[Washington Babylon ]Underage Prostitution, Gotcha Journalism, and the Ethics of the Acorn Sting | Harper's Magazine

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[Washington Babylon]

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.

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