DC DISPATCH--In American Pravda: My fight for truth in the era of fake news by James O’Keefe, delivers an interesting, thought provoking piece of reading. Basically, it raises questions on the role of media, equating the American journalism, as it stands today, and Stalin’s suppression of freedom of speech in 1930’s. Pravda was of course the Soviet Union’s bastion that became Stalin’s vehicle back then. He used it extensively to propagate lies, which nobody dared to oppose. People accepted those lies, even though they knew them to be so. Americans have always prided themselves of being free from similar constraints, proclaiming democracy to be the best form of governance, with freedom of speech being at its core.
But are Americans really “free”? O’Keefe’s book forces people to rethink, and then steers them to the realization that the media has completely overtaken the territory by offering biased and unfair coverage. There is a subtle but comprehensive destruction of the freedom that democracy embodies, by getting people to nod in unison to opinions being thrust down their gullets.
O’Keefe’s Project Veritas exposed corrupt organizations like ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). Other evidence offered by O’Keefe through this project include those on voting laws, voting frauds, illegal PACs, and the Medicaid abuse. It was the evidence presented by him that led to changes in voting laws, and criminal investigations in other areas. Project Veritas also exposed how the staff at CNN was ridiculing their own Russia coverage.
The modus operandi used by media begins with paying somebody to opine. Reporters are in contact with people at the ground level. It makes them aware of what the opinions are, and what people want to hear. In O’Keefe’s words “The major media has entered an unprecedented new phase”. O’Keefe goes on to explain the situation as “Their corporate survival model now demands that they feed a beast increasingly hungry not for truth, but for revenge”. Therefore, opinions that are in agreement with what people want to hear are at times selected and published, irrespective of whether they are right or not and whether there are sufficient grounds to refute the opinion or not. Thereafter, the media house gathers news that conforms to the opinion, and plants it firmly in the minds of people. They do this by constantly pounding their readers with the same thinking till most of their readers, if not all, believe it to be true and correct.
Traditionally, readers have trusted the media sources, especially, if it has been a long standing publishing house, to view each situation objectively and then opine. Instead they are fed information that is chosen with the main intent of increasing the market share rather than for being relevant. The process subtly quells diverse opinions thanks to the cultural, ideological or political stand that people are constantly bombarded with, forcing some into silence.
Eventually, however, the same people mistrust the media when results differ, as was the case with the 2016 elections. The video evidence provided by Project Veritas during the 2016 elections led to two senior Democrat operatives being shown the door, and which may in fact have been reason for the balance tilting in favor of Trump.
O’Keefe has squarely blamed the situation in the media as a form of pure deterioration that has developed over many years. According to him, “The business model is in crisis because for years, the media have been passing off their analysis and opinions as journalism. When this ‘journalism’ is shown to be as spectacularly misguided as it was on Election Day, citizens have reason to wonder whether they should believe anything the media might say about the Trump administration going forward.”
Trump has recently labeled leading media houses, including CNN, Washington Post, and New York Times as “fake news”, which is prompting these big media houses to turn to social media for support. O’Keefe highlights that when it is something like an attack on the US President Trump, it borders on “breach of trust” because it is the president who should be running the nation. However, it turns out that media calls all the shots because it believes that to be its role. This dichotomy according to O’Keefe is akin to contempt for the ordinary American.
O’Keefe, however, distances himself from President Trump stating that “Trump and I had something fundamental in common, not so much a shared ideology as a shared adversary. The adversary we shared was a powerful one, what might well be called the deep state media complex. Although the media could exist without the deep state, the deep state could not exist without the media.”
In his own words, Project Veritas was born “to investigate and expose institutional waste, fraud, abuse, and other misconduct in order to create a more ethical and transparent society”. O’Keefe adds, “we inevitably disrupt the media’s relationship with government and organizations that work with government. Like Trump, Project Veritas is a disruptor.”
Senator John McCain’s statement that “An American reporter named James O’Keefe dressed as Osama bin Laden and walked across the border of the Rio Grande River undetected. Does something like that concern you?” after O’Keefe successfully crossed the Rio Grande River border in disguise, shows the contempt being shown to American liberty, as the act proved lapses in border security but the Senator did not view it objectively.
However, O’Keefe’s methods and projects as an investigator would raise eyebrows, even with what is in the book. For example, in the book, he mentioned that he met with President Trump, and Sam Nunberg (not sure if i need to disclose that I know Sam personally), for transcripts of Obama’s University. At that point, the President expressed his hunch about the former President’s origin and birthplace. What followed was accessing the “University Academic Records”, which cannot be termed as something that exposed corruption or something that was done for public safety.
Pravda became synonymous with false narratives as well as false evidences. It promoted conspiracy theories. O’Keefe equating American media to Pravda, is to that extent, overreaching, especially since the “deep state” he is referring to is investigating the Russian connection. Likewise, it was the media that found that FBI lawyer, Lisa Page was a party to conspiracy for bringing down Trump and the conspiracy was at the “highest level of government”. Many such instances prove that American journalism may have its bad days, but it is far from being Pravda.
(Sara Corcoran is the founder and publisher of National Court Monitor. She provides perspective on the nation’s capital for CityWatch.)