After the James O'Keefe saga, independent media is running out of steam
Though the circumstances are distinct, Tim Pool of Timcast podcast fame and Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe have found themselves in similar positions of late. While Project Veritas’s board determines his future role, O’Keefe has been placed on paid leave by the Right-wing nonprofit — “a few weeks of well-deserved” time off, as an internal message put it. Meanwhile, Pool took to Twitter to publicly complain about the exhausting nature of politics, attacks on his studio, frequent “swattings” (pranks that have summoned large numbers of armed police to his address), and creative fatigue from years of building his own online media fiefdom.
Project Veritas’s latest exclusive — a video that appears to show a Pfizer executive discussing the controlled mutation of Covid but may in fact show a man lying through his teeth in order to have sex — has certainly drawn attention. So much attention, in fact, that many believe an alleged Project Veritas staff mutiny against O’Keefe was “engineered” by Pfizer and other interests of the regime.
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Reporting elsewhere indicates that O’Keefe alienated donors, board members, and staffers with “outright cruel” management practices. Lending some credence to these claims was Claremont Institute fellow Dave Reaboi, who addressed various far-Right conspiracy theories by calling those who promote them “morons” and stating that “to think the board would take this step unless they felt they had to is silly.” In any event, it appears that the Project Veritas team — racked by dissension — is “so tired”, to borrow a popular cliché of the extremely online Left.
Tim Pool, who has worked more or less nonstop in the public eye since gaining notoriety for his DroneStream coverage of Occupy Wall Street in 2011, used Twitter last week to publicly declare that he was indeed tired, or “over it now”. In a long and revealing thread, Pool tweeted that “there is a radical misalignment between my values and many of the largest culture warriors” and remarked on the Ozymandian nature of his great works, such as paying for a Times Square billboard to shame Taylor Lorenz for doxxing “Libs of TikTok” account operator Chaya Raichik.
Pool then conducted a Twitter poll asking whether he should shut down his signature podcast. When users voted for him to step back, Pool said that he’d shift his operations to the other YouTube channels that he oversees. Not exactly a retirement, but certainly a cry for help or attention after a decade of differentiating his brand and spreading his influence within an ever-changing audience.
The challenges faced by these two operations are not unique to independent media operators on the Right. Nathan Robinson, founder of the magazine Current Affairs, faced a mutiny from his Left-wing staffers not dissimilar from what O’Keefe is now experiencing — yet the publication is still, as of this month, in operation. Chapo Trap House, which still rakes in $180,000 a month, has seen producers and on-air talent come and go during its seven-year history, as have other successful Leftist podcasts. Less established podcasts, which saw success during lockdown, will not have the same longevity.
Project Veritas has a funding base of millions of dollars, so it should survive the departure of O’Keefe, if that happens. Tim Pool has a sufficiently diversified media operation that he will likely, as some have pointed out, simply shift into other channels for the time being while he awaits the return of his lost mojo. But it is worth noting that any or all of these independent outfits could be gone tomorrow, snuffed out by lawsuits, staffer discontent, or, as is more common, increasing subscriber or donor apathy. The decentralised marketplace of ideas may let a million freak flags fly, but only a handful will be flapping in the wind at a time.