Washington Babylon — September 18, 2009, 8:23 am

Underage Prostitution, Gotcha Journalism, and the Ethics of the Acorn Sting

I’ve always admired the work of ACORN and thought right-wing attacks on the group bordered on the hysterical, but that was a terrific undercover sting mounted by the two young conservatives. Sorry, but it’s a serious matter when at least three different ACORN offices, in Washington, Baltimore, and New York, offer to help a 25-year-old “pimp” wearing a derby hat and chinchilla shoulder throw and his “prostitute” lie about their business in order to buy a home. And even more so when the preposterously dressed duo suggested that they’d be bringing in underage girls from Central America to work at their brothel.

ACORN has said that its offices in four cities declined to take the bait. Terrific, that means that only three out of seven ACORN offices were willing to commit fraud to help people set up a brothel.

Liberals have been attacking the videos by saying that the two videomakers, James O’Keefe III and Hannah Giles, are right-wing advocates. Who cares? O’Keefe and Giles got some important things wrong, like the amount of federal money received by ACORN, but there’s no denying the central claims and power of their work. Nor does it matter that the case is now being picked up and exploited by Fox News, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity, which in no way undermines the journalists’ work.

Elsewhere you hear that this is only the kind of work trained professionals in the mainstream media should do. Except of course no one in the mainstream media would have done the story. The most idiotic defense came from Robert Borosage, co-director of the liberal Campaign for America’s Future, as reported in the New York Times. Borosage, said the newspaper, described the tactics used against Acorn as “McCarthyite,” adding, “This is dangerous stuff. I don’t think progressives will sit back and let this gain momentum.”

So it seems that progressives will sit back and politely watch Obama gut his own health care reform bill, and also sit back and say very little about him inheriting the Bush strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, they have to draw a line in the sand somewhere and here it is: If you want to open up a whorehouse for underage immigrant girls, we will oppose anyone trying to stop ACORN from helping you out.

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 $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

March 2015

A Sage in Harlem

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Man Stopped

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Spy Who Fired Me

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Giving Up the Ghost

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Invisible and Insidious

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

[Browsings]
William Powell published The Anarchist Cookbook in 1971. He spent the next four decades fighting to take it out of print.
“The book has hovered like an awkward question on the rim of my consciousness for years.”
© JP Laffont/Sygma/Corbis
Article
The Fourth Branch·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Both the United States and the Soviet Union saw student politics as a proxy battleground for their rivalry.”
Photograph © Gerald R. Brimacombe/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
Article
Giving Up the Ghost·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Stories about past lives help explain this life — they promise a root structure beneath the inexplicable soil of what we see and live and know, what we offer one another.”
Illustration by Steven Dana
Article
The Spy Who Fired Me·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In industry after industry, this data collection is part of an expensive, high-tech effort to squeeze every last drop of productivity from corporate workforces.”
Illustration by John Ritter
Article
Invisible and Insidious·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Wherever we are, radiation finds and damages us, at best imperceptibly.”
Photograph © 2011 Massimo Mastrorillo and Donald Weber/VII

Number of U.S. congressional districts in which trade with China has produced more jobs than it has cost:

Young bilingual children who learned one language first are likelier than monolingual children and bilingual children who learned languages simultaneously to say that a dog adopted by owls will hoot.

An Oklahoma legislative committee voted to defund Advanced Placement U.S. History courses, accusing the curriculum of portraying the United States as “a nation of oppressors and exploiters.”

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

HARPER’S FINEST

Driving Mr. Albert

By

He could be one of a million beach-bound, black-socked Florida retirees, not the man who, by some odd happenstance of life, possesses the brain of Albert Einstein — literally cut it out of the dead scientist's head.

Subscribe Today