An interesting strategy has been used of late that brings up a lot of ethical questions. I touched on it a few articles back when Anonymous hacked into HBGary and discovered that they were creating fake constituencies to foster an illusion of favourable public opinion. Wikileaks has become the trendy weapon of choice in exposing the true intentions of political groups and it’s catching on.
I should point out that it was predated by as yet unidentified hackers who hacked into e-mail accounts of East Anglia University in order to find evidence of a manufactured plot to promote Anthropogenic Global Warming. It was neither true nor makes any sense; nobody is going to get rich off of promoting AGW. It did serve, however, to disrupt the climate change summit happening in Copenhagen at the time.
And it’s a bipartisan tool. After receiving a slap on the hand for trying to tap into Louisiana Governor Landrieu’s phones, conservative activist James O’Keefe is at it again videotaping a dinner conversation with a top NPR executive without his knowledge. You may remember O’Keefe from his videotaping visits to ACORN offices posing as the worst pimp ever. O’Keefe filmed hours of video and was thrown out of several places until he finally got some video of questionably damning soundbites from ACORN employees. The government subsequently cut funding to ACORN. Republicans considered this a victory because ACORN assists low-income voters; the majority of whom vote for Democrats, in registering to vote.
NPR has been hypersensitive to controversy of late because their government funding is being targeted by Republicans. They have typically overreacted to every little thing that even smacks of impropriety. Recall the Juan Williams firing. Now this executive, who O’Keefe secretly recorded saying that the Tea Party is racist and that NPR would be better off without government funding, has resigned. He’s not worried, as he was leaving anyway for another job, but one other executive has been fired, and one is on administrative leave pending an investigation. The latter’s only crime appears to be trying to vet O’Keefe’s fake claims of wanting to submit dirty donation money to NPR (which they repeatedly refused).
Not to be outdone, a liberal blogger from Buffalo, New York prank called Governor Scott Walker and got him on tape outlining the entire Republican secret plot to disempower Democrats by busting unions. I would argue that his actions will turn Wisconsin into a blue state within the year. Maybe a few others as well.
Here’s the thing; all of these events took place through questionably moral and ethical means. Wikileaks, depending on which side you choose, is either a traitor or a candidate for a Nobel Peace Prize. The liberal blogger from New York is being touted as a hero. James O’Keefe is quietly encouraged to keep up the good work of breaking the law. NPR’s Schiller probably would’ve kept his opinion about the Tea Party to himself if he had known he was being videotaped. Heck, I’ll go on record agreeing with him in that the Tea Party has a strong propensity to be racist.
So do two wrongs now make a right? Is it okay to impersonate a billionaire if it exposes sinister motives? Can you set entrapment scenarios to lure people into accepting cash donations? Can you use hidden video or cherry pick video in order to discredit an organization or cost a person their job? It’s a Federal offense to open someone else’s mail and I’m having trouble making the distinction with these tactics that are being used. Some of this stuff would be inadmissible in court. So why are they acceptable in public?
- James O’Keefe, NPR-Slayer: What Kind Of Journalist Is This? (huffingtonpost.com)
- NPR’s own weak knees let lying bullies like James O’Keefe score another easy victory (crooksandliars.com)
- Ronald Schiller Caught in James O’Keefe NPR Trap (nowpublic.com)
- James O’Keefe Tried to Scam PBS Too (littlegreenfootballs.com)
- James O’Keefe NPR video: A short history of political stings. (slate.com)