26: James O’Keefe: What is (and isn't) Journalism in the 21st century
|What is (and isn't) Journalism in the 21st century|
|Release Date||19 March 2020|
|YouTube Date||20 April 2020|
James O'Keefe is a dangerous man. He records people without their knowledge and publishes the results using the full power of our technological toolkit. He is well versed in the details of the law as to what can and cannot be legally recorded and/or published without the consent or even awareness of his targets. He is willing to risk prison to capture his stories and he has developed a policy of not settling out of court, even when it would be financially advantageous to do so. Clearly, he is willing to risk ruin and hatred for what he is doing, and is therefore not a man to be lightly trifled with.
In this episode, Eric sits down with James to try to understand the mutant future of journalism as it reckons with the power of new technology, while continuing to move away from traditional newspapers and reporting. Eric tries to discover what is truly motivating O'Keefe and why he would want to come on a show that has been so openly critical of his organization.
James has many who see him as a crusading hero. He has also been accused of unethical deception, trespassing, entrapment, selective editing, and an entire litany of ethics complaints from traditional media. Oddly, however, more standard reporters working for traditional news desks openly discuss among themselves the professional need to deceive their targets in order to get the truth, or at least the story. Such strategies include using disingenuous flattery, pretending to be the source's friend, threats, the lure of fame, and a host of other edgy techniques to get people to say things that the reporter knows will likely be personally disastrous for the person being quoted.
This raises the question of just what it is that makes James O'Keefe different from a more mainstream reporter. Is it his method, more than his chosen targets? Is it that he really doctors his footage or instead that he has revived older journalistic techniques to hunt new journalists? This interview may not answer all of these questions, but we hope it may prove to be a conversation unlike any you have previously heard on this topic.
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Transcript[edit | edit source]
Eric Weinstein: Hello, this is Eric, and I wanted to alert you to a small experiment. I think we're going to be running in the portal for awhile now. We've realized that many episodes have needs at the beginning of the show. In the first place. There's a need for some housekeeping and in the second, there's often a need to give some context and a short introduction to the episode so that our listeners can better understand why we're running it.
Well, what we thought about is that maybe we should stop doing that haphazardly. If instead we just decided that there would be two segments. One dedicated to housekeeping, sometimes light, sometimes more extensive, and in the second we had a segment that actually gives the context and an introduction to the guest or whatever the point of a monologue might be.
I don't guarantee that it's going to work and we reserve the right to go back, but we are trying to listen to you and trying to figure out what is doable. The second item of business surrounds the set of rather exotic circumstances under which this week's podcast is being released. As of this recording, I am now self isolating at home, under essentially locked down like measures as a quarantine mentality sweeps across our planet.
One way of viewing this is to see it as a giant overreaction. Now, I don't hold this view and I don't wish to promote it, but the idea is that we have learned to live with influenza and this virus is similar in some ways to the familiar flu. I'm sure you've heard this from others, I know when I go into it and develop the idea here. A second way of seeing this is it as an incredibly rapid societal change in deeply groove behavior patterns unfolding over perhaps the last seven to 14 days in earnest.
From this angle, it is astonishingly agentic as measured, at least by the speed of change, and thus perhaps, it could signal the beginning of the end of the nearly 50 year dream state that we have discussed on this program that set in sometime in the early to mid 1970s and signaled the end of the previous postwar growth machine.
Yet a different way of looking at the reaction to the pandemic is to view it as a slow and inadequate response to a very serious situation. To this way of thinking; the most agentic among us were worried about the situation since at least January, 2020 and they were simply getting no traction in talking through why they were alarmed when attempting to convince the rest of us.
Of course, all three positions have some merit, but the first seems misguided to me, and I think the last has the most substance. Many people have asked me how I am sense-making in the current environment. The answer is rather disappointing. My answer is that I unfortunately appeared to be among the most confused of my colleagues.
Almost everywhere I turn. People around me are nearly certain of things that contradict what various others of my colleagues know to be true. Unsurprisingly, most of these colleagues have settled on various strategies on which they place great emphasis. So then the problem is definitely ventilators, unless it is really reagents and testing instead, or perhaps nothing else matters like behavior modification.
That is, if vaccines and treatments aren't the clear way to go. I want to share with you what I get from listening in on such private conversations with some of the most respected names in health science and technology. I'm sorry to say. What I get is confusion. I am sorry to report that after many phone calls and having read a fair amount, I have not heard a truly coherent, comprehensive narrative emerge around this virus.
No one really trusts China to report in itself, and we don't yet have enough time with the disease outside of China to speak about it sufficiently authoritatively. So what am I doing personally? Well, the first thing that I'm at least trying to do is to stop listening to the very sources that fed me bad information initially telling me not even to worry when I had the maximum amount of time to prepare and to be agentic.
That kind of reporting is what I've elsewhere referred to as pure journal genic harm. Now you can say that democracy dies in darkness with a fancy tagline, but it also dies in civil society. When you are the major news site and you write meaningless fluff pieces on what are ultimately life and death issues inducing people to undertake exactly the wrong course of action.
Unfortunately that means that I've more or less been forced to give up on a lot of mainstream news like the Washington post or the daily beast after they both condescendingly warned us against reacting to the threat of the virus. Similarly, I am trying not to listen to any messaging specifically designed to calm me down or to distress me.
Now, why is that? Well, first of all, what stresses me out most, and I'm just being honest here, is some questionable expert, trotted out with a PhD who's leading response to a deadly virus, is to lecture us on psychology. I mean, if I'm on lockdown, I want to be talking about viruses, about morbidity and mortality.
I want to see grizzly autopsy photos, the ones that the experts have, not because I'm a cob, but because they help explain what we're up against and why the government is reacting so strongly. Information, data risk assessment. That's what calms me down and I suspect it works the same way with a lot of you as well.
I want information and guidance the same way the experts do. How bad is this? I mean, people in the know right now are talking about the potential for multi-month quarantines much longer than the three week ones that are currently being discussed in public as well as about much higher respiratory burdens on the young who recover.
Contrast that with the talk of quote full recovery close boat that I am more commonly hearing in mainstream discussions. I'm sorry, but in terms of morbidity, I don't think recovery from this illness is anywhere near as full or as free as is being discussed. That would make sense to me. In fact, a friend of mine listening to me suggested looking up ground glass opacities and I thanked her for that search string.
I think you might find it interesting as well. But instead of an expectation of full information, we are too often getting the opposite. To put it bluntly, we seem to always be managed rather than informed. To the best of my understanding, we are all in the famous, metaphoric, crowded theater and the powers that be have been cutting costs for decades by making our exits smaller and smaller.
So their current focus isn't getting as few people to panic as possible when the correct thing to do is to ask why our leaders didn't push for larger exits before the crisis. Now in the metaphor, those larger exits would be deeper reserves and larger emergency cushions of ventilators, hospital beds, reagents for testing, all the things that a successful civil society would naturally want, deeply stocked in just such an emergency.
So we have a bit of a conflict, the right thing to do in an ideal world. It would be to level with nations that had been all the while properly prepared for actual society-wide adversity, but to begin that now would mean admitting to universal institutional failure and the previous era to adequately prepare for any event of this kind.
Thus, what I'm planning to do on a going forward basis is two fold. First, I've stopped listening to any exoteric mainstream messaging meant to manage panic just as I've started slogging through esoteric medical and scientific communication. But the second part of this is no less important. I have started to privilege the information implicitly contained in a sensibly self-destructive economic behavior coming from governments far too under the control of elite economic interests to begin with.
That is, I don't think anyone in positions of asymmetric information in power would adopt these measures unless the virus was very severe. Indeed, because the financial risks are themselves catastrophic. Thus, as far as the government is concerned, I am looking at the severity of their actions and turning down the audio of their words.
If the two are conflicting, I am taking more information from what we are putting at risk than I am from descriptions that are being shared with the public. So to sum up, please take this seriously. We don't yet have a way to filter the information, misinformation and disinformation with which we are all being bombarded.
What can you do? Well, the best we may be able to do is to turn off the audio meant to calm the masses and try to start reading the technical literature. If we can. And lastly, watch for the sign that powerful interests are willing to put the very markets which enrich them at risk to fight this. That is a bit counterintuitive, but in the end, the revealed preference and the content of that information may be the best that we have at this point.
Okay, so thanks to your local and federal government as well as the coronavirus. If you're like me, you are sheltering in place while this is being recorded and may be starting to go ever so slightly stir crazy, thanks to a near lockdown, which we can't refer to in real terms. So what are you going to do at the time?
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I would like to say some brief words of introduction to today's episode with James O'Keefe of project Veritas. First of all, I respect James for being willing to come on the portal as our beginning interaction on Twitter was not a specious. As I recall. I wrote, I hate this shitty hidden camera. Gotcha.
Crap. And perhaps not surprisingly, he took immediate exception. I found his response interesting and invited him on the program to explain himself. And to my surprise, he accepted despite my unconcealed hostility, I admired that willingness to face a critic. I've endeavored ever since with James to be a constructive one.
On a preliminary setup call. I promised him that there would be no gotchas, and he actually said that that was unnecessary. I told him that our politics were likely opposite and that I wouldn't pull any punches, nor would I pretend that I was without admiration for some of what he does, such as in the case of his pushing at the famous Amy Rohrbach hot Mike video.
This release revealed that higher ups at ABC news may have been deliberately holding back the Epstein's story for years. In that video of the subject matter was of utmost public interest, and the reporter caught on the hot mic was made to look even more heroic in having gotten the story early. I did tell James, however, that I didn't like his choice of targets and that his methods made me very negatively disposed to the entire project Veritas endeavor.
He simply asked me to keep an open mind as he felt that he had answers to all of my concerns. As it happens. However, I believe that we had a conversation that would have been very difficult to predict by either one of us had we not simply gone ahead and tried to better understand each other. The decision to invite James O'Keefe onto the program was not taken lightly.
Why is this? Well, it's because of an idiotic game. Many in the regular media play, which we might call contamination in this fool's game, if you so much his interview with James O'Keefe, you are marked by extension as damaged goods. Now, this fools absolutely no one is paying attention, claiming that everything project Veritas does is unreliable when often they're merely sharing.
Unedited, continuous footage that they have been sent is not a convincing argument for those in the know. In essence, James O'Keeffe is after all, a creation of our mainstream media, their decision not to aggressively pursue many stories of great importance has created opportunity. And if you believe that James O'Keefe has absolutely nothing to contribute, I do hope you more than anyone will enjoy this interview with him.
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Hello, you found the portal. I'm your host, Eric Weinstein, and I get to sit down today with James O'Keefe, the head of project Veritas. James, welcome. Great to be here. I'm really glad to have you. Now, you know, of course, that by just having you in that chair, some percentage of the world is going to go bananas and say, Oh my God, Eric has jumped the shark.
He's beyond the pale. He's gone too far. He's platform. Somebody should never be platform. And this is going through my head even as we speak. And part of the reason I bring that up is that I want to fight that, which is, that's ridiculous. You're an important figure. We need to talk to you. We need to understand you.
And I also want to just begin by commending you because you got to be here in part by your, uh, answering a tweet of mine by just being open about the fact that I, you didn't feel like I was being fair to you. And maybe I would just begin by reminding, uh, our viewers and listeners have this begin. Okay.
Should we do that? Sure. Okay. So you project Veritas had just caught a David Wright of ABC news on undercover camera saying some things that he probably shouldn't have, and he was suspended by ABC as a result of project Veritas, his actions, and you tweeted that out and I responded. Uh, why is this person suspended?
Because he's a socialist question Mark. Because he thinks Trump is a Dick question Mark. Because he discusses the dinosaur broadcast broadcast channels because he is thinking about institutional bias. Dunno. And then I say, I also have to admit, I hate this shitty hidden camera. Gotcha crap. And your response was, you hate the shitty.
Hidden camera. Got your crap right was in a public space speaking freely amongst his peers in newspapers. That's called reporting. You're prejudiced against the method. Doesn't make any sense. You prefer, I report this all caps without the audio. A quotation anonymously sourced close quotes. And I thought that was a really interesting comeback.
So if I just can recall, I said, thank you, James for this question. Let me answer this as honestly as I can. We have a William tell problem, aim too high and you miss the story, aim too low and you kill the impact due to the uncomfortable methods, in my opinion, you are aiming too low and I am aiming too high.
And I think that that really comes down to. The, the, the interesting issue that we have for listeners and viewers today, which is I think you and I are agreed on a lot about the problems in the current system. And we're radically divided by the methods. And I'm very concerned about the damage project Veritas is doing.
And I'm also, uh, interested. In the progress project Veritas is making and most people want to have a one or the other perspective. Right, and I have a superposition of the two issues, so I thought that a good place to start, that'd be a great place to start. Do you want to talk a little bit about how you saw the interaction and any background that you want to bring to the
James O’Keefe: conversation?
It's a lot to unpack here. There's a million things to directions to go into, but I thought that was a very interesting conversation and credit to you because. After having the conversation, you actually invited me to, to, to talk to you and to call you in that, in kudos to you. Because most of the people I deal with don't even think that I'm human.
They kind of want to dehumanize me. They don't want to engage me in a conversation. So thank you. Um. I really appreciate that. I think that a lot of people, uh, it's a stencil really about the methods of what we do, but in reality, it's about the findings. It's, it's actually not about the methods. It's, it's used as a kind of an excuse.
And in that particular, uh, tweet. A Twitter thread you were referring to. This is a common theme. It's, it's the ethics of recording someone like David Wright was in a bar in New Hampshire and do we want to live in a world where our, our, our likeness can be broadcast and, and transmitted instantly to everybody.
A likable, don't want to live in that world. My argument is going to be and has been my whole life that. Reporters there. There's a routine nature in journalistic methods to both utilize deception and to broadcast things to the world that are not as accurate as a camera would. B, there's a routine nature.
First of all, of using pretense. Journalistic deception is standard in the industry. Uh, reporters make you think that they're your friend and then they betray your confidence. They appeal to your sense of loneliness or vanity, and then they betray you. They pull the rug underneath you. That's, that's what I meant when I said.
That's the Paragon of investigative reporting. And then when it comes to the actual medium itself, which we will talk about here today, um, the camera is a more accurate version of the events in question. So surely, not just from a legal perspective, but from a moral one, we would consider, uh, consider it unreasonable to place ethical restrictions on recording someone when we don't place restrictions on someone.
Writing what they said down with a pencil and paper and shouting it from the rooftops five minutes later because the recording does the individual more justice than second hand hearsay. You know, words are a different mediums. So that was the point I was making to you. And, and I think you had a vert, we had a very honest back and forth there, and I appreciate it.
Eric Weinstein: Well, thanks very much. Um, and it's a great. You know, I think your, uh, your tagline is something like, be brave,
James O’Keefe: be brave, do something,
Eric Weinstein: be brave, do something. And I think that it's brave to come into somebody's studio when you know that they've got a problem with you from the get go. So, kudos to you, sir. Um.
I think that you and I are. So let me also just try to be radically different than most of these interviews I've told you that there will be no gotchas. And I'm going to stick to that because I don't, I don't like gotchas, your perspective, which I thought was incredibly honest, was that's, it's an interesting thing to say because gotcha.
Is in some sense what I, James O'Keefe, do we project Veritas? And so what I said in response was, it's an interesting question whether or not. The gotcha problem that I see in the news industry should be doubled, where you got your back to the gotcha. URS or you should try to set an example of cut that shit out.
Right. And that's in part what I try to do, which is I try to go after institutions. I tried to knock, go after individuals, and what I wanted to talk about, um, in part is that because I see you and I. As in agreement that there is a serious problem with the sense making architecture that currently goes under the name of journalism.
And it's not clear what that architecture is actually doing. And I think it's clear it's, it's more and more, uh, Americans and others. Increasingly are asking, is this even really what journalism was supposed to be all about? As we start to see the mechanism fail, because I'm an agreed with you that there's a serious problem.
I don't think that when I say I'm really disturbed by the methods that I'm part of the thing that's trying to protect the institutions, which is I think what you're usually getting from people who think you're the devil. . I think what I'm really concerned about in part is, is that you are actually damaging the enterprise that I'm interested in by pursuing it.
And in some ways, I sort of view you as analogous to Donald Trump. And here's, here would be the argument. Again, it's a loose analogy. It's not a tight one. We have a situation in which, for example, no one is allowed to bring up all of the problems with immigration, uh, within the standard architecture of news.
In general, there's only one role for the restrictionist, and that is the role of xenophobe, which is preposterous. It's idiotic. It's beyond belief. The way in which that weird meme has perpetuated, um, has been perpetuated for at least 30 to 40 years where there's only one reason to oppose immigration.
And that's because of a moral failing of the self. Uh. Can only happen by the news. Choosing not to report all of the reasons one can be a restrictionist. So as an example of, of the, the comparison, I would say Trump found a way to talk about, uh, immigration and restriction ism openly in a way that many Americans could respond to because a lot of Americans actually want immigration restricted.
On the other hand, he tinges it. With stuff he played with the, whether or not he was actually openly racist or not. You can make the argument that you went right up to a line and that he caused people to complete thoughts in their own head that he didn't actually say. But he got very close to some very ugly sentiments at the barest minimum and in part, the method of bringing something dangerous up in public tinge.
That perspective with a kind of meanness or unsavory newness that I didn't think that it needed at all. So the vacuum was created by the media not functioning as it should. Trump filled the vacuum and he also brought this extra little bit, which was an unsavory tinge to the subject. In some sense, I would say I see you as doing real journalism, hard-hitting journalism, and that is to your credit.
And then it is tinted with something which I see is very disturbing, which is kind of, um, methods that make us all uncomfortable. And I think you're quite correct to point out that. Um, journalism. It's is itself openly a deceptive practice as practiced by the institutions. And I want to just say, I also find the journalist practice of trying to be your best friend and then stabbing you in the back.
James O’Keefe: Okay, good. Oh man. There's a lot to, a lot to unpack there. Where do I begin? Uh, let me just address the, uh, the characterization that I'm a gotcha person. Um,
Eric Weinstein: which came from you? It didn't, I didn't say it.
James O’Keefe: Fair enough. Fair enough. And I, and I may want to correct myself here because maybe there is a universe of gunshots.
Eric Weinstein: I may have said it in the tweet, but I didn't mean to say
James O’Keefe: no, I understand him. So I think. I think we don't even quote people. We, we, we, we let them be themselves. We assimilate with the people like at the bar and, and when, you know, we're letting people be their natural selves, sometimes people don't have the courage to be themselves in, in public, um, in the way that we record people.
And a lot of these people in the media that we've recorded, like, whether it be Patrick Davis at CNN or this guy, uh, right at ABC. They didn't have the courage to say these things publicly. And I happen to agree with these people what they said, but when it comes to the dis, the methods, you have a choice to make.
You can either, from my perspective, deceive your audience, or you can, for lack of a better word, deceive the person that you're interviewing such that you can tell the truth to the audience and, and one is worse than the other, and you only have these two choices. And, um, that's what, that's what I mean.
The Gunter wall roof was a hero of mine. He was a legendary undercover reporter in Germany, still alive. He's in his seventies. And, and this man said, and I don't like the way he utilizes the word deception, but he says, my task is to deceive in order not to be deceived, to break the rules of, of, of, of, of the game, in order to disclose.
The secret rules of the power structure. And, and a lot of ethicists have basically said the same thing. And when it comes to this sort of journalism, it's, you only have two choices. You can, you can hate the methods, but then you're going to broadcast lies to the public and telling the truth that public is paramount.
The public has a right to know this information. So you can, you know, this sort of the beauty and bane of ethics is that, I guess it's, it's. Always situational. But we've reached a point in the media. I mean, you, you know, look at what's happened this week with this, uh, mass hysteria too. We can, that's another subject, but that, that the, the mass media has become so, so far gone, uh, an industrial system of this production, that manufacturer's consent that.
We're getting to the point now where I believe these methods are universally justifiable because the media is so broken and I have a choice to make. I can repeat what they say to me at a podium or into a microphone, or I can, or I can use disguise, which we believe is morally necessary. And I would even go so far to say it's.
Actually immoral not to use disguise if the only way that you can get to that truth is to use disguise. And other reporters throughout the 20th century agreed with me. Many of these people are not alive anymore, but at this point, it's gotten so bad that we think that these tactics are, are completely necessary because we live in a country.
Where the public's right to know is very important. We cherish the first amendment. We, we, we, you know, hold these truths to be self evident. We, we, we believe in the first amendment so much that you're going to have to deal with that. The methods you're going to have to deal with the possibility that the person sitting next to you has a recording device because we cherish these values.
If you want to live in a different society, which doesn't cherish those values, which. Which leans towards secrecy and the public not knowing things, then you don't have to deal with those methods. And that's, that's an in short order why we believe that, uh, undercover work, uh, pretending to be something that you're not in order to extract truths from people are not just justified.
They're morally necessary in this environment.
Eric Weinstein: Good. Um, so can we both say that, uh. Were it possible to get at the truth without using deception? It would be better to do it if that was possible. In that circumstance.
James O’Keefe: Society, professional journalists, I think it was in the early seventies, said, cause they always throw this stuff in me.
You know, the society professional journalists, I dunno who the journalism gods are that came up with these rules. Uh, but the society of professional said, you know, you only use it as a last resort. And I would submit to you that were basically there, that, that, that we, that we have, we have a last resort in our society.
Um, uh, right, was not deceived in that bar inside ABC news. He was the undercover reporter, uh, met with him and, and let him be himself. We didn't really have to use that much deception, to be honest with you. We we, this is the tape that we released two weeks ago. If your audience hasn't seen it, it's an ABC news veteran news correspondent.
He's an Oxford educated guy. Very, very, very intelligent man, and I happen to agree with everything he says. He says, so I don't have the quote with me, but he says, my bosses don't see an upside in reporting the news. ABC owns Disney. They sell their Marvel Avengers products.
Eric Weinstein: I understand what joint
James O’Keefe: covers, everything he said so.
We didn't really use that much deception. We got close to him and allowed him to talk, allow him to be himself. Very minimalist deception artists option pales in comparison
Eric Weinstein: with, there's a, there's a relative deception question and you're absolutely right. I mean, I want to, I want to seed to you wherever I can seed you and I want to fight you wherever you want to fight you and then I'm happy to change my mind and hope that I can change yours.
We'll find out. I have definitely had the experience when talking to a reporter who screws up a story. Come on. You know the game, Eric, you're a sophisticated guy. You've been around the block. I'm supposed to be your best friend. I'm supposed to lure you into a false sense of security. You're supposed to divulge too much to me.
I'm supposed to tell you that I understand everything from your, and then I have to print the story because journalism is PR printing what other people don't want printed or otherwise. It's public relations. You know the quote Eric. Right? So I think it's absolutely correct that what you're saying is true journalists view,
James O’Keefe: excuse me.
I wanted to name examples of the people who have said that
Eric Weinstein: to you. Um, I can tell you that I got into a pretty bad situation with the wall street journal at some point. Okay. Um, I can tell you that. The New York times, uh, put me in an article called, um, they tried to outsmart wall street where they tried to shift the blame for the 2008 crisis off of these CEOs and bank heads, uh, and onto mathematicians and quants, uh, which was completely, uh, deceptive and ridiculous.
And they use their physics reporter, um. Yeah. whose name is Dennis Overby, and I thought that was a complete hatchet job. I can tell you that, uh, you know, Nellie Bowles, uh, who I've become friendly with at the New York times, tried to print an article about me as a men's rights advocate when I didn't even know what MRA stood for.
And I said, I don't even own a gun. Um. Yeah, I mean, I'm not afraid of that. On the other hand, I've talked to Nellie, you know, since, and we've come to a better understanding. I think Michael Phillips was the journalist who covered me at the wall street journal who did a complete hatchet job on me. And, uh, I had to go through a Byron claim.
So yeah, I can name names if that's what you're
James O’Keefe: looking at. Actually, what I was looking for. And the point being is that. You know, we, we're not beat reporter. We're not, we're not, you know,
Eric Weinstein: trying to come. Right, right. Sure thing. I do understand what I think you're saying. Which is that the game of reporters is to be these sort of deceptive sociopath's, if you will.
And then you get to say, no, no, no, I'm not a sociopath. I'm a reporter. So if you have sociopathic tendencies, in some sense, you get to work for one of these papers, and then you'd get a halo, a T attached to your head, which allows you to do things, which in other circumstances would be completely deceptive.
And in fact, your point to me, and I think this is great. And this is just like super complicated and we're going to have to take the time to do it, is that the style of reporting that you do has gone out of favor in a certain sense because of the costs, because of the risks and that what you're doing is in some sense, resuscitating an earlier form of journalism
James O’Keefe: in a different medium,
Eric Weinstein: in a different medium with a different tinge and a different institutional backing.
And so I think that this is an incredibly complex thing to be pulled apart because. In some sense, what happened in my, into my way of thinking is as the journalists used to hunt institutions when they were heroes in Kings, and then they went from hunting institutions to hunting the, the individuals that disrupt institutions.
James O’Keefe: 100%
Eric Weinstein: and so my feeling about this is you want to know why the reputation of the presses in the toilet. It's in general because what it does is, as it has changed, it's, uh, the focus of its crosshairs to Nobel individual.
James O’Keefe: Let's talk about that for one minute. Sure. The, the thing that I've learned doing this is that in the New York times did a front page, um, uh, Pitt P, you know, attempted hit piece on me literally.
One week ago and in this it was about like spies. Some people in the Intel community were helping train some people and there was a paragraph in this front page, New York times. It was chock-full with circumstantial evidence. One of the paragraphs said. You know, it's not clear what the relationship is between Trump and O'Keefe and so forth.
So on that one little paragraph, the way they worded that, it was literally, it's just not clear. They, that was the, the meat of their argument. It's not clear, was the extent of their evidence. And then that justified a circumstantial headline, which was used to create a, I don't know if it was common cause or some.
Left-leaning ethics group filing complaint against me. And what it is is it's what Daniel Barston, the former library of Congress calls a pseudo event. The shadow has become the substance. These, these people create these fake things. And number two, what happens is that people on the government, these beat report, I call them beat reporters.
They have a source in government, which leaks them information. And then, and then reportedly this happened. That leak. That thing, which I don't do that, but I'm not a beat run an investigative reporter, which is a huge world of difference. A B report depends upon these people in the power structure to feed them intelligence.
It's like a counter intelligence operation. Someone in the government, some two star general talks to the New York times, and we don't know who that two star general is. We don't know their name. We don't know what motivates them. We don't know. Why they're doing it. We don't know what they're saying. We don't know the full quote.
And this is the, this is the status quo of journalism. So when you unpack that and
Eric Weinstein: you take, you think, I don't have a problem with journalism in an exactly this capacity.
James O’Keefe: I'm sorry. Do you think I, you don't have a problem with it or you do,
Eric Weinstein: I mean, you and I just began this by a singing Gershwin together to check our Mike levels.
True. I would imagine that you and I are pretty harmonious on the idea that. Our major institutions have news of news gathering and dissemination are a wildly out of,
James O’Keefe: but the reason why that matters is because this is, we're trying to diagnose what is wrong and how we got there. And what happened was,
Eric Weinstein: look, I can do this stuff in my sleep in a, in a rambling interview, internet personality.
Eric Winestein sat down with right-wing activists. James O'Keeffe. Uh, James proceeded, uh, to justify, uh, his methods, which have previously been found unethical by, uh, his peers in the journalistic community through a series of ends, justified the means points that failed to land or something like it can go on and on and on.
James O’Keefe: What would you like to focus on?
Eric Weinstein: Well, the point that I'm trying to get at is, okay, I know how they play this game. I know that there's a, to be short paragraph, seven paragraphs in where the actual information is shared. I know the highly placed sources say X, I know that they cut the quotes. They change the context.
Right. Okay. All of this stuff is assumed by, you don't know my audience. I got the best audience and all the podcasts. I may not have the biggest podcast by of people who will dig into anything we talk about and we don't need to handhold for them, and sure they got it. And they also believe. Probably mostly in the need for journalism.
They understand the problems with the major institutions of journalism. That's not really what occupies us. If we spend our time there with looking to stay in the shallow end, we won't get anything done. Right. Okay. Assume that there is a terrible problem in news now and assume that in some sense you are actually a throwback to an earlier, more aggressive style.
Of journalism, but you're also picking up some serious negatives, and I don't think that the trade offs are the way you say they are. And so that's, I want to get to the next level conversation rather than the intro conversation. Let somebody else have that with you. Sure. Okay. I don't think you're on the efficient frontier would be a better way of saying what my problem is with, with you and project Veritas.
In other words, you're saying that you have to deceive the source. It's some level who, which is a negative. You'd prefer to do as little of that as possible. So you have two objectives. One is you want to inform the public and you want to deceive the source as little as possible. I don't think that you're at the point where you have to trade off one to get the other.
I think you could do actually deceive less and get more. Now, I could be wrong about that. Okay. Okay. One thing you could do, for example, just to limit the damage to human beings. We'd be to pixelate people and say, this is a senior reporter. We disguise the voice. We've pixelated the image. Our interest isn't the reporter.
The reporter is only as important as that chair, and our focus is on the chair. And if you did that at some level, you would say, look, I'm not trying to humiliate somebody. I'm not trying to make them unemployable. I'm trying to say you've got a problem in the news media. What is your problem? And it would be seen differently.
Okay. It would be seen as his focus isn't the issue of sticking it to the enemy. His focus is trying to get journalism to function properly.
James O’Keefe: Okay. Um, let me try to address that. I mean, I think it's,
Eric Weinstein: does the point make sense about nothing?
James O’Keefe: As I explained this. Cut me off if I'm going in the wrong direction.
Eric Weinstein: Correct me if I have a wrong impression.
James O’Keefe: I'm trying to understand your point, so let me, let me see if I can answer this. I think going back to your point about newspaperman in the 1970s it wasn't that they were a blood. Bloodthirsty or had a lust for, for blood lust. Cause you know, people get fired when, when you expose things.
It was that they had an instinct to go for the juggler but not be bloodthirsty. And I think that investigative reporting, uh, does in fact harm people. I do think it does. And that's. That's the premise. It it, it's a outcome of truth telling. And if your goal is to limit damage to people, it's going to, maybe this is where we disagree.
Come into conflict with investigative reporting. I your point about pixelating faces, I think about this a lot. I think about the ethics of this a lot. And what makes what we do. A Renaissance, to your point about the 20th century and boring, it is a Renaissance newspaper. Men used to do all this stuff and we could talk about this later in the show or right now, whatever your, whatever your preferable it is, the only way.
To, to slip the disc, so to speak. Uh, in my view, the only way is to, is to, is to focus on a shift in the medium. The fact that we don't pixelate the faces, the facts that, that like Alinsky says, pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it. The fact that you have an actual source,
Eric Weinstein: Lewinsky affair saw Lynn's benefit.
James O’Keefe: I'm not a fan of him. He's stating what I think is a reality about. Forcing a reaction.
Eric Weinstein: I'm a progressive who can't standalone?
James O’Keefe: Well,
Eric Weinstein: I don't agree with your conservative who actually thinks it's interest.
James O’Keefe: No, it's not. It's not binary. I don't like Alinsky. I'm quoting something. He sang a universal truth about human behavior.
If you pick the target, frees it, personalize it, and polarize it, you're more prone to generate a reaction. We can talk about this later. Sure. That I think slips the disc, so when you don't pixelate the face, when you show the intonation, the body language. Uh, the, the, the cadence, the, the way that the man looks in his eyes.
Patrick Davis at CNN, when we covertly filmed him, he was an unwitting whistleblower. He did not, he was not a villain. He was not a villain. And some ethicists might say, well, why would you put that poor managing editor at CNN on blast? And I said, because CNN has played in airports. That's why, because you are, you are a few standard deviations away from the mean Erik.
Most people in airports look at that and goes, that's the truth. And when the managing editor, I can't recall his exact title, managing director of field operations, Patrick Davis sits in that bar. This is filmed last, uh, last year and says, I hate what we've become. Is what Patrick Davis says on the hidden camera.
We could be so much better than we are. That's a direct quote. I don't even listen to the CEO or the president's his calls anymore. I'm disgusted by it, is what he's saying. And I have to make an evaluation. A means ends evaluation on do I blur this man's face? And I say no. Why? Because in my view, in a world where the media.
Is more powerful than all three branches of the government of the United States, which I, we can talk about that if you disagree with me. I have an obligation to tell the people about what this man who basically controls all of the stuff happening on CNN.
Eric Weinstein: I understand what you are. Leaves. Okay. Okay. And I'm not even, look,
James O’Keefe: I'm just passionate.
That's why I'm, I'm not arguing with you. I'm just passionate. And I firmly believe that,
Eric Weinstein: brother, you ain't seen nothing yet. Go ahead. No, I'm, I'll match you passion for passengers. Okay. Yeah, my, my concern is, is that you're actually, so the way I view it is you're an alternate David throwing stones at the same Goliath, and you're pissing me off at some level.
And the reason you're pissing me off is probably complicated, which is why these interchanges, they never happen. And it's great thing to do it. If I look at what happened, for example, with the . The Amy Robach, um, tape. Do you want to say a little bit about how you see that? And then I'll come back to it and say how I see it as being significant?
James O’Keefe: How I see it in, in, in, in,
Eric Weinstein: in general? What is that you, you broadcast it to the world. And I think it's an incredible, incredibly important and interesting piece of, uh, footage and, but our listeners may not be aware
James O’Keefe: of me. Robock was this a, this is back in November of last year. Um, we had an insider within ABC news.
Uh, a record, this a hot Mike moment where Amy Roebuck is the anchor on good morning America and she comes across very credible in this tape. She's a, she's a very attractive blonde female anchor and she's bemoaning how ABC squashed spike the Jeffrey Epstein story. They had victims, they had all this evidence and she's really upset that she didn't get the scoop and she says that they, she, she testifies this is a hot Mike moment between like during the commercial break.
That, uh, it was to protect the Clintons and the British Royal family. So this was, I've been doing this for 11 years in a really major way. This is by far the most viral piece of this is like a 92nd piece of film. And it was like the most viral thing I'd ever seen. It was, it was, it was an indictment to so many of, of what we're talking about here today.
Eric Weinstein: like holding back emotion. It was so powerful, right? It's like, okay. Now I, it took me six months to get it. The courage to say, I wonder why it is almost no news outfit will ask the question, is Jeffrey Epstein known to the intelligence communities of the world and is his pedophilia known? And did we sit idly by while 12 year old girls and upward or or down?
I don't even know were being trafficked. Uh, in the most powerful circles in the world. I mean, is somebody going to ask the questions where his fortune came from and where the trading records were that I'm trying to map the silences of the news media. I'm much more interested in what they don't say, don't report, don't do.
And this thing that I'm calling the disc distributed idea suppression complex is perfectly illustrated by Amy Robach and you, so far as I know, simply broadcast. The video in an unedited form that was leaked to you,
James O’Keefe: something to that effect. We have an end. We have this insider program. These, it's actually quite extraordinary thing.
If I could mention it for a minute. We have these people on the inside of these institutions who, who, you know, they do have, um, you know, confidentiality agreements with their employers, et cetera, et cetera. But what's remarkable is they might strap a camera to their chest or simply record and, and give that to us.
And in some cases, Eric, these insiders. Go public and, and go on the record, sit down and write, become a hero. Or a martyr in this case is a rare exception where this person is still working there. And Disney corporation, you know, quarantined every employee and grilled them for hours and they still have not been able to identify this person.
So this was recorded and it was a remarkable moment. It was. It was on the same type of standard. She w Amy Romark did not know, or she knew, and so far she was wearing a lav. Mike,
Eric Weinstein: you know, it's an incredible. It's incredible piece of footage and then if I recall correctly, yeah, she comes back and sort of almost a little bottom fashion apologizing for what she said.
James O’Keefe: This is what happened was, again, I'm speculating here, but I pretty safely speculating, ABC news
Eric Weinstein: actually don't spec, you don't need to,
James O’Keefe: ABC news issues a statement and the statement is. You know that, that the, at the time, not all of our standards met our reporting for air. It was very robotic, you know, corporate statement justifying why they didn't.
Eric Weinstein: I regret that some of the intemperate things that I may have said in a moment of frustration were picked up
James O’Keefe: kind of frustration with words.
Eric Weinstein: I don't know that she used that.
James O’Keefe: She did. It was actually, it was actually quite literally quote, moment of
Eric Weinstein: frustration. I didn't, I didn't know that
James O’Keefe: there was Amy's statement and there was ABC news estate,
Eric Weinstein: whatever it is, it's, yeah.
It's fricking scary. Yeah. Right. Cause the idea is that you're seeing, it's like somebody recanting their testimony, uh, in North Korea and you know that there's like a gun held to the person's head or you're watching a hostage video or something like that. Okay. Now here's my problem and I really want you to take the time to play this through with me.
I watched what happened when that debuted with project Veritas stamped on it. And in my circles what w what got said, and this is a trap, and again, it's not, you're not responsible for it, but we both have to agree with the game is the game is, is that anything that comes through James O'Keeffe and anything that comes through project Veritas cannot be trusted.
Right. That's what they've done. They fit, they fitted you with a shit suit. And your shit suit is you are so psychopathic, so non reliable that even what appears to be continuous, unedited footage can be completely discounted if it appears as project fair to us.
James O’Keefe: And that has not stopped us.
Eric Weinstein: Well, not only has it not stopped you, it creates a really interesting dilemma.
First of all, that tactic that is being used against you is manifestly stupid and unethical.
James O’Keefe: And I have nothing I can do about
Eric Weinstein: it. No, no, no, no. You're jumping ahead. I don't agree with this, James. I think that the problem is that this is at such a level of complexity, whatever the ABC news function is that stop that, stop that story from running that might've saved people from having terrible incidents in their lives.
They don't know. Whatever that thing was is my enemy. That's the disc. And we have to slip the disk in order to save our society. That's basically my take. I also agree that you've been fitted with this thing so that if you're handed a piece of footage and you run it and it is appropriate for you to run it, that that footage immediately becomes.
Inadmissible in what I've called the gated institutional narrative, which is the Washington post discussing the New York times about whatever the democratic party said in their engagement at Princeton university, you know, blah, blah, blah, blah. Yes. That thing is trying to seal itself off from the internet.
So the idea is that are authoritative sources and then there's the garbage that happens online, which is ridiculous. I don't think you're helping. Break this thing open because what you're doing isn't, in essence, there's this weak point in the crust and there's this magma of truth underneath it. and they've decided, okay, anything that breaks through at project Veritas.
Is immediately an admissible. And it's very important that I be able to defend something that occurs at your outlet. Okay. And you're not helping me because of the level of which you're playing the game. And so maybe that's partially my frustration. I don't believe that you that that's a deep fake interview.
I believe that that's a real hot mic. I believe that it's leaked. I believe that you probably have lawyers who went all over it and said it was legal for you to use it. I bet that you probably even do something that regular journalists don't do, which is check the journalist code of ethics. Right. Um, and so all of this positive stuff that you're doing is then sacrificed.
In part in, in my opinion, because of certain kinds of super aggressive self-justifying tactics, which is what's really pissing me off.
James O’Keefe: I'd like to,
Eric Weinstein: and it's your show too. If
James O’Keefe: I go into the wrong direction, just steer me
Eric Weinstein: back. No, and if I, if I'm overboard and not getting something, you let me know.
James O’Keefe: This is a very important, astute point.
And we have some disagreements about this because the, and let me start with the conclusion. It hasn't stopped us. And there's no other way to slip the disc. There's no other way than to anyone who of anyone. If if I didn't invent or create project Veritas and some other person did, they do the same thing.
That person, no matter who it would be, they would slime and slander and defame. However, what's interesting about the Amy Robach tape and the David Wright tape, both of which came with an ABC news. Is that the president of ABC news did in fact return my phone call the day before I called them for comment.
I did the ethical thing and they did in fact issue a response, and that response did in fact make it into the Washington post. In fact, the Washington post ran three articles on the same day. We were in fact, one on the front page. Of the style section. This was a couple weeks ago where they said reporter suspended over and they had to put the quotes from David, right?
Bemoaning the fact that his corporate bosses, this and that, the stuff that your audience all agrees that's in the print edition on the front page of the style section. Thanks to project Barrett. Now. Now here's the rub. As Shakespeare would say. That insider. When I met that person, I'm not going to tell you their gender.
I'm not going to tell you anything about them except this. When I met that person in a hotel room, it was like a scene out of all the president's men, like literally out of a thriller novel and this when we're having this unbelievable conversation, which if there was any justice in the world, there'd be a movie made out of this one day.
This person says. I had nowhere to go. I, I couldn't go to the Washington post. I couldn't go to the New York times. He, she, they were like, I can't go anywhere because, and I'm going to quote them here. They'd hunt me down like a trophy buck. Not only would they not tell this story, my story, they would systematically, this is what you were saying, hunt me down.
And he, and, and this person said, I had to go someplace. Just let me finish what he said. He had to go someplace that. I knew no matter what, this person wouldn't give me up, wouldn't quit, wouldn't stop, wouldn't settle lawsuits, which is this thing we should talk about in this episode. And there was only one institution in the world I could think that would do that.
Project Veritas. Now where we we're, where I think you're mistaken, I feel as though we're at, you're mistaken, is. They attack us, slime us, and call us liars. But they have to put on the front page of the style section in the Washington post.
Eric Weinstein: Yes. So this is, I mean, this is exactly where I want to be. This is the conversation you're never going to get anywhere else.
Okay? So what we, we know what this is, we call it FID, fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Right? And the idea is that we have to create fear, uncertainty, and doubt around you. But because . There was no way of just pretending that video didn't exist. It had to enter the gin gated institutional narrative. I accept your point now.
I want you to just to listen to something which is very tough for me to say. Consider that heroism and sociopathy are adjacent, right? A friend of ours, uh, named, um. Named Andrea, I'm just blanking on her Polish. Last name for the moment, has a theory called extreme altruism. And her point is, is that an altruist and a hero and associate path or one toggle switch off of each other?
And the key question is, when you have this kind of need to shake things up, is it done for the self or is it done for the greater good? And I detect that you actually have a commitment to this that is at a level that. Is somewhere between heroism and sociopathy. To be blunt, now I get it. There are no super tough.
People who don't crack, don't fall, have their own organization, are willing to fight in the courts. And this is in part what you're doing. And you know what? Let's talk about another story you covered, which I was brought in before. I believe you were brought in, which was a Google insider. now, can we use that person's name?
Yes, let's do it. Zach Vorhees. Okay, so Zach Vorhees, uh, was talking to me about all the stuff that was going on at Google, and he showed me things like screenshots and programs about ML fairness, machine learning, fairness, and how Google was going to buy us a search by unbiased thing. It, you know, that he didn't say those words, but that was my encapsulation up and.
I did not know how to help him directly. And what you're saying is true in a world in which no one will cover the goddamn story, you're looking for the outlet that will, and that's what happens repeatedly. And it's not just with you. Fox news, Breitbart, you will cover stories that go counter narrative.
To this mainstream left of center tradition or narrative. Right. And so for example, as you know, when my brother. Was driven, uh, out of his, uh, college where he was a professor by racist students calling his anti-racism racism. That was so completely bizarre for something like the mainstream media that you had, um, effectively a black led Maoist uprising with a white, uh.
Sort of ultra woke pre president against an antiracist behaving in an anti-racist fashion being called a racist. That story was so destructive to woke ideology that the New York times couldn't cover it. And so my brother ended up where at Fox news with Tucker Carlson. So once you understand that there's sort of this weird rule, which is if all of us pretend that that thing isn't happening.
Then the idea is no one has to cover it. No one has to discuss what it is and the only places that it appears are right of center. And then each of these right of center weakenings in the crust. Think of the crust is as the disc, right? Um, you, you have a narrative, which is everything on Fox news is bullshit.
Everything that Breitbart prints is crap. Everything that comes out of a project, Veritas is a, is unfairly edited and is an unethical piece. Absolutely. That. Okay. You're not helping when you go into yourself. Justification mode about. Well, we have to do this. I mean, you may have to do this, but you, what you first have to do is to exhaust all the things that both serve the ends of informing the public where they need to be informed and minimizing the damage to humans.
Unless those humans really deserve the damage. So let me just try to get it then. My contention is anytime you move. Private life into the public sector. It appears bizarre and is incredibly damaging. We are supposed to appear here as if we always put on sport jackets and button down shirts, uh, let's say, and conduct ourselves, you know, in this kind of weird mannered interaction.
Which is in some sense force now. For example, I love fart jokes. Just love them. Do you like fart jokes
James O’Keefe: and not too familiar with the fart jokes?
Eric Weinstein: Well, for example, there's a fantastic, really long Limerick called the fodder from Sparta. May I say the first? Yeah. There once was a fellow from Sparta, a truly magnificent Fardah on the strength of one being he'd blow God save the queen and Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, and it goes on and on.
I like that. Right? It's really quite good. Now, the problem is, is that when I talk about fart jokes in public, it's like, wow, Eric, you're doing potty humor. Nice. Classy. Stay classy. Anytime I move private life into the public sector, it's destructive. And that's why it's not just about the written rules.
It's also, you know, we talk about in Judaism, the written Torah, and we talk about the oral tour. and I believe that your lawyers know what the rules are for recording conversations in public places. Semipublic places, whether the door is open, closed, one sided or two sided consent, blah, blah, blah. And the idea is it varies from state to state.
And the average person, their idea of these rules is zero. They're tunc completely ignorant of the law. So the key question is don't we as Americans have an oral Torah and idea of what one shouldn't be doing. That goes along with the written rule, and you tend to get alerted to this when somebody says something is perfectly legal.
That's the phrase that alerts you to the fact that they're usually violating the oral Torah rather than the written Torah is that they say perfectly legal rather than merely legal. And I'm concerned that what you're doing is perfectly legal and overkill with respect to the individuals. And it's killing your ability to actually stick it to the institutions who need to be policed and that you're set up to police.
James O’Keefe: Okay. Oh boy. Um, first of all,
Eric Weinstein: um, got you here, but it's,
James O’Keefe: no, it's a lie. It's a
Eric Weinstein: lie. It would be tough.
James O’Keefe: What, as you were speaking, there were about seven points I wanted to address there, but let me try to take it from the top. Okay. Um. You know, I was reading a book, I think it was a, about images. And the Marshall help, I pronounce his last name, Marshall McLuhan.
Uh, the medium is the message. You know, that book. And you know, the way the medium changes, how we perceive the world around us, it actually changes how we think it does. And I. I, I, maybe this is self-justification, but I truly believe that this medium, you know, like in the McLuhan's sense of what we do, which is transmitting these little hidden shaky videos on a tweet, and it gets 10 million views in an hour, that changes the way we perceive the world around us.
And it affects our understanding of each other. And. To quote a Scott McNealy, like we've lost our privacy already, that this is a new world, maybe a brave new world. And when they invented the Telegraph, I think there was a criticism, this is an 18 emitted mid 19th century, that there was a criticism that, well, what does Maine and Texas have to talk to each other about anyway?
And when they admitted that, when Alexander Graham bell invented the telephone, it was like, well, that's kind of an invasion of privacy, you know? Transparent, heaps of jelly to one another was a characterization that was made about the telephone at the time. You couldn't cut a man off by gesture or look when you're talking to him on the telephone.
So now we have this new paradigm where you or I could be recorded in the bar saying C, U, N, T to a friend in a very, in a, in a context that we think is private and that can be broadcasted instantly. And then we have this cancer cancel culture phenomenon and who wants to live in that world? There's a difference between recording something and broadcasting it.
And I would say this, this oral Torah metaphor that you, there's oral tour that you use. We draw the line at the choice to broadcast the information. I can't tell you on my server how raw tape I have, where someone sent something that was very private. I'm not going to tell you where or who, but there was an example where someone at a bar said, um, come up to my hotel room and engage in some, uh, nausea trois.
I didn't publish that. That's pig's blood. It's my duty as a citizen. It's my obligation not to
Eric Weinstein: publish because it wasn't newsworthy.
James O’Keefe: It wasn't, it wasn't newsworthy. It's a, it's a private, sort of the private sexual nature of people. There was probably some infidelity, but that's not what we do. We try to focus on areas of profound public importance.
Now, I'll also tell you that when Upton Sinclair wrote the jungle, there were no. You know, hidden cameras. Um, Upton Sinclair was, it was an extreme idealogue as far as I'm concerned. He was a socialist and he cared about worker participation. He, I don't think he set out to, to expose the meat conditions he wanted to.
Social, you know, is this is an advocate for socialism. When he. Infiltrated, went undercover posing with a lunch pail, uh, and taking off his tie to fit in with the workers. He, he, he didn't even have a, I don't even believe he had a writing utensil. I think he sprinted back to his hotel room to write down from memory what he saw.
So we would make the argument that the recording. The recording itself is distinguished from the broadcasting of the recording, and that recording someone is a fundamental human right. Just like writing down what they say is the fundamental human right, and to restrict someone from saying what they hear.
It goes back to my argument that the first amendment that we live in a world that, um, that, uh, we, we live in a world where we capture people audio visually. This is a new paradigm. Now, I was listening to George Carlin on a comedy show recently, and he was given a sketch and he said, we live in a new world earth plus plastic.
We live in a new paradigm earth plus people at bars being recorded, and that being put on Twitter instantaneously and just like the atom, you know, invention of the telephone, of the adventure of the telegram or the invention of the automobile, it'll, it'll remake how we view our world. But there are safeguards against privacy.
Privacy issues existed before the advent of technology. You can, you can choose where you go and what you say to people. False friends existed before the advent of technology. Betraying people existed before the, you know, and in most cases, it's not in your self interest to betray a close friend or confidant.
So I don't think, and I, I really strongly believe that what we do is moral for getting the legal, that we can talk about the law, but
Eric Weinstein: forget the law. You realize that, I understand the argument that sometimes what's your on earth thing is of such consequence that it would be immoral to hold it back wholesale.
But it is also the question. I mean, I'll be honest about it. I feel like you get a kind of pleasure. You and I are both feeling Gaslight is my.
James O’Keefe: You, you feel like I get a pleasure out of, out of, out of, out of what?
Eric Weinstein: I'm worried that you get a pleasure out of sticking it to the sanctimonious, uh, elitist progressive thing that suffuses.
Yeah, absolutely. I'm just trying to make it easy for you to understand where, where I'm coming from, which is I can't stand. What the left has become. It's unrecognizable. To me. It's not, it's not a, a force that seems to want to fight for working families. It doesn't really seem to care about the environment like this.
You know, the Sierra club used to be against immigration. Uh.
It's sanctimonious. It's pure, constant, sanctimonious sanctimony in the service of institutions. So the idea is that I see this kind of, we are the world. I'm not as this beautiful song and sentiment, but as the cover story for breaking your bonds to your fellow countrymen so that you can go seek cheap labor or overseas or something like that.
The Davos crowd, if you will, um, betrayed the left. And the the right who's always found the left to be irritating. Uh, this is a part of the left on this show that can't stand the part of the left that you, that you may be targeting. That said, I have to stay my hand because I don't want to engage in the kind of crap that they do.
And I feel like you're in some sense doubling down on their methods.
James O’Keefe: I disagree. I think that investigative reporting, you know, going back to the 1960s and seventies and I'm not an expert on this by no, some, these people did some things that were maybe, maybe we are, you disagree with their tactics, but I mean, you had, let me give you a few examples.
Um, you had, um, you know, Gunter Waldorf was an extremist. He, he, he literally used disguises in an infiltrated newspapers to show how the news colored things. You had the Chicago sun times ran this, a undercover operation where they purchased a
Eric Weinstein: bar in Chicago. Let's frame this cause I think this is really important.
Yes. You and I both have the sense. That journalism used to be very different and much closer to the methods that you're using. Is that true?
James O’Keefe: I would say even further so than the methods I use. But yes,
Eric Weinstein: but, but your methods were, are closer to an older style of journalism. So I also have this impression,
James O’Keefe: and you've said this.
Eric Weinstein: Yeah. Well, what I had to ask you on the phone when we spoke is, can you frame for us a timeline of what change that relationship between journalists in this kind of aggressive style of investigative reporting, which you at least partially exhibited. In project.
James O’Keefe: That's an economics question as well, which we can reach, well, I'll try to get to, but, um, investigative reporters back in the day, there were newspapers and they were typewriter gorillas as they recall.
I called myself a gorilla journalist. I use video as my medium, but these guys did things like w there was a guy named, uh, William Gaines who dressed up like a janitor in 19, mid, early seventies, 1972, 1973 and got a job at a hospital. He literally employed himself as a janitor. And that surgeons would say, Hey, come, can you come assist me with surgery?
And without even washing his hands, he was asked to participate in doing surgery on somebody. Oh. And also he won the Pulitzer prize. So. The, I would, I would never do that. I would never, can you imagine James O'Keefe gets a job as a janitor assists in, in, in fixing someone with the coronavirus? I would be, I would be dead bacteria on my hands would get inside.
Eric Weinstein: Wasn't Gloria Steinem of Playboy bunny?
James O’Keefe: Gloria Steinem was a Playboy bunny. Um, but you had these reporters, Clark, uh, Clark Molen off at the Iowa newspaper. You had, you know, Bob Woodward lied to deep throat, uh, Jack Anderson in the 1970s. And all of these people were hated. I mean, hated by the system. While they were doing this, they were, they were despised.
They were attacked by the establishment media, and then something changed. And what we were talking on the phone was, what I think changed.
Eric Weinstein: There was this old line about. Uh, what are the 10 most feared words in corporate America? Like Wallace from 60 minutes is here to see you.
James O’Keefe: Yes. So Mike Wallace used to ambush people and board rooms and, and, and, and then something happened in the late seventies.
I trace it to this incident. I wrote this book called American provid, and I researched the 1970s journalism. And what happened when I saw was that in 1977 the Chicago sun times, which was the center of all this muck, raking newspaper reporting, ran this bar for like seven months. They bought a bar. Under a under disguise, and it was bartended by newspaper people, and they put cameras in the, in the, in the rafters of this bar, Apple, he named the Mirage.
They actually called the thing. The Mirage was kind of ironic and they filmed all of the city inspectors taking bribes, bribing each other, you know, payoffs. And asked Pam Zekman was working at the, at the Chicago sun time, Pulitzer prize winner w they were asked, why did you have to resort to all this so-called deception?
They said, because nobody, everyone was afraid of Chicago city hall. None of these people would talk, not even on background, not even off the record. So they ran this bar, and I mean, this was like the most consequential, in my opinion, investigation of the 20th century, like 50 people went to jail. The mayor lost reelection.
It was just such a consequential, impactful thing. So it gets nominated for the Pulitzer prize. 1978 and Ben Bradley, who is the legendary editor of the Washington post says, no, we're not going to give you a Pulitzer prize because your deception was too elaborate. Your deception was too much. I don't, and I think the quote was.
You know, when, when, when cops pose as journalists, we don't like that. So we shouldn't pose as something that we're not. And that was the, one of the, a few influction points in American history because there was no, there was no, um, there was no currency in doing this. It was exp. It's expensive. First of all, which I can talk about in the how expensive this stuff is.
And then you had Mike Wallace in the mid eighties. Mike Wallace, 60 minutes said it became about drama. Not illumination. I think that both Ben Bradley and Mike Wallace were, were, were disingenuous. I don't think that was the real reason they stopped doing it. I think that argument, which is one we can have today, relates more to economics of mass media.
Um, and, and Ben Bradley probably was a little close to people in the Chicago machine. And, uh, and you know, Bradley reportedly. These are not. My sources had contracts with people in government and so forth and so on. And it became this mass media became, had a symbiotic relationship. With, with those in power and using these tactics.
He's just too close for comfort. You're, you're, you're burning these institutions, agencies, and things that you need access to, to get your information from. So it got cut off in the 70s and eighties and finally, ABC news in 1992 got sued by a grocery store, food lion, but they buy a chain is called food lion grocery.
Again, they got , they got jobs working in the butcher shop, and they recorded, they put hidden cameras in their wig. Like you might be able to fit a camera in that, in that hairdo of yours. And they had
Eric Weinstein: wigs,
James O’Keefe: tiny little thing, and, and they filmed, the meat was rotting and they repackage the meat. So this was
Eric Weinstein: a, this was like bleach or some bleach.
James O’Keefe: The meat. Was rotting. It was a devastating expos. A food lion stock tanked. They got sued. ABC did. They lost at trial. They won on appeal. It cost, God knows over $1 million, and ABC's a bass brass basically said to hell with this, we're not going to spend $1 million. There's nothing in it for us. So investigative reporting.
Was not profitable. It was not profitable. It wouldn't get you the Pulitzer prizes. It wouldn't get you the
Eric Weinstein: truck. I want it. I want to do your point even more than you're doing your point. People are gonna hear that as like, Oh, is that where you're doing reporting to get appealed? Surprise. That's not the point at all.
They let me do it. Let me do it. Okay. My belief is that the pilots are pro the Pulitzer prize to say nothing of worth appeals or fortunate came from, um. Was intended to say, this is heroic behavior. This is admirable behavior. And when you took away the prize, it was the community saying, we no longer want to see this as heroic.
James O’Keefe: And
Eric Weinstein: that that message rather than the prize is the chill.
James O’Keefe: And it's one of the reasons,
Eric Weinstein: well, to your point about the growing, um. Links between the journalistic community and, and, uh, the institutions they cover. Those links were not absent earlier. In fact, there were some, you know, I asked you to look at the story of Jean Seaberg, a woman destroyed by the FBI using the Los Angeles times and Newsweek, uh, as their conduits for a, uh, a, uh.
A smear campaign against one of the leading actresses of Hollywood because they didn't like her politics. Um, so there've been very chilling threads between our media and the institutions of power, and in fact, the cryptic institutions of power. What I don't understand is given that those things existed before, something had to change environmentally.
For this type of reporting to all but disappear over a period of a perhaps 20 years.
James O’Keefe: And that's economics. A lot of it, in my opinion. Um, investigative reporting was a loss leader on a company's balance sheet. So in those eight days, there was kind of a, uh. Well, newspapers were certainly more profitable than they are now, and David, right on the ABC tape, put it.
Thus, he said it changed in the digital era when it became even more commercially. He says, the commercial commercial imperative is incompatible with the news, and I get branded as some right wing guy. And it's like, well, I actually, that's a Chomsky argument from manufacturer to,
Eric Weinstein: let's be honest, a lot of my friends on the right.
Spend a lot of time quoting Marx Chomsky. I mean, there's a lot of commonalities there is.
James O’Keefe: There is that, and I agree with that statement. So the commercial imperative is incompatible. The news said, David, right? He was suspended by ABC news for saying it, and investigative reporters. Like, Oh, I'm going to give you my economics of what I do.
I'm a, I'm a charitable organization. I'm a five Oh one C three organization and
Eric Weinstein: let you PR project. We, uh, were a huge part
James O’Keefe: of prime, the chairman and CEO of the company. And I had to be the chairman to have the authority to make decisions like not to settle lawsuits. You know, 60 minutes got sued over 150 times in the 1980s.
Hunting, maybe even more than that. All of the reporters I mentioned earlier, the 1970s were, were, I mean, some of them went to jail, um, to protect their sources. They were sued for libel. Investigative reporters had to deal with all that stuff. And to your point in this age, I'm vilified for having to deal with all that stuff.
Back in the day was considered to be a thing. So
Eric Weinstein: you'd go to jail for your source?
James O’Keefe: 100% and again, I've been to jail, we've talked about that, but not only would, not only does the reporter have to be willing to go to jail, the reporter has to be willing to. Appeal it all the way up to the Supreme court, and if the Supreme court determines that you have to disclose your source, the reporter has to be civil disobedient.
Yeah. That's what you have to believe in in your heart to do this. Most of the people in the news business, these are you kidding me? They're just trying to get to retirement. They're just trying to to get across the finish line, get their pension, and be
Eric Weinstein: done with this. What makes you such a difficult character is, is that you have so many of the most admirable features of journalism.
And I don't think you get to have the conversation where somebody who really is troubled by what you do also acknowledges the positive in what you do. Like you. You to me, are a super position okay. Of what is noble about journalism. And why I can't stand journalism.
James O’Keefe: That may be so, I think in light of the recent exquisite though, Eric, there have been a couple of reporters, Paul Farhi, the Washington post, a guy named Grove at the daily beast, have actually talked to me.
I've never actually, and you're frankly just this manifest destiny. I'm sitting with you here. You wouldn't be sitting with me. But not for the events of the last six months,
Eric Weinstein: but I've been aware of you for a long time.
James O’Keefe: Well, I think because I think because of the. The, that I'm, I'm continuing to do this, that, that I'm getting and tell me if I'm wrong, but I'm getting reactions from these institutions that they're forced.
Eric Weinstein: You've been an interesting person to me for a long
James O’Keefe: time. I did not know that. Yeah. Um, so
Eric Weinstein: by the way, I should just say, people will assume that you and I are connected somehow through Peter teal and completely untroubled. I know of. Or just had my first conversation with Peter about you ever
James O’Keefe: the New York times on a front page story association between Peter teal and the, and the substance will be, it's unclear exactly what relationship and then they'll run that and do that whole thing.
Um, but so the economics of mass me, this is a very important point. You know, one of the reporters I researched in prov that when I wrote this book prompted was that bosses have to have, they said bosses with balls, right? You have to have an editor. Where someone that works for you that has that has principle
Eric Weinstein: and facts is a unisex because it works for both.
What does it, what does it
James O’Keefe: you have to have huevos and in back in the day there were bosses with balls and, and these days what David Wright says is. This is so ironic. Dave Wright actually says at the bar, my bosses don't care about this stuff. So that's, is that integrity? Is that a lack of morality? And then you have the economics of mass media?
It costs my, uh, my organization or our organization because it's a nonprofit project. Veritas over $1 million to do a story. And sometimes it'll cost us as much as three quarters of a million dollars to fight a lawsuit. I do not settle lawsuits, Eric. In fact, I've, we've won eight straight lawsuits
Eric Weinstein: have settled those.
James O’Keefe: I have not ever. Lost a defamation. Lost it. I've never settled defamation lawsuit. 11 years ago, I was sued for invasion of privacy in California and I settled one and I made a mistake and I'll never make that mistake
Eric Weinstein: again. So I appreciate the distinction, but you have settled,
James O’Keefe: important distinction.
Eric Weinstein: Every time you say something that isn't,
James O’Keefe: they're going to do, they're going to
Eric Weinstein: do, they're going to play the game. And I'm not, again, I am not trying. To destroy you. I'm not trying to build you up. I'm trying to get you a fair hearing.
James O’Keefe: Yep. Let me be clear. We've never lost a defamation lawsuit. We've never settled a defamation lawsuit, and 11 years ago, I was sued for invasion of privacy for recording a guy in a room with the door open in California.
This guy was coaching me on how to get girls across the Tijuana border. He claimed later he would claim he was playing along, but I did not defame him by quoting him. And I was sued for invasion of privacy. I fought it and I didn't have any money, so I settled. So we don't settle lawsuits anymore. We've won every lawsuit.
Eric Weinstein: it. I also, I just want to be very clear that. There are all sorts of situations where people settle when they're in the right because of the economics of, of the legal
James O’Keefe: profession. They're held to a different standard than me. So totally understand, settled the, and your audience knows this. CNN settled the Covington lawsuit for, they were sued for two 50 million people set a loss.
It's all the time. But my point is this, that
Eric Weinstein: you have to say, I don't think you should be held to the standard of never settling as the, if you can meet it,
James O’Keefe: you want to know something very interesting, please. A lot of the insiders, one of the reasons they came to us other than the fact that they'd the Washington post in New York times, he said that these, one of them said to me, the fact that you didn't settle that lawsuit, the fact that you stood by your reporting, the fact that you would stand on principle at great economic cost, my staff has to scuttle around the country on airplanes to meet with these people and ask them for money and, and, and it, it, it pains me to have to spend.
Three quarters of a million dollars. Little old lady in North Carolina, you know, sues me for defamation. I did not defame her. I quoted her accurately. I know the law and the facts are on my side, and the arbitrator or the, uh, the person in the middle goes, why don't you just give lady $25,000? Call it a day?
And I have to spend three quarters of a million dollars.
Eric Weinstein: Jay, it's like, I understand your problem. You know? I understand. You break my fucking heart. You really do. Because you do stuff that is unnecessary, that causes harm to the effort to illuminate what it is that you're trying to. I don't have your politic
James O’Keefe: argument.
You're making a very interesting argument. I do think that earring. Let me see if I can restate what you're saying. I do things that hurt my argument, but you like, you like the, the, the, uh, the effects of it, or you like the truths
Eric Weinstein: I perceive, and I could be wrong about this, you're a very unusual person.
You were driven by something, which is not money. There are easier ways to turn a buck than what you're doing, right. You were driven by, I think it could be wrong in part an ideological need to get at certain things that are going unreported, anywhere. In essence, there are a tiny number of places that can break a story, like the stories that you're breaking, and I want.
To be able to wholeheartedly say, did you see that thing that occurred? And when I see project Veritas and I say, okay, beyond that, I already know that the big boys are playing unfairly with you. Right? So it's not like I'm saying that everything that they're doing is fair to you, but you do things. That are unnecessary, that tarnish what it is that you can bring to the world.
You're not on the efficient frontier. And this is my irritation and my anger with you is that you got cheap stuff in there when you, you're supposed to be iStat re-establishing investigative journalism. Like what?
James O’Keefe: What, what's the, give me some examples.
Eric Weinstein: I think that is. I think that you could do a tremendous amount to let people know we've got the fucking goods on you.
James O’Keefe: When you say cheap stuff, just give me an example. Recently, or even in the last decade
Eric Weinstein: when you've. Uh, Cameron, a purse or whatever, and something feels to me like you're on the verge of entrapment, or you're making one of those technical arguments. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. We, you know, we looked it up and we were perfectly within our, when that kind of stuff occurs and you're in costume and I'm thinking like, okay, was the poor, the poor sob who happens to be employed in this.
Wayne is, you know, speaking with bravado. Maybe the idea is like the standard reporter techniques of buttering people up. I hate those when that comes from the New York times. I've been through that mill. Yeah. Okay. Yup. I don't like the behavior pattern and my feeling about it is, is that ethics clearer ethics are a peacock's tail.
In other words, if you have, if you have the ability and the skill, you get to have the ethics. If you're this close to the line, it's because you haven't gotten your skill together. Now I'm trying to do some of what you're trained to do. I released an episode recently, uh, talking about whether or not, uh, laboratory mice are broken for the purposes of all sorts of science, which may include drug testing.
and I'm, I, I did not go for the juggler. It was very pointed. But I, I invited the person, uh, who is most associated with the story onto the story after the fact. I've tried not to speak much in public, giving them a very long time to figure out how they wanted to respond. Right. And I, I intend to close the story out, but I am struggling with the ethics.
And my concern is, is that I want to watch you. Rive in pain as you struggle with the ethics of what you do. I understand the argument that you're unearthing things that really matter.
James O’Keefe: Well, I could, I mean, I've, what's that line from the Shawshank redemption? Whatever sins I've committed, I had paid for them and then some had been, I mean, God, my story is in other deal.
I've been on probation for three years, federal probation, supervised. I've been charged with crimes I haven't committed. I've been sued depose dozens of times. I've, I've laid my soul bare under oath in depositions where they have all my emails. And like Chesterton says, you know, but the thing about bathing and hot water is that it keeps you clean.
Eric Weinstein: These are twin problems and you're not getting away with that. Listen to me just very carefully. Those things may make you heroic. They may be incredibly,
James O’Keefe: I'm listening, I'm listening.
Eric Weinstein: They may make you heroic. They may be incredibly painful, but all of that stuff speaks potentially to courage and nobility, to being the righteous man in an unjust world.
That's not what I'm talking. James,
James O’Keefe: let me see if I can address your, the fundamental issue here of the, the purse cam or the button cam or the lapel
Eric Weinstein: cam
James O’Keefe: or the, and what it represents,
Eric Weinstein: what it represented represents,
James O’Keefe: what, whether I arrive in, in, in, in consternation. Um. I guess the easiest way I can explain it in, in a very personal way is that when I was in college, um, I went to Rutgers.
I'm 20, 35 years old. So when I was 20 years old on st Patrick's day, which I believe is this, is it either today or tomorrow, we're around st Patrick's day filming here. I was surrounded by professors telling me how great Stalin was. And I'm like, well, I'm not really a history buff, but that seems odd, you know, shouldn't we also talk about the gulags?
And again, I'm not, I wasn't
Eric Weinstein: a very short trials. I
James O’Keefe: wasn't, I wasn't learned about style. And I just said, well that's odd. And I'd read the New York times every day cause I just liked the read the New York times. And I said, well that's odd. They seem to be using obfuscation and there. And I felt compelled to wear a hidden camera and go into my dining hall.
To try to prove a point, and I tried to get lucky charms banned on the grounds. They were racist to my Irish heritage. It was a little stunt like it was a little bull rat, like it remains people's favorite video. I'm getting to a point here and that what I'm going to show you, what I realized in doing this was that I had to hold these people to their own expressed values.
Because they don't, it's really hard to shame these people and we can be shamed because you believe in morality. You believe in probably some sense of. Law and there should be equality before the law. You believe in all these principles and the people that I'm dealing with are just irrational. They're just like, Stalin's great.
You should love him. And I'm like, well, I'm paying money to come to school here to learn about philosophy. And you're telling me how great the Soviet union is that that's just unjust. So. When the premise is that these people in and at Rutgers university, the student handbook said, you're not allowed to offend anybody for any reason.
I said, well, that's, that's, that's that. That's irrational. I know. So to confront the irrationality, to hold them accountable to their own expressed values, or as Alinsky would say, make them live up to their own principles. I went in there. I was very scared. I was shaking, I was worried. I know it doesn't come natural to to do these sorts of things.
And I dawned a little Kodak camera, this is before the iPhone 2005 and I put it on the table and put a little cloth over the red lens because in 2005 cameras would blink red when you recorded video. And I began to do to, to, to pretend to be something I wasn't. I said. And I, I am Irish, but I'm not offended by lucky charms.
And I said, as an Irishman, this serial offends me. The mascot offends my heritage owned by the way, it's a violation of your own campus rule book about offending people. And the Dean of dining services took me seriously, and the Dean of dining services said there, there'll be no problem removing lucky traumas from the cafeteria.
What we did. Is a microcosm,
Eric Weinstein: even though they're magically delicious,
James O’Keefe: even though they're magically delicious. I even said the marshmallows were teeth rotting. I said that I'm six foot one Irishman, which I am. O'Keefe is my last name, and I said, I, this offends my heritage and I tried to keep a straight face.
It was very difficult and even though I was shaking because I was afraid of what I was doing, and what we did is offer the community Rutgers university, which is far left. An opportunity to go, that's ridiculous. We, we slipped the disc. We, we show it. We sh and, and, and what you're saying is I'm doing the thing that you don't, that they did the Jordan Peterson.
What you're saying is what you're saying is what, what the argument is, is that I should feel more, um, unclean. I should, no,
Eric Weinstein: no, no, no, no.
James O’Keefe: Help me understand
Eric Weinstein: the argument. Is that what you're doing? Is your, you're balancing harm that you have to inflict with good that you have to do. And I don't think you're efficient on either one.
And in some sense you're screwing up stories for everybody else because they don't have, and this is very like, it's a complicated point and
James O’Keefe: I don't think I want to understand it.
Eric Weinstein: I'm trying to, my belief is, is that like the Zach Vorhees story about the Google insider and what was actually going on at Google isn't a really important story.
And any, if I took. A terrible, terrible, important story, and I put project Veritas on it right now. I know that won't have the impact that it would have if we could somehow force it into the world in a different degree. I completely disagree with you.
James O’Keefe: I strongly, we strongly disagree strongly
Eric Weinstein: on, but let's make sure that we actually do disagree in that we're not having a miscommunication.
James O’Keefe: I'm not sure, but that statements you're making Zach for, he says documents. Um, Zach, you know, I'd come to me, you know, come to us some years ago, we had to send a reporter to talk to Jen Janai, who was an innovation person for Google. She was a of Irish heritage. And we, we, we, we filmed her in a, in a, in a Mexican restaurant in San Francisco, uh, saying that she wanted to prevent the quote Trump situation.
And there was some ambiguity about what exactly she meant by that. Did she mean stop Trump from winning reelection? Did she mean stop rushing interference? But Jenji and I also said on this hidden camera recording, which Zach did not provide to us, that was filmed by our undercover reporters. She also said that, um, that Google needs to stay big, two to two
Eric Weinstein: fairly fragmented.
Then you wouldn't be able
James O’Keefe: to, you wouldn't be able to, to stop Trump. Essentially, so this is what this person said, and that amplified is Zach's messages, his documents, we interviewed him and I, I feel very strongly that I
Eric Weinstein: do understand. I'm worried that we're not communicating again. I agree. That there's this really strange problem that you can't go to CNN, the Washington post, NPR, New York times with a certain class of stories that run counter to their unstated narratives.
They won't run them.
James O’Keefe: Yes, I'm right here.
Eric Weinstein: Yes. So let's, let's, we can be in agreement on,
James O’Keefe: we can agree on that. The New York times is the paper of record. They call themselves. They used
Eric Weinstein: to be, they call themselves, who knows what, but certainly
James O’Keefe: not all of you are. You are a very intelligent man. You pay attention to this stuff.
Your audience is, is I'm certain, extremely intelligent. Most people on in Los Angeles looking out at the streets have no idea what we're talking about. And in fact, when you go into the airports in O'Hare or JFK,
Eric Weinstein: no, no, no. I'm also the guy who goes into the airport and temporarily, when I look at that screen and has CNN,
James O’Keefe: the Chirons
Eric Weinstein: yet, whatever, my brain goes into the same stupid trans, right as, as probably even does yours.
Right? It's the lower brain probably, probably. Right.
James O’Keefe: So when the New York times, Jim Rutenberg, I believe was his name, said in 2016 something to the effect of we have to cover Trump unfavorably or unfairly. He basically said this on the front page, the executive editor, Dean Beck, Hey, who's definitely no fan of mine executive ever DEMA Kay said.
Good, good for Jim Rittenberg to say that the paper record has established on the front page of the New York times, basically by Jim Ruttenberg. We must cover the president unfairly. And when we live in a world hell, I'm trying to address your fundamental argument when the premise is that our S that our institutions that inform our citizenry, by the way, I believe government is downstream from media.
I agree with salts and eats in that the press has more power than all three branches of the government, and I think you probably agree with that too. If you don't, we should talk about that.
Eric Weinstein: I wish I saw it as distinct from the. The governance of government. Yeah.
James O’Keefe: Okay. But unlike the government, no, we don't elect our media officials, and there aren't any committees and there's no, there's no way of holding them accountable.
So when you live in a world where that is the case, and the paper of record says, we are going to cover this person unfairly, and everyone's okay with that. I mean, I don't know if it's just war theory or whatever the ethical implications
Eric Weinstein: is. Again, the, there's an efficacy issue,
James O’Keefe: which is Cassie.
Eric Weinstein: For example, when you were given a tape that needs to air and imagine that you had two ways of airing, you had a way of airing it with.
Uh, project Veritas stamped on it or without project Veritas stamped,
James O’Keefe: I'd have to use project Veritas. I feel strongly about that.
Eric Weinstein: Because you believe in your own project. No,
James O’Keefe: because in order to have the authority to make the decisions tend to let me do them. Please let me finish this point because I, this is my Martin Luther moment.
Here I stand. I can do no other in order to have the authority to not settle the lawsuits such that I can draw another insider out to come to me with more.
Eric Weinstein: I know where you're going.
James O’Keefe: I have to, I have to. I have to be able to draw, uh, they call it, um, um, uh, the, the, the network effects, if you will, a whip sign effects of drawing out other people.
They, they, they have to know
Eric Weinstein: where to go to. You. Project Veritas,
James O’Keefe: because no one else, everyone else will settle the lawsuits. Everyone else will quit. There are the barriers to entry.
Eric Weinstein: I don't even know if this is correct Spanish, but like huevos Del Toro, you know, like you're establishing at some level that your organization will stand behind the people who.
Contribute to you, you will protect them that you have the competency. That is how you see project Veritas. Let me see for the purposes of this argument that that is true.
James O’Keefe: Okay.
Eric Weinstein: Hypothetically, imagine a second white label that had established the same track record that
James O’Keefe: didn't have cut white label that established the same track.
Eric Weinstein: In other words. People had come to them, they'd never cracked. They'd never broken. They'd never settled on a defamation or whatever. Right.
James O’Keefe: I would submit to you that the barriers to entry are too high for that because
Eric Weinstein: I, what I'm saying when I'm trying to get at is do you acknowledge that you have not evaded the shit suit very effectively?
Maybe you think you've done as good a job as you could do, but I can guarantee you, like I had a choice when I sat for this, when I decided to have you sit for this interview, which is how much did I want to spend on James O'Keefe? And I thought, you important, really important
James O’Keefe: me, me and my history, the history of what I've done?
Or do you mean
Eric Weinstein: by virtue of the fact in the crazy left of center mainstream game, they play an association game right. So association. Yes. So you sit in this chair and I don't, and I say anything that's positive about you, you're normalize.
James O’Keefe: And that's what they're going to say.
Eric Weinstein: Whatever the hell they're going to say.
They're idiots. Yeah. Right. If we, if we think about the idiots who sit in the golden Thrones, uh, inside of the commentary, it, we will never get anything done. You are worth spending in terms of their idiotic calculus of adjacency on graphs. okay, so I've decided to lose credibility. I've decided to lose some viewers.
I've decided to make a very easy target on myself just by sitting with you because they're evil and that's wrong. You deserve a hearing. You've done a lot of stuff. Much of it good. And I'm still pissed off and angry and I don't know that we've exactly connected. We haven't even gotten to whether or not there's selective editing on some videos, all the usual things.
I tend not to spend time where other people do spend time. I figure you can have that conversation with somebody else. It's a waste of my effing time. So I want to, I want you to have the conversation here that you're not going to be able to have anywhere else. Thank you. Okay, well thank you. So what I'm trying to get at is I want to see you more disturbed.
If you think about this as a fraction, it's important truths per unit, deception or just unit sub ethical deception. Okay? And your point is my fraction is positive. And I want you one to search your soul. Could you have made the denominator smaller without making it zero? I'm not. I don't think, I don't want to hold you to the stents, to the standards of Jesus.
If Jesus was an investigative report. Okay.
James O’Keefe: The asymptote towards that dinner. It's like over time I think it'll get cleaner and cleaner and cleaner.
Eric Weinstein: That may be, but the point is, is that you had to spend a lot early on learning your game. I think that, and I also, I want it, I want an effing come to Jesus moment.
If you're going to continue to be the only place people can, let's take your insider from before, and that person who says, look, I couldn't go anywhere else. I believe that in some sense. That's true. And I believe that you have to take on a new responsibility.
James O’Keefe: You're right, you're right. I actually, one of my, I have 14 ethical principles, which I actually don't have memorized, but I generally know them.
And the 14th is with great power comes great responsibility, very cliche, but I tell my team every day, I got, two of my folks are out there in the green room in there, and they're winking at me. Like I tell my folks every day that we have a profound responsibility where I disagree a little bit is that.
And I'm, I'm, I am trying to in good faith, get to the fundamentals, your
Eric Weinstein: argument, a good faith conversation so far.
James O’Keefe: Oh, absolutely. I'm just trying to address your fundamental pleas argument and it's an interesting point that you're narrowing that you're pinning your down on. It's interesting, Eric, because nobody else.
Even in, even the people I are, my hero heroes of the 20th century, all of them were co could took this sort of like, Aw shucks, like are you kidding me? Give me a, give me an effing break about ethics. The guy's not going to tell me the stuff unless I go in there. That's how they say it. They say the only way to get the information is to use this, and they do go for the juggler, but they're not bloodthirsty.
It's not bloodsport. They, they, they believe so much that a government agency is not stepping up in all the rationalizations that I've gone over with you here about why we do it. They, and for me, in college, the lucky charms, it was literally a justice complex. And when you're wired the way that we
Eric Weinstein: recruit, what's that?
Are you a hypocrite? I am. How so? I dunno. I say lots of things that aren't true. I lie, sometimes I have a rosy opinion of myself that probably won't.
James O’Keefe: Oh, I see. I see what you're saying. In other words, what you're saying, um,
Eric Weinstein: I'm a sinner to use the religious
James O’Keefe: yes. And I think so.
Eric Weinstein: To be destroyed for my sins constantly.
I don't always want to be reminded of the farter from Sparta, although it's a pretty damn good Limerick.
James O’Keefe: That is a very astute point. A lot of people have said or are wary because if they're in front of the magnifying glass, you're going to find, if you're in a bar saying things, and I think it goes
Eric Weinstein: back to that while you're losing people just in part.
In part, the idea is, I can't see the difference. Between if you had a more clearly stated ethics, if you went to greater lengths to first try, can we get the reform without causing somebody to lose their job?
James O’Keefe: But can I, can I make one modification about our vision statement please? Our vision statement has evolved from 10 years ago, and now we have these brave insiders.
Uh, that, uh, that where the cameras and, and in some cases violate their own confidentiality agreements. And they're, to your point, they're heroes for what they do and they're willing to lose their jobs. And why? Because they have some sick fetish with being martyrs. Of course not, because they are so motivated by this justice complex.
Oh, and by the way. When we talk about being hypocrites every, of course I'm a hypocrite. I, everyone does things. They make mistakes in their private life. If you put my life on
Eric Weinstein: things to heart, I do. Of course
James O’Keefe: we have secrets. Yeah. And there are boundaries on where
Eric Weinstein: we are. And I appreciated what you said before, that you had things that could destroy somebody, that you wouldn't air because you didn't.
James O’Keefe: 100% and we, and I tell another ethics rule of my 14 rules, is I tell my staff, behave as though there are 12 jurors always watching you, Eric. This is a very important distinction between me and us. And I would think other newsrooms and in the intelligence community, I'm a huge distinction ethically that we, that I believe in is that you have to behave like there are 12 jurors always watching you whenever you work.
in your bedroom. I don't want to know what goes on in your bedroom. I don't care. I think that's a boundary I would never cross. Um,
Eric Weinstein: I brag when drunk in bars you,
James O’Keefe: I don't, I do not do that. Do you drink? Very rarely.
Eric Weinstein: Okay. I drink.
James O’Keefe: There's nothing wrong with drinking.
Eric Weinstein: Okay. When I drink, I become dis-inhibited.
When I become dis-inhibited, I say things that's self aggrandized that I think make me look big in the moment. And when there's a contact, wait a second, I'm sorry. Now, my point to you is not to tell you that I'm the world's worst person in a bar. My point is, is that a lot of us go drinking in bars. A lot of us say stupid stuff.
A lot of us say contradictory stuff. A lot of us puff ourselves up. A lot of us come forth with lies, with truths, all sorts of things. And effectively what you're doing is you're losing those of us who wish to remain sinners and part of this world. Now I see this in terms of a right of center counterculture, for example.
You are particularly animated by the story of leftist professors extolling the virtues of stall and when he was an incredible mass murder. I'm with you. I come from the left. I hear you. It makes me effing crazy. Likewise. I can tell you that I am very, very pissed off and angry about all sorts of stuff that goes on on the right now in general.
I spend my time targeting the left for very different reasons that you do. My feeling is you guys are throwing the game. You make us look terrible. What are you like? From my perspective, you're supporting mass murderers now. You know, you, you want to talk about the starvation in the Ukraine. You want to talk about the show trials.
You want to talk about article 58 who the hell are you to extol the virtues of, of Joseph Stalin? Okay? Your perspective may be that's that lefty crap, but I come from a part of the left that you probably would get along with much better, you know, question, but people who stood up for the working poor people who are very focused.
Uh, on the abuses of power, uh, wherever they are. And I look at you and I say your politics, your own crusade. Like, I see the issue with justice. I have a justice issue as well. And it, it both brings out the best in me and the worst. . And when I asked you about like, you know, searching your soul and you start talking about all of the things that make you more heroic.
I'm not hearing the part that I'm looking for, which is what opens you up to people like my family, my friends, my colleagues, which is, you're doing great stuff sometimes. Sometimes you're doing terrible stuff. I don't want to get into what I think is great and what I think is terrible, but it's enough to say that some of it is great.
All right. I want to be able to bring my people what you do when you're doing great stuff. And I don't want to spend three hours talking about the ethics of James O'Keeffe.
James O’Keefe: It's going to be hard, Eric, because no matter what we do, I think it's. You're a rare individual because all of the time it's extensively about the, about the , but in reality it's, but that's your case.
It is not what you were saying.
Eric Weinstein: And you're saying that the methods make an you an easy target.
James O’Keefe: I, it's, it's a, it's a conundrum because you can't get the effects. You can't get
Eric Weinstein: the, the, no, no, no. In Martin interior point, you're not on the efficient frontier. Jerry's just not.
James O’Keefe: There is no other means of a co
Eric Weinstein: I disagree with you.
If you were targeting Twitter, let's say, okay. And you went through and you said, look, we're here. We have a new program at project Veritas. We are going to try to get this information, but what we're gonna try to do is we are going to try to limit the collateral damage to individuals because we don't really want to destroy people.
What we want to do is to make sure that it is understood that the world has an accurate idea of the platform on which it communicates. Okay. Right. And then you went through great. Pains and you said, look, here's our first line. Our first line is we're going to try to spare people and then we're going to provide greater and greater resolution as you come to ignore our work, because the content layer is different than the, than the really sexy humiliation layer.
The voyeurism. You're, you're, you're, you're talking, I can't stand the voyeurism.
James O’Keefe: Maybe it's been, it's been characterized in the 20th century is voyeurism. Like the
Eric Weinstein: television. This is something that I really appreciate. You came up with that word. I w I wanted to use it and I thought, that's not going to be fair to him.
And so it feels to me like that's in good faith and I'm
James O’Keefe: praying to viewers have a right to know the public has a right to know what David Wright said in that bar with his face on may.
Eric Weinstein: I don't know the answer to that question
James O’Keefe: cause I think the answer is yes.
Eric Weinstein: Okay. And I struggle with it and I understand your argument and I worry.
Okay? Okay. And I also worry that for all of us hypocrites in the audience, I don't want to see your face in a bar. I don't want you in a mustache. I don't want you in address. I don't want you with a camera in your purse. I don't think privacy is completely dead. I don't know all the business in your life.
You may have gotten to that point, and I know that all of the people who own tech companies want to tell me the privacy is dead because they want to monetize my privacy. That's true. To be honest, I don't know what they're doing in their bedrooms, and so it's the asymmetry that I don't wish to live under, and I don't wish to put a camera on you to keep you from putting a camera on me.
Now, you may have accepted those terms. But I am rejecting the game and I'm rejecting the game when the New York times plays it with
James O’Keefe: the New York times, published my wedding website, uh, last Sunday. And, and I can tell you in a personal moment of, of vulnerability here. That that was hard for me. Yeah. And a lot of people, a lot of people, in fact, I would say the majority reaction was they doxed O'Keeffe's wedding.
And I remember I was in a grocery store cause I think this cuts to your point, I was in a grocery store thinking, man that sucks, that hurts. But I kind of simultaneous was like, Nope, that's my cross to bear.
Eric Weinstein: That's, that's cause you've accepted the gap. I've accepted that. I have not.
James O’Keefe: I, I hear you.
Eric Weinstein: And most of us.
You see, your appeal is limited by virtue of the fact that most of us are sinners who don't know where James O'Keeffe's editing. Don't know where James O'Keeffe's disguises, don't know where James O'Keeffe's practices begin and end, whether the in general covenant between two people that is assumed, which is often violated.
James O’Keefe: Yeah. Not, not actually, but that existed before the advent of technology lead
Eric Weinstein: me. I understand that, and I understand your point, that it's better to actually have an accurate representation of stuff, but the thing is, is that I also think that in part, do you remember like this program to catch a predator?
Of course. I,
James O’Keefe: I remember it.
Eric Weinstein: Okay, so that was really, really interesting. Was that the right way to go about that problem?
James O’Keefe: It was a, it was a little different than what we do. It was a, it was a little, it was a little,
Eric Weinstein: it was mainstream.
James O’Keefe: Yes. Put that out. Uh, Chris Hansen, uh, an NBC, NBC, NBC, Dateline, Chris Hanson would set up these people with and an intro and, and trap them.
I not legally speaking, cause they're not the government, but, um, in, in the case of Wright and Robock, particularly as this asymptote gets a little. Less, uh, problematic. I would say to ethicist. We're just literally letting people, and I, and I mean, it's a strong with, right, we didn't even quote him like, even though w
Eric Weinstein: even, but I'm trying to, where I'm trying to do is to say what Dateline did, if it is in fact Dateline,
James O’Keefe: Dateline NBC, Dateline NBC did,
Eric Weinstein: was to set up something much more extreme in some sense than what you do and to use the entertainment value.
Of catching and destroying someone who would pray on Sheryl. You have, you have something, an activity which is completely evil.
James O’Keefe: Yes.
Eric Weinstein: In my book, and I don't, I'm not going to back away from the word evil. Um. Probably committed by people who are mentally and psychologically damaged. In fact, our friend David Eagleman even gives the case of a guy who had no pedophilia, no pedophilic desires, until you developed a brain tumor and then suddenly had them.
Then the brain tumor was excised. They went away. Then the pedophilia came back and they scan the brain again. There was a tumor, so it's possible. To destroy a life based on a weird physiology thing. It's possible that these people are just sick, evil, horrible people. I don't know what it is. I'll tell you what I do now, okay?
I know that the activity that these people were engaged in was evil. And I know that the techniques were entertaining because they were so destructive and vindictive.
James O’Keefe: So a lot of ethicists in the 1990s and tooth and the 2000 said that it was akin to using a bazooka to kill a fly. It was voyeuristic at project Veritas.
Eric Weinstein: I may have been sorry. I don't even know that I, maybe it was the case that that was so terrifying. That it actually stops some stuff.
James O’Keefe: I don't know. I, I have very complex view on this, but I, I strongly believe that there are some, like we're talking about Google now, we're talking about it's this situational ethics and listen, the, the, the beauty and bane of the ethical thing is that it's inherently situational.
You can't evaluate the means used to obtain the info used to obtain the information in the abstract. You have to evaluate on a case by case basis. This is what. All of the reporters have said in the 20th century when it comes to this, and when it comes to what, what, what we're talking about now, we're talking about Disney corporations, children's company.
We're talking about Google, you know, with a, whatever, a trillion dollar market cap. We're talking about Facebook, we're talking about, um, uh, these, these, these, these leviathans the, and we feel. I don't know. I don't know how else to say it, and I know I'm being redundant, but we feel the public has such a right to know
Eric Weinstein: this, but I also don't think you can aim your, your rock with enough force and I don't think your stone will be true.
I think that you're, you're not understanding the point, which is you're paying for things that you could do better. By a limit in the effectiveness of the project. If you could get your politics the hell out of what you're doing.
James O’Keefe: I did. On this point, I'm going to vehemently disagree with you. Please. We focus.
We don't moralize we don't, we don't, we don't editorialize the content. The, the, the, the medium is so pure. It's the purest type of reporting. We don't add to it. We don't edit it out of context. Uh, contrary to reports, we don't do any of that stuff. And what other journalists do is, is try to contextualize and add moralism to it, investigate our, our stuff.
Is is hard fact. It's, it's hard fact and, and people will say, well, your right-wing, well, here's the deal. If the New York times wants to say on the front page, Jim Rutenberg wants to make the argument that we need to cover this guy unfairly, and they use the paper of record and the bully pulpit to do that, then if I just take my camera and aim it in any direction, I want to vote, I'm going to record things that are contrary to what the media says.
Eric Weinstein: Yes. And the media has a. I don't even want to call it a left of center, but like a democratic party bias. I believe that it does. You may not. I can say that it does. All right. Now it's not up to you. I'm not, I'm not asking you to say,
James O’Keefe: I just believe strongly that I don't let my politics tone.
Eric Weinstein: Where'd you go after acorn?
James O’Keefe: Because I logged onto YouTube and I saw a video tape. Of of, of, well three reasons. Number one, a girl messaged me on Facebook and said, I'd love to do something on acorn. So I logged on D a YouTube 2009 I typed into the search bar acorn cause I didn't know a lot about them. And I saw a video where they were squatting foreclosed homes.
And I looked that up. I said, well that's against the law. So while that might be morally justified in some circumstance, I think that someone needs to expose or test these acorn worker's propensity or willingness to break the law. And then Hannah Giles, the young woman said, why don't you pose it? Why don't I post as a prostitute?
And I said, well, that's interesting. If there's a prostitute, probably should be some pimps. So I was, I was testing and affirming. Why is it that this organization, which may get billions of dollars in federal money, is allowed to break laws and do people have a right to know that information? And what was different about what we did is we just walked in off the street and had a conversation.
It wasn't some elaborate deception. We go after the sacred cows, Eric. We go after the organizations that the media. Is unwilling or unable to invest
Eric Weinstein: I believe that there's a huge problem that you have at an a sensibly. And I, I don't, I hate the term left of center media, uh, sort of a center, left oriented media that refuses to go after Senator left counter narrative stories.
And that would be a counter narrative story. So in other words, I think I can tell the tale, which is each, there is no news outfit. That is so good that it can run counter narrative stories and there's no news outfit that's so inept that it can't run a story fairly. That comes right down the center of its narrative.
And then the key question is, what about the stories that are, you know, 30% oblique to the, to the narrative or who knows what? Right? So this is like the main problem. So given that the major organs. You know, tend to be aligned with this sort of center left perspective. Those stories don't get cut that they, they live in the blind spot.
And so I understand why you do it. And in part, this is why I target the same group of people because my feeling is, is that they are destroying the confidence. Now what really divides us is, is that you and I have radically different ideas about what to do about this problem. And I'm concerned that I'm coming across and I'm saying, here are my biases, right?
You even saying you're right-wing, if I say you're right wing versus right of center versus conservative versus alt-right. Like there are all sorts of ways to conjugate.
James O’Keefe: Upton Sinclair was a socialist, a Seymour Hersh, and the guy who broke the my Lai massacre was an antiwar activist. Right. All of the people that have ever done anything worth doing as far as
Eric Weinstein: IMC about manufacturing.
James O’Keefe: No, no, no, no, no. That's not my point. My point is, is that anybody who's ever found facts that were the fiercest of indignation fused with the hardest of facts were total. Ideologues and more power to them as far as I'm concerned, as long as what they were reporting was actually factual.
Eric Weinstein: I understand that it is not your job to investigate all facts and that you're, you have a right to choose what you want to focus on.
James O’Keefe: And right now, that's probably the fourth estate is the, is the beat.
Eric Weinstein: I understand it, but
James O’Keefe: I'm missing the point.
Eric Weinstein: Or I'm, or I'm, or, I mean, I've seen most of the discussions really good, but there is a point at which we,
James O’Keefe: the ethics of what we do and, and, and I don't know if I can, I don't know if I'm qualified academically to go deeper,
Eric Weinstein: strike me as very self righteous and insufficiently reflect.
Div with respect to some of the most persistent critiques. And it is not the case. Like, I don't think you've ever been given your due for the good that you do like Trump, when he does good. tell him that he's a jerk. Right. Okay. In general as a society. So the idea is that he just, if you wanted a model, when you decide that somebody is themselves bad.
There's a belief that you should never say anything positive about that person, right? Because to do that, clutters the issue and the issue is we know we have a bad person. So for example. Hitler, uh, gave, uh, uh, there was a protest in the Rosen Stross, uh, of women who wanted their half Jewish men back from the death camps.
And somehow these women were so bad ass that they actually caused a problem for the Nazis and the Nazis relented and released these men, okay, do I want to say good for the Nazis for doing this whore, this, this thing in a middle of a horrible, uh, you know. Psychotic situation. I don't want to say a damn thing and that's positive.
I want it to be so simple, so clean. That is just Nazi equals bad. Right. Right. So this is kind of the problem that we have is that we don't want to acknowledge anything good about somebody we deemed to be bad,
James O’Keefe: but that, but the way our videos work is that they slip the disc in so far as they force a reaction and that end justifies that particular
Eric Weinstein: mean.
Maybe the idea is I want you to be a little bit less certain. About the numerator and denominator of what you're doing because it adds up to effectiveness. And I know that in the next two years, somebody is going to send you a piece of video that I am going to say, Oh my God, that is incredible. I needed to know that that is the most important thing, and it's going to have project Veritas stamped on it, and I am going to show that to people and you know what they're going to say?
I'll just tell you, because I move it. I move in academic left-of-center circles. You can't trust anything from project Veritas, and I'm going to say, wait a minute, are you claiming that there's a cut in this? Are you claiming,
James O’Keefe: just let me let, I'm listening,
Eric Weinstein: I'm listening. Are you claiming that this never happened?
Are you claiming this? And they are not going to listen to a word. All they're going to say is, I've got my fingers in my ears, my eyes are closed. I'm going so I don't have to hear a single thing James O'Keefe ever says that's their strategy. To keep you from having the impact that some of your, the best of your work deserves.
James O’Keefe: And it will work for a while, but then one day we'll catch some things and we'll catch some more things and force some more reactions. And little by little over time, people will go, you know, but that T there's a guy in New Jersey, David Perry, that guy was caught on tape. Telling a person he thought was a child abuser, teacher just lie and put it back on the child, the democratic state Senate of New Jersey, where I'm from, this is two years ago, held hearings about it.
They, they, they, the governor of New Jersey, who's, who's Phil Murphy, the big, big friend of the teacher's union was forced to condemn it. So what, by getting the reactions from institutions by forcing other insiders to come forward, it's just after a while. That I just, we just keep going. We just keep doing it and I don't, I,
Eric Weinstein: you were partially effective and I can't get the
James O’Keefe: I'm not trying to focus on my self righteousness or my heroism. What I'm trying to do is, is tell, tell you that in order to do this job, the reporter has to have a sense of. Singular, narrow tunnel vision. Nothing can get in our way. If I let anything stop me from that vision, which is a very, by the way I, it's going to happen.
We're going to recruit more insiders. They're going to record more things inside these institutions, and. And that there's going to be double the output every year. And after a while, we did one of these stories in Delaware where a teacher, a teacher's union official, was caught on tape and the union said, dude, you can't trust project Veritas.
They're right wing extreme criminals. And the membership, most of whom were probably Democrats, but not as political as is as us. We're like, but he was on tape protecting a child abuser. Why are we trying to cover that up? There was a slip in the disc and I've got the documents. I could show you the source material where the members were taught chattering on the internal message boards, and Eric, the president of the Delaware union said, do not click on this YouTube.
Do not give O'Keefe. One more, one more view and all of the numbers, but. But what's, well, I hate, Oh, keep. But what's wrong with what he did here? So my point is, content
Eric Weinstein: is King James. You're not getting
James O’Keefe: it. I am.
Eric Weinstein: Well, I feel like what you're doing is you're telling me that you are effective. And I'm not disputing that.
Why? Why bother telling me. Because you're having an
James O’Keefe: impact. Because if you want to evaluate the ethics in the abstract, it's impossible for me to justify. I cannot, it's impossible. I'm not
Eric Weinstein: telling you to be an angel. I'm really not.
James O’Keefe: It's I cannot. I will not. It is ethically impossible for me to justify.
Using a disguise in the, in the ways we do, because it's like
Eric Weinstein: trying to, I haven't even said anything about whether you're entitled to do some of that stuff. I, I'm maybe, maybe, maybe I need to make myself clear.
James O’Keefe: Maybe. Maybe so, but I believe what I . It's going to be very difficult for me to make an argument, a logical argument defending methods that taken in the abstract are indefensible on their own.
It's like trying to, one, Ephesus says, I tried to invent fireproof wa fireproof coal or dry water. I can't,
Eric Weinstein: I'm not asking you to be a perfect angel. I'm telling you something different, which just doesn't land. Okay? I don't think you're on the efficient frontier. I think that there are things you could do that could minimize the individual harm and maximize the anti institutional effectiveness of your operation,
James O’Keefe: moorings and individual harm.
Eric Weinstein: Right. In other words, the problem that you have is, is that most of the people that you're broadcast into are like me, poor schmucks who don't have their stuff completely sorted out. They partially sympathize and partially cannot stand the people you're catching on video. . And by doing more to up the ethics of your game, you would have more effectiveness.
And I'm not saying you have no effectiveness. I'm not saying you've done no good. I'm not saying you don't have windows of steel. I'm not saying that I haven't thrilled to things that you've released. I'm not backing one second away. From my decision to invite you here, and I think I made absolutely the right decision.
I have things I could try to got you you with. I think you'd be fine with it because I think you're a pugilist and you accept the game in a way that I do not. And the key issue is I'm standing by what I'm doing. We want your heroic behavior and we want you to get some of the flies in your ointment out.
Maybe not all of
James O’Keefe: them. Okay. All right. I think, I think I understand. And going
Eric Weinstein: back to see you struggling with the fact that somebody is not going to have a job. When you're done with them or somebody who's going to be humiliate or somebody maybe will take their own life at some point. So when you could've picked with, sorry, when you could have pixelated their face and gone after the employer,
James O’Keefe: like with slate, the face, if I use these
Eric Weinstein: strategies, you can figure out what.
Look, as I said, I'm not making a case that I would not make against Dateline NBC. You don't
James O’Keefe: know what you don't know. The unknowns, which is that we do in fact redact, omit, and otherwise not publish
Eric Weinstein: Zach's vortices face. When you had him on your program.
James O’Keefe: Yes, yes. Until yes, and he made the decision
Eric Weinstein: to go PI.
I understand that, but my point was that there was a period of time where you were protecting your source. Yes. And not protecting the target. Uh,
James O’Keefe: Jen denied Google,
Eric Weinstein: for example. And what I'm trying to say is, I want to see you wrestle with the ethics more than justify the ethics, because to be honest, I had a phone call with you and you were wrestling with the ethics and it was inspiring.
James O’Keefe: I think you, I think I wrestle with them more than you see.
Eric Weinstein: That's what I'm saying.
James O’Keefe: And at night. Getting a little naked at the, at the booth here. I, I, I torture myself
Eric Weinstein: and what I'm trying to fucking say,
James O’Keefe: and most people don't see that in the single single minded driven. You know,
Eric Weinstein: you don't wrestle with the idea whether you're going to protect your sources, but you wrestle with the ethic.
This is the
James O’Keefe: thing that I do. You have to take my word for it. But at night when I don't believe that you, and I'm in my bed, I'm you willing to die. The intern, I have an internal dialogue with myself. For example, in the upcoming story, which I'm not going to say on the air, but the upcoming story, we have this person that was, we had to protect for reasons I can't even say.
And our team had two days of conversations about, do we blur the person's face? Do we elect their name? We did all that. Um, and it, and it comes down to a cliche, uh, which the, Pam's Ekman said in the 1970s, which you have to balance the harm to the person would do with the weightiness of what is being exposed.
Eric Weinstein: you only have to do that on the efficient frontier. Do you understand the point? If you're in an interior point, you are not at the point where you have to balance those two things yet. Your first goal is to get to the efficient frontier, and that's an issue of skill. Okay.
James O’Keefe: Help me understand more.
Help me understand Bridget, this concept for me, efficient frontier. Imagine balancing harm versus public important,
Eric Weinstein: right? Imagine for example. That you hadn't pixilated somebody's face, but you could pixelate it and you could have the same effect. Now, just for the moment, I see the point is you don't yet have to balance the harm to the individual.
In fact, you can even get a boost in both. It could be that people say, Oh my God, he's trying not to destroy the person. He's really concerned about the platforms that have a bias that can't be discussed in public, which I'm really disturbed about. And I also, you know, I hate, I really hate the Donald Trump is president.
I really do. But this is a democracy and we have the wait, wait, wait.
James O’Keefe: Okay.
Eric Weinstein: My show. Go ahead. We have a right to elect Donald Trump if that's what we're, what we're going to do. We don't have a group of people that gets the right to stop Donald Trump. You either signed up for democracy project or you're not.
I'm signed up for the democracy project, so if the electorate, ALEKS, Donald Trump, I have to accept that Donald Trump is the president. I don't have to like it. Right? But that's part of what being an American is. And God damn it. If my guy at some point wins, you're going to have to suffer through him too.
It's a tough shit, right? That's, that's the bargain that we sign up for as Americans. Okay. You don't have an unelected group of techies who get to keep their finger on the scale and say, well, for the good of the world, we have the right to control the election because all the information passes through our servers.
Okay. I get that. What if you're at a situation where you can protect the individual and by protecting the individual display a kind of humanity that causes more people rather than fewer to sign on because the content. Rather than the destruction of the person is what really animates us. Are you telling me that I'm being de boosted in, down ranked, and they claimed that they don't shadow banned because they've got different words for it?
Are you telling me that Google has an internal thing called the good sensor and they won't talk to us about it? Is there an esoteric exit Terek game? Are you telling me that a bunch of. People whose politics I don't know, is determining exactly what the contents of my mind are and that we can't even discuss this.
I'm animated by your content and what's you're instead showing me is the pornography of personal destruction. Interesting.
James O’Keefe: Interesting. The pornography.
Eric Weinstein: I've heard say it with me, the pornography of
James O’Keefe: personal phonography of I think
Eric Weinstein: professionally,
James O’Keefe: I think I've, I've, I've heard this some, I've heard this argument before, somewhere, someplace by someone.
So I've actually thought about this and I think we're, we're where we disagree on the premises that I'm quote destroying unquote someone by letting them talk and what I'm, what I'm, what I'm trying to reconcile here is that I. We believe so strongly that that journalism is corrupt because you don't see the intonation, the movement of their eyes.
Eric Weinstein: They've already seeded
James O’Keefe: this. You already see this to me, but to me, this is directly connected to the premise that we're destroying people. I don't think we're destroying David. Right. And I had, maybe we're, maybe we're freeing.
Eric Weinstein: I had the walls a little bit. It'll come after me. Okay. Okay. They like personal destruction.
Don't get them wrong. They're into
James O’Keefe: it. I think you and I agree on those, on that.
Eric Weinstein: So then
James O’Keefe: I don't mean to grapple with that, but what I'm struggling with is I don't view it as a destruction and I'm, and I'm ready and willing to live in a world. In this sense, I'm not a hypocrite where if someone wants to record me to bar bragging, bragging openly,
Eric Weinstein: because this is your, you're also getting paid from this.
I mean, I don't mean to say that that's
James O’Keefe: why you will actually, I'd like to make a profound comment about this. I started in my, and I'm passionate. I'm not angry. I'm just passionate because I
Eric Weinstein: literally appreciate that
James O’Keefe: I'm not this, I'm just passionate. I started this on my parents' bedroom floor with a laptop.
People thought it was fricking nuts. And, and, and, and, and
Eric Weinstein: the, I don't want you making this argument cause I can make it better for you. Well, the fact that I said that you were getting paid for it doesn't mean that this is your road to riches. You could get more money doing something else. Let me make the point very clearly.
Okay. Am I right that you're basically willing to die for what you do
James O’Keefe: that might come across as, you know, I don't.
Eric Weinstein: Are you willing to risk death for what you do? It's a very calm, are you willing to risk personal destruction for what you do? You're willing to risk jail for what you do.
James O’Keefe: You probably,
Eric Weinstein: yeah. I think you're willing to risk ruin.
Yeah. Okay. Yeah. My all my favorite guy, Albert Einstein said that the public intellectual has to be willing to risk ruined financial ruin, but he generally jail talking during the McCarthy year. Okay. Okay. I think it's very admirable. I don't see enough of this in my world and I struggle with this. How much am I willing to risk to run the show?
How much am I willing to risk to do an episode on Jeffrey Epstein when I don't know what the hell is on the other end of that story, right? There's no amount of money that you can pay me to do. It's not why I do it. All right. I sat on that. I sat on that episode for a long time, but I just found it was leaking out at me.
I couldn't stop talking about it because I'm worried that I'm part of a country that looks the other way. When somebody who has intelligence, uh, maybe a freelancer who knows, uh, you know, is a, is, is trafficking 12 year old girls and my co my country and my reporters won't stand up and ask the goddamn questions.
Right? And so I, I don't even know if I made a sane choice. I just know that I couldn't sit on it any longer.
That said, this is your game. It's not my game. and therefore I don't have the same need to be able to say, well, I'm willing to go into a bar. Okay, you've accepted the game, so you've accepted. That's the price of what you do, but what you're known understand is the rest of us are not like that. And because we haven't made that bargain, we both think you're protecting us and hunting us.
At the same time, if you were trying to hunt power, you could have less collateral damage to the individual, and I won't say it again because I think I've said it enough, right. My feeling is you displayed enough depth of character on the phone. When we were talking. As you struggle with these issues and you evidence a higher level of inner conflict, of dialectic, of concern, your stories would benefit so much more from showing that person rather than the person who knows exactly what the laws of a one sided recording are in Montana versus Iowa.
James O’Keefe: I hear it, and I wrestle with that every time we release a story. I probably should have started by talking about the process by which we wrestle with it, both from a company like my, my colleagues and me personally at, in my bed every night. Uh, these are, these are inherently situational tests, but going back to our rules for radicals book, which, you know, um.
We can talk about or not, but, Oh, with Beck, Saul Alinsky, I know people think it's controversial. I keep citing Alinsky, but the, he says the ne Deere of immorality is to do nothing. And he, this is what he says, than Indian idea of morality is to do nothing. And I could never justify. Inaction and I tried Eric deliver normal life.
My personal story is, is pretty crazy. I, I tried going to law school, I tried going to business school and I'd sneak out to get into the video lab. Like, you're right, I have a unique role in society in which maybe makes me. More willing to subject myself to the, the tactics that I, I do. But that's somebody has to do it.
Uh, the insiders, it's 1e-05% of people are probably willing to strap a camera to themselves, violate a nondisclosure agreement for the public's, right to know in the country, 400 million. That's a lot of people. There are roles that we have and we, I don't know if maybe we just want to move on to the next point
Eric Weinstein: and told
James O’Keefe: uh, remind me.
Eric Weinstein: He was a Polish, I guess, a nobility. And he, uh, had the idea during world war II that he should visit Auschwitz. So he dressed up as if you were Jewish, so that they would take him into Auschwitz. And he did reconnaissance and he organized resistance, and then he got himself stuck out so he could tell the world.
Now it was deceptive. Uh, was it justified? 12,000 million percent. it's not about deception, right? It's not about not wanting to bring these institutions when they are doing wrong to their knees. And it is not about the issue that I do not see. I completely agree with you that journalists have taken this privilege for themselves as an indulgence of working for the times.
That they have the right to behave in this fashion and those outside of the club do not . The issue has to do with whether or not you are actually being effective in not wrestling in a more productive way in front of your critics. Given that you are going to continue just if I take . Things where people are simply going to feed you information because they can't trust anyone else.
And my claim is, is that that is what places this moral burden on you.
James O’Keefe: D are you familiar with Stanley McChrystal and uh, uh, Michael Hastings in 2010, you know, he burned McChrystal and with the rolling stone magazine, it's customary for reporters to go to, you know. Speaking of going to bars and the military brass or saying things could have off the cuff.
Yup. And E, are you familiar with this story? Yes. McCrystal resigned or was fired by Obama or whatever the case may be. Do you believe in that circumstance that Michael Hastings, um. Is this a, is this consistent with what we do or different? Because it did involve the case of video. No offense,
Eric Weinstein: it's not just about video.
It's about the fact that you are one of the only people standing outside of this structure who's got the organization and the stones to go up against this. And honestly, in some sense, I'm doing a different version of this. I'm not as powerful. I'm not as prominent yet. But the portal is in part in another place for things to come to the surface that need to come to the surface where there is no other break and I guarantee you they're going to try to fit me with the same shit suit that they fit you with.
Oh, you can't trust that that appeared on the portal. Did you see this one tweet from Eric.
James O’Keefe: Uh,
Eric Weinstein: in 2011, blah, blah, blah. This taken out of context that wrestle conjugated, et cetera, et cetera. My point is you're not filing a flight plan, and I don't want to meet you in the skies doing your barnstorming tricks.
Too many costumes, too little pixelation, too much hidden cameras, shit. Too many people being felt. Being made to feel that they are vulnerable. When you're targeting an institution like a tech platform, right? And your collateral damage is an individual who went may be misguided, may be sanctimonious, may be hypocritical.
This is the William tell problem from the original tweet that I tried to mention, you keep aiming too low. Now you can come back at me and say, Eric, what the hell have you done? And I could say, you know what? I'm so worried about hitting the kid. Did I knock? I'm not coming close to the Apple. So I'm willing to be the other failed part of this enterprise, but my point is maybe you want to take your aim a little bit up and maybe I need to be a little bit more pointed and bringing my arrow a little bit closer to the fruit.
James O’Keefe: I appreciate your point. I think I understand it now. Thank you for,
Eric Weinstein: well, thank you for putting up with me. This is a hard, hard conversation.
James O’Keefe: This is a unique conversation because I'm so used to dealing with disingenuous and bad faith. Criticisms, but I don't think at
Eric Weinstein: all, I promise, do what
James O’Keefe: you're doing. I just, I'm just, you're just going deeper into an issue that most people.
At least on the surface don't have an issue with, and I will say that on an on about, I'm being very vulnerable here, but I'm, I consider myself a pretty transparent person. I can say that in my staff speaking on behalf of our reporters for a minute who operate anonymously really wrestle with this. And.
In some cases, we even have full curriculum workshop. I can't get into all the things that we do when we train our people, but we actually have an entire half a day where we let you know, man is, do you, do you empathize with the person that you're, you're, and it's almost like we accept it. We take our medicine.
I'm talking on behalf of the reporters and we go, well, you got to balance the public's right to know and its circumstances will determine what they're saying. And, and we do. We do struggle with it. And the way that I'm wired in my brain is I have internal dialogues with myself.
Eric Weinstein: Yes. That's what I'm trying to
James O’Keefe: get at.
People don't know that.
Eric Weinstein: I know about me.
James O’Keefe: No kidding. In fact, I would say even my staff doesn't even know.
Eric Weinstein: That's what I gambled on. Given what it is that you do, because you do things that I know
James O’Keefe: you don't have to believe me, but I hope
Eric Weinstein: that you'll take your word for it. It leaks out in what you do, James,
James O’Keefe: but I mean it might, but I mean to say this is a very important point.
I, James O'Keefe had internal dialogues in my brain, like an angel on one holder devil, and I do this. I'm wired to do this. I think I have this internal. Governor that like, uh, like on an old car that, that, that, uh, that, uh, stops the, uh, uh, how fast you're going. I have that governor and I surround myself with people.
Joe Holdermans, our, our, one of our producers, he's never voted for a Republican his life. He's never voted for a Republican ever. He's a, he's an old news man and I tried to create a management team that we really do grapple with these things, but what it comes down to is. The people believe so much and I'm, and I mean, I'm coming here from a very, I'm trying to be as genuine as I possibly can.
They believe so much in. The value of the information and the public's right to know it, that they kind of have to take that medicine and deal with the harm done to the individual in that specific circumstance. And it's something that we, we do despite the harm, not because of it. Um, we don't, we don't want harm.
Eric Weinstein: Uh, we farther you get away. From things that look like entrapment, selective editing, invasion of privacy, needless destruction of personal reputation, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. All the stuff you can imagine, the greater you make the intake of your messages because more of us understand that we are not in your cross hairs.
You see, in part, I don't really, I don't want to be your worst nightmare. I want to be your best nightmare. I want to be the person who has the conversation with you that gives you the criticism that you never get because most of the criticism is at this very simplistic level. All right, I have to grant 12 things before we even get to the conversation that we're supposed to be having.
Okay, well, we got a chance to do that and I promised you that that's what you were going to get. Am I right that there was no misrepresentation as to what this interaction
James O’Keefe: was going to be? Very fair
Eric Weinstein: and I think you've been very fair and very forthcoming and I really appreciate that. What I want to say is I would look forward to being able to have this conversation with you again when.
And you have my number, feel free to call me up. The key thing that I'm trying to focus on is to the extent that what you do is a good thing that must be done, and to the extent that there is almost no one else willing to do this, consider that you are not on the efficient frontier and that upping the ethics may up the effectiveness.
I understand what you said about you cannot afford. It denominator of negativity that is zero hours, you know, badness or whatever you want to call . Right. My claim is, is that partially what is harming the efficacy of your, of your project is that people feel that they are in your cross hairs. It's a very technical argument and that you're getting too much pleasure out of the voyeuristic spectacle, and I don't think that's actually what's motivating you.
I really. I'm going to gamble and say maybe that makes it memetic and people want to want to watch somebody be destroyed, but the information is so much more important that ABC might be holding back information on Jeff Epstein that. The major tech platforms have their finger on the scale and maybe trying to tilt elections.
I don't even remember the names of these people. I don't care. And you know, to be honest, it's like in a corrupt world, if I go to Nigeria, I guarantee you I can find everybody taking and giving bribes. Right? Right. And so in this moment of universal corruption. You really want to point to individuals being sanctimonious or sub ethical or, you know, disguising speech.
We all do it. So w my, my claim is, is you have an unique opportunity, which is stop talking about the trade off. And start working on getting to the point where the tradeoff kicks in.
James O’Keefe: Point taken point. Al, I'll consider that
Eric Weinstein: James would be a pleasure to have you come back and further the conversation. We look forward to what you guys do next.
Let me know if I can be a constructive force in your future and I'm really glad, whatever the cost that uh, we chose to sit down. I think this was a conversation that I was dying to have with you and you have behaved terrifically in that chair. And thank you sir,
James O’Keefe: and thank you. And we welcome. I, and let me just say, we welcome skepticism of, of even ourselves.
We want, we, I try to be as transparent as possible, uh, even into our methods more so than others. So I welcome this. I appreciate this.
Eric Weinstein: Appreciate you all. We'd say
James O’Keefe: you've given me something to think about and something to research further. I, I've never had anyone drill so far into this argument and I'm happy that you did so.
And I will think about it and I hope to see you again.
I look forward to that. So you've been through the portal with James O'Keeffe of project Veritas. Please find us on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, wherever you listen to podcasts and subscribe. Also navigate on over to YouTube. And not only subscribe, but.
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