The Cost to Destroy a Left-Wing Institution? For ACORN It’s Under $300,000, so far

James O'Keefe - Caricature

Fired ACORN Worker Wins $100,000 Settlement From Republican Con-Artist James O’Keefe

Former San Diego ACORN worker, Juan Carlos Vera will receive $100,000 in a settlement from federal criminal and professional liar James O’Keefe, after being secretly video-taped in violation of California law by the Rightwing propagandist. The tape was just one in a series of similar videos, all deceptively edited as part of his 2009 ACORN “pimp” hoax series.

The story of the settlement was originally broken by Wonkette, which published the 3-page settlement document [PDF], yesterday.

    -Brad Friedman, Brad Blog

I was listening to the Emmy award winning comedian David Feldman’s show yesterday talking about the great new film “Janeane From Des Moines” and Feldman kept asking questions about the Presidential candidates that the film maker met and filmed during the Iowa caucus.  He wanted to know, “How can they sleep at night?” specifically he wanted to know how they reconcile in their minds their actions and policies they promoted and their proclaimed Christian beliefs. Jane Wilson, the film maker, had a very insightful response.

People who are quote unquote evil never see themselves as [evil]

– Jane Edith Wilson, Film Maker Janeane From Des Moines

For years people asked me about right wing radio hosts,  “Do they really believe what they say or is it just an act for the money?” My response is, “Does it matter? I can’t see into their soul, all I know is what they publicly say, and what they do. And what they say is nasty. I will act to lessen their impact, because I think it is the right thing to do.” Then I proceeded to develop a program to separate them from their sponsors and their money. That was my way to go after an institution and individuals that I believe are bad for our democracy and our country.

If you are someone in power, who believes that a left-wing institution, group or person is bad for your goals there are a number of ways you can go about destroying them.  If you need to act quickly one shortcut is to manufacture “evidence” of wrong doings at that institution or from that person. This is useful when you can’t find any real wrong doings. For a price someone will do this for you. It’s good to get someone who believes in your same cause, so they can think they are doing good. But if you can’t find that person, get an actor who will pretend they are doing good. Another trick is to play the journalism “free speech” card so that you can get support from people who love journalism and free speech.

Last year I attended what I called “James O’Keefe University” to learn his techniques and methods. He talked about his real desire to be an actor and how his editing of videos was just like the editing of videos TV news shows do all the time. He encouraged people to do what he did. He then showed clips from the Daily Show from before they were revealed to be deceptively EDITED.  It was all presented as great fun. Stickin’ it to those hypocritical liberals!  I found the entire seminar profoundly depressing for a number of reasons.

First, the people funding O’Keefe, the Koch’s via Americans For Prosperity, understood just how powerful O’Keefe’s deceptive practices were, especially when teamed with the RW media and the more little O’Keefes they can unleash the better.

Second, AFP easily filled rooms with hard core right wingers whose internal beliefs convinced them they were doing heroic work taking down “bad guys” like ACORN. One of their biggest targets? Unions!

Third, and this was the one that hit me the hardest, there was nobody on the left who would fund me to go after Right-Wing institutions like O’Keefe did ACORN, but in an ethically and legal fashion. I have a track record, I have skills, but unlike O’Keefe, I didn’t have a Koch sugar daddy to support me taking on right wing institutions and media.

The AFP  seminar a.k.a “O’Keefe University” pushed the idea of “Citizen Journalist” while using the O’Keefe’s deceptively edited videos as a model for winning. And why not? As far as the Kochs and AFP is concerned O’Keefe was wildly successful.  As Brad Friedman put it:

Thousands of ACORN workers were left unemployed by the O’Keefe/Giles/Breitbart stunt after the U.S. Congress also fell for it. In 2009, shortly after the deceptively edited tapes were released, they passed legislation, signed by President Obama, that federally defunded the four-decade old community organization which had advocated to end predatory lending practices and helped millions of low- and middle-income Americans obtain housing loans and legally register to vote. The group was forced to shut its doors in the wake of the manufactured scandal.

O’Keefe achieved Koch’s and AFPs goals, and it was cheap.  Based on what O’Keefe has said I estimate it cost 70K for the cross country, illegal-taping tour of ACORN offices, 100K for this current settlement and let’s say 130K for those high-priced Republican lawyers. $300,000 to destroy ACORN. What a bargain!  Of course hopefully this settlement will lead to more.

If you knew you could take down Fox News or the Heritage Foundation for $300,000 would you? What if you didn’t have to manufacture evidence to do it? Would you do it then?

Many of you might remember the Book Salon that I hosted with Martin Hickman who wrote the book, “Dial M for Murdoch” In the book he described how a small team consisting mostly of a politician, some journalists and a lawyer exposed the phone hacking scandal at News of the World which led to it being shut down. They did the work legally using real journalism, the legal system and political pressure on a merger deal. I’m pretty confident that something similar could be used on New Corps properties here in the US.  But will anyone? Since Obama won the election does that mean that we stop focusing on right wing media institutions and get back to helping people? It would be nice, and that is the attitude of a number of funders, they really don’t want to fight the right. I think that’s a mistake, because the RW media and institutions are more vulnerable now than they have been in awhile.  Shall we let them regroup? Did they back off attacking us when they had the White House and the senate?

The right has to fund liars and deceivers like O’Keefe because they know they need to cheat to win. We don’t have to, but we do need the will to fight. One thing that I’ve learned over the years is that the mainsteam media will not go after the right wing media. They hate to cover them, they would rather ignore them. As Cenk Uygur said on The Young Turks the other day, one reason nobody on cable goes after Fox is because they either have friends who work there or they expect to work there some day. 

Here’s the deal, the ideas and attitudes of the right wing media and their belief tanks are killing our country. They are the ones who push the failed austerity ideas. They push cuts to earned benefits as a “shared sacrifice” instead of demanding raising revenue. They push ideas that the economy is a deity who must be sated with the lives of your friends and neighbors to support the profits of the one percent. They attack our values and ideals. They support the destruction of our democratic institutions.  And some of them get rich doing it. It doesn’t have to be that way.

I don’t want O’Keefe’s fine to scare off people who want to do real journalism and activism against corrupt institutions and people. If we have the goods we don’t have to deceptively edit. We also have to be smart about the law. I would hate for someone to have good video that could not be used because they didn’t know the law. Here is a link to “Can We Tape?” put out by Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

My friend, Angelo Carusone, at Media Matters wrote an article about the impact of the campaign to separate advertiser’s money from Rush Limbaugh one year after his attack on Sandra Fluke. Nobody is going to jail for alerting advertisers about the vile things Limbaugh has said and continues to say.  Dial Global, a radio syndication company, reported roughly $100 million in losses for 2012 and publicly cited Limbaugh as a significant contributing factor.  I celebrate this success. It was done legally and ethically.  Let’s keep pushing our success and learn from their success and failures.  The country is counting on us.

Creative Commons Attribution image by DonkeyHotey 

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