OFF THE GRID

James O’Keefe: What Did Glenn Beck Know, and When Did He Know It?

Feb 1, 10 | 8:12 AM   byMichael Wolff
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I can offer some reasonable speculation about where this O’Keefe business is going.

There are the perpetrators, the four young men who attempted to get access to the telephone system of Mary Landrieu, the Democratic senator from Louisiana. Then there is whomever else can be connected to them, by cell phone records, text messages, or email.

These are the little fish. Somewhere, at some remove, with some level of foreknowledge—with enough deniability or not—are the big fish.

The Times’ front page piece yesterday, with the thumbnails of the four perps, says little—save that O’Keefe and company were right-wing hot dogs—but is full of anticipation. The Times knows well enough that a break-in, one full of theatrical verve, is unlikely to have happened in a vacuum. Indeed, the subtext of the Times piece is all about James O’Keefe’s impressive conservative network.

It’s a network full of high-profile mentors. After O’Keefe’s audacious bit of political theater exposing the haplessness or recklessness of some functionaries at the liberal group, Acorn—a popular bête noire among conservatives—he was immediately and enthusiastically taken up by the right-wing media.

The right-wing media is an insular but curiously convivial group. It loves its fellow travelers. It loves other right-leaning attention seekers. This is a club for the ideologically pure who are media savvy. The Times piece sketches out some of these connections, including O’Keefe’s relationship with Andrew Breitbart, who is in turn connected to Matt Drudge.

The Times does not explicitly draw in Glenn Beck, but the Fox host has done as much as anyone to promote O’Keefe as an example of right-wing talent and personality. The day after the bust, Beck was hurriedly trying to disassociate himself.

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. Recently there’s been an effort, mostly unsuccessful, to bring Palin into a specific fold (but she is jockeying to be bigger than they are—to command her own network). They are obsessively connected to each other.

Depending on the aggressiveness of the prosecutors involved, we will find out who O’Keefe and company were speaking to. We will find out who was urging O’Keefe on, who O’Keefe was bragging to, and how far up the media chain this really goes.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWolffNYC.
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