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Life Arts    H4'ed 5/24/18

ACORN and the Firestorm (Film Review)

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The film gives the history of the ACORN, how it started in Arkansas and grew to 400,000 member families in over two dozen states. The way the film is presented gives the viewer a glimpse of the 40-year rise of the association as an effective advocate for poor and working class families, before Hannah Giles decides to expose the group.

ACORN was a good organization which did good work and produced powerful enemies. Hannah solicited James O'Keefe and they decided to film undercover videos in ACORN offices posing as pose as a "pimp" and "prostitute." When an embezzlement was discovered--during their sting, Wade Rathke was ousted and Bertha Lewis became CEO. James O'Keefe spliced the footage and Andrew Breitbart made the highly-edited videos go viral

As a result of the fake pimp, the mainstream media finally picked up on the false ACORN story and ran with it. The ensuing media firestorm caused Congress to cut ties and funding to ACORN, which eventually bankrupted the association. Republican Congressman Steven King introduced a bill to defund ACORN; surprisingly, Democrats went along with it, and former ACORN community organizer President Barack Obama signed the bill into law.

The film presents this as a simple story of media manipulation and a conservative agenda. This is a good story--but a false narrative.

Left to Right: Derek Horne , Moderator, HSDFF Zach Polett, Former ACORN, Political Director John Atlas, Author / Producer Neil Sealy, Head Organizer for Arkansas Community Organizations
Left to Right: Derek Horne , Moderator, HSDFF Zach Polett, Former ACORN, Political Director John Atlas, Author / Producer Neil Sealy, Head Organizer for Arkansas Community Organizations
(Image by Michael McCray)
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Atlas presents the attacks as purely partisan or ideological. It is true that conservative activists wanted to destroy the most effective progressive organization in 40 years. But the fact that the ACORN whistleblowers are liberals and they attacked ACORN from the left does not fit this narrative, which is why John Atlas chose to ignore the ACORN 8 story. The way the film is edited, clips from a 2015 deposition of Hannah Giles and James O'Keefe are presented in the context of 2008 as proceeding their publicity stunt. What this does is it gives the audience an omnipotent point of view. We're in on the hoax from the very beginning; but it also distorts the chronology of events. In this case, because important information is selectively deleted, it distorts the viewers ability to discern cause and effect. This is another form of media manipulation.

Q & A Session

After the first screening, the moderator opened the questions and answers session with a frank discussion about how horrible Hannah Giles was as a human being. I asked John Atlas, a documentary filmmaker, why did he feel that it was okay to exclude the story about the ACORN 8 and ACORN whistleblowers from the film, from a journalism perspective? His response was short and flippant. "I'm not the director--that's my son." He later explained that he did not feel that the ACORN 8 or ACORN whistleblowers were significant to the story of ACORN.

A blond woman in a pink blouse asked a follow up question. "I want to know more about the ACORN 8" she said. The panel allowed me to briefly address the audience. "A civil war within ACORN broke out after revelation that a multi-million dollar embezzlement and cover up reached the board of directors. ACORN supporters went public in an effort to root out the corruption and reform the once venerable association. This became an internal battle about 'right vs wrong,' and not 'left vs right' waged by (liberal) ACORN Board Members, who were not conservative activists. This ACORN civil war spilled over to cable news and mainstream media outlets including FOX News, CNN and NBC. The ACORN whistleblowers, collectively known as the ACORN 8, broke through; which laid the ground work that the fake pimp news story exploited. ACORN was already in a firestorm sparked by liberal whistleblowers, before Hannah and the fake pimp ever strolled along."

"Contrary to this film, the real story is about ACORN whistleblowers. The ACORN story broke through because Marcel Reid and Karen Inman (from the ACORN 8) went on Glenn Beck. Hannah Giles appeared on Glenn Beck after the story was in full string. However, that appearance drove the rest of the main stream media coverage. The ACORN whistleblowers lit the powder keg, that exploded with the fake pimp Breitbart videos. That is the whole truth which still needs to be told--and one day will be."

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Michael McCray is a public interest advocate who combats racism and corruption in the government and other institutions which deprive individuals of their basic civil rights, human rights and constitutional liberties. McCray is co-chair of the (more...)

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