James O’Keefe Crosses The U.S. Border As Osama Bin Laden, Internet Reacts With Mockery And Disdain
Context is everything. Or so they say.
If a video of some guy in a Bin Laden costume crossing the Rio Grande was uploaded to YouTube by say, Stephen Colbert, it would probably have millions of views in a matter of hours. But a clean-shaven, running-shoes-wearing, Conservative white guy does it, and – besides the expected coverage from Breitbart, Newsmax, WashTimes, etc – the internet belches him out from deep within its innards. Why?
- It tried too hard
- It wasn’t actually very funny
- It didn’t appeal to libertarians or liberals – the internet’s masses
- Even supporters of the “cause” found it too cheesy, baiting, or misleading
- For some – like Fox News – it was simply one too many sensationalized pranks
Add to it the fact that the guy behind the video – James O’Keefe, a conservative-leaning film documentarian – is regularly accused by liberal outlets of conveying situations out of context, and, well, the stage is set for a massive online backlash.
Polarizing An Already Polarized America
To be honest, I quite respect Mr. O’Keefe. To have accomplished as much as he has at such a young age is extremely remarkable. Not to mention that his stated goal – to expose corruption in the American government – is surely commendable, and something that most Americans COULD probably get behind, in theory.
But damn, son… running shoes!?
If Michael Moore had a rebellious step son, it would be James O’Keefe. And that’s as perfect an analogy as I can think of. Michael Moore had his 15 minutes of fame with Farenheit 911, riding the wave of anti-Bush rhetoric for every last cent. And then? Americans got f*cking sick of him. Even liberals. Actually, especially liberals, because a rich, fat, dirty old man from Michigan waddling around in running shoes while harassing people in public and manipulating their words into misleading movies – is NOT what American “progressives” wanted to be associated with.
Now if Mr. O’Keefe’s only goal is to find a right-wing fan base to fund his retirement, preaching to the choir until the day he dies, well then he’s sure setting himself up perfectly. But I for one was quietly hoping the guy would mature into a respectable reporter, using his clearly “capable” research skills in a way that was… not so obnoxious.
Some Suggestions For James O’Keefe
They say Karl Rove was a genius for polarizing Americans into Christian vs. non-Christian in order to get George W. Bush elected back in 2004. Perhaps true. Unfortunately, the long-term side effects were to paint the picture of radicalized Republicans for many years to come, in effect damaging the party’s ability to win over moderate Americans.
Mr. O’Keefe: your tactics are tiresome, and if you continue along the path of obnoxious sensationalism, your spotlight will wane – quickly.
In 2006, Republican congressional candidate Raj Bhakta, an Indian-American, pulled off his own border stunt by riding across the U.S. border atop an elephant with a mariachi band playing alongside him, which got him relatively positive attention from the likes of MSNBC, New York Times, and even Daily Kos (well, sort of).
Consider some of the following takeaways:
- Be funny. Smile, and do not take yourself so seriously. Regardless of your message, if its funny, you will be much better received. Evan Coyne Maloney pulled off conservative videos in the middle of New York City with this strategy. As Oscar Wilde said, “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.”
- Presentation is key. Don’t be so cheesy – this goes for your logo, your website, the clothes you wear, and the dramatic music you add to your videos. Take a page from VICE, and you may see your support among younger people grow.
- Don’t be obnoxious. Did you not learn anything from Michael Moore becoming an American pariah? Or Glenn Beck being suddenly fired from Fox News? And how do you think Pat Buchanan gets invited onto the Colbert Report? Because he backs all his opinions with facts, and shares them respectfully with good humor. Stop manipulating the truth by way of tricky video editing or bizarre “setups” – instead, be transparent, and allow Americans to make their own conclusions.
- Know your audience. Apparently your entire marketing strategy revolves around YouTube (i.e. teenage liberals), and giving “early access” to your video to pre-chosen online news sites – yet, your email newsletter is written like the junk mail my grandparents used to received in the early 90’s from conservative groups begging for donations while scaring the sh*t out of elderly people. What gives?
And, finally: lose the running shoes.