Like I said yesterday, I've been wanting to write about the ACORN videos. I'm just not entirely sure how to go about it.
At this point, four videotapes showing ACORN workers apparently ready and willing to help a self-described pimp and prostitute apply for a mortgage loan for the house they intend to use in that business have surfaced. The most outrageous one involving an ACORN worker is being called a hoax, though; there's at least some indication that the woman in question realized the pair was a sham and "played up" to them. That's actually quite plausible, in this age of reality TV--perhaps she thought at any moment that some person would appear and explain how she'd been "punk'd" or otherwise gulled, and that there might be money in it, making it in her best interest to play along with what seemed to her to be just the right sort of gag to end up on late night television.
But there's apparently no such question about the first three videos, in which ACORN workers didn't seem to mind helping a couple in the described situation fudge things a little in order to apply for a mortgage loan. And that has led to some interesting results.
The Senate has voted to deny HUD funding to ACORN. The House is asking for all federal funds to be removed from ACORN, and the Census Bureau has dropped ACORN from its list of voluntary participants in next year's census. And now, amazingly, ACORN has decided to suspend all its key operations while waiting for an investigation of this whole matter.
There are a lot of lessons to be learned from this. Clearly, a couple of citizens with a video camera have done for the mainstream news media what a handful of amateur font analysts did for Dan Rather; they've stolen a march, scooped the pants off of the mainstream press, and showed once again why the old media is losing prestige and eyeballs. Charlie Gibson can act aloof and disdainful all he likes, but the Old Guard is going to learn, perhaps painfully, that they no longer get to decide what is news and what isn't.
A bigger lesson is that at least some of the Tea Party protesters, the ones complaining about taxes, government waste, and out-of-control spending, have a real point. How much money does ACORN get from the federal government? How much of that money goes to facilitate loans which should never have been made in the first place--even if the circumstances were not as outrageous or salacious as those concocted by the actors in the videotapes? How many other agencies involved in similar kinds of work and getting similar amounts of tax money are doing the same sorts of illegal things?
A third lesson, though, is a little dispiriting. In many ways, these videos remind me of the ones put out by these courageous people--yet there hasn't been anything like the same level of public outcry or immediate Congressional action. Planned Parenthood, another organization which receives huge amounts of federal tax dollars, can be shown time and time again to have operatives who are willing to flout the mandatory reporting laws when presented with statutory rape scenarios, and yet the public is willing to ignore and overlook this. To be fair, some law enforcement officers and attorneys general have not been so willing, and there have been some actions taken--but nothing like the swift condemnation of the illegal activity we're seeing in the ACORN case.
What does that tell us? It tells me that people in general are much more willing to accept Planned Parenthood's peccadilloes than they are ACORN's. And so as encouraging as it is to see ACORN's activities held up to the light, I'm reminded that when it comes to exposing the corruption of government beneficiaries, we have a lot more work to do.