American Pravda: My Fight for Truth in the Era of Fake News

Image of American Pravda: My Fight for Truth in the Era of Fake News
Release Date: 
January 15, 2018
St. Martin's Press
Reviewed by: 

If you keep up with American politics, then you almost certainly know who James O’Keefe is. O’Keefe and his undercover reporters, known collectively as Project Veritas, have been equally excoriated and praised, lauded and damned. To mainstream media outlets like CNN and MSNBC, Project Veritas is nothing more than a partisan outfit—a right-wing smear machine that “deceptively edits” their sting videos in order make their supposedly left-wing opponents look bad.

On the right, Project Veritas is often upheld as one of the few “truth-tellers” left in American media. President Donald Trump is a fan, and his administration has at times told the public (and the press) to watch some of Project Veritas’ videos.

In American Pravda, O’Keefe outlines the purpose of his controversial organization. The group’s mission statement is “to show the world as closely as possible the way the world really is.” Beyond that, Project Veritas contends that “content is king”—if the content is right and just, then the mission and the story are equally honest.

American Pravda may strike some readers as surprisingly philosophical. O’Keefe, the great enfant terrible, shows that he is actually an intelligent and astute observer of the media. O’Keefe not only quotes liberally from the work of left-wing media critics like Noam Chomsky and literary masters like Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, but he makes very profound conclusions about what is ailing modern media.

To too many journalists, O’Keefe writes, journalism is an identity rather than a practice. To be a journalist means being a member of the intellectual class—a chardonnay-sipping sophisticate with all the right ideas. For O’Keefe and many others, journalism-as-identity is the reason why writing about facts and the truth have become passé. As one of Project Veritas’ marks says, a real journalist “‘has to have in his or her heart a desire to make society better.’” Such a philosophy has corroded journalism and has turned it into just another expression of a certain political vision.

Outside of this pontificating, American Pravda deals with some of Project Veritas’ biggest takedowns: the exposé of ACORN, the videos that led to the arrest of several anarchists connected to DisruptJ20, the revelation that Democratic officials in Wisconsin routinely resorted to voter fraud, and the various videos showing that employees for CNN and the New York Times are actively conspiring against the American president.

O’Keefe holds nothing back and shows how his methods are both in keeping with the history of investigative journalism and are far more legitimate than the tactics used by the bigger and better-funded names in the news business.

American Pravda rightfully takes the American media to task for caving to corporate pressure at almost every turn. Similarly, this book blasts our “deep state” complex, which includes government officials, academics, news anchors, and even sports stars, for trying to bend the American public to their will via outright deception.

O’Keefe swears repeatedly in this book that he is not a conservative or an operative for the Republican Party. Rather, O’Keefe and his team are against “statists” and those in American life who wish to stifle all political and social dissent by jealously guarding the Overton Window.

This book is a clear presentation of why the age of Trump and the Internet will continue to be an age of warfare between the establishment media and citizen journalists. There is no longer a hierarchy guiding the information matrix. O’Keefe’s detractors seem to hate and fear this fact, while his supporters relish it.

At the end of the day, the war may only end when journalism becomes detached from Wall Street and when the American people start critically examining the major news sources. The average Soviet citizen knew that Pravda, the government paper, spouted lies. The average American does not think that the Washington Post or the New York Times do, although, according to this book, they do all the time.