Okay. So James O’Keefe tells fibs, hides a camera, and gets people to say things on camera they might regret later. We can argue endlessly about how these remarks fit into a broader context. We can also argue about whether O’Keefe is a nice person or not, or whether his goals or targets are worthy ones.
I don’t think we can argue, though, that what he does is a media staple, and has been one for a long time.
It is a tactic used by news organizations. ABC News uses a news reporter (John Quiñones) and hidden cameras to produce Primetime: What Would You Do?. Dateline on NBC also uses this technique - they followed Muslims around a NASCAR event with hidden cameras in an attempt to capture prejudicial remarks. CBS pioneered this kind of gotcha journalism on 60 Minutes decades ago.
This activity has spread from traditional news organizations to blogs and Internet sites - a good example of this is Ian Murphy’s call to Scott Walker a couple of weeks ago.
Outside of news organizations, this kind of subterfuge has been practiced for entertainment purposes by Sacha Baron Cohen.
So what makes O’Keefe different? Why do some people here want to dismiss his videos but don’t want to dismiss Ian Murphy’s recordings? The fact that he’s not the nicest person won’t wash here - the recordings are what they are.