to power unless they are willing to be slandered and arrested.
    15) Stick to the facts.
    16) Know who your friends are and stay loyal to them.
    17) Never let your guard down. You are always behind enemy lines.
    18) Obsess over getting your subject in the frame.
    19) When the content is strong enough, the publicity will take care if itself.
    20) If you’re doing your job, the government will be paying attention.
    21) Stay on script.
    22) Expect to be held to a higher standard than Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists.
    23) Watch out for moles.
    24) Walk a mile in your enemy’s head.
    25) If it feels wrong, abort and get out safely.
    26) Guerrilla tactics are inherently anti-bureaucratic. It is sometimes necessary to operate at your own risk.
    27) They may never understand your ideas, but they will be forced to understand your results.
    28) Rock beats scissors. Journalism beats anti-journalism.
    30) Don’t blow your cover while inside the place.
    31) Keep your mind open to people who know more than you do.
    32) Brand your action and it will have legs.
    33) You will get a wave of creative adrenaline from time-to-time. Go with it.
    34) Double-check your facts before going public.
    35) Be prepared to release unedited tape. Ask your adversaries to do the same.
    36) Mau-mau the flak catchers.
    37) Ask forgiveness, not permission.
    38) Remember, some journalists are more equal than others.
    39) Big things have small beginnings.

    There are fascinating stories and examples to go with all of the above….so…BUY THE BOOK FROM THE PROFESSOR’S AMAZON LINK ABOVE!!!!!!!!!

      J Motes in reply to Leslie Eastman. | June 17, 2013 at 1:11 am

      THANK you, Leslie!

      Surely O’Keefe won’t mind that you have posted his list of Veritas Rules. It is such an excellent collection that I want to know more. I will obey your command to purchase this book via the LI Amazon link!

[…] AT LEGAL INSURRECTION, A REVIEW of James O’Keefe’s Breakthrough: Our Guerilla War to Expose Fraud and Save Democracy. […]

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

The leadership of the Republican party – and large parts of the “conservative” establishment are just as much the enemy as the left and the bureaucracy.

Usually when someone does something as successful and courageous as O’Keefe, many others would follow.

The fact that he is still pretty much alone shows how intimidated and afraid people are of this government and its media apologists.

[…] had a chance to review James O’Keefe’s book, Breakthrough, for Legal Insurrection. There is a young man who is a real hero and patriot, Patrick Henry style. The treatment he went […]