Breakthrough: Our Guerilla War to Expose Fraud and Save Democracy. James O’Keefe, III, Founder, Project Veritas. New York: Threshold Editions, 2013. 333 pp.
“It’s a story that needs to be told,” James O’Keefe said as he handed me an advance copy of Breakthrough, an autobiographical tell-all about the dramatic twists and turns that come with being a citizen journalist — a 6-foot-2 David — against the Goliath that is the Government-Media Complex. Unlike many right-of-center activists, O’Keefe doesn’t seem to fear jumping headfirst into the unknown, armed with little more than a video camera and a profound understanding of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.
O’Keefe’s stings are bold, edgy, and usually completely absurd (just look at some of the plots!). And though his detractors in politics and the media call him “conservative,” O’Keefe’s targets aren’t necessarily ideologically liberal; they just happen to prop up and/or benefit from the corrupt system that often funnels tax dollars to unscrupulous enterprises.
He’s right, though. His side of the story has long been overshadowed by misleading or outright false reports from the likes of George Stephanopoulos and David Gregory, towering generals in the Government-Media Complex’s army, and their legion of “anti-journalists,” who are dispatched to destroy a story (particularly stories like O’Keefe’s, which damage the system) before it ever makes it to the front page.
In just over 300 pages, O’Keefe describes the ups and downs of his exposés; from his early Planned Parenthood stings with Live Action’s Lila Rose to his “pimp and prostitute” plot with Hannah Giles that brought down Barack Obama’s most revered community organizing outfit (ACORN) to the legal fallout from his failed attempt to investigate whether Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu was ignoring constituents.
With the help of the late Andrew Breitbart (and probably Morton Blackwell’s “Handling Negative Information” lecture), O’Keefe slowly releases his footage to force the target to respond, oftentimes by lying before more information becomes available. This is particularly evident in his ACORN and voter fraud stings. In the courtroom, it might benefit an attorney to present all the evidence at once, but in the court of public opinion, it pays to release information slowly and methodically. O’Keefe has mastered that technique.
There’s no doubt O’Keefe’s citizen journalism has dealt a major blow to the cozy relationship between the mainstream media and their allies in big government. By making “the enemy live up to his own book of rules” (one of my favorite Alinsky rules), O’Keefe has showcased the utter hypocrisy of some of the country’s most influential figures and institutions. O’Keefe’s understanding of Alinsky’s model makes him especially dangerous to the institutions and individuals he sets in his sights.
As NAACP President Ben Jealous said during the height of O’Keefe’s ACORN sting, “We’re being out-Alinsky’ed by the anti-Alinskys.” And James is one of the only ones on the right doing it.
One of the more fascinating (and previously untold) story lines in Breakthrough concerns O’Keefe’s relationship with his probation officer, Patrick Hattersley, who feels pressure from higher-ups entrenched in the system each time O’Keefe breaks a new story. Expose the New Jersey Education Association’s (NJEA) rampant disregard for children? Hattersley comes knocking. Reveal how easy it is to commit voter fraud in New Hampshire? Hattersley comes knocking.
Breakthrough is divided into two “books,” with the first half detailing O’Keefe’s beginnings in citizen journalism through early 2012. The bulk of the second book focuses on his activities in the run-up to the 2012 election. He revisits his relationship with Breitbart in a chapter titled “Morte d’Andrew” in the second book, leaving readers with insight into how O’Keefe and Breitbart viewed their big-picture roles.
The climax of O’Keefe’s tell-all comes toward the end of the second book, when he discusses his undercover investigation of Democratic Congressman Jim Moran’s (VA-08) son and campaign operative, Patrick Moran. O’Keefe caught the younger Moran on video casually advising a citizen journalist how to commit voter fraud. The story made nationwide headlines and ultimately prompted an investigation by local authorities.
As someone involved in conservative activism, I see O’Keefe as one of the most effective activists on our side. His undercover investigations have brought national attention to the sort of fraud and corruption inherent in a political system like ours.
O’Keefe was right when he handed me my copy of Breakthrough: “It’s a story that needs to be told,” and it should be a primer for anyone interested in holding those in the Government-Media Complex accountable. You can order your copy online here.
Matthew Hurtt is an activist living in Virginia. Follow him on Twitter: @matthewhurtt