Monday, October 5, 2009

How To Cover ACORN

So NYT "Public Editor" Clark Hoyt has now devoted another column to the pressing issue of whether the Times has sufficiently covered ACORN, and whether the insufficient coverage is a sign of a massive liberal bias, or the overcoverage is a sign of a massive conservative bias...oh, it gives you a headache, doesn't it? I don't know -- it strikes me as rather more important that the Times could run a major health care analysis piece based on the erroneous assumption that Massachusetts would fail to fill their Senate vacancy.

At any rate, Hoyt believes that the controversy, such as it is, is about views of whether ACORN is clean or dirty:
The strong reactions suggested how challenging it can be to navigate a polarized world — in this case, Acorn is either a thoroughly corrupt radical organization or an innocent victim of a new McCarthyism — when truth often lies somewhere in the middle.
Hoyt completely misses why conservatives think that ACORN is front page news: for conservatives, ACORN is part of, and a leading part of, a vast conspiracy to bring down capitalism, or the United States, or something like that. And ACORN is important because understanding ACORN "properly" (that is, within the conspiracy mindset) is an important step to proving that Barack Obama really is the wild-eyed anti-American radical that conspiracy-minded conservatives "know" he really is. In other words, this isn't about whether one particular unimportant organization turns out to be corrupt; it's about "palling around with terrorists."

It's not hard to find good quotations to support that, but far better is this cool chart from last fall -- or as Lisa Schiffren put it at NRO, a brilliant diagram -- that "shows" how ACORN, Obama, Soros, and Barney Frank and Chuck Schumer caused the financial crisis. I'm sure there's another chart out there someplace showing how ACORN and Obama stole the 2008 election.

Of course, this is all nonsense. Barack Obama is not secretly plotting to bring down capitalism and the United States; he's not controlled by a group of crazed radical terrorists; he's just a mainstream liberal pol. Therefore, whether the ACORN thing is worth covering or not, it just isn't very important in and of itself.

What is worth covering, however, is the extent to which large chunks of the conservative network of activists and commentators have given themselves over to nutty conspiracy thinking. That is a big, and important, story, and one the Times should cover a lot better than it does. I don't think that anyone who gets their news just from the Times would realize the extent to which Bill Ayers remains a central figure for (some) conservatives, or how well-accepted birther junk is for many of these people.

Hoyt does get one thing right: he analogizes ACORN to Blackwater. That's close; if you add Blackwater to Diebold, you get ACORN (and Soros and Ayers). The Times should help its readers understand (1) why some people seem to be so obsessed with these people and organizations, and (2) how important those conspiracy-pushers are within their party networks. That's a big story, and getting it right is important.

1 comment:

  1. Just found your blog and am loving it so far. Wonderfully free of the hysteria you see at most blogs.


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