Little Rock These days it’s pretty clear that if you are going to run an activist nonprofit that might make waves someday and therefore unsettle conservative sailors on their good ship “Lollypop,” you simply have to increase the paranoia training for staff and leaders alike. The sting and scam model that the scurrilous and unprincipled James O’Keefe and his confederates have practiced (perfected would NOT be the correct word) in trying to attack one progressive institution after another (ACORN, NPR, teachers’ unions, New Hampshire’s election observers, and Planned Parenthood) has still not run its cycle. The good news perhaps is that the press might finally be getting embarrassed at swallowing the bait and bull, and might be wary of being caught in the scam just like the unsuspecting front liners at nonprofits.
There was another report this week of a conservative trying to walk into a community organizing office in Manhattan and Brooklyn and seeing if he could get advice on how to organize a union and “shake down politicians for more money.” Such bizarre and fantastic propositions are ludicrous on their face, which makes this kind of ham-handed effort easy to detect, but it does give a pretty good indication of the desperate hunt for publicity and relevance that the conservative second and third stringers feel. And, despite the fact that all of this has become a parody of politics on the order of a drunken college prank concocted in a late night dormitory room, it means that anyone involved in citizen action or community service is now fair game for these fools, until the cameras are finally turned off and the reporters put down their pins.
The easy part of preparing staff for these ideological idiots is developing the simple BS barometer on these simple scams. The harder part remains when organizations are involved in constant interaction with the public, particularly in direct service, similar to some of ACORN and Planned Parenthood programs. Staff are trained to offer assistance and engage in problem solving. As too many videos have shown, staff can go a long way down the road in trying to be helpful, which even in the most ridiculous circumstances can be easily misconstrued, and stray over the line of good judgment.
The chilling impact of targeting nonprofits with these “I Spy” rightwing tactics is that too many organizations are faced with the dilemma of either providing services from counseling to voter registration or abandoning such critical work in the face of tremendous need, simply because the “optics” might break badly if under attack.
Only standing strong in the face of this bullying will make it stop. And, realizing finally, an injury to one is an injury to all. Maybe it’s time for putting all shoulders together so that we can put an end to these high jinks from the right?