Washington Babylon — September 25, 2009, 9:18 am

The Acorn Fraud and the Media

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.”

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

May 2015

Black Hat, White Hat

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Beyond the Broken Window

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In Search of a Stolen Fiddle

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Displaced in the D.R.

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Quietest Place in the Universe

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Displaced in the D.R.·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“How is it possible that my birth certificate is invalid if I was born here?”
Photograph by Pierre Michel Jean
Article
The Quietest Place in the Universe·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Gaitskell and his colleagues are approaching the revelation of a new order, a new universe, in which even light will be known differently, and darkness as well.”
Painting by Sebastiaan Bremer
Article
The Test of Time·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“One by one his books dismantle the idea that art consoles, that art contains truths, that art expresses the soul. He insists on the artificiality and createdness of his narratives.”
Article
Saving the Whale, Again·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“While the other Wall Street behemoths are currently tapering their derivatives trading, Citi has been expanding its own.”
Illustration by Ross MacDonald
[Browsings]
On Broadway·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Photograph by the author

Chance that an American would give up at least one week of life to avoid taking a pill every day:

1 in 3

Iowa urologists reported that only a minor portion of locker-room teasing arises from “the presence of excess foreskin”; most teasing targets small penises.

A pair of Russian film directors asked President Vladimir Putin to invest $18 million in a new restaurant chain intended to drive McDonald’s out of the Russian market. “Every project these days,” a Russian television personality said of the proposal, “must be smothered in patriotic sauce.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today