Thursday, September 10, 2009

Why they hate ACORN

I flipped on Fox this morning to see Josephine McCarthy (aka Megyn Kelly) calling for federal investigation of ACORN. Apparently, this continued the whole day.

Whatever the proximate reason is for any given instance of conservative movement hysteria about ACORN, the ultimate reason gets back to one thing: subverting democracy by delegitimizing the election of Democrats.

Now we know that Karl Rove spearheaded the firing of David Iglesias, the U.S. Attorney in New Mexico who refused to follow the Bush White House's orders to intimidate low-income voters by making false charges of "voter fraud." What the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal and other major papers missed in their stories last week was that Rove was specifically targeting ACORN, the community organizing group that has waged some of the most effective voter registration drives in recent memory.

Rove viewed ACORN as a threat to the GOP because of its success in registering low-income voters and turning them out to vote on election day.
And given that the Republican party is becoming the party of southern, white fundamentalist Christians, it probably is worth noting again the narrative that has been built around the politically motivated desire to demonize ACORN: a community oriented organization of "thugs" is stealing elections for liberals who want to take the money of hardworking, middle class whites and give it to lazy, good-for-nothing criminal minorities.

This is a dangerous sort of scapegoating to engage in. As Hunter at Daily Kos has noted, ACORN has come to be the catch-all bogeyman for conservative fears.

ACORN fills a vital role in this conservative sphere of constant, imminent destruction -- but not as real danger. Instead it is a catch-all bogeyman, an avatar representing an unseen and generic enemy. The reason it is "ACORN" that is going to surreptitiously disrupt conservative Tea Bag festivities is because "ACORN" is the only nefarious bogeyman most conservatives know. Nobody would seriously believe Muslims, homosexuals, or space aliens will interfere with the protests -- or maybe they would, considering the audience -- but it is a given that some group must stand in opposition, and ACORN is simply a convenient, predetermined name for that group. It could be any name, because the name is unimportant, only the narrative of all-powerful, omnipresent enemy. Before ACORN, it was the ACLU. Before the ACLU, it was McCarthy's invisible Communists.
So when I got around to watching Glenn Beck today - someone who apparently believes that any day now ACORN will kill him for exposing their secret plot to rule the world - and he told the audience in so many words that the lives of the two individuals who "exposed" ACORN by creating a hidden video showing two Baltimore ACORN workers looking the other way at tax fraud and virtual sexual slavery are in danger I wasn't suprised. Nor was I surprised when Hannh Giles, the young woman who pretended to be a prostitute in the video, came on and didn't disagree with Beck about how brave she was for putting her life on the line and what not. If you're plugged into the paranoid world that Hunter referenced, its simply common knowledge that ACORN is a super-evil nefarious crime organization that kills those who make it look bad.

And Hannah Giles is indeed plugged into the Republican Noise Machine.

When Beck asked Giles about why she made the video, she answered that she thought ACORN was a bunch of thugs and wanted to set out to prove it. Which is probably why instead of going out and doing actual journalism she and her co-conspirator set out to manufacture an incident that could be used to demonize the organization.

None of this is to say what the two employees did is defensible. It isn't - and they have already lost their jobs for it. But to go around with an entrapment scheme until you can find a couple of employees of a national organization acting badly - withholding from your audience the fact that 3 of the 4 offices you visited did no such thing - and then hold this up to mean "ACORN" the organization is in favor of crime and sexual slavery and what not is dishonest and propagandistic.

What's more, this is the sort of evidential procedure that racists and bigots use to "prove" that the target of their prejudice is evil, inferior, criminal, or whatever.

This isn't to say I believe that Giles or her partner James O'Keefe are racists. But I do strongly suspect that they are conservative supremacists, which is what allows their hatred of all things "liberal" to produce results like this which can so easily be used to transmit racist paranoia. (See here and here for my previous thoughts on this process.)

And if you want to know why I suspect Giles and O'Keefe of being conservative supremacists, it's because of rhetoric like this

... all O’Keefe wants to prove is that Planned Parenthood hasn’t strayed far from its Hitleresque roots.
and this

These tactics allow the viewer to see the Jew's ACORN’s soul; their playing field and their morality, out in the open. Their system is based on conflict and change for its own sake. This system is based on totalitarian principles and class war techniques. These people understand pressure, power and self-interest. When the Baltimore employees saw we were shady dealers, their instincts clicked in, as we were prime recruits.

The Jew ACORN has ascended. They elect our politicians and receive billions in tax money. Their world is a revolutionary, socialistic, atheistic world, where all means are justifiable. And they create chaos, again, for it’s own sake. It is time for us to be studying and applying their tactics, many of which are ideologically neutral. It is time, as Hannah said as we walked out of the Jew ACORN facility, for conservative activists to “create chaos for glory.”
You can see the video in question in that link. As you can see, I took some liberties with the quote in order to demonstrate how easily this screed could translate into more traditional New World Order conspiracy about criminal, subversive Jews who are the enemies within and what not.

Like I said, the behavior of the employees is not defensible (and the organization - at least at the Baltimore office - could apparently benefit from better screening/training of employees), but as you can see from O'Keefe's rhetoric, he was setting out to "prove" what he already believed about ACORN.

And what he believes about ACORN sounds, frankly, insane.

Update: The King of the Republican Noise Machine demonstrates exactly what the propagandistic purpose of this venture is

... Remember, ACORN is Barack Obama's training ground. When he got to Chicago he became a community organizer with ACORN. He taught them how to do things; they taught him how to do things. We now have an ACORN-type community agitator as president of the United States.

[long snip]

They exist to overthrow the system. They're made up of people just as angry at this country as Barack Obama and Van Jones and Mark Lloyd are, and Valerie Jarrett and all the rest of them.

So they go in there and they pose as degenerates, they go in and pose as human debris, reprobates, a pimp and a prostitute, and here's ACORN, "Oh, yeah, we love it," because ACORN knows this is one of the fastest ways to rot the community and rotting communities is what they're all about, causing the rot. It creates chaos, it creates a need for welfare, creates a need for big government.
Limbaugh continues on, showing how brilliant he is, by predicting that the woman (only one of the two employees is featured in the clip Limbaugh is alluding to) in the video won't get fired by ACORN because this is exactly the sort of thing ACORN hired her to do to "overthrow the system," as Rush puts it above.

Nevermind the irony/hypocrisy of Rush Limbaugh being the one who openly wanted to spread anti-democratic chaos.

Update II: Just to give you further idea of how deranged Beck is/has become, during yesterday's program he told his audience that President Obama's televised health care speech to Congress was just a diversionary tactic, meant to distract people from the real story: ACORN.

Towards the end of the show he said that the Rathke brothers (one of them started ACORN) are using ACORN to "enslav[e] people." Which leads me to this tweet from Beck

Huh?! The two women in the video are "victims" of Rathke because they got fired for taking the bait in the entrapment scenario created by O'Keefe and Giles? Rathke smiles? What is that even supposed to mean? Having two low level employees at a local office of ACORN fired for improper behavior is part of Wade Rathke's nefarious super-secret plot to control the world or something?
If those womens are victims of anything, they're victims of the conservative movement's witchhunt against ACORN; victims of the movement's need to find a scapegoat for its electoral defeats, of the need to delegitimize the notion of a Democrat winning an election.

It's probably worth noting, as well, that O'Keefe is an Alinsky-con. That is to say, while Beck and others of his ilk go on and on about Rules for Radicals being the playbook that Obama is using to install totalitarian government, O'keefe and other conservatives are doing the Hofstadter recognized trait of emulating the perceived behavior of the enemy.

The enemy is clearly delineated: he is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman—sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury-loving. Unlike the rest of us, the enemy is not caught in the toils of the vast mechanism of history, himself a victim of his past, his desires, his limitations. He wills, indeed he manufactures, the mechanism of history, or tries to deflect the normal course of history in an evil way. He makes crises, starts runs on banks, causes depressions, manufactures disasters, and then enjoys and profits from the misery he has produced. The paranoid’s interpretation of history is distinctly personal: decisive events are not taken as part of the stream of history, but as the consequences of someone’s will. Very often the enemy is held to possess some especially effective source of power: he controls the press; he has unlimited funds; he has a new secret for influencing the mind (brainwashing); he has a special technique for seduction (the Catholic confessional).

It is hard to resist the conclusion that this enemy is on many counts the projection of the self; both the ideal and the unacceptable aspects of the self are attributed to him. The enemy may be the cosmopolitan intellectual, but the paranoid will outdo him in the apparatus of scholarship, even of pedantry. Secret organizations set up to combat secret organizations give the same flattery. The Ku Klux Klan imitated Catholicism to the point of donning priestly vestments, developing an elaborate ritual and an equally elaborate hierarchy. The John Birch Society emulates Communist cells and quasi-secret operation through “front” groups, and preaches a ruthless prosecution of the ideological war along lines very similar to those it finds in the Communist enemy.* Spokesmen of the various fundamentalist anti-Communist “crusades” openly express their admiration for the dedication and discipline the Communist cause calls forth.


Anonymous said...

I came across your pathetic, insignificant blog by Googling "Hannah Giles". You are out of your damn mind if you're defending ACORN. The dude posing as a pimp clearly stated one of the girls she was pimpin' out was 13 years old, and the ACORN worker was a-OK with that. And apparently you, and the rest of your far left-wing lunatics, are also OK with that.

Freakin' unbelievable.

But hey, at least I commented on your sad blog. I'm sure you get one comment every 3 months or so, if that. LOL

Anonymous said...

One of the best accounts I've read of the ACORN/Beck incident. Keep speaking the truth - there are actually MANY thinking Americans who can still recognize what that looks like.

C2H50H said...

I wonder if it ever occurs to the people who think this proves anything that, every time there's a sting operation where the feds come in and target the local police they catch some in some illegal activity.

Does that mean that the police are a criminal organization?

If you look for dishonesty in any organization larger than about four people, you are likely to find some.

In an organization with hundreds, it's virtually certain. It proves nothing about the organization. It doesn't even say much about their recruiting, because that's never going to be perfect.

And let me also say that this was an excellent post, H.G.

Hume's Ghost said...

"But hey, at least I commented on your sad blog. I'm sure you get one comment every 3 months or so, if that. LOL"

Your insulting me, combined with your demonstrated lack of reading comprehension and failure to engage with the substance of my post has certainly caused me to rethink my position on this matter.

Thanks for commenting.

Hume's Ghost said...

"Keep speaking the truth "

"And let me also say that this was an excellent post, H.G."

Thanks. I was going to write a follow up post today, but after 8 hours of driving this weekend I'm too tired to write it tonight.

I did offer some preliminary thoughts in the comments to this Digby post.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your taking the time to explain this. I only recently found out about Glenn Beck and could for the life of me not understand the ACORN obession. To me it is a lot more interesting that the policy leader of Americans for Prosperity (largely funded by Exxon) helped Glenn Beck get Van Jones - the green energy czar - fired. That same organization has also been promoting the "myth" of global warming. Why the members of the extreme right choose to focus on a group trying to help poor people and prefer to allow big corporations to steal their money and destroy the environment I will never understand. I'm beginning to think they are simply easily ruled by fear and too lazy to stop a moment and think why would ACORN want to do these crazy things. It's pretty darn clear why Exxon would. $$$$$