Politics dictionary

acorn

[ey-kawrn]

What does acorn mean?

ACORN is political slang for using deceptively obtained or fake evidence to damage a person's or group's reputation. A squirrelly enterprise, indeed.

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Related words

fake news, alternative facts, tinfoil hat, wag the dog, political spectrum, moonbat, Thanks, Obama

Where does acorn come from?

The slang ACORN comes from the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a non-profit helping low-income communities with such things as safety, health care, and voting.

In 2009, employees of ACORN were recorded giving advice on how to commit illegal acts by conservative activists James O’ Keefe and Hannah Giles. These recordings would eventually lead to public outrage and political action against ACORN. The bad press led to lost funding, and ACORN eventually shuttered in 2010.

IndieWire

While O’Keefe and Giles succeeded in killing ACORN, the video footage that allegedly showed illegal activity by ACORN was filmed illicitly and was heavily edited. Further, O’Keefe was later sued by one of the fired ACORN employees for invasion of privacy; they settled out of court. Finally, it was found that the entire motivation of O’Keefe’s and Giles’s actions was political in motivation: to “take down” ACORN, seen as a liberal, Democrat-associated organization.

Not long after the fall of ACORN in 2010, similar dubious tactics would be used against Department of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod and Planned Parenthood, both highly unpopular with conservatives. Due to the timing, comparisons to ACORN were common. By early 2011, ACORN (styled acorn) was entered on Urban Dictionary as a term for altering videos in order to harm a person or organization, especially for political purposes.

Examples of acorn

How The ACORN Scandal Seeded Today’s Nightmare Politics
Zach Carter & Arthur Delaney, HuffPost (headline), May 2018
Hey, did anyone pull an ACORN today? You know, lie, cheat, steal, general law breaking???
@ArkansasTravler, September 2009
U.S. News & World Report
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Who uses acorn?

ACORN is still occasionally used as an extended, allusive term for any political smear-job and misinformation stings, not just in direct reference to the actual ACORN scandal. It’s typically used as a verb, e.g., to ACORN a group or get ACORNed.

ACORN is referenced by both sides of the political spectrum. It is used by conservatives to refer to the organization’s alleged illegal activity and by liberals to refer to the shady tactics used to kill the organization.

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Note

This is not meant to be a formal definition of acorn like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of acorn that will help our users expand their word mastery.