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Of Big Trees and Little ACORNs

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Are major media making a mistake by failing to join in the current frenzy over the ACORN video? Ken Silverstein thinks so. The public editors of the Washington Post and New York Times think so, too. I disagree. I am happy that some undercover exposé artists attempted to lure ACORN into advising a prostitution operation. Their footage is hysterically funny in parts, and this is a seriously flawed organization that needs some self-examination and reshaping, as Ken and the Washington Post note. ACORN’s strategy of bringing suit against the videotapers is also ill-advised. But the theme on the right is now that ACORN is a threat to democracy and social decency and must be destroyed. Hysterical humor is becoming just clinical hysteria.

I first encountered accusations against ACORN in New Mexico, and I spent a good bit of time tracking them and interviewing FBI agents who had investigated them. Their uniform assessment: there’s nothing there. None of the dramatic, Republican charges about ACORN’s role in voter fraud stood up when investigated. Nevertheless, this emerged as a right-wing political gospel, accepted as unquestioned truth. What was its genesis? Karl Rove settled on the attacks on ACORN over voter fraud as a sort of ultimate wedge issue. He’s worked it tenaciously ever since.

Rachel Maddow and former Republican U.S. Attorney David Iglesias get down to the basics of ACORN fact and ACORN fiction in this interview:

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Now ACORN is attacked as a government contractor, and a concerted effort is being made to defund them, all because of on-camera statements some employees made when interviewed by some media jesters. But what about contractors who take down ten thousand times the money that ACORN does, whose wrongdoing includes the death by electrocution of U.S. service personnel? Covering-up the gang rape of an American employee? Shooting seventeen innocent civilians in a case of “spray and pray” in downtown Baghdad? In the view of Congressional Republicans and not a few Democrats, this all seems to fall into the category of “boys will be boys.”

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