ACORN is closing up shop and may have to file for bankruptcy. There’s no mystery as to why: donors have refused to write checks to the organization since the now-infamous “pimp videos” featuring James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles. The ensuing controversy that made ACORN radioactive had as much to do with the organization’s response as it did with the actual content of the videos.
A Wired article on Andrew Breitbart – whose Big Government was a platform for the videos – details the strategy behind the tiered release of the videos:
Breitbart initially released only the video from Acorn’s Baltimore bureau, which the group dismissed as an isolated incident. The next day, he posted a video of O’Keefe getting similar results in Washington, DC. Oops. Acorn stepped on the rake again, claiming the videos were doctored. Then Breitbart posted more — from New York City, San Diego, and Philadelphia. Congress started pulling Acorn’s funding, and The New York Times flagellated itself for its “slow reflexes” in covering the story.
A less savvy operative might have released all the videos at once to illustrate the scope of the problem. They would have received some coverage, but the media would largely have dismissed the story. After all, how many government and non-profit offices would you really have to walk into if you wanted to catch someone saying stupid on camera?
By releasing the videos in slow drips, O’Keefe and Breitbart established a pattern. With each new video, the story became a bit bigger, and more media outlets paid attention. This strategy also allowed ACORN to be dismissive of the first few releases, making them look all the more foolish when the “isolated incident” proved to be anything but.
On its own, video of O’Keefe and Giles would have told a compelling story about ACORN. Handled smartly – as it was – this information became a tangible result.