It is fitting that Battleground Texas officials first learned that they were being targeted by James O’Keefe, the wunderkind of undercover video, thanks to a chance act of eavesdropping. It was mid-September on a New York commuter train when a passenger found himself sitting near “a weirdly familiar-looking character” conversing with a companion.
The commuter recognized the character as activist James O’Keefe, and he emailed a warning to the general Battleground Texas mailbox: “I could not hear exactly what he was talking about, but it seemed to me he kept mentioning `videography’ and `Battleground Texas.’ It was definitely him, and I wish I could give you more details but the train was pretty loud. I am sure you guys are in his sights.”
The tip was on target, and the months since have seen an elaborate cat-and-mouse game across Texas between O’Keefe’s Project Veritas and Battleground Texas, a Democratic effort to turn heavily Republican Texas into an electoral battleground.
O’Keefe, who first drew national attention for the 2009 undercover videos that brought down the community organization ACORN, has sought to ensnare Battleground in his Web videos, and Battleground has sought to keep 10,000 volunteers from saying or doing anything that might play into O’Keefe’s hands.
On Thursday, O’Keefe released his latest undercover video, which shows Battleground Texas volunteers discussing whether Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s disability will affect the Republican’s campaign for governor.
It is what O’Keefe characterizes as “guerrilla citizen journalism,” founded on the precepts of Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals,” which is the bible for modern community organizing, though a seemingly incongruous choice as a guiding text for a hero on the right. (Newt Gingrich, among others, has described former community organizer Barack Obama as a “Saul Alinsky radical.”)
“I don’t necessarily identify myself as a conservative,” O’Keefe told the American-Statesman, adding that “conservative” aptly describes a distrust of government power that he believes all journalists should share. “Alinsky is about restoring power to the people and taking it away from the haves, the establishment,” said O’Keefe, quoting a favorite bit of Alinsky wisdom: “The basic tactic in warfare against the haves is a mass political jujitsu: the have-nots do not rigidly oppose the haves, but yield in such planned and skilled ways that the superior strength of the haves becomes their undoing.”