It's a damn shame what's being done to ACORN.
Disclosures: Most of you know that I'm a former community organizer. I have never worked for ACORN, but I have worked for organizations that worked with ACORN. I worked along the same territory as them - fighting for the rights of low-income, disenfranchised people.
I have written pretty bluntly about ACORN's failures in the past, so you know I'm not a cheerleader for them. They have screwed up massively in the past, and like most large organizations or companies, they will probably screw up again sometime in the future.
Having said that, they don't deserve what's happening.
For those who haven't been following the stories, there have been a series of videos supposedly showing ACORN workers giving two individuals - a "pimp" and a "prostitute" - advice on setting up a brothel. The videos have been shown repeatedly on Fox News and have been picked up to a lesser degree by other media. The "pimp" was O'Keefe, wearing a completely ridiculous outfit. The "prostitute" was Giles, masquerading as a prostitute who apparently favored the name Kenya. (There's nothing racist at all in her using that name, I'm sure.)
This is character assassination, plain and simple. Two people with a hidden camera are targeting ACORN offices, recording embarrassing videos of staff members. Both of the participants, Hannah Giles and James O'Keefe, have admitted to having a political agenda. They're not out to find the truth. They're out to get ACORN. They're out to get ACORN, because in the feverish minds of some conservative activists and writers, ACORN is at the heart of Obama's election and bringing down ACORN will inevitably lead to Obama's collapse.
Look, I've worked as a door-to-door canvasser and I've worked as a community organizer. I've walked into some situations I thought were a little sketchy. I'm pretty sure that if someone wanted to catch me on video saying something embarassing, and they followed me around for long enough and caught me off-guard, they might be able to do it. It might happen. And so it's gone with ACORN that they've caught some workers saying some fairly embarrassing things.
Do the videos show the truth? Well, some staffers probably said some things they shouldn't have. But we don't know the whole story, because the full unedited videos haven't been released and probably never will. They could be edited. They could have manipulated the audio, or the video, or both. We don't know what actually happened in those rooms, and we will almost certainly never know.
Is the behavior of the ACORN workers criminal behavior? There have been no criminal charges filed in any state in connection with these videos. Why? Well, O'Keefe and Giles aren't police officers, they're private citizens. They have no legal authority to conduct "sting" operations. They aren't out to find criminal behavior - they're purely interested in embarrassing ACORN, and they have.
What criminal activity? All of the criminal ideas came from O'Keefe and Giles. They posed as a pimp and a prostitute and talked about setting up brothels. They talked about bringing in underage immigrant women to work illegally as prostitutes. All the criminal activity came from their own twisted minds.
As it turns out, there has been one lawsuit filed in Maryland in connection with these videos. ACORN filed it. Turns out that it's illegal in Maryland to record audio of another person without their permission. Guess our cutting-edge filmmaker didn't take the time to check out wiretapping laws before swooping in with his super-fantastic sting operation.
One ACORN worker, after giving them advice on setting up their house of ill imagination, allegedly confessed to having murdered her husband. That got her a call from homicide detectives and the local newspapers, where she admitted that she made up the whole story because she know that they were trying to set her up. (She also mentions conversations she had with O'Keefe and Giles that never made the video tape that ran on Fox. Big surprise.)
Another worker called the police after the clowns/filmmakers came to them with a story about smuggling underage immigrants for sex work.
Think about this:
- We know that one of the videotaped workers lied to the filmmakers/clowns deliberately. We don't know how many others may have made up stories, or deliberately given false advice, because they knew they were being had.
- We know that one worker called the police on them after his visit. We don't know how many others called the police.
- We don't know how many offices the filmmakers/clowns visited in order to get their supposedly incriminating videos.
- We don't know how many offices threw them out without a second glance.
- We don't know how many staff members they actually talked to.
- We don't know what actually happened on the tapes, because no one except O'Keefe and Giles has apparently seen the unedited videos.
And over all this, Congress has seen fit to withdraw all federal funding going to ACORN, an organization which has been helping people of color low-income people in this country for thirty years. Over all this, people have been declaring ACORN to be a criminal enterprise. Over all this, ACORN has been denounced by left and right and in the halls of our Congress.
President Obama was right. There needs to be an investigation into these videos. There needs to be an investigation into these malicious filmmakers and their gutter tactics of manipulation, distortion, and character assassination.
ACORN has made mistakes in the past. That is different that what's going on here. What's happening now is that someone with great friends in the media has gone on a personal crusade to destroy a social justice organization. He's doing it for ratings, for personal glory, to raise his own profile as an "activist" and as a "cutting-edge filmmaker." Well, he can call himself anything he wants. What he's doing is shameful, despicable behavior.