Conservative activist and Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe, 28, is one of the more controversial figures currently operating in the media landscape. His hidden camera videos of ACORN, Planned Parenthood and NPR, among others, have served as a lightning rod—alternately drawing praise and scorn—and often sparking national debate. In his most current video, O’Keefe and his team of “citizen journalists” turn their lens for the first time on New York politics, as they go undercover in an attempt to get union officials and a former assemblyman to help them obtain state and federal contracts to fund a phony company called Earth Supply and Renewal, whose sole stated mission is to dig holes—and then fill them right back up again with dirt. City & State editor Morgan Pehme asks O’Keefe to expose the true intentions behind his work, his thoughts on the Occupy movement and whom he is planning on filming next. The following is a (fairly?) edited transcript of their interview.
City & State: A spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said in response to your most recent video, “This is not reporting, this is not journalism. It doesn’t even rise to the level of a comic strip. This is the kind of stuff that gives honest reports a bad name.” And I was wondering, how do you describe what you do? Are you a journalist? A satirist? A provocateur?
James O’Keefe: I think it’s a form of investigative reporting. It is certainly a form of reporting that has been around for decades through 60 Minutes, NBC, Dateline, Primetime Live. It is the citizen journalism Internet version of that, but it is necessary because we go places and shine a light on issues that other news organizations are unwilling or unable to go.
CS: What would you say was the specific intention of this most recent video?
JO: The intention is to expose the nature—the true nature—of stimulus money. Bureaucrats do not have the incentive to direct stimulus money to good uses. Instead, they have the incentive to direct that stimulus money to purposes that only appear to create jobs, such as digging holes and filling them back in again. Corrupt institutions such as the union portrayed in the video are only too happy to help those bureaucrats with that illusion.
CS: Did you choose unions because they’ve been targeted for criticism and closer inspection on a national basis?
JO: In many ways, unions chose us. We needed to expose a fundamental problem in our society: the abuse, the waste of taxpayer money and lining people’s pockets with it. And labor unions, as demonstrated in our forty-five minute videotape, are willing to just dole out money for useless purpose in order to employ people. That was a fundamental problem I have with these programs. They don’t serve any meaningful purpose and taken to a logical extreme, labor unions are willing to fund ‘B.S,’ in their words, ‘B.S.’ jobs- Green Jobs New York, replacing light bulbs, replacing refrigerators. These things are all out in the open… we’re just trying to visualize it for people. What’s the best avenue to visualize that? It’s through an organization which promoted this bill: labor unions. If it were the banks which were promoting wasting money on meaningless jobs, then I would take that route. But I think to answer your question, you have to take a step back and look at the philosophy behind reporting. The reason why we are set to go off to the left—we don’t intend to go off to the left. The left and groups like labor unions have this sort of benevolent—they say they have these benevolent intentions to do good for society—and that’s where the hypocrisy is usually most likely to take place, in areas where these groups say, “We want to do good, we’re well intentioned.” We’re all for spreading goodness and promoting efficiency of people’s money to promote a better world.” And that’s why the subject of our investigations tend to be on the left, because people on the right don’t claim to have those types of intentions. So you’re most likely to find hypocrisy in those types of groups that we expose.
To read the full interview at City & State click here.
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