Rachel Re for April 2, 2010
There used to be an organization called ACORN, which tried to help poor people survive and try to get a leg-up in America. They pushed for a higher minimum wage, and against discrimination, they had hundreds of thousands of members, and.... ACORN is now gone, thanks to a successful right-wing campaign of pure hooey -- demonstrably false accusations that scared America into killing ACORN.
The bigger problem? The hooey doesn't stop with the ACORN story.
Did you hear that the community organizing group ACORN shut down all of its offices this week? ACORN shut all of their offices this week in the same week that the California attorney general release his assessment of what really happened in the supposed ACORN pimp video scandal that ultimately brought the group down.
Fox News, you’ll recall, trumpeted this video from a conservative activist named James O’Keefe, in which Mr. O’Keefe supposedly dressed up like a flamboyant blaxploitation version of a pimp. He went into different ACORN offices and convinced ACORN workers to give him advice on handling the finances of his prostitution business. Mr. O’Keefe and his ACORN pimp video were promoted by an offshoot of the right-wing Web site, “The Drudge Report.”
Mr. O’Keefe personally and his supposed expose were promoted heavily on the conservative Fox News Channel. And it might have been a tip-off early on when Mr. O’Keefe refused to release unedited versions of what he actually taped in those ACORN Offices.
What Fox and O’Keefe decided to show from these videos was damming. Him in the pimp costume, you know “How outrageous. How could these people not have known he was a bad guy?” "Those ACORN people must be used to seeing guys like this all the time. And then, they actually offered to help him with this plainly illegal thing he was doing." “It’s outrageous.”
It’s very damning, right?
After the videos came out, California Governor Arnold Schwarzengger was one of the Republicans who pounced on the ACORN issue, as if ACORN was a real threat to the Republic. On the basis of the fact that some of the ACORN offices where O’Keefe’s filming took place were in California, Schwarzenegger asked California Attorney General Jerry Brown to investigate.
Mr. Brown did investigate. And an official warrant forced an investigation, he actually got a hold of the unedited O’Keefe tapes, the raw footage before it was cut down to make the point that Mr. O’Keefe and his conservative activist patrons and Fox News wanted to make.
And when you look at that unedited footage, well, lo and behold. Attorney General Brown describes O’Keefe’s pimp video as “severely edited” and says that the unedited videotapes show “that things are not always as partisan zealots portray them through highly selective editing of reality.”
Among the things made clear, he says, by the unedited tapes are things like an ACORN staffer calling the cops on Mr. O’Keefe, and the fact that Mr. O’Keefe didn’t go into the ACORN Offices dressed as a pimp.
“At the beginning and end of the Internet videos, Mr. O’Keefe was dressed as a 1970s Superfly pimp. But in his actual taped sessions with ACORN workers, he was dressed in a shirt and tie. He never claimed he was a pimp.”
So the whole premise of the attack on ACORN was false. This guy dressed up like a pimp and went into the ACORN offices. And they gave him straight up advice like that was normal.
Actually no, he was dressed up like a law student and they called the cops on him. Oh, well, no harm. No foul, right? Well, no. According to the attorney general again, “The original storm of publicity created by O’Keefe’s videotapes was instrumental in ACORN’s subsequent denunciation in Congress, a sudden tourniquet on its funding, and the organization’s eventual collapse.”
So ACORN is now gone and it’s an afterthought that the attack on them that killed them off was totally made-up. Bogus. Bullpucky.
You know what else was bullpucky? Climate-gate - that made-up controversy promoted by climate change deniers and promoted on Fox News Channel that British scientists who provided evidence that climate change was real had been caught making up the data.
Thank god we have Fox. I don’t mean to rain on all their excitement here, but it turns out that climategate is total bullpucky as well.
A little noticed news this week that the British House of Commons has officially investigated the controversy and found that no one misrepresented any data. Nobody lied.
Nothing about the supposed bombshell climate-gate scandal at all challenges that scientific consensus that global warming is happening, that it is induced by human activity.
So which did you hear more about, that climate change deniers have uncovered some huge scam about some climate data being faked? Or that when responsible, uninterested parties looked into the supposed scandal, they found that no one was faking anything?
Did you hear more about there being some scandal about ACORN giving prostitution advice to a right-wing activist dressed up like a pimp? Or did you hear more about the fact that when responsible, uninterested people looked into it, they found it was all made-up, down to the part where the guy wasn’t actually even dressed up as a pimp?
What we’re dealing with here is the unmooring of politics from facts. The activists pushing the ACORN scandal knew it was fake. After all, they faked it. But it made a political impact anyway, so they win, right?
The climate-gate scandal, not an actual challenge to the homogenous consensus of decades of climate science but it could have a political impact, so go for it. It might work.
If the triumph of fake politics or advantage gleaned from stuff that’s not real - and who cares if it’s not real or if it has a political impact?
When Republicans complain President Obama is using recess appointments, they are faking it, because if they really had a real concern about recess appointments, they wouldn’t have been fine with them when George W. Bush used them.
The recess appointments outrage is bull. Republicans are faking their outrage over their being an individual-mandate in health care reform, too. It’s a Republican idea.
The Republicans are faking their outrage over terrorism suspects being read their Miranda rights. They had no problem with that when it was done by the previous administration. That fake outrage is bull.
Same goes with the Republican outrage over civilian trials for terrorism suspects. If you weren’t outraged with the shoe bomber getting a civilian trial, that’s proof that your purported outrage over the underpants bomber getting a civilian trial is bull.
Republicans are faking their outrage over the stimulus. You can tell because when they go to home districts, they admit that it’s working great.
Their Washington outrage over the stimulus bill is bull.
The anti-ACORN crusade was bull.
Climategate was bull.
Repealing health reform is bull.
The lawsuits against health reform are bull.
The death panels, bull.
The president is secretly foreign and doesn’t have a birth certificate - bull.
Fear of the census is bull.
Supposed threats to end the Second Amendment - bull.
The claim that thousands of armed IRS agents are going to storm troopers to enforce health reform - it’s bull.
The administration taking away the right to go fishing - it’s bull.
Scott Brown saying I’m running against him is even bull.
It’s made up. It’s bull. It’s bull. It’s not real politics. Let them eat fake.
These are not real problems to worry about and work on as a country, right? But there’s more bang for the political buck to make stuff up like this than to try to debate real problems in the real world. So just go with the bull.
The “Atlanta Journal Constitution” reports today that billboards against Obama are popping up in the Atlanta area right now. They say things like, “Stop Obama’s socialism,” and, “Now, it’s personal.”
CNN has hired a contributor who said on his radio show yesterday that he’d pull a shotgun on any census worker who came to visit his home. A group calling itself the Guardians of Free Republics has sent threatening letters to dozens of governors telling them to resign from office or else.
Dissent is not the aberration in a democracy. Dissent is the norm. Our political vitality depends on dissent. No one expects that the president is going to have the whole country agree with his options and his priorities.
Nobody expects Americans to share the same political opinions.
But has there ever been a time when we shared so few political facts? Let’s argue. Let’s have the great American debate about the role of government and the best policies for the country. It’s fun. It’s citizenship. It’s activism. It makes the country better when we have those debates. And your country needs you. It needs all of us.
But two things disqualify you from this process: You can’t threaten to shoot people and you have to stop making stuff up.