The NY Times and James O’Keefe: Goes Around, Comes Around

ACORN Journalism

Marble Falls      This is a season that just keeps on giving.  Not the least of the gifts is irony.  I say this as I read the latest protest in the current saga of James O’Keefe, rightwing saboteur, convict, and serial scammer, and his misnamed Project Veritas versus the New York Times. 

            Here’s the deal.  The Times was sued by O’Keefe’s Project Veritas for defamation and libel, something that is notoriously difficult to prove under US law, given the usual strength of the First Amendment.  The heart of the matter, as expounded in the Times’ editorial, is seemingly straightforward:

The litigation here is a libel suit Project Veritas filed against The Times in 2020, for its articles on a video the group produced about what it claimed was rampant voter fraud in Minnesota. The video was “probably part of a coordinated disinformation effort,” The Times reported, citing an analysis by researchers at Stanford University and the University of Washington.

A New York State Supreme Court judge for Westchester County has issued a decision on the case and then reaffirmed his ruling blocking the Times from reporting about this matter and now ordering that they destroy physical and electronic materials relating to the issue claiming the reporting violates attorney-client privilege protection.  The Times claims that it is writing about materials that it obtained on advice given to Veritas about how to do some of their monkey business and stay on the right side of the law separate from the libel case through usual reporting, and that the judge’s order is prior restraint.

            Are you following his so far?

            On many levels this is the usual O’Keefe play in creating a tempest in a teapot based on little or nothing other than it giving his mess some publicity and fanning the partisan fires.  His lawyers in fact claim this is simply the Times on a politically motivated witch hunt and Veritas is the victim.  The Times is evoking the precedent setting Supreme Court decision around the Pentagon Papers and First Amendment advocates are screaming to the rooftops about the wrong headedness of the judge’s ruling.  The judge is privileging attorney-client discussions over freedom of the press and speech.  Got it now?

            The irony to me is the usual “what goes around, comes around.”  The Times, joining Fox News in 2009, aided and abetted the rise of O’Keefe and the development of his operation and modus operandi by their slipshod reporting and nonexistent investigation of O’Keefe’s debut in the big time with his scurrilous and unfounded attack and video scams on ACORN.  Over the years they have somewhat retreated from their characterization of ACORN’s activity way after the damage was done, but certainly without ever conceding their errors or their role in affair.  Now, paradoxically, they are themselves in mortal combat with the monster they created with a lot to lose in their own prestige and potentially to the Constitutional guarantees as well.

            Meanwhile, this is another faux conflict that O’Keefe and Veritas can’t lose.  In the end, what does he care if his whole suit is thrown out?  No one on the rightwing is doing anything but cheering his fight against their sworn enemy, the “fake news” biased New York Times.  He’ll be seen as either a hero or victim, and can monetize either in building Veritas.  He’s a winner all around, and the rest of us stand to lose once again, as the Times moves on, casting itself as victim now as well and hero if they win.

            The ironies here are rich, and could be appreciated more, if the risks were not so great and the rewards so meager.