American Pravda: My Fight for Truth in the Era of Fake News
a book by James O'Keefe
(our site's book review)
The Amazon blurb says that The one real difference between the American press and the Soviet state newspaper Pravda was that the Russian people knew they were being lied to. To expose the lies our media tell us today, controversial journalist James O’Keefe created Project Veritas, an independent news organization whose reporters go where traditional journalists dare not. Their investigative work—equal parts James Bond, Mike Wallace, and Saul Alinsky—has had a consistent and powerful impact on its targets.
In American Pravda: My Fight for Truth in the Era of Fake News, the reader is invited to go undercover with these intrepid journalists as they infiltrate political campaigns, unmask dishonest officials and expose voter fraud. A rollicking adventure story on one level, the book also serves as a treatise on modern media, arguing that establishment journalists have a vested interest in keeping the powerful comfortable and the people misinformed.
The book not only contests the false narratives frequently put forth by corporate media, it documents the consequences of telling the truth in a world that does not necessarily want to hear it. O’Keefe’s says his enemies attack with lawsuits, smear campaigns, political prosecutions, and false charges in an effort to shut down Project Veritas. For O’Keefe, every one of these attacks is a sign of success. For us, these attacks are mostly legitimate legal and P.R. responses to the fact that the author sets people up in stings that mostly misrepresent facts.
American Pravda: My Fight for Truth in the Era of Fake News puts the myths and misconceptions surrounding O’Keefe’s activities to rest and will make you rethink every word you hear and read in the so-called mainstream press.
O’Keefe has a point that the mainstream media is feeding us a lot of misinformation—part of their propaganda function to sell the policies of the shadow government; but his claim that he and his far-right buddies will supply the REAL truth will be read by many, believed by few, and cared about by even fewer
The deep state–media complex and the lobbyists, journalists, contractors, intelligence officers, and high-level bureaucrats who comprise the deep state all add up to what many knew in the 1960s as the establishment, and even then they saw that the establishment was fond of playing fast and loose with the truth.
In their 1988 book Manufacturing Consent, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky the establishment media “as effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function, by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship and without overt coercion.” If Chomsky and Herman erred, it was in thinking that the deep state would inevitably skew right. It has not, says O’Keefe. And if O’Keefe erred, it was in having the arrogance to feel he can sit in judgment of one of the world's preeminent intellectuals: Noam Chomsky.
O’Keefe says "Some say that the real difference between the dominant American media and the old Soviet Pravda is that the Russian people knew they were being lied to. The fact that Pravda is the Russian word for “truth” fooled almost no one. When Russians heard the word Pravda, they heard power. They had little choice but to go along with the lies at least publicly, but privately they rejected them and, very privately, they joked about them. . . . Pravda was allowed to deceive because no force in the Soviet Union could stop it. The New York Times and its media allies and imitators continue to mislead or deceive their audiences for much the same reason. Up until November 2016, no force could stop them either. In the months since, they have done everything in their power to prove that 2016 was a mistake. Indeed, they openly seek to reverse it, and they may yet succeed. . . . The new technologies have democratized news reporting, but the major media, panicked by their loss of control, reject or simply ignore sources that challenge their desired narrative. Having chosen a narrative, they will pound away at it . . . "
In Russia: Our leaders lie to us constantly about everything. How can we tell if our leaders are lying? Their mouths are moving! We can do nothing to change this, so we simply dance!
James Edward O'Keefe III (born June 28, 1984) is an American conservative political activist. He produces secretly recorded undercover audio and video encounters with figures and workers in academic, governmental and social service organizations, purporting to show abusive or allegedly illegal behavior by employees and/or representatives of those organizations. He has been criticized for selectively editing videos to misrepresent the context of conversations and the subjects' responses, creating the false impression that people said or did things they did not. . . . O'Keefe gained support from conservative media and interest groups. In 2009, Andrew Breitbart commissioned him for the option to publish new videos exclusively on BigGovernment.com. (As a rightwinger activist, O'Keefe has attempted stings on Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and Planned Parenthood. O'Keefe was sentenced to three years' probation, 100 hours of community service and a $1,500 fine for one crime, and he had to pay $100,000 as a settlement in another case. He faced a $1 million lawsuit filed against his organization Project Veritas. His m.o. is to secretly record conversations, re-edit them so they mean something else, misrepresenting the situation, and then publish the video as a gotcha piece. He sets liberal people up that then get into trouble. One victim said "the last thing we want to be associated with is a character like O'Keefe who has been convicted and successfully sued for his illegal tactics and fraudulent activities.") (Source: James O'Keefe, Wikipedia)
O'Keefe's m.o. is to secretly record conversations, re-edit them so they mean something else, misrepresenting the situation, and then publish the video as a gotcha piece
O'Keefe seems to be using the Jerome R. Corsi playbook. (See Killing the Deep State: The Fight to Save President Trump) It's been said Corsi is usually up to his old tricks, doing what he does best: promoting falsehoods and conspiracy theories. The evidence shows that the man will do virtually anything to get book sales.
The company O'Keefe keeps is similar: Andrew Breitbart, Trump supporters, and various other rightwing people and groups. The NY Times said that O'Keefe's strategy is to "caricature the political and social values of his enemies by carrying them to outlandish extremes." (And sometimes illegal extremes.)
"Caleb Howe, a longtime conservative blogger and the editor-in-chief of the website RedState, has written optimistically in the past about the potential of "citizen journalism" practiced by conservative activists. But in recent years, he said, [O'Keefe's] Project Veritas has largely failed to live up to its promise. 'I do think after ACORN, the magic went out of this pretty quickly,' Howe said. 'As I saw the story of this attempted sting,' he added, 'I thought to myself that it seems like the only thing being exposed lately is the lack of sophistication on the part of the stingers.'" [For example:] "The conservative provocateur James O’Keefe’s latest stunt is possibly his biggest backfire: He attempted to sting The Washington Post with a fake Roy Moore accuser, but found himself stung, as the Post exposed the scheme in a detailed report on Monday night. 'James has committed important acts of journalism,' the conservative writer Ben Shapiro, a former Breitbart News editor, said. 'This wasn’t one. It was misbegotten from the outset. Attempting to indirectly discredit alleged sexual-abuse victims by planting a fake story with a news outlet is bad stuff.' 'His track record over the past several years has been increasingly embarrassing.'" (Source: How James O'Keefe Made Himself Irrelevant, Rosie Gray and McKay Coppins, The Atlantic)
'I could see in Trump a kindred spirit,' says O'Keefe about when he met Trump. Unfortunately, the second Trump sees O'Keefe as a liability, Trump will throw him under the bus
Obviously, O'Keefe hopes to impress rightwing celebrities and organizations (Trump, Breitbart News, Steve Bannon, etc.) as well as further rightwing causes—even causes as low as alleged rapist Roy Moore's defense. But rightwing celebrities and organizations seem less and less interested in having anything to do with O'Keefe and his barely legal shenanigans. They don't want the taint. In the meantime, O'Keefe drew a salary of over $300,000 last year, perhaps representing that he is a legend in his own mind?
Who dresses like Osama bin Laden and crosses our border?! O'Keefe, that's who!
O'Keefe thinks he is helping Trump's ludicrous border wall seem needed—as if it could ever be effective
From the Back Cover of American Pravda: My Fight for Truth in the Era of Fake News:
"You're an idiot," West said to me [O'Keefe] casually in his monotone Tex-Mex drawl as I scanned the border country though a pair of binoculars.
"Why's that?" I [O'Keefe] answered, not knowing which of a dozen likely responses I might provoke.
"For doing this," he said. The "this" in question was crossing the Rio Grande dressed as Osama bin Laden. One wonders if O'Keefe is a can short of a 6-pack or a pallet short of a full load, or if his elevator goes all the way to the top. Why would ANYONE dress up as the dead terrorist and cross our border?! Answer: to impress father-figure Trump that he is helping Trump's ludicrous border wall seem needed. The wall is an irl metaphor for Trump's xenophobia.
When you hear about democratizing Iraq, you're unaware it's a baldfaced lie used as a coverup to hide our intention to pursue empire building at whatever cost
It should be clarified that Pravda and the U.S. mainstream media are both truth-challenged institutions that take their cues from two sources: powerful corporations and CIA-connected in-house editors in the U.S., and powerful oligarchs in Russia. See Freedom of the Press—an American Delusion and see how wealthy interests have had a stranglehold on our mainstream media for an entire century. And notice how the CIA fits into the picture. When you hear nonsense like the propaganda line "the U.S. military is in Iraq to democratize it," you're unaware it's a baldfaced lie used as a coverup to hide our intention to pursue empire building at whatever cost. American military adventures have the dual goal of exploiting other countries' resources simultaneously with robbing the nonrich in this country and putting the money into rich oligarchs' back accounts. See Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, Media Control, Second Edition: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda, and Shadow Elite: How the World's New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market.
Notice that to most people, truth is truth, but to the mainstream media, it is whatever those in power need it to be—this is the influence of propaganda and pressure
Notice that to most people, truth is truth, but to the mainstream media, it is whatever those in power need it to be—this is the influence of propaganda and pressure; i.e., Truth, R.I.P.
As O'Keefe says, "The new technologies have democratized news reporting, but the major media, panicked by their loss of control, reject or simply ignore sources that challenge their desired narrative." The accepted conventional wisdom is created when the real neocon power brokers pronounce it to be so, and all conflicting narratives are dismissed by the mainstream media as lies, conspiracy theories, or fake news and relegated to the web pages on alternative news sites like https://www.alternet.org/, blogs, and ebooks.
The problem with the author's version of reality is that he's politicized the situation so that mainstream media are Democratic P.R. agents working with the deep state which are intelligence operators. This is a convenient narrative, but it is not accurate. The shadow government doesn't care which political party is in the White House—it runs things the same either way, which explains why we went from Bush to Obama to Trump always fighting the same eternal wars that the citizens did not want, and always using the same lame excuse about fighting terrorists when any moron can see that the U.S. is CREATING terrorists with its policies—the U.S. military is a terrorist factory.
The U.S. is CREATING terrorists with its policies—the U.S. military is a terrorist factory: kill one, create 10 more
The mainstream media has historically been mostly apolitical, giving balanced coverage to both parties. But when Trump came along and started insulting journalists and newspapers, calling them liars and fake news and threatening to jail reporters that wouldn't see things his way, he forced them to circle the wagons and push back against his radical extremist agenda and his racist, sexist, xenophobic, misogynistic, nationalistic, demagogic personality. The radical Republicans that were eating from the Trump gravy train utilized the rightwing extremist press like Breitbart News as well as lots of fake news and conspiracy theorist blogs—and Fox News—to form a counteroffensive against the mainstream media. To O'Keefe, this shows they were always Democratic P.R. agents only pushing the leftist view. In reality, a press that had been relatively balanced before Trump declared war on them (a typical demagogue strategy followed by such men as Adolf Hitler) was forced to play defense against Trump's continual offense.
Trump forced the mainstream media to circle the wagons and push back against his radical extremist agenda when he called them fake news spreading liars
Trump declared war on the press to increase his power (a typical demagogue strategy followed by such men as Adolf Hitler)
This doesn't mean the press didn't represent the CW party line which was contaminated by propaganda generated by the CIA to please its shadow government masters. This happened regardless of the party in power. It just means that the media countered Trump's lies, fake news, and accusations with defensive assertions about Trump's chaos, instability, flip-flops, foolish actions, immature childishness, etc. How could they not report the truth that was in front of everyone's eyes? People like O'Keefe, Corsi, Bannon and Breitbart, assisted by the folks at Fox News—especially Sean Hannity—have helped Trump weave a narrative of being under seige by the deep state operatives of the left and similar conspiracy theorist nonsense of this kind. This attempts to characterize Trump's transparent demagogeury as a logical defense against the leftist deep state and their mainstream media accomplices. But rationalization will always be only rationalization—not logical, nor reasonable, not honorable, not virtuous.
People like O'Keefe, Corsi, Bannon and Breitbart, assisted by the folks at Fox News—especially Sean Hannity—have helped Trump weave a narrative of being under seige by the deep state
O'Keefe is the consummate sycophant, playing up to Trump like a child craving praise or a dog wanting attention
O'Keefe opportunistically sees truth on the right, lies on the left, conspiracy on the left, innocence on the right, fake news on the left, real news on the right. He's the consummate sycophant, playing up to Trump like a child craving praise or a dog wanting attention. However, some of American Pravda: My Fight for Truth in the Era of Fake News is accurate—such as the accusations of the mainstream media being liars who warp reality with propaganda.
O'Keefe sees the rightwing press as "the new alternative media." But the reality is that there are left-leaning and right-leaning alternative media like Newsmax TV, The Rush Limbaugh Show, The Sean Hannity Show, and Breitbart News Network on the right and AlterNet, Truthdig, Truthout, Media Matters, The Rachel Maddow Show, and The Nation on the left. There's a bit of truth on mainstream media as well as on alternative media, but there is a humongous amount of spin and propaganda on most media. For the most part, the media such as AlterNet have no obvious propaganda because "alternative" media is supposed to represent respite from the shadow government's constant preaching of the CW. Who can say how much propaganda slips into alternative media by accident? We'd love to know.
O'Keefe seems to live in an alternate universe where the only truth is with the far-right and everything not far-right is lying fake news
O'Keefe says "The goal of Project Veritas is to show the world as closely as possible the way the world really is. In the twenty-first century, sharing reality is a great way to make enemies, especially if that reality reflects badly on the people in power. From the major media’s perspective, our exposure of corruption is often perceived as more of a problem than the corruption itself." It's too bad the man has such a radical rightwing agenda, since he is showing us the way Trumpworld really is, not the world in general. His exposure of corruption is the right's gotcha of the left. Because of the Trump offensive having put the mainstream media on the defensive, regular media such as NY Times are playing the part of the gotcha police against the Trump administration. They'd have preferred a neutral stance, but even now they still allow a bit of editorializing from the right in the spirit of balance.
The author says "my friend and mentor Andrew Breitbart," in his tome, so we'd best check out who that is. Breitbart is a far-right syndicated American news, opinion and commentary website founded in mid-2007 by conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart, who conceived it as "the Huffington Post of the right." Its journalists are widely considered to be ideologically driven, and some of its content has been called misogynistic, xenophobic, and racist by liberals and many traditional conservatives alike. The site has published a number of falsehoods, conspiracy theories, and intentionally misleading stories. O'Keefe has followed in Breitbart's far-right footsteps and yet he insists that his far-right perspective is accurate and all else is fake news, sounding a bit like our far-right demagogue-in-chief in the White House. (Source: Breitbart News, Wikipedia)
Charles Murray argues that one solution to exposing the systemic corruption in government and politics is civil disobedience. Another solution, O'Keefe's solution, is investigative journalism. But not O'Keefe's twisted gotcha pieces, which give journalism a bad name.
Charles Murray argues that one solution to exposing the systemic corruption in government and politics is civil disobedience. Another solution, O'Keefe's solution, is investigative journalism. O'Keefe's m.o. is to secretly record conversations, re-edit them so they mean something else, misrepresenting the situation, and then publish the video as a gotcha piece. His "investigative journalism" is often composed of illegal tactics and fraudulent activities. Setting people up so they look like they are doing something they are not doing will always be fraud no matter how much civic minded perfume is sprayed on it. If he cannot report things accurately and straight, without rigging the videos to mislead, then his claim to "investigative journalism" is just as corrupt as is our government and the politicians he is accusing. We admit that a few of his videos have exposed some things that have done a bit of good. But his methods are too corrupt to be condoned, regardless of his rationalizations.
The G.O.P. is acting like a wrecking ball to dismantle democracy itself—if we were O'Keefe, we'd be more concerned with the immoral character of this perverse agenda than with the gotcha scams he keeps pulling
O'Keefe is right that journalists are rewarded not for challenging the establishment but for reinforcing it—for singing the party tune and saying the party line. And yet O'Keefe—who compares himself to Woodward and Bernstein—is nothing if not the ultimate reinforcer of the far-right party line. Either a reporter is objective or he's not. Using deceptive means to gather warped "evidence" supporting the far-right agenda is merely adding fake evidence to the far-right's collection of shakey evidence supporting their extremist agenda, an agenda that is currently acting like a wrecking ball to dismantle democracy itself.
If we were O'Keefe, we'd be more concerned with the immoral character of this perverse agenda than with the gotcha scams he keeps pulling. The title American Pravda: My Fight for Truth in the Era of Fake News is a bit of a stretch—considering the fact that what he fights for is book sales, attention from key rightwingers, and general attention from the public sort of like a barking dog, and the truth is not the general product of his efforts, but deception, destruction, collaboration with Republican dismantling of democracy, ruined reputations, and support for far-right propaganda—these are his frequent results.
" . . . journalism that seeks to destroy institutions is not journalism at all. And that’s pretty much what O’Keefe practices with his mean-spirited, deceptive videos. 'We did not reject journalistic ethics,' he writes in his own defense. 'We simply had to create those ethics anew.' . . . While not an especially eloquent writer, O’Keefe does a good job of explaining how something from /The_Donald subreddit ends up on the evening news, not to mention in a print-out on the Resolute desk in the Oval Office. . . . In the psychodrama O’Keefe has created for himself, all means and methods are justified because the fate of the nation hangs in the balance. . . . In 2016, he netted about $1.7 million from a charity associated with the Koch brothers.” (Source: James O'Keefe: Meet the Man Who Makes the Fake News, Alexander Nazaryan, Newsweek)
U.S. neocons' imperialism and warmongering is out of control yet the Congress tasked with stopping such abuses is mute—something smells rotten in Washington! O'Keefe needs to quit fantasizing about leftwing deep state conspiracy theory and help stop the neocons