Indeed, in a democracy like ours, debate is an outcome whose value is hard to…debate with. The O’Keefe/Giles finding, Mark Bowden says, is “not a story.” Still, though, it’s something. “It’s a political protest. It’s a revelation,” he says. “But it’s not a work of journalism. The video itself is the piece of information and the question then becomes, ‘How do you present it?’ As long as it’s not misrepresented as a work of journalism, I don’t have a problem with that.”

In his Atlantic essay, Bowden describes such an ideology-infused approach to shaping news as “post-journalistic.”

It sees democracy, by definition, as perpetual political battle. The blogger’s role is to help his side. Distortions and inaccuracies, lapses of judgment, the absence of context—all of these things matter only a little, because they are committed by both sides, and tend to come out a wash. Nobody is actually right about anything, no matter how certain they pretend to be. The truth is something that emerges from the cauldron of debate. No, not the truth: victory, because winning is way more important than being right. Power is the highest achievement.

There is nothing new about this. But we never used to mistake it for journalism. Today it is rapidly replacing journalism, leading us toward a world where all information is spun, and where all “news” is unapologetically propaganda.

So ACORN got caught on candid camera, and they got caught good. Does it matter who shot the video and what their motivations were? Maybe not. Just don’t call it journalism.

Alexandra Fenwick is an assistant editor at CJR.