O’Keefe aspires to more than making movies. He seems to be styling himself as the organizer and commander in chief of a vast guerrilla army of young conservatives trained in his methods and inspired by his example. “There are already dozens of teams out there working,” he told me. “And there are thousands more who want to learn and get involved. The more they restrict me, the more they inspire me.” He extracted a cellphone from the pocket of his work shirt. “Have you ever heard of a Russian named Solzhenitsyn?” he asked. The question reminded me that O’Keefe, who in some ways is knowing and cynical, is also just 27. For a moment I thought he was going to call the Soviet dissident, who died in 2008, but he simply wanted to access and declaim a few lines of a Solzhenitsyn speech on liberty, law and the abuse of government power, which he thought I should find relevant to his predicament.
“I’m not comparing my situation to the gulag,” he said. “But I speak truth to power. You’d think liberal baby boomers would support me. Isn’t that what the ’60s were all about? Do we really want political prisoners in America?” Still, the restrictions he faced weren’t really slowing him down. As we spoke, he told me, an army of videographers was spreading out across the land and taking aim at a fresh target. This will be the biggest one yet, he promised.
Chafets is a rightwing enabler. Why the New York Times is enabling him is anyone’s guess.