Murphy buys O’Keefe dinner with ‘crack pipe’ money
“Make your enemy live up to their own book of rules.”
“Hey, Andrew, what’s up?”
“Just going for a walk.”
“Oh. Me too.”
That was the brief exchange I had with Andrew Breitbart, as we strode past each other on a Minneapolis sidewalk. It was a humid day. We both looked like sweaty hobos. But we had different missions. His was to “crash” Netroots Nation, the annual meetup of internet progressive types organized by Daily Kos peeps. Mine was to attend RightOnline, the Americans For Prosperity-funded conservative answer to internet organizing and citizen journalism, which sets up shop down the road from Netroots every year like some creepy stalker.
Breitbart’s little adventure was a pointless spectacle, which has been extensively reported. “News” travels fast. The Weiner Slayer was neither accredited, nor willing to pay, according to on-scene reporter Dave Weigel from Slate. Weigel told me that some guy who “blogs about economics” started “asking aggressive questions about [Breitbart's] use of homosexual prostitutes and cocaine–classic Alinsky tactics, which I thought the left had forgotten how to use. It was nuts.” Within about a minute, Breitbart was repelled by a “wave of hatred and passion.” The lefties herded Breitbart out of the building and chanted, “Coward! Coward!” It was exactly the kind of circus he was looking for.
I’m not as bold as Breitbart, nor am I as recognizable, but Ian Murphy aka “David Koch” would likewise not be welcome at an Americans For Prosperity event. I didn’t want to create a circus; I merely wanted to attend one already in progress.
The previous night during the Netroots keynote speeches–featuring the likes of Howard Dean and Russ Feingold–I first learned of RightOnline. Progressive lawyer/writer Adam Bonin was imploring the crowd not to mess with the other conference. “Don’t be a dick,” he said, co-opting a popular atheist meme. I immediately started to work creating an undercover persona, so I could attend for free. I’m a dick, apparently.
Incidentally, Howard Dean’s speech was the biggest pile of bullshit I’ve heard in a while. He started off with some hardcore Obamagetics, and then moved on to the contradictory theme of holding our elected officials accountable. Then he put the responsibility for creating progressive change in the hands of the some 2,500-person crowd. It’s not good enough that they all bought into the empty campaign rhetoric and voted Obama. Now that he’s sold out the left, it’s our job to do what he said he would. The gist of Dean’s talk was basically that the president isn’t as powerful as a blogger. Don’t be a dick, indeed.
Anyway, back to my tale of political espionage.
I picked out a good pseudonym: Jay Mitchell Huntsman. Go ahead, Google it. The RightOnline folks didn’t bother. It’s one alias of notorious conman James Hogue. I considered that a pretty huge tell. But they did check out my new, and totally ridiculous, blog: Eagles, Guns & Eagle-Guns. Around the same time Brietbart was expelled from the Minneapolis Convention Center, Jay Mitchell Hunstman was picking up his blogger credentials on the second floor of the Hilton.
(I imagine an “Eagle-Gun” being an eagle with a trigger on its stomach that shoots smaller eagles out of its mouth. That’s what I kept telling people at RightOnline, anyway.)
The opening session was already underway. Some crazy blonde was closing her speech with a twist on Heston: “Liberals will get my light bulbs when they pry them from my cold, dead hands!” And the crowd goes crazy–crazier. This is one small example of the underlying violence at RightOnline. A prevalent theme was that the some 1,300 people in attendance need to be willing to die for what they believe in. This includes light bulbs. Another prevalent theme was the purported “angry liberals” down the street. More on this later, but there was far more liberal bashing here than there was conservative slamming at Netroots.
It was hard staying in character and applauding all the fascist claptrap. I was literally biting my tongue. But at 4pm there was a talk I absolutely needed to attend: “Left Exposed: Where Investigative Reporting Meets Online Activism, James O’Keefe”.
I’ve taken to calling myself the “Black James O’Keefe” because we’re so often, and incorrectly, compared to one another. This recent Sahil Kapur piece in the Guardian gets it totally wrong. Kapur throws O’Keefe, Breitbart, The Yes Men and I into the same “guerrilla activist” boat. I’ve refuted this false equivalence before, and I don’t feel like doing it again right now, but if you’re in the media and seriously confused (and if you’re in the media, you probably are), the comment by TonyJay pretty well handles it. And, you know, how dare Kapur equate Breitbart with my former Minister of Paying Close Attention To the Way the Media Is Likely To React To Things the Candidate (and Subsequently Politician) Does? Damn Brits always treading on us.*
Back to the jape already in progress:
O’Keefe’s presentation was absolutely packed–standing room only by the time I arrived. It was to be a lesson in “gonzo,” according to the 26 year-old provocateur. It was more like an hour-long bragging session, during which O’Keefe recalled all his greatest hits for the dumb, delighted crowd. No mention of the failed seduction of CNN’s Abbie Boudreau. No mention of the “condom jar” or the “fuzzy handcuffs.” No mention of the Senator Landrieu debacle–save for his admission during the Q & A that he’s “more afraid of the law than physical violence.” That’s a reasonable position, for someone who’s prone to targeting lefties with illegal tactics.
O’Keefe made the point, several times, that he’s not “funded by billionaires”. It seemed a little defensive, and a lot wrong, considering he was giving a talk at an AFP event. But, you know, maybe he flew out from Jersey on his own dime and he did the talk pro bono. Probably not. But I digest.
He told the crowd that his technique is “more important than anything else.” It’s more effective to jape than to report. Propaganda is better than the boring truth. Or in the immortal words of Dave Coulier: “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its Crocs.”
After the talk and the Q & A, I hung around with a few other sycophantic crackers to tell James how awesome he was. “You’re, like, my hero, man!” I yelled in his face. Among other problems, Jay Mitchell Huntsman has a volume control problem. “Sorry!” I said. “I blew out my ears when I was in a Hall & Oates cover band. It was worth it, though!”
“That’s…OK,” O’Keefe said, shaking hands and posing for pictures with grateful grandmas. “So you’re a blogger?” he asked, pointing to my credentials.
“YEAH!” I yelled. “I just started a blog called ‘Eagles, Guns & Eagle-Guns’ — at blogspot.com!” I hung out for a few more minutes as the room emptied. O’Keefe was fiddling with his smart phone.
“Is this it?” he asked, strolling over to me and holding up the phone.
“YEAH!” I basically screamed. “I CAN’T BELIEVE JAMES O’KEEFE IS LOOKING AT MY BLOG!”
“Hmm…seems cool,” he said. “Keep up the good work.”
“OK!” I shouted, without actually meaning to. This jape, if it could yet be called that, was going way better than I’d planned. I had no plan.
“I gotta get something to eat,” he said, mostly to himself–probably trying to get rid of me.
“Let me buy you a meal!”
He hemmed and hawed, made some tortured expressions and eventually said, “What the hell.”
We made our way out into the plush carpeted hallway of the Hilton, heading toward the first floor restaurant. “So you’re in construction?” he asked.
“UH…YEAH! OH MY GOD, HOW DID YOU KNOW?”
“It says so on your blogger profile.”
“Right,” I said. “But that’s not where I get most of my money…”
“You have another job?”
“Sort of,” I said. “You know those little glass tubes they sell in gas stations–the ones with the tiny plastic roses inside?”
“Can’t say that I do.”
“I don’t suppose you would,” I said, “they’re mostly in inner cities…they sell them next to steel wool pads…”
“Yeah, the–the blacks buy them together, remove the rose, insert the steel wool and use them to smoke crack…I figure it’s OK because they’re black and it’s, strictly speaking, not a crack pipe–but they are crack pipes.”
“Are you serious?” he asked as we approached the escalator.
“YEAH! That’s what they’re for–and I had the good sense to invest in the company in my late teens. It’s paid off rather handsomely. And what do I care about the blacks, you know? It’s not like they sell these things to productive members of society or anything.”
I was straining credulity. It was written all over his long, squinty face. He fished his phone out of his pocket and just said, “Oh.”
“I’m really sorry,” he said, “but something’s come up. I’m going to have to take a rain check.”
“SHIT!” was my genuine response. I’d fucked this thing hard. Too fast! Too much! Shit!
“Maybe some other time,” he said, extending his hand.
“Well, I understand you’re a busy guy, but I said I’d buy you a meal and I’m going to!” I said, ignoring his hand and flipping through my wallet. “Take it.” He looked down at the $100 bill for 5 seconds of eternity. “Come on! Get yourself something good!”
And he fucking took it. He took my crack pipe money, slipped it in his coat pocket, shook my hand and bolted back the way we came. I rode the elevator down to the first floor, cackling like an absolute madman. Best hundo I’ve ever spent.
Now, I know I said I’d get into the story of my Netroots/RightOnline experience, but I’m in Madison and some folks just recognized me. They want to buy me beer and cheese, per Wisconsin protocol.
I wonder what they do for a living…
*Kapur is not British, but I still presume he’s treading on me in some fashion.