Home/Rod Dreher/James O’Keefe is a jerk

James O’Keefe is a jerk

I’m on record many times pointing out liberal bias in the mainstream media, so let me go on record saying that the conservative gotcha man, James O’Keefe, is a jerk. Conor Friedersdorf has a piece about O’Keefe’s latest stunt, a clip of which is embedded in Conor’s post; Conor says it’s an example of why it’s pointless to expect reporters to keep their opinions to themselves anymore. He has a point, but I tell you, the fact that something the Newark Star-Ledger reporter said in what she thought was a private, casual conversation with a student journalist was secretly recorded and is now being used to try to ruin her professional life is, frankly, scary as hell to me — and this invasion of privacy ought to be repugnant to conservatives.

I don’t read the Star-Ledger, nor do I know reporter Amy Nutt’s work. Am I shocked that she has political opinions? No. Am I shocked that she’s not positively disposed toward conservatives? No. But do I care? Only if they keep her from being fair. It is not alleged that Amy Nutt has produced biased journalism. The fact that she is, on evidence presented, mildly pro-Obama and anti-Christie is considered damning. O’Keefe makes no attempt to analyze Nutt’s reporting for evidence of bias. If he had, and had found clear evidence that she’s skewing the facts to favor liberal Democrats, he’d have a case. But this is just a cheap stunt.

Conservatives ought to find this repugnant because it’s an unwarranted invasion of privacy. Do we really want to live in a world in which everyone has to watch every single syllable they utter in a public place, out of fear that someone like O’Keefe might be recording those words for Internet broadcast in an attempt to destroy their careers? It’s like a damn police state. It’s hateful and destructive, but this bully O’Keefe wouldn’t have any power if conservatives would stop taking him seriously and acting on his antics.

And to be fair, I hate what Dan Savage does from the left to people he doesn’t like. A couple of months ago, a Seattle bar patron stiffed a waitress and, leaving a message on the receipt, made a nasty comment about her looks. Complete jerk behavior. The waitress photographed the receipt and put it on the Web, causing people to hate on “Andrew Meyer,” the idiot who stiffed the waitress. Savage picked up the item and magnified it. I can’t remember exactly what he did — Savage has since removed his item — but I recall at the time being shocked by it. If memory serves, he passed on all kinds of personal information about Andrew Meyer — information that the waitress and her pals dug up — for the sake of urging on the Internet mob to destroy him. That would have been bad enough as is — I mean, I’m not sorry to see a jerk like that get some comeuppance, but to unleash the mob on him like that? Really? — but Savage and his mob spotlighted the wrong Andrew Meyer. His Internet stunt brought down hell on an innocent Andrew Meyer.

Savage initially justified his role like this:

Andrew doesn’t work at Microsoft, says people who work at Microsoft. Also, some are saying I shouldn’t have posted this. But it was freaking everywhere already—all over Facebook, all over Jezebel—and it was a thing that happened, a thing that people were talking about, and my ignoring it or keeping it off Slog wouldn’t have made a thing that didn’t happen and that people weren’t talking about. I left Andrew’s full name out of it, and kept his signature off Slog, because that felt like it was over the line. And my point wasn’t—and clearly isn’t—”GO GET HIM!” (the flying monkeys know when they’ve been called out), but that we live in a different world now. Be an as*hole if you like, treat people like sh*t, stiff your bartender. But you might not want to write your a*sholery down and sign your name to it, you know? Because the Internet.

Later, Savage issued a non-apology apology. 

I don’t get this. I don’t get it at all. I mean, I do understand that there are people who feel they owe no human consideration to the people they’ve identified as The Enemy, and that they have the moral right to destroy that person’s livelihood and reputation for a minor sin because that person is on the wrong side of whatever. Again: is this the world we want to live in?

I’m not sure which one of these examples bothers me more: O’Keefe’s, because Republican lawmakers and the Republican Noise Machine take him seriously, or Savage’s, because he’s written and spoken eloquently about the cruelty of bullying, and should know better. Even creeps like Bad Andrew Meyer don’t deserve to have their lives ruined by having an anonymous mob set upon them.

Is liberal media bias a cause for concern? Yeah. Is Bad Andrew Meyer a creep for what he did to the waitress? Absolutely. But what about fairness and proportionality? What about basic human decency? Aren’t we allowed to be human, and to make our small errors without it ruining our jobs or our lives?

I know, I know. Because the Internet.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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