The Ethics of Gonzo Journalism or Would You Lie to Save a Life?

Posted: March 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

Last week, Michael Gerson wrote an op-ed column in the Washington Post condemning the “gonzo journalism” of people like James O’Keefe who purported to expose the liberal and anti-semitic leanings of an NPR executive (the tape of the incident was later found to be edited).  

If you missed it, O’Keefe has exposed several secular leftist organizations by going undercover and filming his interaction with agents of these institutions.  Until recently, the most famous of these escapades included O’Keefe acting like a pimp and entering ACORN offices asking for (and receiving) advice on how to avoid paying taxes and smuggle immigrants into the U.S. to use as prostitutes.   

Justin Taylor agreed with Gerson’s condemnation on his blog, (The Drudge Report of the evangelical blogosophere).  You can find that here:

Do you think Gerson and Taylor are right? 

Before deciding, one must consider not only O’Keefe’s exposure of ACORN and NPR  but also his work with Lila Rose in  exposing the grossly illegal activities of Planned Parenthood.  Rose masqueraded as an underage woman seeking an abortion.  Have their acts prevented Planned Parenthood from assisting true underage girls from having abortions?  If so, would that influence your decision.

Does the Bible support such Machiavellian acts to expose illegalities?  It isn’t a perfect analogy to be sure but what about Nathan’s use of a story to confront David?  What about when God directs Moses to tell Pharaoh to only let the men go into the desert to worship when He (God) knew that wasn’t the true goal? What about God’s command to Samuel for him to mislead Saul while the aging judge was on his way to anoint David?

Do these arguably misleading acts justify the exploits of James O’Keefe, Lila Rose and others?

Now, perhaps you good folks out there have solid responses to all of these questions from Scripture.  For the record, I certainly feel better about O’Keefe’s and Rose’s attempt to expose abortion providers who breaking the law than exposing the possible bias of an NPR executive.

  1. Larry Prater says:

    Pastor Matt,

    Would I lie to save a life? In all likelihood, I would. Is lying or, more specifically, deception biblically permitted? You cite several good examples of God allowing, even directing, deception. You omit the most deceiving of all the patriarchs — Jacob. His deception of his father Isaac was crucial to fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham. That said, the examples of “godly” deception are entirely drawn from the Old Testament. When looking at the New Testament, I immediately find the deception of Ananias and Sapphira, which was not a “godly” deception, and was punished by God’s directly inflicting death on both of them. Moreover, more than once Paul inveighs against lying and deceit, though his purpose is to quell various heresies within the early church.

    The most decisive evidence against the use of deception is that Jesus was not deceitful. He did not lie. If I am to follow Him as my example for living, then I find that lying and deception are “off the table,” so to speak, as part of my behaviors, my character. Do I not lie and deceive? No, I do lie and deceive. I really don’t want to, but the old nature (dead and buried at my salvation but constantly rising up, like a zombie) loves lying and deception and, so, I do often lie and deceive.

    So, for me, lying and deception really have no place in the life of a follower of Christ, but they are unwelcomed companions in the human condition.


    • Revolution says:


      Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate the comment.

      I guess I would just ask if the same God who directed Nathan, Moses, etc. to be less than direct is the same God who came in the flesh to live and die for us? If so, then I think it may be a bit more complicated but you may still be right.

  2. This type of “journalism” from the left and the right fundamentally undermines our democratic capacity to deliberate and be governed, see Gary Fine’s take,

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