In 2014, I applied for a position overseeing a journalism training program with the National Journalism Center, an offshoot of the Young America’s Foundation.
I’d made it reasonably far in the interview process and was checking all the right boxes—or so I thought.
For several years, I’d worked at a mid-size daily newspaper, and I had spent the previous school-year teaching journalism at both the high school and university level.
I also was coming into my own as a conservative journalist, having just submitted a Washington Times piece about the impact of Obama’s immigration crisis on public schools, which then-online editor Monica Crowley called “terrific.”
But after coasting through several rounds of screening at the foundation’s northern Virginia headquarters, I met with YAF President Ron Robinson and was promptly thrown for a loop.
“What’s your opinion of James O’Keefe,” he asked.
A JOLT TO JOURNALISM
It had been about five years since O’Keefe, then 25, burst into the national spotlight for a hidden-camera exposé revealing the leftist group ACORN’s tacit support of child exploitation and prostitution.
In the shocking collection of videos, the seriousness of the charge is somewhat diminished by the comically ludicrous appearance of O’Keefe dressed like a pimp.
As if plucked from an early-aughts New Jersey frat party, his sartorial inspiration for the costume seems to have been gleaned entirely from the “Scumbag Steve” meme.
Amazingly, O’Keefe’s sting operation with fellow activist Hannah Giles managed to bring down ACORN, which had been growing in influence amid murmurs of its suspicious voter-registration practices.
But after the story broke, O’Keefe had taken his share of licks. That included a $100,000 settlement for “invasion of privacy” in the ACORN case and a guilty plea to misdemeanor charges of “entering federal property under false pretenses” during an attempt to film the office of then-Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.
Back at the YAF interview, I stammered at Mr. Robinson’s question, trying quickly to formulate the most diplomatic way of saying that O’Keefe’s tactics went against every ounce of my training and belief in what journalism represented.
Whatever came out was not the right answer. My job prospects seemed to sink farther as the conversation progressed.
I consoled myself afterward with the knowledge that I had taken the principled stand and could never have condoned—much less taught to young, aspiring reporters—the brand of guerilla journalism that O’Keefe and his fledgling Project Veritas were engaged in.
But oh, what a difference a Trump presidency makes.
I would now argue that O’Keefe and those like him are the last hope of preserving any vestige of honest, shoe-leather reporting in the media industry at large.
Moreover, they may be one of the last guardrails of democracy in a corrupted system that is careening off the cliff at an alarming rate under current Democrat leadership.
To borrow from Ronald Reagan: I didn’t leave the mainstream media; the mainstream media left me.
That conscious uncoupling began in 2016, when figures like New York Times managing editor Dean Baquet decreed that responsible journalists must resist the urge to “normalize” Trump’s presidency by giving fair and equal treatment to his statements.
Of course, we all know that Baquet’s ‘false equivalency’ doctrine and ‘temporary’ suspension of objectivity have now become the norm.
Even with the anomalous term of the twice-impeached president safely in hindsight, leftist media have made no overture toward toning down their partisan activism. If anything, the disastrous Biden administration has emboldened them to go all in on the gambit.
Fittingly, on the same day last week that a major anti-Trump hoax pushed by the New York Times was debunked, Project Veritas’s latest exposé—showing a high-level CNN staffer admitting to rampant propaganda—appeared to have earned O’Keefe a spot on Twitter‘s permanent blacklist.
It remains difficult to comprehend how or why, over the course of a single presidential term, leftists succeeded in casting off centuries of journalistic truth-telling traditions while utterly flouting common-sense rules of free-market self-preservation, such as not canceling or alienating half your audience.
Maybe it was blissful ignorance and naiveté on my own part to think that the hopelessly biased press might still be redeemable if America’s survival hung in the balance.
Being honest and impartial, complying with journalism’s cardinal rule to “Seek the truth and report it,” seems but a pittance when the stakes are so high and the situation so dire.
But for self-validating, ivory-tower elites, the goal is now to erode the very definition of truth and to let misinformed perceptions of life viewed through a kaleidoscope of cultural grievances replace the once-objective reality.
THE GRIM FORECAST
As it did during Biden’s basement campaign last year, media gaslighting could be the only thing continuing to buoy his public image and rescue his lost legacy.
Congress currently has one of the narrowest majorities in recent memory. And all indications from the Clinton and Obama presidencies are that leftist overreach would be roundly punished in next year’s midterm under normal circumstances.
Questions about the 2020 presidential race aside, that should spell great hope for the Right’s political fortunes in 2022 and beyond.
But the obvious manipulation involved in using crises like the coronavirus, race riots, corporate cancel-culture and vote fraud as political bludgeons has shaken the faith of many.
With Marxist radicals forcibly assuming control of our cherished institutions of knowledge and truth, while indoctrinating those weak of mind and spirit, it’s easy to question whether American democracy is still salvageable.
In the face of all these exceptionally bizarre circumstances, the Biden administration’s relentless pursuit of a far-left agenda only adds to that uneasy feeling that we’re being kept in the dark about the forces now guiding our direction as a nation.
A BEACON IN LIGHT OR DARKNESS
Not surprisingly, most of the Left’s top legislative priorities are directly related to ways of securing their own power by changing the long-written rules and traditions of democracy.
The brazen power-grab leaves us to reach one of two conclusions:
- Democrats are so confident of their combined propaganda/vote-fraud apparatus that they no longer fear being held politically accountable.
- The Biden administration has made a calculated bet that the progressive agenda it pushes through in two years of monopolistic leadership can somehow earn it re-election.
Whichever the outcome, we can rely on watchdogs like Project Veritas to show us the way forward.
If the Biden administration truly believes that its far-left overhaul of government is a winning strategy, then we must focus, as O’Keefe and his crew have, on exposing the dishonesty of the corporate-media message bearers.
Within their own echo chamber, left-wing journo/actvists see no problem with putting their personal agenda ahead of the facts. As video after video has shown, they even gloat about wielding their power to push propaganda onto an unwitting public.
It is only by exposing and shaming them that they might be jostled out of that insular cocoon of self-sanctimony. Thus, the only way to combat their dishonesty is to catch it on tape and confront them with it.
Then again, if the ‘infrastructure’ of leftist election fraud has already taken hold past the point of repair, conservatives face a darker prospect in which the truth may not, necessarily, set us free.
In the face of such deception, the only remaining choice may be to play by Democrats’ own rules and to beat them at their own game.
If we find ourselves having to set up our own ACORN-style get-out-the-vote operations, it will be incumbent upon us all to learn the ways of corrupt Democrats by going undercover and infiltrating their dens of iniquity.
This is great news for outfitters specializing in jive fashion. But eventually, the influx of conservative undercover operatives in fur coats and canes, wide-brimmed hats and platform shoes may start to seem suspicious.
Fortunately, with the benefit of 10 years of wisdom and experience under their belts, O’Keefe and Project Veritas can help us come up with subtler ways of blending in undetected.
Follow Ben Sellers on Parler at https://parler.com/profile/Sellers.