- Current Issue
SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
Must read piece at Reason on the media’s response to the ACORN scandal. Highlight:
One of the more convincing non-coverage defenses came from Austin American-Statesman Editor Fred Zipp (“First, it’s a local story set elsewhere,” he explained last week). But Zipp couldn’t leave well enough alone:
“Second, we’re not Fox, and we resist letting Fox set our agenda. The story is only now beginning to catch fire among the news sources that we trust. As they offer stories that dissect ACORN, its activities, the origin of the controversy and the credibility of its principal antagonists, we will publish them.”
At best, this is an example of outsourcing news judgment. At worst, it’s a classic example of pointless (and, likely, politically one-sided) media shadowboxing. As an editor, by definition you set your “agenda”; defining yourself in opposition to others’ is a game that has no logical conclusion, and says more about who you are pre-emptively biased against than what you tangibly stand for. Does Zipp offer equal resistance to agenda-setting from The Huffington Post? The Daily Kos? Texas Monthly?
Meanwhile, ACORN is trying to sue the journalists who pulled off the sting. As Jonathan Turley wrote, “The decision of ACORN to aggressively pursue the filmmakers is, in my view, a mistake and evidence of continued poor judgment by the organization’s leadership. These filmmakers may be properly prosecuted [for nonconsensual electronic surveillance] under state law…However, ACORN should confine its role to that of a witness and focus on cleaning up its tarnished organization.”
I wrote in an earlier post that I’d long admired ACORN’s work. That was based mostly on distant memories of the group’s work as an advocate for low-income housing, but those memories look like they were largely romantic. Based on emails I have gotten about ACORN and revelations that have come out since the sting, ACORN has been rotten for a long time. For example, from the Washington Post today:
Documents released by a Senate Republican on Thursday show that leaders of the ACORN community organizing network transferred several million dollars in charitable and government money meant for the poor to arms of the group that have political and sometimes profit-making missions.
ACORN’s tax-exempt groups and allied organizations, long a target of conservative ire, used more than half their charitable and public money in 2006 to pay other ACORN affiliates, according to an analysis by the tax staff of Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa).
Liberal commentators will no doubt dismiss this as GOP propaganda, just as its been attacking the funding source for the two conservatives who pulled off the sting (since it can’t really attack the findings) and defending ACORN’s attempt to sue them. As a friend wrote to me, the laws that have criminalized recording, which ACORN is using, should be called the “criminal and fraudster protection act” because they “effectively shut down one of the most powerful means of gathering evidence of illegal conduct.”
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
Fleming awoke in the dark and his room felt loose, sloshing so badly he gripped the bed. From his window there was nothing but a hallway, and if he craned his neck, a blown lightbulb swung into view. The room pitched up and down and for a moment he thought he might be sick. The word “hallway” must have a nautical name. Why didn’t they supply a glossary for this cruise? Probably they had, in the welcome packet he’d failed to read. A glossary. A history of the boat, which would be referred to as a ship. Sunny biographies of the captain and crew, who had always dreamed of this life. Lobotomized histories of the islands they’d visit. Who else had sailed this way. Famous suckwads from the past, slicing through this very water on wooden longships.
A welcome packet, the literary genre most likely to succeed in the new millennium. Why not read about a community you don’t belong to, that doesn’t actually exist, a captain and crew who are, in reality, if that isn’t too much of a downer on your vacation, as indifferent to one another as any set of co-employees at an office or bank? Read doctored personal statements from underpaid crew members — because ocean life pays better than money! — who hate their lives but have been forced to buy into the mythology of working on a boat, separated now from loved ones and friends, growing lonelier by the second, even while they wait on you and follow your every order.
Number of people stopped and frisked by the NYPD in 2011 for “furtive movements”:
The faces of Lego people were growing angrier.
Four people were arrested for using a remote-controlled hexacopter to fly two pounds of tobacco to prisoners inside the yard at Calhoun State Prison in Georgia.
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
Our congratulations to Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature