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Technology & Innovation

The Media vs. ACORN

This Wednesday a federal judge ruled that the congressional bill, passed last year by both houses, which barred the community organizing group ACORN from receiving federal funds amounted to a bill of attainder and was therefore unconstitutional.

As The Nation’s Chris Hayes argues, “the United States Congress is not known for quick, decisive action.” Yet only days after a series of videos showing two conservative activists dressed up as a pimp and a prostitute receiving tax advice from ACORN representatives hit the Web, both houses passed the ACORN bill stopping all government funding to the group.

So why did congress suddenly kick into overgear to deny funding to a group which receives on average only “$3.5 million a year from the government, or approximately one-millionth of [2009’s] budget“? After all, wouldn’t lawmakers’ suffer some backlash by cutting aid to an organization working to keep people in their homes during the worst foreclosure crisis in the country’s history?

The answer has something to do with the perfect media storm that resulted from the colorful viral videos, public outrage over the government’s handling of the financial crisis, and the easy target of a community organizing group with decentralized leadership and admittedly variable standards and practices. Back in April of last year, Media Matters found that, “in coverage of major news stories, conservative media figures have repeatedly fallen back on two of their favorite bogeymen—the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and undocumented immigrants—frequently blaming national crises on one or both groups or accusing them of receiving undeserved benefits from the government.

And when ACORN was cleared by the Brooklyn district attorney’s office earlier this month, the Colbert Report put together this humorous yet revealing compilation of media outlets getting aspects of the story wrong. The videos were heavily edited, as the Brooklyn DA found, but the mainstream media didn’t seem to care. Too bad the damage has already been done.


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