James, meet Julian.


James O'Keefe

Members of the right love a good sting video. Conservatives everywhere are impressed by the coup that James O’Keefe and his Project Veritas have executed against NPR, catching two high level executives saying some absolutely ludicrous things about conservatives, about NPR’s funding, etc. Loose lips sink ships.

Julian Assange

But it crosses my mind that it seems a little contradictory that some of the same individuals who are singing the praises of O’Keefe are the same ones who are calling for Julian Assange’s head and who support the brutal detention of Bradley Manning.  After all, both men are on an ideological quest for transparency and honest government.

If anything, I find supporting O’Keefe to be the more difficult proposition. In spite of calling his organization “Project Veritas,” O’Keefe essentially engages in entrapment. His operation relies on deceit and coercion, through false personas and leading questions, to tease odious statements out of individuals. The entire operation runs on lies. One might argue that the net benefit is still positive for society, but that’s a serious moral proposition to weigh.

Take Assange, now. Assange’s entire operation stems from voluntary efforts by individuals in governments around the world to whistleblow. There are no lies, there is no coercion. Assange’s intentions are clear, and his site exists so that the truth can come to him. And it does.

I know what my friends on the right would retort: NPR doesn’t deserve federal funding and Assange endangers national security. The first response is a normative issue, and the second constitutes a claim has not yet been substantiated.

So let’s run through the facts: O’Keefe crusades for conservative policy issues specifically, but practices an incredibly dishonest form of journalism. Assange crusades for accountable government more generally through completely honest means (something you would think conservatives would support but won’t if it brushes up against the precious military), but reveals information that might be harmful for the conduct of certain policies. One would think that, at the very least, the gulf between conservative sentiment toward O’Keefe versus Assange, given the pros and cons, wouldn’t be so large.

I think it testifies to just how blindly committed conservatives are to the idea of “national security” and just how fragile they think our national defense is. I personally neither think that our nation suffers from too little zeal for defense nor think that Assange’s hypothetical threat to American “interests” outweighs the moral caliber of his methods vs. O’Keefe’s.


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