He just leaked dozens of hours of audio he says was secretly recorded inside CNN. Here's what you should keep in mind before the usual freak-out begins.

So James O'Keefe, whom you may remember from such comical roles as "A$AP Chad, Frat Pimp," "Jail Inmate Behind the Great Mary Landrieu Office Break-In Caper," and "Guy Who Tried and Failed To Lure a Female CNN Reporter Onto a Yacht Filled with Dildos" is in the news again -- because, why the fuck not, the empire's at its end anyway. O'Keefe and his somehow unironically named group, Project Veritas, are currently touting the release of dozens of hours of audio recorded secretly, they say, at CNN Center in Atlanta back in 2009. Dubbed "CNN Leaks" and in keeping with the new paradigm of just dumping information online rather than bothering to add context or craft an actual story out of the cacophony -- since journalism is hard -- O'Keefe won't identify the source of the audio, but he's implying that what's contained in the clips will of course be damaging to CNN. 

Here's a pretty easy prediction that I'll bet I can make, based on nothing more than the fact that I have two brain cells to rub together: No, it won't. Not unless the mainstream media -- particularly CNN itself -- is dumb enough to fall for this shit again and follow O'Keefe down the rabbit hole. Oh, the kind of idiots who take James O'Keefe seriously -- the Alex Joneses, Breitbarts, 8chans and the rest of the alt-right shock troops, oozing Red Bull-fueled paranoia and certitude -- will without a doubt hear things that aren't there, connect dots that don't connect and blow nothings up into somethings. But as to whether anyone will find any real evidence of impropriety, irresponsibility, journalistic malpractice, what-have-you, I'm willing to bet the answer will be an unequivocal no. But that's not the point anyway. The point is simply to embarrass CNN by letting the story be the mere suggestion of misconduct. 

I've listened to a couple of hours of the audio and for the most part, so far, it's indiscernible: meetings, overlapping conversations, a lot of ambient noise. Somewhere within the tedium there's going to be something someone with a grudge hears that they decide is important, a bombshell even. But good money says it won't be. The problem, though, is what it always is whenever private conversations -- or even ostensible work conversations between tired, endlessly stressed out people -- are listened in on and broadcast out to the world as part of our new Panopticon reality: there's unvarnished, unfiltered talk that amounts to exactly nothing but appears shocking. Imagine for a minute if every private conversation every one of us ever had was suddenly made public. No one would be innocent. Anyone predisposed to not like what you have to say would find something they didn't like that you said. 

I worked at CNN as a senior producer for five years. I left, in fact, just before 2009 so I have a pretty good idea what the culture at CNN was like during that period. What's more, I'm not sure anybody has been harsher on CNN over the past several years than I've been. I've excoriated the network for what it chose to cover during the Iraq war and how it chose to present it, at least during the show that I was once a part of -- American Morning, the precursor to CNN's New Day. I was pissed that CNN hedged too hard in favor of the Bush administration -- and I was fired for voicing opinions that were decidedly center-left online. Keep that in mind as the usual suspects begin screaming that these leaked clips show an obvious liberal bias at CNN. There have been plenty of things wrong with CNN over the years -- a bias toward liberal ideals and against conservative ones isn't one of them, certainly not within the past decade or so.

James O'Keefe says he's offering a bounty for more internal information like this from CNN and other presumably "unfriendly" networks and news outlets. He boasts that he's going to upend the mainstream media. Two things: First, he can go fuck himself because while, again, CNN has made plenty of mistakes in its history, you can trust it over a clown like James O'Keefe any day of the week and twice on Sunday, as the network has actual journalistic standards; second, he can go fuck himself because he isn't going to upend a damn thing since he's James O'Keefe, and when it comes to taking him seriously, you always have to consider the source. Although, who knows anymore? Donald Trump now has the full power of the United States government behind him, and he's exactly the kind of lunatic to not only believe O'Keefe and his ilk over CNN, but to then do something about it. That's terrifying.  

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