Media: September 2009 Archives

Trafficking image.jpg

The blogosphere and cable news have been talking for the last week or so about James O'Keefe and his hidden camera video of ACORN employees in Baltimore. O'Keefe posed as a pimp and brought along college student Hannah Giles to pose as a prostitute who worked for him. He led two ACORN employees through an elaborate scenario in which he solicited advice on how to circumvent U.S. tax laws to run a brothel using underage undocumented Salvadoran prostitutes. Two ACORN employees proceeded to give him the advice he asked for.

I watched the video recently. Those employees were fired and rightly so. ACORN needs to do a better job of screening its employees and instituting procedures to ensure its employees are obeying the law. ACORN has a lot of housecleaning to do, and hopefully will become a more effective organization in the process.

But O'Keefe did not make this video out of a desire to improve provision of services to low-income communities. Glenn Beck didn't devote an entire FOX show to the piece out of concern for Latin American victims of sex trafficking.

Beck pushed this video to derail discussion of the health care bill and take down a longtime political opponent of the GOP: ACORN, a national organization that works to register low-income voters of the kind O'Keefe wants to see excluded from the polls, an organization that helps low-income homeowners avoid ending up on the street.

I watched O'Keefe's video at the Baltimore ACORN office and Beck's show promoting the clip. On my reading, James O'Keefe and Glenn Beck have not demonstrated that they care about improving the situation of low-income communities or that they want to improve the situation of actual undocumented Salvadoran children in this country, or mitigate the suffering of real victims of trafficking.

If I am wrong, where is the evidence? Where is O'Keefe's story on unaccompanied minors in the U.S. who are smuggled by coyotes to rejoin their parents or trafficked into prostitution, then arrested and targeted by DHS? Where is Beck's expose on the failure of the U.S. government to prevent human trafficking or protect trafficking victims? Has O'Keefe ever met any undocumented Salvadoran children? Does he know what their concerns are? Does he know anything about their struggles in El Salvador or in the U.S.? I've seen no indication that he does.

Instead, I've seen him and his accomplice use underage Central American prostitutes--who do exist in this country--to execute a dirty takedown of a political opponent.

I picked this video up from Atrios, but it's a good intro for a pitch to sign this petition asking your Congressional reps to support ACORN and the low-income communities ACORN serves instead of cowering before Glenn Beck.

Someone please tell Congressional Democrats that it is unbecoming to prostrate oneself before a supreme weenie like Beck.

Clearly, ACORN needs to do some internal housekeeping, including training and screening its employees better. Workers at community-based organizations should give clients advice on how to comply with the law, not circumvent it. But Beck's promotion of O'Keefe's video is a transparent political hit piece. If the GOP gets any nonwhite votes at all in the next twenty years, it will be despite the best efforts of Beck, Hannity, and Limbaugh.

coda to a year at change.org

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At the end of August, I ended eleven months of blogging for the change.org Immigrant Rights blog.  I learned a lot from the experience, which was for me a continuous education in blogging and activism.  Writing for the site was a great opportunity for me.

Eventually I learned what other bloggers on the site had realized long before, that a certain reactive style of blogging based around the news of the day or content provided by other sources was not the most effective use of time or blog space.  What I saw other editors doing there which I tried to mimic was to introduce new content and analysis into the blogosphere and use the site to promote offline campaigns.  

It is clear that management and the bloggers at change.org are committed to achieving impactful social change.  I only recently started to realize the truly revolutionary potential of the platform which the site's founders have put in place.  I sincerely hope that the site reaches its goal of becoming a hub for grassroots collaborative activism, and I am happy that the site plans to maintain its current commitment to promoting the rights of migrants both inside and outside the U.S.