October 3rd, 2010What Is James O’Keefe Doing?by Kevin O'Brien | http://www.thewordinc.org

There is awash in the world today a kind of idealism that’s loosed from its moorings. I suspect this is because the cynicism against which the idealism reacts is so strong and entrenched that it’s provoking reactions that are unrealistic.

A case in point is James O’Keefe, a young man who spoke at this year’s American Chesterton Society Conference. O’Keefe is best known as the video journalist who brought down ACORN and who exposed the racism inherent in Planned Parenthood’s abortion agenda by means of undercover videos in which he posed as a pimp or a racist, and elicited responses that were shocking enough to cause a few tremors. He struck us at the Conference as a quixotic idealist carrying on against the windmills of corruption while under assault from the mainstream media, lawyers and other nasty bugbears.

However, it was a bit disturbing when, in the Q & A session following his speech, O’Keefe was asked, “How do you justify your technique? You lie to people in your undercover videos. You pretend to be something or someone you’re not, and they react to you based upon that falsehood,” and O’Keefe answered, in effect, “the end justifies the means: I am lying to bring down a greater lie.” – which, of course, is consequentialism - poison to any society, any individual, or any attempt at reform.

I later spoke publicly before our performance at the conference, and tried to give a better defense of O’Keefe’s activities. “It’s a kind of guerilla theater,” I said, “in which, as in all theater, masking is used to reveal the truth.” In other words, as in “Candid Camera” we get to see how people would react in a given fictional situation, but not simply (as in “Candid Camera”) for cheap laughs, but as in Shakespeare, the fiction, the mask, the pretense, serves to reveal a greater truth that would otherwise remain hidden.  But I was not entirely satisfied with this defense, which seemed to be perhaps a bit Jesuitical to me.  For one thing, in actual drama the participants and audience are all aware of the charade and no one is victimized by being deliberately fooled.  In O’Keefe’s videos, there is a kind of victimization going on, even though the victim might himself be a victimizer, and even though O’Keefe’s guerilla theater might be doing a good by revealing that.

But now we learn it’s not just O’Keefe’s tactics that are in question.  He seems, in light of some recent revelations, to be a young idealist utterly overwhelmed by the forces that are preying upon him.  These forces are both external – including his financial supporters who appear to be exploiting him, and his critics who are viciously opposed to him – as well as internal: he is being undone by a lack of mature judgment at the very least.  His latest attempts at investigative journalism / guerilla theater are far from Shakespeare’s “the virtue of IF”, far from using a mask to reveal a truth, far from even the cheap laughs of “Candid Camera”, and almost below the level of “Punked” on MTV.

To wit: the news this week is that O’Keefe had planned on luring a female CNN reporter onto his boat and “faux seducing” her while surrounded with sex toys and pornographic magazines and filming this encounter – to what end being rather unclear. What is clear is that the script outline for this “prank”, obtained and released by CNN, reads like a bad idea for a frat house comedy night sketch.

Suddenly O’Keefe and company seem much more like teenagers with cameras than anything resembling investigative journalists. Give a frat boy a camera, and this is what you’ll get – bad self-indulgent theatrics on the one hand, and nothing resembling journalism on the other.

Of course there’s always the chance that CNN is twisting this to serve its own liberal bias and to bring down O’Keefe, but I doubt that. O’Keefe’s cohort who wrote the scenario has admitted to the plot and the authenticity of the script CNN obtained; another of O’Keefe’s cohorts who “outed” him seems to have legitimately done so out of concern for the pointlessness, perverseness and potential harm of this prank, and so on.

Meanwhile, James O’Keefe is trying to defend himself from what he thinks is a serious misunderstanding concerning his failed mission in Louisiana, in which he and some cronies disguised themselves as telephone repairmen and tried to gain access to a Louisiana senator’s phone system – to catch the senator in a lie.  O’Keefe ended up arrested and charged for this one, and he is now serving out his probation.  And he’s upset that when the news hit, it was inaccurately reported that he was engaged in wiretapping – which he wasn’t.  Of course, this also shows a lack of maturity on his part, for if you enter government property under false pretences and in disguise attempt to gain access to the phone system of a U.S. Senator while surreptitiously filming said event ... well, that’s not much better than wiretapping.  Our buddy Bill Clinton can gloat over the fact the he didn’t technically have “sex” with Ms. Lewinsky, but he’s only fooling himself when he flaunts this kind of narrow innocence, and so is James O’Keefe.

Still, O’Keefe is offended by the wiretapping misnomer, and so he wants to set the record straight.  And how do you suppose he intends to do this?  How does he hope to clear his name and let his viewers know the purity of his intentions before his Federal arrest and guilty plea?  By producing and starring in a music video.

A music video.

Well, I think the upshot of all of this is that Distributism is a dangerous thing.  It’s a great good, having electronic information technology, once controlled by a handful of megalithic corporations, now in the possession of the people.  But like all great goods, it can really sting.

If O’Keefe were an investigative journalist fifteen years ago, neither the telephone scheme nor the sex prank would have gotten past the first editorial review.  But now Distributism in media has given ordinary people what was once extraordinary power – the power to be your own producer and your own editor, a dangerous mix; the power to expose corruption and the power to make an ass of yourself; the power to use proper means to achieve an end and the power to use illicit means to achieve an end – in both cases for all the world to see; the power to engage an audience in a virtuous and responsible way and the power to indulge infantile fantasies that are painful and repulsive for your audiences even to hear tell of.

James O’Keefe struck us all at the Chesterton Conference as being a young idealist, and he struck some of us as being distracted, burdened and troubled in spirit – whether from the persecutions he was enduring or from some other issue which was not clear.  He was astonished that so many people were telling him they would be praying for him.  He was clearly on some sort of Faith journey.  He has the potential to be a kind of monk, living frugally, at risk, on the edge, all for the sake of the truth.

But he won’t get there the way he’s traveling now.  If G. K. Chesterton is indeed a hero of James O’Keefe’s, then we should continue to pray for O’Keefe that he focus, as Chesterton did, on what is true, on Him who is Truth, on His way, and not on all of the various temptations that can bring a budding young Christian down, from adolescent self-indulgence to using bad means to achieve good ends.

And in the meantime Mr. O’Keefe has to decide if he is a crusading journalist or a “Penthouse” Magazine version of “Borat”; if he is the child who points out that the emperor is wearing no clothes or the teenager who won’t turn down his crappy music; if he is serious about what he’s doing or if he’s just (like most actors I know) working out his “issues” on a very big stage – in a very sad way.

What are your thoughts on the subject?

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  • October 3 2010 | by Pavel Chichikov

    I admire the candor and insight of this essay, Kevin.

    What is the difference between investigation and entrapment? The Abscam affair comes to mind.

    The lesson here, if there is one, is maybe that whatever else happens, obey the law, including the law of good taste.

    Unfortunately, good taste is only subjective in a culture that's dissolving almost as you watch it.
  • October 4 2010 | by Dena

    This is troubling, Keith.

    There's a law against what you're describing, but I can't remember its name just now. (I just saw Pavel's comment--"entrapment" is the name.) Information gained by that kind of fraud can't be used in court. It's not just "disguise". Law enforcement people go "undercover" all the time and drug traffickers are convicted this way.

    But there's another tactic that actually seduces people into committing illegal acts. That's not just illegal but profoundly immoral. Satan does not deceive in order to reveal, but in order to seduce. Seduction does not reveal pre-existing evil--it creates it where it did not exist before. There's a big difference between the revelation of evil and the creation of it. Remember Eden. There was no evil hiding among the bushes there, waiting to be revealed by some investigative reporter disguised as a snake.
  • October 4 2010 | by Tom R

    The use of the term "Jesuitical" in a sense defined two centuries ago by Noah Webster doesn't add to this article, nor does it promote the faith.

    Other than that, I like the article.
  • October 4 2010 | by David Zach

    The warnings about Big Brother were incomplete. Apparently we also have to worry about Little Brother? James O'Keefe has much to learn about the power he recognized that can be bought and distributed for the price of a camera phone.

    I do not doubt his sincerity, I do doubt his maturity — as I now do for anyone 26 years of age. If he can find solid ground upon which to build his efforts, then much good can still come of his work. There are those with much power who are constantly watching him for weakness and temptations. How would any of us deal with that weight, especially if we did not deeply know our foundations?

    He needs to find a foundation that cannot be shaken. GK Chesterton is his hero. He should learn what Chesterton found early in life, that he needed something so solid that not the weight of the world could move him from it. Chesterton found it and he continues even after death to have leverage. Here's hoping that James digs deeper to find that permanent place to stand.
  • October 4 2010 | by Tom Leith

    It had seemed he was engaging in an updated version of undercover and gonzo journalism (which has a rich history in the USA -- see the stories of Nellie Bly and Hunter S. Thompson, even 60 Minutes) before he reduced himself to this. At the very least he needs an editor. More likely, as a spiritual counselor once told me, he should "purify his intention". It seems to me he should take a loooong break and forget that "comeback" while he attends to this.
  • October 4 2010 | by Kevin O'Brien

    Good comments. David, I think you're right on the money.

    This is why I am quite happy that youtube did not exist when I was 26. I would still be haunted by all kinds of crap I might have posted at that age. Indeed, maturity is more of a factor than overall intentions here - though in this instance his immaturity is compromising his inentions. I hope James picks up on this. I'm trying to encourage him in everything I post on this issue, keeping in mind the horrific and vitriolic comments being made on the liberal blog comboxes, some of which are just shy of wishing him dead. I pray he does not brood over the people on the internet who hate him and want him destroyed, and on the contrary recognizes those of us who are trying to give him constructive criticism and thereby to help him.

    Tom, I used your "purify your intentions" advice in the latest post on my blog www.thwordinc.blogspot.com , in which I respond to O'Keefe's defense of his actions, which he released today.
  • October 4 2010 | by Jennifer

    The word Dena is searching for is "scandal" and it's in CCC 2284.

    I think it's important to note that Chesterton is his hero second to Saul Alinsky. On the first count I think he may have mistaken the matter--he has fashioned himself into the satirical target of The Man Who Was Thursday not the hero of it. Even the title of his on-line report for the ACORN video is called "Chaos for Glory" which not only echoes Thursday in the most dazzling irony, it is a contradiction in terms.

    And the fact that he doesn't recognize the negation in combining Alinsky and Chesterton would be humorous if it wasn't so sad that so many people failed to pick on it and see the absurdity of it. (Dawn Eden and William Donino did but unfortunately not enough people took them seriously or even saw their piece on Busted Halo in February.)

    It's not quite like saying my heroes are Pope Paul the VI and Margaret Sanger, but it's bloody close.

    I hope that someone, with authority, will write and publish in a high profile place, a piece distancing the name of Chesterton from James O'Keefe because from the perspective of Google-able history, there must be a counter-perspective before the misunderstanding is perpetuated.

    As of right now we've got the name of O'Keefe whose stock is plummeting even as his internet search values are soaring and nothing to distance his tactics and his lack of judgement from the name of Chesterton which he brandished. Instead, what we have is the fact that the American Chesterton Society invited him to speak, and glowing reports written about him on the ACS blog, suggesting nothing of the vast chasm between O'Keefe and Chesterton nor the complete contradiction in combining him with Saul Alinsky. It suggests a profound lack of understanding.

    I am yearning for someone to deliver a resounding disclaimer in Chesterton's defense here--before the associations become part of permanent Internet memory.

    Before people are saying GK Chesterton--isn't he the guy who inspired "James Pleasure Palace O'Keefe"?

    Just Google "GK Chesterton" and "James O'Keefe" and see what comes up. Not such a great portrait.
  • October 4 2010 | by Richard Aleman

    Dear Friends in Christ,

    I apologize but when I was 26, two years had passed since I completed four years in the United States Marine Corps. He is not 15 or 16 years old. Let's stop giving his maturity level further consideration. He is a grown man with a degree in philosophy from Rutgers University and he also studied law at UCLA. He knew exactly what he was doing, and while we certainly would like Mr. O'Keefe to redeem himself, I am not so quick to give him a slap on the wrist. But when he does receive that leeway it is for one reason only: because he is a "conservative".

    This is about O'Keefe's utilitarian outlook, which given his three last recent actions, is part and parcel of his repetoire. It is the substitution of Church teaching for the Enlightenment philosophy of John Stuart Mill. Essentially it is the sacrifice of the means in order to accomplish an end, and it is this which runs contrary to the timeless teachings of the Church.

    O'Keefe's latest debacle says much about James, but what does it say about ourselves? From the very start (with ACORN) the man showed a disregard for morality and his tactics were beyond unsavory. But we ignored his questionable actions because all we cared about was bringing down ACORN.

    Now we are shocked by his most recent behavior? What gave it away? Was it the planned mock seduction or when he dressed as a pimp and brought along a young, possibly underage, girl dressed as a prostitute to ACORN? Call me a New Yorker but I think I caught a glimpse of his game three seasons ago. Some of my fellow Catholics ought to ride the subway more often.

    Although I am the editor for The Distributist Review, I am not a journalist. But I could teach him something about journalism. I wrote the following for our editorial policy which every contributor who writes for us has agreed to respect:

    "Heightened awareness of our responsibility to our devoted readers as well as future prospects is necessary. We are accountable to God for what we publish (Pope Leo XIII, Immortale Dei, §32) and what we teach (Epistle of St. James 3:1). Through dedication to prayer, fasting, and examinations of conscience, our supplication to God is that He may help us, the unworthy, be instruments of His illumination to mankind.

    Mater Dei, ora pro nobis!"
  • October 4 2010 | by JoeyG.

    I'd like to second Richard's comments. I'm only just 27 years old myself. I'm currently engaged as a T.A. instructing College Freshmen in rhetoric and composition. If there's one thing I find as most frustrating in my students, it's the same trait I find most disturbing in O'Keefe's tactics: to wit, a lack of nuance and a naive simplicity.

    It's just too easy in our political climate to buy into false binaries and over-simplify complicated issues. The mistaking of ends and means is one of the sorts of errors that follows most easily from this facile approach: the "other guy" becomes an enemy in a war, and we engage with bellicose ferocity to win at all costs. We forget that it's his error that we object to, that he is a child of God and in need of the spiritual work of mercy that is refutation. O'Keefe's videos, right back to the earliest ones, commit what classical rhetoric identifies as the fallacy of "ad hominem" attack. Be it granted that CNN and its journalists need "exposing" - they need exposing to the truth, not to occasions of sin, to pornography, to ridicule.

    A conscientious Catholic in the world of academia, there's not a week that goes by that I don't find myself taking up a defensive position against someone who challenges my views. I often feel verily besieged by the liberal and progressive attitudes that dominate my field and surround me in the work of my colleagues. It's shocking to me how illiberally these folks treat my own opinions and beliefs, all while preaching an inalienable right to "academic freedom." It'd be very easy to sink into their dialectic, to becomes jaded and cynical in enjoining the debate, laying some cheap shots and low blows and scampering off to blogs and facebook where I can seek affirmation in cronyism.

    But that's not being light to the world and salt for the earth. To sink to the level of employing the tactics of deceit and casuistry, differentiating myself from "my enemies" by my more noble purpose, is not a course of action I can find anywhere endorsed in sound Christian ethics.

    Tom R. comments that the use of the term "Jesuitical" is not useful in Kevin's article. However, I think it is useful - only, maybe not as intended by Kevin, I won't speak for him. The manual tradition of moral theology could be called "Jesuitical" in the sense of being largely influenced by Jesuit theologians and confessional discourse. And in this tradition, the focus tended to be on justification: of examining borderlines, determining where one could or could not "go" in pursuit of righteous action. But the trajectory of moral theology in this century has developed from this view which some (at least I) would call minimalistic. The development has been in favor of "virtue ethics." The fundamental question is not what I MAY do, but what I truly OUGHT to do: what I ought to do in order to be more perfect. Sure, there are many courses of action in any given situation which are licit and even good. But, this theology encourages us to ask what is better, indeed what is BEST.

    James's intentions are worthy in some sense because he looks to shine light in dark places and expose error in order to persuade toward truth. Clearly he has now gone overboard. Has he always done so? Maybe his early work was not in itself problematic. This is a debate that could be had. But, for my own part, it's a debate which I think *should not* be had. Because it would be better to ask what would it have been BEST for James to do. Even if his skirting the borderlines of truth-telling and honest presentation could be argued to be still within the acceptable lines of strict liceity, the question is why so close to the line? A more effective witness to the truth would probably be a wholehearted pursuit of the truth, seeking the least compromised relationship we can manage with the help of God's grace. The analogy comes to mind of a child who is remaining "with" his parents, but within the extreme view of the periphery, heeding only the last admonition: "Don't go where I can't see you." One can imagine, on the other hand, the child who prefers rather to sit right next to the loving parent, or even climb into the lap - not only satisfying the parent's command not to wander too far, but demonstrating their own preference to be as near as possible. The Christian who manifests this kind of devotion to the truth will be the more effective one in combatting the lies and consequentialism of our age, in my opinion.
  • October 5 2010 | by Jennifer

    JoeyG--this is very insightful. I think the companion to your discussion of "what is best" it comes down to what we lionize and what we value. What makes O'Keefe most disturbing, is not the overzealous youth yearning for an activism of immediate gratification---like some hopped up Hotspur, we can only hope there is a Hal somewhere waiting to become Henry the V in his wake--what makes him so disturbing to me is that he was/is such a hero, an almost untouchable hero, to so many.

    Which forces the question: why do we get easily seduced by someone with questionable tactics and a strategy so vague as to be non-existent?

    His Planned Parenthood phone call was the least objectionable and was darkly comic but why is he getting so much attention when, quiet and reasoned writers who carefully trace the history of eugenics behind the organization OUGHT, as you say, to be the voices to which we listen.

    I don't know the full answer but of course several things come to mind, such as an addiction to fame and glamour and the lack of solid moral teaching authorities to guide us.

    The most prominent thing though is the bitterness of partisan politics and the party system. O'Keefe's stated objective with the ACORN stunt was to reveal these people's corrupt "souls"---a truly ad hominem attack. He barely mentions--if ever---the real problem of alleged voter fraud and election campaign finance---he seems to believe that anyone even remotely associated with ACORN has a rotten soul and he, with a digital cam, has the ominpotent power to reveal it.

    This is frightening to me, but I've heard such inflammatory partisan speeches before, and it moves beyond persuasive rhetoric into a warped and dark belief state which cannot be challenged by rational means.

    You see this now in those who continue to reflexively cry media bias, even in the face of concrete facts.

    I have been disturbed by this thoroughly. It's good to be disturbed though---it forces you to reorganize your own life and to self-examine more closely.
  • October 5 2010 | by Dena

    Dear Jennifer,

    You have articulated the reason I am apolitical. I know that many people get angry with me because I don't participate in these things, but there is a reason, and you've expressed that reason.

    In our dealings with our fellow human beings, apart from our families and friends, we have only one real example to follow--the good Samaritan. He didn't join or organize a political party, or even an ideology. He didn't set up a committee or demand an investigation. He didn't do any of those "heroic" things. He did the anonymous, non-glorious task of charity that was in his path, for one who was not even of his "own kind." We don't even know his name.

    Politics (of all kinds) changes with the wind. It is best to be faithful to that which never changes, even if it costs (especially if it costs) personal glory. Even if we're criticized for remaining apart from those we respect and care for, those whose values we share.

    Even those causes which seem most admirable to us inevitably wind up in the game of Push and Shove. I try not to get sucked in, and I forgive every person (on all sides) who does get sucked in. They all believe in what they're doing. Very few people in history do evil for the sake of evil; even the worst monsters believed in their cause.

    After an unfortunate confrontation with a mirror many years ago, I left that game, and I have not regretted it, despite criticism from people whose opinion matters to me a great deal.

    So many people want to take charge of the EPA; no one wants to bend down and pick up a gum wrapper. But I try now to deal with, not to avoid--even when it's easy to avoid--the wounded whom God places in my path. He wouldn't have put them there if he wanted me to walk around them on my busy way to some noble cause.

    This young man deserves no one's condemnation. If he does, so too does that person in the mirror.
  • October 5 2010 | by Jennifer

    Dena, you are singing my song!
  • October 5 2010 | by Jennifer

    Though, I think, it's worth saying..we have to be careful---not to condemn the man but we have an obligation to condemn his actions.
  • October 5 2010 | by Richard Aleman

    Dear Friends in Christ,

    One of my points above is that this controversy, which revolves around Mr. O’Keefe, speaks volumes about us, and perhaps we should take this opportunity to reflect.

    We look to token figures we believe will resolve or strike a blow against our gravest problems and will perform the duties we are called to achieve individually and collectively as the Body of Christ. Perhaps this “passing [of] the buck” and negligence of our responsibilities to organize and generate a true counterculture is why Pope Pius XII himself reminded us that we, as Catholics, are bound to “exercise a profound influence on the social, economic, and political life of the country.”

    As I see it, politics is not the problem. Replacing the Church’s vision with the platform of the fractured divisions contained in American politics is the problem. These alien principles have generated a civic (political) religion which, while resembling our faith very closely, rivals the truth contained in the teaching authority of the Church. I would argue this debacle over O'Keefe is partially the result of this civic religion, which in our times parallels the era of St. Thomas More in more ways than one.

    Our failure to view the Church as She sees Herself, is of our own making. And this has come at a very high price to the faithful. Our reliance on intuition to grasp Her political, social, and economic teachings has led to these very real, catastrophic consequences. I say “intuition” because Catholics have relied on their own imagination in constructing the social vision of Holy Mother Church. What’s more, the volume of Catholics (with political opinions) who have neglected ANY reading of the social encyclicals is deplorable. We must study these questions from Holy Mother Church’s perspective and submit to Her authority. Instead we’ve placed our faith in middlemen; middlemen notably funded by one political end of the spectrum or the other; commentators trusted perhaps in one field of Catholic thought and just assumed to be equally reliable in other areas; whether these sources come from National Catholic Reporter, NC Register, First Things, etc.
    This is not to suggest I recommend a “sola scriptura” approach to reading the compendium of Catholic Social Thought. But any serious study of political or social reform requires the first step - actually reading Libertas, Immortale Dei, Rerum Novarum, Caritas in Veritate, etc.

    I am the first one to cast a stone - at myself. I fell for it just like everyone else did. For most of my life I was confident in the competence and orthodoxy of (insert conservative or progressive here) and I just assumed his or her strength in one area spilled onto the pages of those other areas of Catholic thought.

    For a good chunk of the past century, Catholic social justice advocates have dedicated their time and energy towards accommodation with the world and they have lost their identities as a result. Some of them, nay, most of them are unrecognizable today and others no longer exist. The great voices of the social reformers like Fr. Husslein, Msgr. Ryan, Chesterton, and Belloc have been drowned out by social justice advocacy more akin to a social equivalent of Santeria, be it through guerrilla social theories, laissez-faire, or interreligious non-profit think tanks. Both social doctrine and political thought has become a Quasimodo of sorts, grafted with our Democratic or Republican prejudices.

    How has this worked out for us?

    Without parish leadership and strong countercultural response by new organizations and movements acting in accord with Church teaching, if we continue to allow the ends to justify the means, and if we continue to play a lackluster role in the development of the social order, fiascos such as the “blindness” of supporting a man dressed like a pimp will be plentiful. It is my belief that so long as we fail to visibly manifest our faith, so long as my parish's procession consists in touring the parking lot, we are in trouble. As long as we continue to be a spectator religion, we will lose this culture – as it has been slipping away for the past forty + years.

    There is no greater impact on society than watching Catholics proudly acting like Catholics. There is no better association with the faith in the minds of lapsed Catholics or secular society than when a priest is dressed as a priest and not as an ordinary Joe. There is no greater evangelism than when we lift Christ visibly, in front of all. A visible manifestation of faith does not begin and end with an advocacy for the unborn, but for the living, for the dying, for the poor and destitute, for the creation of a political good and an economic policy in conformity with the social doctrine of the Church.

    Academics have a tendency to complicate and laymen have a tendency to oversimplify. But at times, one would think that in order to understand, practice, or even advocate for the faith, we all need to write doctoral dissertations. We have plenty of scholars in the Church in America, but leadership is in short supply. As much admiration or penchant as I may have for scholarship, leadership is borne out of inspiration and the ability to capture the people’s imagination. It is drawn from humility and, in the 21st century unlike the latter half of the 20th century, its well must be clarity (and charity).
  • October 5 2010 | by Jennifer

    "As I see it, politics is not the problem. Replacing the Church’s vision with the platform of the fractured divisions contained in American politics is the problem."

    Yes. Amen.
  • October 5 2010 | by Tom R

    Kevin used the term "Jesuitical" as a pejorative abbreviation for "Jesuitical prevarication." I know this to be true, because I talked about it with him over lunch yesterday.

    My point is that, given the current secular assault on the Church (reading newspapers one would presuppose us all to be pedophiles, for example), even the use of what might be a benign term in the context of two catholics discussing issues can and will be picked up by secularists. An example would be a blogger citing this post, and saying, "See, even catholics know they come from a history of liars."
  • October 5 2010 | by Kevin O'Brien

    Right, Tom, but it's so much fun to knock the Jesuits. Especially these days! Plus I know I'll get a rise out of you.

    Perhaps I should instead use "casuistic".
  • October 7 2010 | by Ben Wetmore

    You people are disgusting. Not James. Your over the top denunciations and pontifications are absurd and ridiculous. When I get more time I will truly splendor in picking them apart.

    And just for Jennifer, I'm going to make sure to permanently link Chesterton and O'Keefe. In fact I'm going to make it a personal project. Thanks for the tip.
  • October 7 2010 | by Richard Aleman

    Yes, Mr. Wetmore? I will be personally curious to know how you will be "picking them apart" particularly based on the Catholic philosophy, theology, and hermeneutic.

    Unless, of course, you plan on using conservative rhetoric. In that case, I will enjoy responding to you.

    Of course, you may wish to explain to all of us, with your Loyola schooling, what two grown men were doing, yourself and Mr. O'Keefe, (scandalously) publicly portraying homosexuals in order obtain a marriage license.

  • October 7 2010 | by JoeyG

    I, too, wait with baited breath to hear more about my disgustingness. I'm the old fashioned sort that gets a kick out of such things: such has been the topic of some of my favorite sermons.

    Of course, the <i>ad hominem</i> attack is always entertaining but rarely substantive. This is itself one of the problems characterizing Mr. O'Keefe's approach in so many of his "stings." Was the most recent plan for the "Love Boat" op anything more than a cheap suggestion of a way to assassignate the character of a journalist with whom the planners disagree?

    I regret that you are strapped for time, Mr. Wetmore. (I would have thought that picking apart "absurd and ridiculous" denunciations would be a task rather easy in the dispatch.) But please, by all means, take your time - and, all cynicism aside, if you have a substantive argument to offer against the cautions offered here, I would be interested to hear them and discuss them with you.
  • October 7 2010 | by Jennifer

    Mr. Wetmore, should I be intimidated by that comment, would you like me to cry and beg to be let out o f the combox?

    You'll have to wait a long time for that I'm afraid.

    Just to be clear. Mr. Wetmore is the author of the document revealed by CNN, describing the props of the stunt designed to sexually harass Boudreau into leaving begging to be released from the boat, just for everyone reading this.
  • October 7 2010 | by Kevin O'Brien

    Readers, Ben Wetmore is James O'Keefe's associate, the author of the "sex punk" scenario that CNN obtained.

    Ben, I hope you know that I am not trying to destroy James as a person the way the liberals are. On the contrary, I am serious when I say he has potential that needs to be developed and not squandered. I go in to that more here: http://thwordinc.blogspot.com/2010/10/james-okeefe-continued.html . And as you must know, these crticisms of him are not at all over-the-top: that's something that can be more accurately said about the comboxes on the liberal sites, some of which stop shy of wanting James dead and dismembered. He's being treated with a brutality and contempt on liberal sites that I think is extreme. What I am saying, and what these commenters are saying, is not extreme, nor even "over-the-top".

    But remember "over-the-top" is a technique you youself use in these guerilla theater bits. It's not consistent of you to denounce the same technique that you use; but that's beside the point.

    If you and James O'Keefe and Project Veritas really want to pursue "veritas" (Truth), you can not use lies to puruse it, nor can you separate the service of Truth from Beauty or Goodness. The planned punk of Boudreau was ugly and perverse, and the point it was making (that reporters metaphorically seduce their subjects) was reactionary and somewhat paranoid - as is the tone of James' defense.

    In James' posted explanation and denial of this "punk" that you authored, he spends his time criticising CNN as biased (as if no one has ever noticed the fact that CNN is biased), and asserts that his final planned scheme bore little resemblance to the one you authored. If that's the case, then, as I have suggested to James, he needs to release the evidence he has that demonstrates that. CNN is sitting on hard evidence provided to them by Veritas worker Izzy Santa - your document (of which only a redacted version has so far been released by them) and emails which they claim show O'Keefe's intention to following through with your plan. If they are lying about this, then James needs to release this same evidence (the document and emails, which are also in his possession) rather than simply asserting what I would call the Bart Simpson Defense ("I didn't do it; nobody saw me do it; you can't prove anything").

    But, Ben, when you wed yourself to lies as a technique to serve the truth, what happens is no one can easily believe even a straight-forward statement like James O'Keefe's published denial. If you have all learned from Allinsky that the end justifies the means, then how can anything you say or do be believed? This is Allinsky's approach and was never Chesterton's.

    To conclude: I am willing to concede that Veritas and Ink Desk readers share the same ends, revealing and serving the Truth. We are saying that you and O'Keefe are not advancing the cause of reaching this end, the cause of Truth, by your tactics and the motivation behind some of them (like this faux-seduction and metaphoric assault of a well-intentioned, even if mistaken, young woman who would also claim her ultimate end is revealing and serving the Truth).

    It all comes down to a refusal to love our enemy - or even to go so far as to try to understand our enemy as a fellow fallible human being. For right now, Ben, Project Veritas is self-destructing. You have lost the vast majority of your base, and although we can all see that you're angry by your comment above, your willingness to harm us through spite tells us a lot about where Project Veritas is and how far you've strayed from your original devotion to "Veritas".
  • October 7 2010 | by Jennifer

    I'm wondering if I'm supposed to be crying and begging to be let out of the combox now?

    Just to be clear--for anyone reading this: Mr. Wetmore is the author of the document that detailed how Boudreau was supposed to be provoked into crying and begging into be let off the boat by sexual means.

    If you'd like to engage in a conversation of ideas and not ad hominem attacks, do come back. It could be instructive.
  • October 7 2010 | by Tom Leith

    @Richard -- you have missed the point of the same sex marriage stunt. They did (emphatically) not portray homosexuals. Look again.

    I don't see how gonzo can be "the future of journalism" but it sure does illustrate the insubstantiality of Legal Positivism. And of Modernism generally. Plus it has the advantage of being immediately apprehensible: it's funny -- no philosophical abstraction or vocabulary necessary!
  • October 7 2010 | by Richard Aleman

    @Tom -

    "...the two men recorded hidden camera video of themselves going to three state offices in Massachusetts, applying for marriage licenses, openly admitting that they were straight men who wanted to get married to take advantage of the benefits."

    Openly admitting one is straight, but giving another the impression that one is intent on marrying a person of the same sex is still perpetuating scandal. It is consistent with Mr. O'Keefe's actions and is indefensible.

    Reforming Mr. O'Keefe for the sake of his soul is one thing. Rehabilitating him to "strike a blow" against liberal society is a joke and you are only fooling yourselves if you believe this is a moral tack or will effectively change society.

    I won't have any part in this.
  • October 7 2010 | by Miki Tracy

    "When I get more time I will truly splendor in picking them apart."

    Well isn't that just all kinds of special....

    Ben, when you do find a spare moment to deign us with the grand splendor of your sophistry, would you please spend a paragraph or so explaining to me in which of G.K. Chesterton's works he lauds the abuse of women? Preceisely, I would love to read your treatment of the Chestertonian virtue of driving a women to a state of panic, tears, and begging for release from unlawful detainment. I mean, after all, your stated "plan" (personally, I would call it psychotic delusion) was to have Abbie Boudreau "crying and begging to be let off of the boat," right?

    And then after you've given us your chapter and verse citations from Chesterton's works, I would like to to explain to me, personally, what "truth" is borne out of defending such deplorable, evil acts.

    "Disgusting" is a term you should be using when addressing yourself in the mirror, you sad little man. Get over yourself. You're not that bright, and neither is your little friend.
  • October 7 2010 | by Jennifer

    Sorry for the double comment--I thought the first one was lost.

    @Tom--aside from Richard's comment about scandal which is technically true, marriages like this one are a federal offense. It does show that state employees don't know federal law. They are called "marriages of convenience"--but what does it demonstrate as it pertains to civil unions for same sex couples? That's why, while yuk-worthy for opponents of gay marriage, this doesn't seem to be news.

    What's the headline "Some State Employees Don't Know Their Job" hardly seems earth shattering. That's kind of like saying: "Some Catholics Don't Know the Catechism" hardly news, and hardly earth shattering.

    A heterosexual couple (it seems) could
    also get away with a marriage of convenience (a marriage for benefits only--such as citizenship or insurance benefits) so I don't see how this places any question on same-sex couples in particular.

    Similar to the census bureau, if the "journalists" come in and admit to breaking the law and are either not prevented from doing so nor reported for it, it simply says that particular person either doesn't know their job or isn't interested in doing it.

    Couldn't you find people in almost any context not doing their job correctly?
  • October 8 2010 | by Tom Leith

    @Jennifer I don't think Richard's comment about scandal is true at all with respect to the marriage license bit.

    Who said anything about news? This bit is a little dramatization of the state of things -- reportage by example.

    I think the concept of "sham marriage" only exists in Federal law for immigration purposes. The concept doesn't exist in Massachusetts law, which doesn't define the substance of marriage at all. So even though one of the state employees thought there was something wrong with what she was doing, there wasn't -- there was nothing for her to get in trouble over (unfortunately). In that sense she didn't know her job.

    In Massachusetts, a marriage license is in effect a nihil obstat saying in effect "the state has no objection to these people marrying, whatever that might mean to them, and they will have a certain set of legal rights and obligations as soon as they get an authorized person (who could be a mail-order "minister of the gospel", an Ethical Society Humanist, or a random Justice of the Peace) to declare they have consented to marriage whatever that might mean. There is a list of possible objections the state might have: "Is she your mother?" "Sister?" "Niece?" "Are you already married?" and so on. It is OK to marry a First Cousin so far as Massachusetts is concerned. When they're answered satisfactorily a license is issued. "$10 please." This isn't hard to figure out http://bit.ly/cxaedy.

    It looks like there is no consanguinity or affinity test for same sex marriages in Massachusetts. Hmmm. I'm sure someone will sue to correct this horrible state-sponsored discrimination against certain mixed-sex couples who luuuuuv each other.

    None of this is a defense of the Wetmore/O'Keefe Love Boat episode. Or of them personally, for that matter. Even if they repent, their careers as gonzo journalists is probably over, which is too bad. They could've given us some funny (contrived) examples that get people to think.
  • October 8 2010 | by Jennifer

    @Tom thanks, that is an interesting take but it's not true. In fact, just to be sure I looked it up at the MA forum for law (I currently live in MA) and the usual rules apply to the voiding of a marriage---consanguinity and fraud are all named, and under fraud immigration marriages are named as only one possible example, but clearly implicate fraud for other benefits. The fact is the state employees here were a witness to the fraud and should have known that the circumstances invalidate the marriage from a legal standpoint.

    If a heterosexual couple came in and said the same exact thing, they also might get away with it, there is nothing here that indicates that this is the fall out of gay marriage precisely.

    As I say, it does suggest that state employees are ignorant of the law they are there to uphold.

    It's obvious that they took this idea from the recent movie with Adam Sandler and Kevin James--and the whole movie shows them fleeing the law to cover their fraud--wacky hijinks ensue and both men are changed for the better and learn powerful life lessons. LOL

    If this type of thing weren't illegal, federally, and at the state level, the movie would have no obstacle for the characters to overcome.

    I don't doubt that some MA state employees are less than sharp about knowing the law they are there to uphold--at the same time, I think that few people come into the office openly declaring fraud because it is illegal, so it's not exactly a training scenario they are likely to have encountered.

    As for Richard's charge about scandal--I said it was technically true, and it is technically true as scandal is defined in the Catechism. Whether or not such a thing applies in "undercover" reporting and espionage, is an issue of wide debate, and something that has to be teased out carefully--but it is, technically, from a theological pov leading someone into wrong-doing, and from a civil point of view entrapping.

    I realize it's complicated which is why I said
    "technically" and my objection to this particular stunt is not so much moral as rational. As in: "what's the point?"

    All of it strikes me as the journalistic equivalent of "ring and run" or leaving the flaming bag of dog poo on the step. Good for a laugh if you are of a certain mindset but ultimately not effective and and makes questionable points.

    A person who supports gay marriage would not be startled by this--they'd roll their eyes. It's a little pot shot that people who are already opposed to gay marriage would giggle at.
  • October 8 2010 | by Tom Leith

    @Jennifer -- let me get this straight: are you pointing at an Adam Sandler movie as evidence that your legal interpretations are correct?

    Technically, from a theological pov leading someone into wrong-doing is scandal, but you yourself admit it isn't clear whether anyone led anyone else into wrong-doing. Yet, you're clearly accusing O'Keefe of scandalizing the county clerks because, well, why exactly?
  • October 8 2010 | by Jennifer

    @ Tom no I'm not using an Adam Sandler movie to support my argument. I used the MA Forum for Law which is available to anyone who wants to know what the law pertaining to marriage fraud is.

    I'm using the Adam Sandler movie (who is a vocal Republican by the way, as an interesting side issue) to:

    a) show you from where the idea derived. It is the premise of the whole movie that two heterosexual men get married to get benefits.


    b) to demonstrate that it is common knowledge that such fraud is illegal.

    The illegality of the fraud is the source of the conflict in the plot. Both men want to keep dating women but they have to hide it from the authorities who suspect fraud and pursue them, Javert style, to reveal it. Without the knowledge that such fraud is illegal the movie has no plot.

    Meaning--if it is in the plot of the Sandler movie, it's pretty obvious that it's basic knowledge that fraud in any marriage is illegal. The fact that certain state employees don't seem to understand that is sad, but it isn't an extension or complication of gay marriage and is one of the feeblest arguments against it. As we know from immigration law, heterosexual marriage fraud is just as easy.

    It must be my own lack of clarity in writing, so forgive me. But I am also NOT accusing O'Keefe of scandal in this particular case--there is an argument to be made that he may be--Richard is making that argument I am not. I am saying that it fits the technical requirements for scandal according to Catholic teaching--but whether or not it fits the spirit of the law, is another debate.

    The point I make, which I believe I stated but perhaps not clearly enough, is that, scandal aside, it is simply not a salient revelation on any level. He simply reveals state employee incompetence. If they actually signed those documents O'Keefe and Wetmore would be in violation of federal law, and it would make the annulment void at the state level, too. It is not clear that if he had made the same outrageous claim with a female partner, that the same results wouldn't have occurred.

    It seems obvious to me, but I can see how the logic goes--but it is a deductive fallacy.

    It's yuk-worthy but makes no true argument. It shows state employees ignorant of the law.
  • October 11 2010 | by Stock Exchange Updates

    One can imagine, on the other hand, the child who prefers rather to sit right next to the loving parent, or even climb into the lap - not only satisfying the parent's command not to wander too far, but demonstrating their own preference to be as near as possible.
    Stock Exchange Updates