Another Reason Never To Trust Edited Video From James O’Keefe

Glenn Beck's own website discovers some interesting, and ethically disturbing, editing in the latest round of video's from "ACORN Pimp"James O'Keefe.

There an interesting analysis of the NPR “sting” video that made rounds earlier this week which reveals some, shall we say, interesting editing choices by James O’Keefe and his associates:

On Wednesday, The Blaze posted a lengthy report looking at the ethics of undercover journalism.  The comments on the post show a lively debate and wide-ranging views on what is considered ethical and acceptable in pursuit of a scoop.

Plenty of readers felt the new NPR exposé justified any ethical misgivings involved in producing it. Others felt that those seeking truths should hold to higher standards.

When undercover video like the NPR story first surfaces, we often look to see if there is raw video of the material used to produce the report as a basis for evaluating the accuracy of the representations made.

And we decided to do that in this case.

The Blaze’s Pam Key, who produces most of our original videos, is experienced in reviewing hours and hours of raw audio/video to find key sections that can then be used in proper context.  Her review of the NPR exposé identifies a number of areas to examine.

Do these areas reveal problematic editing choices?  Are assertions made in the video misleading? Are the tactics used by the video producers unethical?

Take note, first of all, that this appears at The Blaze, the HuffPo/Daily Caller -like web site started by Glenn Beck several months ago. That alone is interesting, but so is the analysis itself, which I encourage you to read in full. There’s one area of particular interest, which David Weigel notes over at his one blog at Slate:

The tape released on Tuesday morning gave us this conversation, which starts after a visible (i.e., not concealed) edit.

SCHILLER: … think the current Republican party is not really the Republican Party. It’s been hijacked by this group that…

“MUSLIM”: The radical, racist, Islamophobic, Tea Party people?

SCHILLER: Exactly. And not just Islamophobic, but really xenophobic. Basically, they believe in white, middle America, gun-toting — I mean, it’s pretty scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people.

The Blaze grabs the entire exchange, before the edit, from the video that was made available by Project Veritas on Tuesday — hours before Schiller sped up his retirement, and resigned. I’ve bolded the part that was cut.

SCHILLER: I won’t break a confidence, but a person who was an ambassador — so, a very highly placed Republican — another person, who was one of the top donors to the Republican party, they both told me they voted for Obama, which they never believed they could ever do in their lives. That they could ever vote for a Democrat, ever. And they did, because they think the current Republican party is not really the Republican Party. It’s been hijacked by this group that…

“MUSLIM”: The radical, racist, Islamophobic, Tea Party people?

SCHILLER: Exactly. And not just Islamophobic, but really xenophobic. Basically, they believe in white, middle America, gun-toting — I mean, it’s pretty scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people.

As Weigel notes, there’s at least some suggestion here that Schiller was led into saying what he did by this “Muslim,” who was, of course, part of O’Keefe’s “sting” operation and thus had the incentive to lead the person he’s talking to into saying something provocative, just like police officers often use trickery and deceit to coax a confession out of someone. Whether,given these circumstances, the comments are really an accurate reflection of what the person thinks is something I will leave to the reader.

The Blaze conclude:

Anyone looking at the edited version of the Project Veritas video would be concerned about the conduct and views expressed by the NPR representatives. But should we also be concerned about the deceptive nature of some of the video’s representations? Some will say no — the end justifies any means, even if unethical. Others may be bothered by these tactics and view similar projects with a greater degree of skepticism.

In our posting yesterday on the ethics of undercover journalism, we found a range of views. One interesting view is held by Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard. Barnes believes it is always wrong for a journalist to lie: “It’s dishonest for anyone in journalism to pretend to be someone they’re not.”

But Barnes also believes this applies only to journalists. “This rule doesn’t apply to folks outside the profession,” he told The Blaze. Barnes views the O’Keefe production as a “political hit job and a quite clever and successful one at that.”

Barnes may not realize that O’Keefe describes his work as “investigative journalism,” and thus by Barnes definition — unethical.

And that is only on the issue of going undercover. But even if you are of the opinion, as I am, that undercover reporting is acceptable and ethical in very defined situations, it is another thing to approve of editing tactics that seem designed to intentionally lie or mislead about the material being presented.

Indeed.

If the Shirley Sherrod incident taught us anything, it is that unedited web videos should not be trusted. This is even more true when that video is part of so-called “investigative journalism” and has been edited in such a manner as to prove the point the “journalists” wanted to make (I would note that it really isn’t investigative journalism when you go into a project with the goalo of creating videos that can be used to embarrass someone)

I’m not really a fan of NPR,and I fully support the idea of decoupling them from the government. However, shoddy “journalism” like this doesn’t help that cause, and I hope people will think twice the next time “Project Veritas” or anyone affiliated with it comes out with another “shocking” video.

 

FILED UNDER: US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. muffler says:

    We get what we America deserves at this point. O’Keefe is know for altering video and recordings. Why anyone doesn’t just say “OH I think we should see what the whole video looks like” is odd. The rule I follow is that most people are more guarded in how they speak and if the video (or story) makes you jump emotionally before you even read the second paragraph then it probably was tailored for maximum sensation and not fact.

  2. Chad S says:

    If O’Keefe’s previous botched “stories” and the truth behind the ACORN videos(including that he apparently taped a different audio track over the video) didn’t give people pause from trusting these tapes, nothing will.

  3. PD Shaw says:

    It may be leading, but the real problem seems to be that Schiller’s statement was at least partly attributional, but that context was cut. He was attributing certain views to an unnamed Republican Ambassador.

    Now, it may be that he is using the Republican Ambassador as the device to express his own views, and also that the later statements are no longer attributional, but his own. But clearly an unfair edit IMHO.

  4. Tlaloc says:

    the credence lent to people like O’Keefe and Rush and Beck and Coulter, and so on, is a strong signal of the reactionary nature of the current incarnation of the GOP. Cursory thought reveals these people to be demagogues in clownface, but there’s an entire political party out there that by and large treats them not only as serious but as wellsprings of truth who are not to be critically considered.

    It’s really rather disheartening that so many people can be so willing to lie to themselves, and so lazy that they seek out these miscreants who will do it for them.

  5. Franklin says:

    Information noted, thanks Doug.

  6. anjin-san says:

    > But clearly an unfair edit IMHO.

    The intent was to cause damage, and it worked. Fairness was never part of the equation, and the audience for this type of “journalism” has no interest in it.

  7. superdestroyer says:

    60 minutes, 20/20, and all the other news magazine shows used edited video or voice-over and no one on the left ever objected. Now that a few people on the right are using hidden video, now hidden video is a bad thing.

    If the left thought edited video, POV journalism, and activist journalist was a bad thing, they had decades to object. It is way too late now to complain about it.

  8. Ben Wolf says:

    Kudos to Glenn Beck’s website. I generally dislike the man, but I believe in credit where it is due.

  9. Tlaloc says:

    60 minutes, 20/20, and all the other news magazine shows used edited video or voice-over and no one on the left ever objected. Now that a few people on the right are using hidden video, now hidden video is a bad thing.

    if 60 minutes or 20/20 or anybody else deliberately edited video to change what apparently was said in an interview (as O’Keefe has been shown to have done every single time) then they certainly deserve condemnation. Can you demonstrate that they have?

    Thought so.

  10. superdestroyer says:

    Tlaloc,

    A common tactic of interviewers like Leslie Stahl is to say “XXXX went on to say” and then paraphrase what they said. If the person really said it, they just show it.

    See how Michael Moore insisted on unedited interview. Moore plays the game of misquoting and editing better than most and he knew to not let it happen to himself.

  11. Herb says:

    “60 minutes, 20/20, and all the other news magazine shows used edited video or voice-over and no one on the left ever objected.”

    More insightful than perhaps you know, SD. Professional news orgs “did it first” and “the left” didn’t object.

    So when these amateurs do it, “the left” has no right to complain.

    Note to Superdestroyer: Doug Matconis is not part of “the left.”

  12. tom p says:

    SD, some time ago you showed your true racist colors here when I said “I live for the day my sons generation takes control, because they don’t care about all this race bullshit.” (or something like that) and you said something along the lines of “Just wait, tom p, when the brown skinned people control the world you won’t be so…” I don’t know, I lost you at this point and just replied something along the lines of “SD… you are a racist piece of sh*t..”

    A leopard can’t change it’s spots, and I have no reason to believe you have either.

  13. G.A.Phillips says:

    Note to Superdestroyer: Doug Mataconis is not part of “the left.”

    you mean that he is not part of your left? lol…..

  14. Wiley Stoner says:

    Anyone who thinks Mataconis is not part of the left has lost their marbles. No matter what he claims, all he ever writes about are detrimental to conservatives. I think Doug has some nerve attacking the voracity of O”Keefe. What I saw on TV was not edited nor what it changed. Had it been so, those people at NPR would have retained their jobs.

  15. G.A.the Friendly Troll says:

    A leopard can’t change it’s spots

    My problem with democrats, evolutionists and progressives…er, I mean the majority of liberals.

  16. tom p says:

    A leopard can’t change it’s spots

    My problem with democrats, evolutionists and progressives…er, I mean the majority of liberals.

    oops, I’m sorry GA, I did not mean to leave you out….

  17. An Interested Party says:

    It really is pathetic to see how someone who has made no secret of the fact of how much of a libertarian he is gets painted with “the left” brush because he dares to criticize people like Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and James O’Keefe…according to the this standard, the vast majority of the country is part of “the left”…

  18. tom p says:

    It really is pathetic to see how someone who has made no secret of the fact of how much of a libertarian he is gets painted with “the left” brush because he dares to criticize people like Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann

    IP, exactly. I think I can count on one hand the # of times DM and I have agreed (on the ISSUES…), and yet he and I are the same….

  19. Neil Hudelson says:

    No matter what he claims, all he ever writes about are detrimental to conservatives.

    And there’s the rub. It doesn’t matter if what he writes is true its that its detrimental to far right conservatives, so he must be shut down.

    I imagine this is what its like in most cults.

  20. Neil Hudelson says:

    I’ve never seen a movement so disinterested in truth and fact, and so concerned with making sure one sticks with the official narrative.

  21. tom p says:

    Neil, you said it better than I did.

  22. TG Chicago says:

    I’ll sort of semi-agree with SD about one thing: Michael Moore *should* release the full versions of all his interviews on the net when he puts out a new movie. In this day and age, full transparency is the way to go.

    And, in fact, I’ll give qualified praise to O’Keefe’s group for putting the full video online for people to see for themselves. Obviously, that doesn’t excuse their deceitful editing, but still I’ll give credit where it’s due.

    It’s easy enough for any group to put full unedited tapes online, so there’s no excuse not to. That goes for Moore, O’Keefe, and everybody else.

  23. G.A.the Friendly Troll says:

    oops, I’m sorry GA, I did not mean to leave you out….

    I changed my spots Pookie….cleaned them off…well the ones from the indoctrination infection….
    anyhow..

  24. anjin-san says:

    > I’ve never seen a movement so disinterested in truth and fact, and so concerned with making sure one sticks with the official narrative

    Well, if you had ever lived in the Soviet Union, or perhaps China during the cultural revolution…

  25. wr says:

    Neil — Yes… but UNinterested. Disinterested means impartial…

  26. It really is pathetic to see how someone who has made no secret of the fact of how much of a libertarian he is gets painted with “the left” brush because he dares to criticize people like Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and James O’Keefe…according to the this standard, the vast majority of the country is part of “the left”…

    That’s because the right has by and large become devoid of any sort of principle and is just about identity politics now. If you openly criticize the tribe, you must be part of the other tribe. That goes double if you criticize Heap Big Chief.

  27. Neil Hudelson says:

    wr thanks for the correction. I’ve been using that word incorrectly for awhile, and its a habit I can’t break.

  28. superdestroyer says:

    tom p,

    If you want to see the future of the U.S and race relations and how the media will handle it, you may want to look up the controversy about Cleveland Texas and the gang rape of a Hispanic girl by a group of black men.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/11/residents-of-town-where-awful-gang-rape-occurred_n_834535.html

    Not exactly a sign of a post-racial America but a good example of what blacks think about non-blacks.

  29. An Interested Party says:

    Not exactly a sign of a post-racial America but a good example of what blacks think about non-blacks.

    Classic projection…superdestroyer feels a certain way about blacks so of course they must feel the same way about people like him…

  30. wr says:

    Neil — And thank you for being so gracious. Correcting grammar on blogs is a terrible use of bandwidth… but that is one of my pet peeves.

  31. Kylopod says:

    I actually agree that Michael Moore is often guilty of misleading editing. It was a bewildering experience watching F9/11 in the theater, realizing that I agreed with the movie’s basic point of view but felt it was arguing it in a dishonest manner. This tactic is rare on the mainstream left, and we do ourselves no favors by failing to criticize it on our side when it occurs.

  32. Wayne says:

    I agree with SD that the MSM\left does it all the time. They take Rush’s comments out of context time and time again. They went off on Palin. They showed an edited clip where she got the name of a country wrong even though she corrected herself and had the country names straight prior and after the slip up in the lengthy interview. Claiming 60 minutes, 20/20, or most of MSM doesn’t do creative editing is putting blinders on.

    Obama the actual president screws up countries or leaders names and nothing is said. The double standard and hypocrisy of the left knows no bound.

  33. tom p says:

    If you want to see the future of the U.S and race relations and how the media will handle it, you may want to look up the controversy about Cleveland Texas and the gang rape of a Hispanic girl by a group of black men.

    SD; (and I wonder why nobody else jumped on this)

    WTF???!!??!!!!???

    Black girls have been getting raped in Cleveland ,Texas for 200+ yrs…. but NOW you complain???

    Look, I am not sure WHAT point you are trying to make (other than “them big black bucks are going to be shoving their big black dicks up our white wimmens vaginas….”

    Could you be any more racist? Please?

    Than maybe some on the right here will FINALLY recognize who they are in league with.

  34. An Interested Party says:

    They take Rush’s comments out of context time and time again.

    Oh yes, because he is just so responsible and never says anything that is totally ridiculous and vile…

    They went off on Palin.

    Like asking her what newspapers she reads? Yeah, strong stuff, that…

    The whining and victimization of the right knows no bound…

  35. Neil Hudelson says:

    tom p,

    Superdestroyer is a racist, racist assh*le whose presence is so vile that I find it better to not even acknowledge his (her?) presence.

    But I assure you, that particular disgusting comment was not unnoticed. I feel acknowledging that s/he exists just encourages more of the same.

    -Neil

  36. matt says:

    You certainly won’t get anywhere if you try to bring facts up that are inconvenient to SD…

  37. Wayne says:

    Matt are you talking about SD or the left. Many on the left sure seem to ignore facts that are inconvenient. Look at what AIP says. Usually personal insults, changes the subject or simply makes stuff up.

  38. matt says:

    Wayne : The irony of your post will be lost on you but I find it utterly hilarious…

  39. Axel Edgren says:

    Rule #1

    If republicans are upset over something, ignore them by default.

  40. Wayne says:

    Matt I figure you would say something along that line. It is always the other people not you who do it right?

  41. matt says:

    Wayne : You use a dubious “fact” to paint a whole swath of people while decrying the usage of insults, making things and the ignoring of facts..

    Of course I cannot help but find it funny. Glass house and all that..

  42. Wayne says:

    Groups are groups because they share some common interest or traits. Pointing out some of those traits may be insulting if you belong to that group but it not the same as insulting someone personally.

    As you may have not notice I like to throw peoples argument right back at them. So often I am as much of a reflection of them as I am of any of my personal beliefs. A cheap thrill but fun no less.

    The irony is much of what I have said in response to you is what you have said. So in the end you are actually laughing at yourself.

  43. wr says:

    Wayne — That’s a very sophisticated method of discourse you’ve invented. Many people aren’t able to handle such deeply thought arguments until they’re well into kindergarted.

  44. matt says:

    Groups are groups because they share some common interest or traits.

    Yes that’s true but you group anyone left of you as “the left” so the only common trait is they are somewhere left of you on your political spectrum all according to you.

    This was how far along I got with my post before I realized that I’m completely wasting my time trying to talk some sense into your crazy existence…

  45. mantis says:

    This was how far along I got with my post before I realized that I’m completely wasting my time trying to talk some sense into your crazy existence…

    Wise move.

  46. Raoul says:

    GM sued and won millions when they sued NBC Primetime for rigging vehicles to explode.