Coming to theatres today, Friday, April 6:
ACORN AND THE FIRESTORM
Reuben Atlas and Sam Pollard
AFI Docs, Montclair, Traverse City, Indie Memphis, Cucalorus, St Louis, Milwaukee, Napa Valley
An exploration of the manufactured controversy that led to the downfall of a powerful community-based advocacy group.
During the 2008 US Presidential election, John McCain called into question the activities of ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) and Barack Obama’s connection to the group, suggesting in hyperbolic terms that they were engaged in voter fraud. The next year, Hannah Giles and James O’Keefe, a pair of “concerned citizens” purported to catch ACORN employees on hidden camera abetting their plans involving tax evasion and human trafficking, supposedly while dressed as a stereotypical flashy pimp and prostitute. The media had a field day with their videos, the government raced to defund them, and private funders followed suit, leading to the dissolution of the organization by 2010. Atlas and Pollard’s enraging but not always fully focused film covers this scandal, revealing how quickly and unquestioningly O’Keefe and Giles’ dubious claims were accepted, and the reality of how the pair manipulated editing and flat out lied about the particulars of their sting operation – as well as the forty years of positive, effective change and empowerment that ACORN fostered. Importantly, they link the scandal to the emergence of what would become the alt right, but this is an area that could have received more attention.