GREENWALDIAN UPDATE BELOW
You would think that with the recent evidence people would be done covering for ACORN. I know if I were on the left I would think there were better uses of my time than defending a institution that relishes in the prospect of prostituting of underage immigrants for political campaigns.
And yet here is Glenn Greenwald, a professed civil libertarian, trying to turn the tables on investigators of ACORN. He argues that ACORN’s misdeeds are so small in comparison to the banks’ and military contractors’ ripoffs that even reporting on ACORN is a trap set by the right wing:
ACORN has received a grand total of $53 million in federal funds over the last 15 years — an average of $3.1 million per year. Meanwhile, not millions, not billions, but trillions of dollars of public funds have been, in the last year alone, transferred to or otherwise used for the benefit of Wall Street. Billions of dollars in American taxpayer money vanished into thin air, eaten by private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, led by Halliburton subsidiary KBR. All of those corporate interests employ armies of lobbyists and bottomless donor activities that ensure they dominate our legislative and regulatory processes…
And yet the very same article that he references for the $53 million number has the subheadline: “Now Eligible for up to $8 Billion More.” The point: ACORN is now a joke, thanks to these undercover reports. But mere months ago ACORN was respectable enough in the public eye that realistically major funds could have been directed toward them.
For Greenwald to set ACORN’s detractors opposite Wall Street bailouts is grossly misleading. In fact it is our own correspondent Matthew Vadum who is probably the most prominent investigator of ACORN and appears on Glenn Beck and other programs regularly to talk about ACORN. It is laughable to suggest that Vadum reports on ACORN to distract from the larger issues of predatory businesses, as Greenwald suggests. It is hard to imagine a more vocal opponent of bailouts for Wall Street than Vadum. And when Greenwald mentions in particular, “…Goldman Sachs itself has a virtual lock on the top Treasury positions no matter which party is in power” he must not have realized that Vadum wrote an article entitled “Goldman Sachs Government” detailing the bank’s outsized influenced in Washington.
In general, it is the same right wing that uncovered ACORN’s crimes that opposed the same marriage of state and big business that Greenwald complains about.
So with this massive pillaging of America’s economic security and its control of American government by its richest and most powerful factions growing by the day, to whom is America’s intense economic anxiety being directed? To a non-profit group that devotes itself to providing minute benefits to people who live under America’s poverty line, and which is so powerless in Washington that virtually the entire U.S. Senate just voted to cut off its funding at the first sign of real controversy — could anyone imagine that happening to a key player in the banking or defense industry?
But the whole point of the investigations Gleenwald is impugning is that ACORN is manifestly not a group “devoted to provide minute benefits to people who live under America’s poverty line.” It’s as if he didn’t watch the videos or had no understanding of the argument whatsoever. ACORN does not help the poor. Think of the worst abuses of defenseless people within the limits of your imagination — for instance the systematic forced prostitution of immigrant children to fund a political campaign — and that is what ACORN is demonstrated to condone. How is this fact lost on Greenwald?
Most of all, what’s so pernicious about all of this is that the same interests who are stealing, pillaging and wallowing in corruption are scapegoating the poorest and most vulnerable in order to ensure that the victims of their behavior are furious with everyone except for them.
Is Greenwald really unaware of the events of the past few weeks? That the folks who brought ACORN down were not FOX News or any other large corporation, but only two kids with a video camera acting more or less alone? The assertion that they are “the same interests who are stealing, pillaging, and wallowing in corruption” could not be further from the truth. When I met James O’Keefe just three years ago, he was a penniless student who could not afford a decent-fitting suit. Now he writes for an independent blog.
Glenn Greenwald’s work is valuable and he does a great job tracking Washington’s abuses of power, but his inability to distinguish between guerilla journalism and a vast corporate-government conspiracy in this case reeks of paranoia.
Thanks to Glenn Greenwald for the link. He says a lot of things to counter my argument, but as I read him the crux of his argument is:
The issue is one of proportion. If someone ostensibly opposes government waste and unfairness in tax policy yet spends most of their time focusing on a tiny group that helps the poor and receives a miniscule amount of government money — all while ignoring or even revering the enormous, omnipotent industries which eat up trillions in taxpayer waste and dwarf the impact of ACORN by many, many magnitudes — then any rational person would question what the real motives are (and the claim that ACORN is “Now Eligible for up to $8 billion” is pure Beckian deceit; they (like every other group in the U.S.) are theoretically “eligible” for any stimulus funds in the areas in which they work, but they haven’t received a penny of it, and the chances they’d receive all or most of it are, and always have been, zero).
By “someone” in the second paragraph, Greenwald means the people behind the furor at ACORN: “Rush Limbaugh, the Murdoch-owned Fox News, Glenn Beck, the right-wing blogosphere and talk radio generally, business groups led by Dick Armey.”
Where Greenwald ventures into the territory of paranoia is in conflating a few huge, rich media outlets with the very few and relatively powerless people who actually broke this story despite the willful ignorance of most of the mainstream media. Two points:
1) As far as I can tell, three people have done almost all of the legwork in exposing ACORN over the past year or so: James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles, two kids posting on a blog, and Matthew Vadum, a lone researcher and freelancer working long hours. Yes, these folks are somewhat “obsessed” with ACORN, but they also happen to be proponents of limited government.
2) Yes, their work has been picked up and trumpeted by mainstream outlets such as Fox, Rush, etc., who may have partisan purposes in mind. But note well that the outlets that are not promoting their work (the majority of media outlets) are also doing so for partisan reasons. It’s not as though MSNBC and CNN are ignoring the ACORN videos because they are too busy exposing Goldman Sachs and Halliburton, as Greenwald wishes Fox and Rush would.
Furthermore, the “stealing, pillaging and wallowing in corruption” interests will always be a problem. That does not mean that the media should focus solely on them until they are forever vanquished. If a remarkable story comes up — such as the fact that a notable group of “that helps the poor” is in fact in favor of forcing the poorest into prostitution to fund Democratic politicians — then the media should focus on them for a time.
(A few other notes on Greenwald’s response.
He suggests that the tea partiers do not represent a cohesive opposition to “extreme corporate influences.” I would be willing to bet that a poll would show that tea party attendees are overwhelmingly (more than 95 percent) opposed to any kind of corporate welfare, especially bailouts. I would bet that a sizable percentage of them are in fact Goldman conspiracists.
Greenwald also states that “the claim that ACORN is “Now Eligible for up to $8 billion” is pure Beckian deceit” yet as I said that is a line from the article he cited. So he has no problem relying on sources that engage in pure Beckian deceit?)