Ignoring the sins of our friends
ACORN looked to help set up child prostitution rings. Why are some still defending the group?
Progressives pride themselves on helping the underdog against the big guy. But pride is a dangerous thing. It can make you arrogant, partisan and casually complicit in grotesque abuses of the vulnerable. No recent event illustrates this problem better than the scandal over ACORN.
ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is an organization that is supposed to fight for the poor and disadvantaged. According to its website, its job is to build “community organizations that are committed to social and economic justice” and to help “those who have historically been locked out become powerful players in our democratic system.”
A splendid mission statement. Exactly the kind of organization a polished liberal politician would want to be friends with. President Barack Obama certainly did; he has extensive ties to ACORN and he made very sure, in the last campaign, to highlight this friendship, boasting to ACORN leaders back in November 2007 that:
“I’ve been fighting alongside ACORN on issues you care about my entire career. Even before I was an elected official, when I ran Project Vote voter registration drive in Illinois, ACORN was smack dab in the middle of it, and we appreciate your work.”
ACORN thinks highly of itself, and so do liberal politicians and so, too, do many journalists. Far too highly, it turns out.
I don’t begrudge people their sympathies and friendships. I tend to dislike liberal politicians more than the other kind, but that doesn’t make them, and the people they hang out with, necessarily evil. What I don’t like is people who refuse to see the really awfully bad things staring them in the face because of those sympathies and friendships. Especially when their job is to see such things.
It’s bad enough that liberal politicians didn’t realize there was something wrong with ACORN. What really makes me squirm, though, is the initial reaction in much of the mainstream media to what should have been a hot scandal involving a significant group with ties to an incumbent president.
I refer to the revelation that ACORN employees not only tolerated the presence of a pimp and his prostitute “girlfriend” in their offices but also gave them advice on how to set up and run their supposed prostitution business (which they claimed involved minors from El Salvador, something that would have shocked progressive sensibilities if the business had been, say, growing coffee or making running shoes). This sting operation was repeated in cities across America, not confined to one locale. The videos are all posted here; if you haven’t seen them they’re quite unpleasant but well worth your time.
Once you have seen the footage you cannot possibly think there is any way those ACORN employees have an excuse for what they did. Nor can you shake the feeling that there is indeed something very rotten in that organization. Why, for instance, didn’t these ACORN employees jump up from their chair and order the pair out, or threaten to call the police? Do they get this sort of client often?
When you watch those videos there are a lot of concerns that immediately spring to mind. So which preoccupied the establishment press? Well, NBC’s Norah O’Donnell fretted that conservatives using hidden cameras “might be viewed as entrapment.” Uh huh, entrapment. That’s pretty bad. Whereas pimping Third World kids...
Then there’s the Washington Post columnist who called ACORN “the nation’s premier tribune for the poor,” and got quite upset at the “right-wing sting squad” that landed the community organization in so much trouble. “What’s been obscured amid all the polemics, or the polemics passing as news reports, is what ACORN is and does.” And he follows that with a long list of good things ACORN is and does. But the one who takes the prize is Salon’s Joe Conason.
“ACORN’s troubles should be considered in the context of a history of honorable service to the dispossessed and impoverished. No doubt it was fun to dupe a few morons into providing tax advice to a ‘pimp and ho,’ but what ACORN actually does, every day, is help struggling families with the Earned Income Tax Credit (whose benefits were expanded by both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton). And while the idea of getting housing assistance for a brothel was clever, what ACORN really does, every day, is help those same working families avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes.”
As OpinionJournal’s James Taranto noted, “Here is what Joe Conason is defending: an organization that has been caught on tape at least five times offering advice on how to evade the authorities while enslaving children as prostitutes. There is no kind way to say what we think of this, but we will try to put it as gently as we can: Partisanship is well and good, but one ought to take care to observe some minimal standard of basic moral hygiene.”
Yes, moral hygiene. It can sometimes be cruelly lacking, as happened a while back when Planned Parenthood employees were caught on tape accepting money from an obviously racist donor (played by James O’Keefe, the “pimp” in the ACORN videos) to abort black babies, with one staffer saying “for whatever reason, we’ll accept the money.” (A topic we discussed on ProWomanProLife, along with other stories about Planned Parenthood employees failing to report apparent cases of statutory rape to the authorities.) Do you remember hearing about that on NBC or reading about it in the New York Times? I didn’t think so. Now imagine if the story had concerned Halliburton…
It doesn’t matter how distasteful you think it is for activists of any political leaning to trap other people using hidden cameras. It also doesn’t matter how much you hate Fox News or how much you love anyone remotely connected to President Obama. What matters is truth and decency.
There is no excuse for what the ACORN employees said and did, and for what they didn’t do. Disregarding the sexual exploitation of minors (Americans and illegal aliens) is no small potatoes, and it sure isn’t progressive.
Brigitte Pellerin is an Ottawa writer and one of the women behind the group blog, ProWomanProLife.org
Copyright © Brigitte Pellerin
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