Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Book Review with Extra Musings: Breakthrough by James O'Keefe

NOTE: This is a book review/essay I wrote back in 2013, before my mind became preoccupied with the fictional rebels from my novel. Now that James O'Keefe and his Project Veritas are back in the news, I felt it might be useful to re-visit some of the thoughts I had on the book and the state of our society in general. I would like to think that we are slightly less asleep now than we were back when I wrote the original.
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Established societies are notoriously hard on young rebels. From the French barricades to the streets of Czechoslovakia to the iconic picture of Tiananmen Square – history is full of examples, some grimmer than others but all leading to the same place.

So I suppose it’s progress that in our kinder, gentler society, we don’t kill our rebels.  James O’Keefe is lucky that way. All that can be destroyed is his reputation, friendships and finances. A small price to pay to wake up a society determined to slumber itself into oblivion. Well…shame on us all for letting it happen.

When I picked up O’Keefe’s book with a typically in-your-face title of Breakthrough: Our Guerilla War to Expose Fraud And Save Democracy, I didn’t have high expectations. So much of his story played out in the public eye, I didn’t think there was much new to learn. No so; not even close. This is a difference between watching a movie and  reading the synopsis on IMDB.

The book takes you inside every sting, every controversy, and yes, every attack and humiliation O'Keefe and his friends have gone through over the years. The story is both depressing and inspiring. Depressing because we know how it ends: Obama re-elected, Breitbart dead, O'Keefe drowning in legal troubles, living in his parents’ basement.  The media- and political- establishment is still (mostly) laughing al the way to the bank, and the American public is still essentially asleep.

How is this inspiring, you ask?  Because it tells a story, so desperately needed, of someone who hasn't given up. Every time some consultant shows up on TV complaining how they can't do anything, can't get the message out, can't fight the media (all in the effort to justify supporting the status quo and their own high fees), think about this group of young people who shook up the establishment to its core with a couple of cameras and a lot of determination. The problem isn't that "nothing can be done." The problem is that very few people are willing to pay the price.

Complaining about politics is both tiring and useless. No disrespect to fellow writers who dedicate themselves to that particular pursuit, but I think it’s important to identify what can be done within the constraints that we face. We can’t all be rebels. Someone has to pay the bills, among other things (which is why James O’Keefe frequently brings his parents along to fundraiser events, to publicly thank them for their support). We can, however, help, whether with money or simply by spreading the truth in whatever way we can. Let’s not stay asleep. Let’s not become the modern day version of the little town in High Noon that watches its Marshall throw his badge down in the dust, having realized the place is not worthy of his time.

As for our young rebels, I hope they keep going. Every once in a while they get to tear down a wall or two, and then it just might all be worth it. At least I’d like to think so.