James O’Keefe’s Misogyny

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James O’Keefe’s Misogyny

Amanda Marcotte

James O’Keefe has made a career as a propagandist and a smear artist from day one.  To really understand James O’Keefe, you have to understand his misogyny.

James O’Keefe, the conservative “activist” who managed to bring down ACORN  through a series of misleadingly edited tapes that supposedly show ACORN employees collaborating with sex traffickers (in reality, the employees either a) blew the whole thing off as a joke or b) called the police), has recently made the news again with yet another creepy plot to create a misleading tape in an attempt to discredit someone.  This elaborate plot to trap CNN journalist Abbie Boudreau on a “sex boat” sent alarms throughout the media, because the details of the plot seemed close to indistinguishable from a more workaday plan to commit a sexual assault—put the victim in a highly sexual situation, scare the crap out of her, and get off on her suffering.  (Indeed, recently released details show that the “script” for the prank indicated that the tape was to end with Boudreau crying and begging to be set free from the boat-turned-dungeon.)  Even though there’s some confusion about exactly what O’Keefe planned to do to scare Boudreau so badly, the prop list included the erectile dysfunction pill Viagra, and O’Keefe actually says in the script, “So, I’m going to seduce her, on camera, to use her for a video.”

Personally, I don’t know what kind of “seduction” leads to someone in tears begging to be set free. 

The reveal of this hare-brained plot sent the mainstream media reeling, both because of the blatant misogyny (O’Keefe justified the planned act of “seduction”-assault by calling Boudreau, a highly accomplished journalist, a “bubble-headed-bleach-blonde”), the whiff of criminality, and the too-naïve-to-be-true ideas about adult sexuality that O’Keefe appears to have.  Bringing fuzzy handcuffs and girlie mags to a supposed “seduction” is the sort of thing that a 12-year-old might think is how sex works. Alexandra Petri in the Washington Post joked, “This looks like he and the correspondent have been married for ten years and their therapist told them that they needed to rekindle their love life.”

She also said, “Did I mention that it was on a boat? Who comes up with these things?”  Indeed, the two interpretations are that a) 26-year-old O’Keefe has conceptions about adult sexuality that do resemble those of a 12-year-old who learned about sex reading Cosmo magazines from the 70s or b) that this wasn’t really an attempt at a seduction so much as an attempt to make the kidnapping plot particularly scary for the intended victim.  Or perhaps the truth is a combination of these factors. 

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But the mainstream media shouldn’t be so surprised to find out that James O’Keefe swims in this kind of perverted misogyny.  It’s been part of his career as a propagandist and a smear artist from day one.  To really understand James O’Keefe, you have to understand his misogyny. 

One of O’Keefe’s earliest endeavors was working with Lila Rose to create the kind of misleading smear videos that he’s become known for in order to attack Planned Parenthood and other clinics that provide reproductive health care to women. Showing an early interest in injecting references to sexual violence in everything he does, O’Keefe helped on videos where Rose would pose as a 13-year-old being sexually exploited by a man in his 30s, and who wants an abortion. They attempted to smear Planned Parenthood as an organization that doesn’t report sexual abuse of minors, but at the end of the day, the main purpose of the videos was to reinforce the radical belief that the best thing to do when a 13-year-old is being sexually abused by an adult man is to force her to bear a child by him. 

O’Keefe justified his unethical tactics against clinics by saying, “[W]e believe there is a genocide and nobody cares, and you can use these tactics and it’s justified.”  Of course, he couldn’t use the “genocide” excuse when he did the same thing to ACORN—filming people without their knowledge or consent, editing the video to make it seem like they said things they didn’t say, and exploiting people’s unwillingness to make a scene when confronted with a weirdo to imply complicity where none existed. 

Oh yeah, and returning to a favorite theme of his: women, especially underage women, being kidnapped and/or sexually assaulted.  In the Planned Parenthood smear campaign, the story was one of a single 13-year-old being sexually exploited by a grown man.  In the ACORN videos, the story being fed employees was usually that O’Keefe and his companion Hannah Giles were trying to rescue women from sex traffickers.  Sometimes Giles presented herself as trapped by an abusive pimp, and some times they also claimed that the pimp was trafficking minors in from El Salvador.  Later, they edited the videos to make it seem like they were the ones trafficking women, to imply that the help being offered was to make the trafficking easier.  In reality, the employees either tried to help Giles or called the police. 

It’s worth noting that in the actual videos, O’Keefe dressed in business casual wear, but he had his companion dressed in a miniskirt and a halter top.  But this fever dream obsession with criminal and exploitative sexual perversion is apparently justified in their circles, because they’re “family values” conservatives.

And now this: instead of spinning tales of women, some underage, being kidnapped and/or sexually abused, O’Keefe decided to move to the next level and actually trap a woman in a sexual situation and videotape it.  In retrospect, it’s easy to see that this was the sort of thing he was warming up to.  The fact that O’Keefe got a slap on the wrist for breaking into Senator Mary Landrieu’s offices probably emboldened him to think that he could flirt with more serious criminal transgressions—after all, if he really had a chance to hold Boudreau against her will, that could result in a kidnapping charge—and get away with it.  He should be thanking his female colleague who had reservations about the whole thing and tipped Boudreau off.

I just have to say this, in light of O’Keefe’s history: is it any surprise that the Senator whose offices he snuck in to just so happens to be a female Senator?  Let’s hope that this little failed scheme finally brings an end to O’Keefe’s ever-escalating aggressive behavior disguised as “pranks”. 

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James O'Keefe