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Tilting at Windmills

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February 2, 2011

THE PLANNED PARENTHOOD 'STING'.... I'm glad conservatives are interested in investigative journalism. I just wish they were better at it.

Between Jan. 11 and Jan. 15, five separate Planned Parenthood clinics received mysterious visits from men who claimed to be involved in underage sex-trafficking. This meant, obviously, that someone was trying to pull a James O'Keefe-style "sting," in which deceptively edited Internet videos would prove that some organization dedicated to providing services to the poor or otherwise non-privileged was in fact engaged in high crimes and conspiracy against freedom.

It didn't really work, because Planned Parenthood quickly caught on and alerted the FBI. (BigJournalism.com exclusive: Planned Parenthood alerts the authorities when confronted by self-proclaimed human traffickers!) Planned Parenthood suspected that the hoaxer had ties to Live Action, an antiabortion activist group run by Lila Rose, a sometime O'Keefe partner-in-undercover-stinging. And Live Action confirmed its involvement by posting the sad results of its exhaustive video investigation today. It caught one staffer possibly advising a make-believe pimp to send a make-believe underage prostitute somewhere where her abortion would not be reported. (It is obviously impossible to tell what actually happened without the unedited video.) (And also this Planned Parenthood alerted the authorities about the weird visit.)

In a case like this, we have conservative activists -- who appear to enjoy playing dress-up a little too much -- who make wild assumptions, and then go about hatching schemes intended to make their ideas credible. The result is a "sting" that appears to be a flop.

But the larger point is that the right just doesn't seem to be good at this sort of thing.

Looking back over the last several decades, most of the time, quality investigative journalism has come from mainstream news organizations and left-leaning outlets like The Nation and Mother Jones. The right, historically, has avoided this kind of work, preferring to create outlets like Fox News, National Review, and the Weekly Standard.

Whether you find those conservative outlets valuable or not, it's fair to say investigative journalism isn't part of their m.o. The Republican-friendly outlets just don't do in-depth, shoe-leather journalism to break major news stories.

Over the last couple of years, conservatives have begun taking steps to change this, bolstered by far-right financial backing. What's wrong with this? In theory, nothing. Investigative journalism can play a valuable role in holding officials accountable and ensuring transparency. If folks on the right want to do some digging and turn up public malfeasance, more power to them.

The problem isn't that conservatives are doing investigative journalism. The problem is that conservatives haven't figured out how to do investigative journalism especially well.

Laura McGann had a great piece on this in the Monthly last year, noting that "conservative investigative journalism tends to produce reports that are wrong," a problem compounded by the fact that while their efforts are ostensibly about improving transparency, the far-right activism is nearly always shrouded in secrecy.

This is bound to continue, but there's no reason for the mainstream to take it seriously.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (34)

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Comments

Im surprised they didnt try the telephone repairmen scheme.

Idiots.

Posted by: Kill Bill on February 2, 2011 at 8:03 AM | PERMALINK

IF you're serious about investigative journalism, you need to have something real to investigate.

That charade at ACORN was workers weren't savvy to how outrateously over the top conservatives were willing to go to trash and ruin them.

Now, hhopefully they know and can guard against it, like in this case.

Hey righties, you want to investigate something? Investigate just now NON-grassroots the Tea Party movement was.
You might learn something.
But, then, that's never a goal, is it?

Posted by: c u n d gulag on February 2, 2011 at 8:07 AM | PERMALINK

IF you're serious about investigative journalism, you need to have something real to investigate.

That charade at ACORN was workers weren't savvy to how outrateously over the top conservatives were willing to go to trash and ruin them.

Now, hhopefully they know and can guard against it, like in this case.

Hey righties, you want to investigate something? Investigate just now NON-grassroots the Tea Party movement was.
You might learn something.
But, then, that's never a goal, is it?

Posted by: c u n d gulag on February 2, 2011 at 8:08 AM | PERMALINK

But, then, that's never a goal, is it?
They only want certain results, even if they have to make them up that will discredit the Ilamofacistcomuunistkenyandictator in the white house

Posted by: John R on February 2, 2011 at 8:14 AM | PERMALINK

Real investigative journalism might start on a premise, but it must be willing to falsify it, to admit at some point that the premise was wrong.

How should that work on the right? They are, well, right per definitionem.

Posted by: Vokoban on February 2, 2011 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

Try investigating Bushit's torture regime. My guess is that you won't be disappointed at many levels...

Posted by: stevio on February 2, 2011 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

What do you mean? They seem to be fantastic at it. They managed to bring down ACORN, and as a result set back efforts to allow the poor to vote and probably helped Republicans to a significant degree. Their sting of Planned Parenthood won't be as successful, but they'll still use it to stir up their base; I'm just surprised they didn't do it close to an election.

Posted by: Rick Taylor on February 2, 2011 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

They aren't doing "investigations", these are FRAMES, attempts to *create* false crimes at organizations that conservatives HATE. Like ACORN, which sadly, their attempt WORKED. But, thankfully, Planned Parenthood learned the lesson, and headed them off at the pass.

But, seriously, these people need to get arrested for conspiracy. Or else, get sued for libel and slander - with *massive* financial penalties.

Posted by: knightphoenix2 on February 2, 2011 at 8:18 AM | PERMALINK

PERMANENT BIOLOGICAL DAMAGE IN THE GULF

http://worldvisionportal.org/wvpforum/viewtopic.php?f=55&t=1354

obama and every other national leader LIED to you.

I know some will question this source, however, this article does refer to other legitimate sources, documenting where certain facts come from.

And some want to blog 24/7 about repugs? BS - we need to hold everyone accountable!

Posted by: minot on February 2, 2011 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans are far better at propaganda than liberals. Lies, distortions, and repeating lies. GIven their success at the ballot box, maybe there is something to be learned from them.

Posted by: Ned Roberts on February 2, 2011 at 8:24 AM | PERMALINK

It's like right-wing science:

Determine desired results.

Get money from the Koch brothers.

Cherry pick or create data.

Release "study" on Fox News.

Posted by: arkie on February 2, 2011 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

Steve writes:"But the larger point is that the right just doesn't seem to be good at this sort of thing."

Sorry, but this isn't the larger point! These people are using Black Ops methodology in an attempt to smear and/or destroy legitimate organizations. Same way the CIA brings down governments all across the globe.

For the old folks here, remember Dick Tuck?

Posted by: DAY on February 2, 2011 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK

Why do they need to be good at it? They closed down ACORN, didn't they?

And as long as they have the right wing media they are vindicated. See today's Washington Times, which I'm sure will be the script for the RWM from here out:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/feb/1/video-shows-planned-parenthood-manager-aiding-pimp/
‘Pimp’ video stings Planned Parenthood
N.J. clinic offered to service underage ‘hookers’
By Josh Brown-The Washington Times2:35 p.m., Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Planned Parenthood manager in New Jersey has been caught on video helping a person posing as a pimp trying to hide his underage sex ring, according to a video posted Tuesday by the pro-life group Live Action.

Posted by: martin on February 2, 2011 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

DAY @ 8:35 AM FTW!

Said it a lot better than I did!

Posted by: knightphoenix2 on February 2, 2011 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen completely misses the mark in this piece.

The question is not whether investigative journalism is done well. The question is whether conservative investigative journalism is done effectively.

If the goal of conservative investigative journalism was to produce journalism based upon the truth, you could argue that it has not been effective. However, the objective of our conservative investigative journalism has been to produce reactions and results. It that, we have been extremely effective.

Prime example number one is how our investigative journalism completely destroyed ACORN!

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on February 2, 2011 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

Would you like to know how much of a non-story this is? Neither Drudge or memeorandum have a mention of the story since I first saw it on the latter's site yesterday afternoon. So, there is some hope for our society after all.

From my perspective, the problem regarding conservative investigative reporting is that none of the stories pursued to date are actually designed to improve anything. The intent of these stories is to destroy. Worse, it's to destroy organizations that help the neediest of us under the some bizarre theory taught in Rand 101 (and 201, 301, 401, and as a requried thesis for doctoral work) that any group that helps poor people is a front for child prostitution*. It's similar to why conservatives are not particualrly funny people (notable examples like Rourke excepted, of course). Having such a cold-hearted worldview certainly makes rat-fucking and the like excellent pursuits for conservative activists. Exposing wrongs, or making people laugh, requires some degree of empathy, which has rarely been a demonstrated quality among the conservative set. Add to that the jackal-like nature of these young up-and-comers and you get these half-assed, ham-fisted attempts to make a point.

* What is this obsession with pimps and underaged hookers? Cold-heatered and unimaginative. Great combination.

Posted by: Perspecticus on February 2, 2011 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

Shouldn't the FBI be doing a thorough investigation of the individuals who are now suspected of child trafficing?

What evidence do we have that these people are not in fact child traffickers?

Go ahead righties, but you're playing with fire.

Posted by: Gorobei on February 2, 2011 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

I think we should take Live Action at their word that they are running an international child prostitution ring. Who's investigating their finances? Why hasn't the FBI arrested them yet?

In the long run I think Steve is right that this shoddy "investigative" reporting is going to hurt the right more than help them. ACORN was just unfortunate enough to have been targeted early. After Sherrod, the fake telephone repair guys and the attempted "seduction" they have pretty much blown any credibility they have as a news-gathering organization. You can only cry wolf so many times.

Also, a pimp and a prostitute AGAIN. Perhaps they need a newer idea.

Posted by: Unstable Isotope on February 2, 2011 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

Discrediting serious journalism is another goal of the right, so even when they fuck up a sting like this, it's still a win, sort of.

Posted by: Jose Hipants on February 2, 2011 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

Are you f*cking kidding me? Were you born yesterday? Have you heard about the "Arkansas Project"? They were great at drudging up every tiny little thing. What about the White House Travel Office non-scandal? The list can go on and on. If there was the slightest bit of dirt out there, they were going to find it.

Posted by: DR on February 2, 2011 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

A correction to DR's comment...

"If there was the slightest bit of dirt out there, they were going to find it or make it up."

So goes conservative journalism.

Posted by: SadOldVet on February 2, 2011 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

The problem is that they're doing it backwards, starting with the conclusion and trying to get the facts to fit it, while true investigative reporters do it the other way around.

Posted by: BruceK on February 2, 2011 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

It is a mistake to even categorize this as investigative journalism. It is merely Republican campaign dirty tricksterism applied to Progressive NGO's and related groups. Not surprising, I guess, since the Republican campaign never stops and all left-leaning "do-gooder" organizations are classified as the enemy.

Posted by: Bill Kerwin on February 2, 2011 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

Redstate is all over this. Well, all over half of it.

Once RedState admits the truth of what happened, I am sure they will try to get Planned Parenthood arrested for filing a false police report.

Posted by: Justin on February 2, 2011 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

Well of course conservative efforts at "investigative journalism" produces reports that are wrong, the purpose wasn't to get at the objective truth but to get a story that they can twist to their benefit and fits within their narrative.

Posted by: ET on February 2, 2011 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

Wow, PP just is doing it wrong, aren't they?

Because, post-ACORN, they should have trained their greeters intensively for dealing with ConserviTard disruption, with the goal of fast reaction.

So when pseudo-pimp opens his trap, he's on video. THEN they hit him with the tasers/pepper-spray to keep him under control until the LEO's arrive.

The video gets edited and posted on YouTube PDQ, so we can all enjoy O'Keefe (or O'Keefe wannabe) writhing and screaming before he's led off in cuffs.

I predict that exactly ONE incident going down like the above is enough to make the undercover video framers stop.

Posted by: Snarki, child of Loki on February 2, 2011 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

In response to minot at 8:20am
WTF does that have to do with Benen's post?
Secondly if your going to make assertions without any factual data to back it up that is just horse shit. What that guy says in his article may or may not be true but he really doesn't reference any data to back up what he's saying. Now you say Obama aand all are leaders are lying about this issue. Maybe ,maybe not but back up your assertions with facts when you make statements like that or your really nothing more than a republican.

Posted by: Gandalf on February 2, 2011 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

Also, a pimp and a prostitute AGAIN. Perhaps they need a newer idea.

Well, part of the reason for this is that O'Keefe is a misogynist. Everything he does is tainted with his hatred of women - whether it's to paint them as whores or the enabler of whores, or geared toward the humiliation of women like Mary Landrieu or the reporter he tried to dupe, through their own sexuality. He's a sick little shit.

Posted by: g on February 2, 2011 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

G, you're absolutely right, and the most amusing thing about that scrawny, weasel-faced little Walter Mitty is that he apparently fancies himself an irresistible Don Juan. I look forward to the day when he tries one of his "seduction-exposes" on a woman who breaks his nose and reports him for attempted date-rape.

Posted by: T-Rex on February 2, 2011 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

What, you don't think it takes a lot of shoe leather to go to all those ACORN and Planned Parenthood offices to film them? And what about all the editing work it takes to make the video suitable for distribution. I mean somebody's gotta rip out the context; the video won't just misrepresent itself without a lot of help.

Posted by: anandine on February 2, 2011 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

So....

I see that Planned Parenthood FIRED the manager involved.
(http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41382676/ns/us_news-life/)

So it was all made up, Bogus and Bull hockey huh?

Vast right wing conspiracy huh...

hahahahaha!

Posted by: John on February 2, 2011 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

Right-wing investigative journalism is an oxymoron. The right doesn't do investigative journalism. It does propaganda. Investigative journalism, when done properly, doesn't have predetermined outcomes. Any investigation the right does always starts with the answer, which is some aspect or extension of their rigid ideology. Facts are manufactured, by any means, to support the predetermined answer.

The right-wing media megaphone and echo chamber salivates at the prospect at another juicy expose of liberal wrongdoing, whether it's true or not. And no one seems to care any longer about what's true and what's not. Journalism and truth have a shaky history, but what the right-wing does is meant to feed red meat to its base, and to create cynicism far and wide.

Posted by: rrk1 on February 2, 2011 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Everything they do turns into political dirty tricks. Karl Rove, Lee Atwater, et. al. have hardwired it into the Republican Party. They CAN'T do anything else, or they're not being Republican.

Posted by: Daddy Love on February 2, 2011 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

minot @ 8:20 AM "We need to hold everybody accountable!"
Ok, it's all YOUR fault!
What happened, was the school bus late today?

Posted by: Doug on February 2, 2011 at 8:40 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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