ACORN follow-up


Sometime back, I condemned ACORN in my blog because of what the sting operation had revealed about it. It seemed outrageous–almost unbelievable that ACORN volunteers would tell a (supposed) pimp and prostitute how they could hide 13-year-old Salvadoran girls from the authorities when they brought them to be prostituted in the U.S. Frankly, the internet has made me a little cynical (just today I saw a defense of fictionalized pedophilia) and that cynicism made me easy to fool.

Anyway, the tapes were all over the media, showing James O’Keefe strutting down the street in a pimp costume with his partner beside him, and video of ACORN volunteers suggesting the pimp and prostitute hide money from the IRS by burying it in a coffee can in the back yard. Not to mention the stuff about the Salvadoran girls. It was incendiary stuff, God knows, and both parties in Congress lambasted ACORN.

So ACORN hired an investigator to find out what happened in all the cities O’Keefe visited. Their report stated that the videos were very heavily edited, and several of O’Keefe and his partner’s comments were overdubbed, making in unclear what the volunteers were actually responding to. Editing a message to change a question after the other party has posted their answer? A pretty common type of shitty behavior. You can read a bit about the report for yourself.

But while that was interesting, it wasn’t convincing to me. ACORN hired the investigator; the investigator found no illegal activity. Big surprise.

But here’s the funny thing: While O’Keefe and his employers have never released an unedited version of the video tapes, they did post full transcripts on their site, and the transcripts don’t match the claims they made about ACORN’s actions.

For instance, O’Keefe never wore his pimp costume into the ACORN offices–he went in a suit and tie. He didn’t tell them he was a pimp. He told them the prostitute was his girlfriend and he wanted to protect her from her abusive pimp. Of course that was carefully edited out of the tape. Once he said he worked at a bank. Once he said he was in law school.

He also told the volunteers that her pimp was the one bringing in the Salvadoran girls and asked for their help hiding the girls from him. They never asked for the best way to house their underage prostitutes. The coffee can full of money was supposed to hide the money from the pimp, not the government. In fact, the ACORN volunteers consistently told the pair that they would need to pay their taxes.

In short, O’Keefe punked the media and the federal government with a heavily-edited video. And, because so many of us are ready to see inner city black people as lawless criminals, we went right along with it. That was my error, and my cynicism, which made me so easy to fool.

So the federal government has cut its funding (which once made up about 10% of ACORN’s funding) from an organization that helps poor people register to vote and find affordable housing, and why? Because O’Keefe’s conservative activist employer wanted to frame people he thought were already guilty. And it was so easy to just go along with it.

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