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Ed Driscoll

No Double-Standard Here

September 16th, 2009 - 12:56 am

Given that it’s the L.A. Times, this is a surprisingly strong editorial rebuke against ACORN:

Given all the scrutiny, one would have expected ACORN to be doing everything in its power to make sure its activities were squeaky clean. Yet since the initial video was released last week showing ACORN workers in Baltimore who appeared to be aiding and abetting criminal activity, activist filmmaker James O’Keefe has released two more showing similar behavior at ACORN offices in Washington and Brooklyn. The response from ACORN? Fire the workers involved and blame Fox News.

“We are the boogeyman for the right-wing and its echo chambers,” reads a self-serving statement released Saturday by ACORN’s chief organizer, Bertha Lewis. She claimed the videos were “doctored” and threatened legal action against Fox. What she didn’t do is apologize for the appalling and possibly illegal behavior of ACORN employees, acknowledge that the organization has serious internal problems and vow to correct them, or do what she should have done as soon as the scandal was revealed: resign.

O’Keefe’s hidden-camera methods are distasteful, and the extent to which his videos were edited is unknown. Their content is nonetheless devastating to ACORN — so much so that, on Monday, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to withhold federal housing funds from the group. That’s a shame because ACORN does worthwhile work in poor communities, helping people avoid foreclosure, giving them tax help and, yes, registering them to vote. If ACORN is to survive and retain a shred of credibility, it needs to stop deflecting blame and clean house.

I have to laugh though, at one line in the above editorial: “O’Keefe’s hidden-camera methods are distasteful, and the extent to which his videos were edited is unknown.”

As opposed to every episode of 60 Minutes that have aired on CBS since the show debuted in 1968? As Jonah Goldberg wrote in early 2001, before 9/11 and the birth of the Blogosphere:

60 Minutes has used secret cameras for decades and earned awards and ratings for it. But when 60 Minutes used a hidden camera to snoop on another journalist a few years ago, heads exploded in the hallowed halls of elite journalism. Why? Because we don’t do that sort of thing to our own. We only screw outsiders. Why do you think the media despised Linda Tripp so? It wasn’t just that she made life for Bill Clinton so uncomfortable; she was a scab, using the very techniques that thousands of journalists use each and every day. And she did it to protect herself! Nevertheless, when a private citizen employs such tactics she’s seen as an immoral betrayer of a friend. When a journalist does it, she’s a “news hound” — and an ethical one at that.

Of course that was before blogging made everyone into a potential journalist, and smashed the legacy media’s guild mentality. And speaking of September 11th here’s a telling anecdote. That night, there was, understandably, a news blackout around the rubble of what at the start of the day had been the World Trade Center. Beyond the risk of bodies appearing on the 6:00 PM news, very likely the New York authorities didn’t want a gaggle of journalists scampering about the still smoldering rubble and debris, both slowing down rescue efforts, and risking further injury, or worse. But Diane Sawyer of ABC grabbed a cameraman and a small camcorder, and wrapped the camera with a roll of paper towels to disguise it. Wearing filter masks and goggles, they wandered into the cordoned-off area of the WTC and attempt to see what they could see, and tape what they could tape. If that’s considered acceptable television journalism, then why are James O’Keefe’s hidden-camera methods “distasteful” to the L.A. Times?

Is the difference merely Diane Sawyer’s establishment center-left politics, or does the venue — a TV conglomerate whose predecessor radio network dates back over 60 years versus an upstart Website also play a factor in the Times’ double-standard?

Certainly wouldn’t be the first time for the legacy media.

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