ACORN and the Firestorm
If you felt doomed to being impoverished and politically voiceless, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) hoped to change your mind — and perhaps your life. For 40 years, the controversial community-organizing group sought to empower marginalized communities. Its critics, though, believed ACORN exemplified everything wrong with liberal ideals by promoting government waste and ineffective activism. Those competing perceptions exploded on the national stage in 2008, just as Barack Obama became president. Fueled by a deceptive YouTube video made by undercover “journalists” — conservative provocateurs James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles, who solicited the organization’s help in setting up a brothel by posing as a pimp and prostitute — ACORN faced withering criticism and, ultimately, an existential crisis. “ACORN and the Firestorm” goes well beyond the 24-hour news cycle and helps bridge the vast political divide by offering nuanced views of both critics and proponents of the organization.