O'Keefe Story Compared to Watergate, Civil Rights, Disco

Over-the-top analogies abound as pundits strain to tie the ACORN-exposing pimp's saga to something bigger

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The tale of James O'Keefe, ACORN-exposing-pimp turned Senator's-office-trespasser, is certainly newsworthy. (The Wire covered it here, here, and here.) It is not, however, a seminal moment in American history--though it did lead to a seminal on-air shouting match.

That fact has been lost on some opinion-makers, who have tried to compare the O'Keefe saga to a host of historical, cultural, and journalistic watersheds.

  • Watergate Jr. When news of O'Keefe arrest first broke, MSNBC made little attempt to contain its glee, smugly labeling the event "Watergate Jr." Leading the way was fiery host Keith Olbermann, who invoked the specter of Watergate in the first sentence of his coverage of the story.

  • Great Investigative Journalism of Yore Conservative bloggers are no less hyperbolic in defending O'Keefe's actions. "The tactics and flair for showmanship demonstrated by O'Keefe and like-minded conservative students share much in common with the mainstream media itself," American Thinker's David Paulin argues. He proceeds to compare O'Keefe's actions to a legendary investigative journalism story by the Chicago Sun-Times in 1978, which uncovered and exposed widespread corruption among Chicago officials. As for O'Keefe, Paulin argues he was simply "trying to push the envelope."
  • Civil Rights Movement Taking a break from shilling for Comcast, actor/writer Ben Stein closes an extended rant on O'Keefe's plight by invoking a line from the Civil Rights Movement.
The behavior of the feds here is not just worrisome. It is something beyond that. But, Mr. Holder, here is a line from the civil rights struggle I worked in before you were born: We are not afraid. And we're not going away.
  • The Oldest Conservative Conspiracy in the Book While Newser's Michael Wolff makes no specific historical analogies, he claims O'Keefe's actions were the latest example of the "impressive conservative network" of "right-wing media"--or, to put it more succinctly, "a club for the ideologically pure who are media savvy." After implicitly tying right-wing talking head Glenn Beck to O'Keefe, Wolff embarks an explanation of this "conservative club" that borders on the bizarre.
What's important to understand is that everybody in this club has initiated somebody else. When you promote a fellow conservative, he or she becomes part of your crew. It's a competitive rush to align new talent and have the new blood beholden to you. Rush sponsors Hannity. Hannity sponsors Malkin. ... They are obsessively connected to each other.
  • "Disco Is Dead, Baby" No pundit has been closer to the story than conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, who has O'Keefe on his payroll and ferociously came to his defense while vociferously denying any involvement in the break-in. Speaking about media coverage of the story, Breitbart put it as only he can.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.