Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky
Reviewer’s introductory notes
Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky is a critically important book because it brings an awareness of a commonly practiced political process that otherwise would remain largely unrecognized. It is timely because our President, Barack Obama, was first a student, then a trainer and later an attorney for an organization founded and fashioned on the Alinsky model for gaining political power. You know it as ACORN. The radical professor is considered to be the Godfather of Community Organizing. “He wrote the book” and this is it. This was Obama’s world.
With the exception of the Prologue, I have chosen to present a synopsis of the content of each chapter with very few editorial remarks and then follow it up with a distinctly separate commentary on the chapter. [The synopsis is complete. The commentary will be added serially one chapter at a time. Each will be announced in a regular Post on the Home page as it is added to the review. A commentary will be added every Monday until the book is completed.]
Everything enclosed in quotes is presented exactly as it is in the book. Professor Alinsky’s writing calls for numerous error (sic) notations. We omitted them for the sake of simplicity.
The author did not number his chapters. They are identified solely by name.
The book is short and simple but hard to read. Not for its complexity but because so much of it comes across as nonsense. Stick with it; don’t give up. The significance of the Alinsky model becomes more and more apparent as you go along.
To print the Review scroll all the way to the bottom and you will find a Print button. It is 16 pages in length. The sidebar items will not be included.
Even before beginning the prologue Alinsky pays a tribute to Lucifer the devil. The radical professor admires the devil and holds him in high regard because he succeeded in winning his own kingdom.
The author’s prologue is a litany of misery. In his view, the world is a thoroughly miserable place. The prologue is replete with phrases like — “the outcome of hopelessness and despair is morbidity” and “there is a feeling of death overhanging the nation”.
Alinsky correctly cites Leftist radicals as completely rejecting the common “goals of a well paid job, suburban home, automobile … and everything else that means success” to others.
Young radicals are unhappy because they see only the faults in the world, and no purpose in life. They are in a constant search for themselves. The middle class and affluent are mired in the likes of divorce and disillusionment. The whole world is such a discouraging place that anyone who is happy in it must be blind.
Alinsky seldom speaks about changing America. He talks mostly about changing the World. His vision of despondency transcends domestic issues.
Revolution with some violence is likely to be required in order to wrest the power of government from those now in control. But revolution must come at the end of the process, not at the beginning. A successful revolution is like a three act play - first set the stage, then develop the plot, and finally conclude with the main event. It is the function and duty of a community organizer to direct this process.
Act I is join the crowd, gain respect, acceptance, legitimacy.
Act II is development, spread discontent, build support for Act III
Act III is the revolution which will of necessity be violent.
Alinsky encourages radicals to fight but discourages those who are impatient and want to go directly to Act III. Starting at the conclusion is very ineffective and and doesn’t bring success.
Commentary on the Prologue
There can be no doubt about the fact that we are dealing with a very morose individual. Midway through the Prologue it would seem to be a great waste of time to read any further. Just then he puts forth the analogy of the Three Act Play and suddenly begins to make sense.
Act I. Join the crowd, gain respect, acceptance and legitimacy. Of course! We live in a democracy with a prosperous and sizable middle class. Such a large segment of people are not going to surrender the fruits of their labor voluntarily. The goal of complete transformation with redistribution of wealth must begin with stealth.
“The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism, but under the name of liberalism they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program until one day America will be a socialist nation without ever knowing how it happened.” A statement generally accredited to Norman Thomas, six time candidate for president on the Socialist Party ticket.
Obama completed Act I with his election.
Act II is development, spread discontent, build support for Act III. Contented people do not cry for change. Therefore discontent must be sown and spread across as wide a spectrum of the population as possible. We see this today in class warfare by which Obama pits American against American. The rich, the banks, the oil companies are all made out to be enemies of the people, every one, without exception. Even riling up the Catholic Church has its advantages providing it does not cost Obama the election. To insure that does not happen the whole issue of opposition to sex, not just contraception is laid on the Republicans.
Act II is where we are now. Understanding what Act II is all about answers a lot of questions. For one, harmony is not an objective, quite the opposite. Later in the book, Alinsky tells the community organizer that the establishment will label him an agitator and they will be correct. That is the job of a community organizer. Act II is about fomenting unrest and building passion for change. It is not possible to completely transform a democratic government when most of the people are content and united.
Act III is the revolution itself and Alinksy said violence is inevitable because both power and possessions will need to be wrested from those who have them and they will fight violently to keep them. There is now general agreement among Socialist leaders today on Acts I and II but they are split on Act III. Francis Scott Piven argues for the violent revolution option and the sooner the better. The other school argues that attempts to overthrow the standing government by militant violence are destined to fail. But with stealth and patience working within the democratic process America can be led to succumb into a socialist state at the ballot box.
Alinsky is basically in the non-militant camp but with the caveat that some militant force will be unavoidable at the very end to complete the transformation.
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The first chapter is called Purpose. It carries as a tagline this quote from the bible:
“The life of man upon earth is a warfare… Job 7:1”
There is a good reason to be optimistic although accomplishment of the goal is hopeless. If it’s hopeless, why do it? It’s like a climber ascending a mountain whose summit is infinity and can never be reached. When asked why strive for the impossible, Mt. Everest climber Mallory said “Because it is there”.
This seems senseless until you read the very last line of the chapter – “Happiness lies in the pursuit”. Fighting for the Revolution is the only thing that gives purpose to life.
In the second part of Purpose we learn that everyone falls into one of three groups, called the trinity of classes. The classes are defined as 1)the Haves, 2) the Have-Nots, and 3) the Have-Some-Want-Mores. As you might expect by now, all people in all the groups are miserable according to Saul Alinsky
The Haves “suffocate in their surplus” and cannot sleep because they “are living under the nightmare of possible threats to their possessions”.
The Have-Nots “are chained together by the common misery of poverty, rotten housing, disease, ignorance, political impotence and despair”.
The Have-Some-Want-Mores are psychologically disturbed “torn between [protecting] what they have, yet wanting change to get more”. They are “social and economic schizoids”. This group is Alinsky’s vision of the middle class.
Out of 15 versions of the Bible only one translates Job7:1 as Alinsky presents it and that is the Douay-Rheims Bible. The more popular King James Bible translates the same verse as “Is there not an appointed time to man on earth?” The New Living Version best typifies the other translations with “Is not all human life a struggle?” In the D-R version from which Professor Alinsky draws his quote the warfare is metaphorical. The unfortunate plague of sickness and other ill fated turns of events that life has thrust upon Job are expressed as a war of circumstances against the beleaguered man. The warfare is not a purpose as Alinsky implies, it is an affliction.
The professor revels in the fight. Like a platoon leader in a mercenary army, Alinsky is there for the fight and cares little for the cause. This is not a new phenomenon for activists of Left. I recall a ”Free Mumia Jamal” demonstration where a reporter interviewed one of the protesters who had come with a group of students all the way from Berkeley, California to Philadelphia to participate. The young woman had no idea what Mumia had done or why he was in jail. She had not come to free Mumia, she had come to demonstrate.
Nor is successful transformation of government a heartfelt goal of the professor. Success would end the fight and the fight is his purpose.
What is one to think of a man who divides all the world into a trinity of groups and asserts that all members of all three groups are miserable? No allowance is made for any living person to be content. Alinsky was a genius, make no mistake about that, but genius is not common sense. Like a true idiot savant, his genius was very narrow. It also was aided by a faulty moral compass as we shall see in the next chapter called Of Means and Ends.
The compulsion of the Left to divide people into classes is in evidence here. Whereas the Right tends to see circumstances of people who are given equal opportunity, largely as a product of themselves, the Left does not believe equal opportunity exists. No thought is given to the mobility of individuals from one economic class to the next. The system is the problem and it’s the system that must be changed. The radical’s solution is to bring up groups perceived as victims by bringing down other groups perceived to be oppressors.
I am inclined to say envy is in evidence also, but I am not so sure. Certainly envy is a major factor with the professor’s followers but Alinsky himself seems content in his role. If his acolytes won their kingdom, he would feel out of place in it.
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OF MEANS AND ENDS
The author begins a discussion of political action ethics by saying “The practical revolutionary will understand Goethe’s statement that “conscience is the virtue of observers and not agents of action; in action, one does not always enjoy the luxury of a decision that is consistent both with one’s individual conscience and the good of mankind. The choice must always be for the latter”. Alinsky puts this in his own words as “He who sacrifices the mass good for his own personal conscience… doesn’t care enough for people to be corrupted for them.
The community organizer is given eleven rules for guidance with respect to ethics.
(1) The first rule is “One’s concern with the ethics of means and ends varies inversely with ones personal interest in the issue.” That is to say, the more you care about the issue the less you should care about the methods you use to fight for it.
(2) “judgment of the ethics of means and ends is dependant on the political position of those making the judgment.”
(3) “in war the end justifies almost any means.”
(4) “judgment must be mad in the context of the times…” “ethical standards must be elastic to stretch in the times.”
(5) “concern with ethics increases with the number of means available…”
(6) “the less important the end…the more one can afford to engage in ethical evaluation of means
(7) “success or failure is a mighty determinate of ethics.”
(8) the “morality of means depends on whether the means is being deployed at the time of imminent defeat or imminent victory.”
(9) “any effective means is automatically judged by the opposition as unethical.”
(10) “do what you can with what you have and clothe it with moral arguments.”
(11) Whatever your mission “goals must be phrased in terms like Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Of the Common Welfare or Pursuit of Happiness or Bread and Peace”.
The perennial question of whether ends justify means is a discussion for those who stand on the sides as observers accomplishing nothing themselves. Ethical considerations should not be allowed to interfere with success.
It is glaringly obvious that Saul Alinsky teaches that the ends justify the means. The theme throughout the chapter is that ethics are an impediment to accomplishment and thereby, in the final sense, not ethical at all. Implied in this line of reasoning is the notion that achievement of the goal, which for Alinsky is revolution, will be a great benefit to the society and that there is no uncertainty about it.
The professor cites Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to support his rationalization. Goethe was a highly esteemed German writer, poet and philosopher whose life spanned the 18th and 19th centuries. A writer, poet and philosopher, his genius was in culture. Politically Goethe was pragmatic. He argued against a unified Germany, favoring instead the retention of the existing system of principalitarian dictatorships. His famous premise that virtue lies in the intended result, not in the method employed to achieve the result is often quoted by radicals to justify their actions. Howard Zinn, the noted Harvard historian was another proponent of this line of thought. If lying about the facts of history would lead to a better world than telling the truth, then according to Zinn the historian is honor bound to lie about the facts. Vice is turned into virtue and virtue into vice.
Alinsky’s 11 rules of ethics can be boiled down to 3 basic tenets. An organizer’s ethics must be flexible, the more important the goal the less the organizer should be concerned about ethics and third, if a tactic was successful it was ethical.
Dictionary.com defines ethics as “rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group, culture, etc.” It is sad to say that Alinsky’s rules define the Left and much of the Democratic Party as it is today.
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A WORD ABOUT WORDS
Words that are soft-sounding and peaceful are soporific and ineffective. Such words are inappropriate for our purposes because “In the politics of life we are concerned with the slaves and the Caesars, not the vestal virgins”. The word “power” is often maligned but fear not to use it. “To know power and not fear it is essential to its constructive use and control. In short, life without power is death; a world without power would be a ghostly wasteland, a dead planet!”.
“The myth of altruism as a motivating factor in our behavior could arrive and survive only in a society bundled in the sterile gauze of New England puritanism and Protestant morality …. It is one of the classic American fairy tales”.
“To the organizer, compromise is a key and beautiful word…. If you start with nothing, demand 100 percent, then compromise for 30 percent, you’re 30 percent ahead.”
Ego is self confidence. The community organizer’s “ego must be so all-pervading that the personality of the organizer is contagious, that it converts the people from despair to defiance, creating a mass ego”.
The word “conflict” is much maligned in the media and by Madison Avenue [the advertising industry]. However, “Conflict is the central core of a free and open society”.
A Word About Words, the title is intriguing but the content is very disappointing. Judging by the title one would expect to read about some clever and devious ways in which various words could be employed by a community organizer to further the activist’s agenda. However, the chapter is little more than a revelation of the depth of the sullen author’s cynicism and obsession with power.
Thankfully this chapter is a short one!
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THE EDUCATION OF AN ORGANIZER
“The building of many mass power organizations to merge into a national popular power source cannot come without may organizers”. Training organizers is a daunting task. Candidates come from every corner, from students to priests to union leaders and minority groups. Many trainees start but few go on to great accomplishment. The failure rate is high.”
“Certain qualities mark a candidate as more likely for success. A good candidate is curious; of every issue, he asks why? A good candidate is irreverent. “He is challenging, insulting, agitating. discrediting. He stirs unrest”. He has imagination, a good sense of humor and “a bit blurred vision of a better world”.
Alinsky explains that the best organizer is “a well integrated political schizoid. The organizer must become schizoid, politically, in order not to slip into becoming a true believer. Before men can act an issue must be polarized. Men will act when they are convinced that their cause is 100 percent on the side of the angels and that the opposition are 100 percent on the side of the devil. He knows that there can be no action until the issues are polarized to this degree”.
When Alinsky wrote “The building of many mass power organizations to merge into a national popular power source” there can be little doubt that ACORN was in the professor’s mind. However he never addressed the need for a grand leader, a Commander in Chief to preside over the Lieutenants and Generals who were the focus of his teachings. Barack Obama will be ideally positioned to fill that role after his term in office. Don’t be surprised if that’s the route he takes. Martin Luther King is dead, Jessie Jackson has run his course and Al Sharpton is… Al Sharpton. The door is open.
Good middle managers are the key to success in any business. That’s just as true for building a political power base as it is for building a chain of shoe stores. It is particularly difficult however, to find good candidates within a political movement that is populated by members more interested in achievement by taking that in achievement by producing.
Union leaders are unreliable because they can get better pay for leading unions. Among priests, only the disgruntled are likely to apply. And students grow up. So it’s no mystery why the failure rate is high.
The author says the best candidate is a “schizoid” with “blurred vision”. Level headed clear thinkers need not apply.
Why “schizoid’ and why is a “blurred vision” helpful? Ethics Rule 11 says in part, the organizer’s mission must be phrased in terms like “Equality, Fraternity or the Common Welfare”. Thus we see the goal of taking property from those who earned it and redistributing it to those who have no right to it expressed as Equal Justice. We see the goal of expanding central power over another 16% of the economy and increasing the Party’s constituency of dedicated voters phrased as providing healthcare to 30 million hard working Americans presumed to be denied any medical treatment otherwise.
The organizer must preach these causes with a deep fervor that only a true believer can muster. But he must not become a true believer because the causes are not the goal, they are just vehicles. Power is the goal.
When Alinsky says blurred vision, I take him to mean vague vision. When the 2012 Republican primary campaigns were in full swing each contender and his or her followers were comprised of true believers with their own clear vision and the result hurt the Party’s chances to win the general election. It’s an age old dilemma; do you stand unwavering on your principles, possibly in vain, or do you yield to compromise for the greater probability of gaining half of what you seek? Alinsky taught continual new demand followed by compromise, gaining a little each time until you reach the final goal.
As an aside, you may have noticed the synopsis of this chapter is almost entirely in quotes, which means the text is reproduced exactly as it was written in the book. You may have noticed the grammatical errors many of which occur throughout the book. We noticed them but for the sake of simplicity didn’t point them out with the customary sic notation.
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If you can’t communicate, you can’t agitate. The ability to communicate is the one quality an organizer absolutely must have. To communicate the organizer must, 1) speak in familiar terms the people understand and 2) listen. He must talk in terms his followers can understand. Typically, this requires talking down when speaking to the people he is organizing.
As an example, take the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima; an organizer who stresses the multiple thousands of people who died will not communicate well with his audience. Numbers with lots of zeros in them are outside the experience of most people. However, if he tells the personal story of a single family including the details of their suffering, the organizer will reach his people. Family problems and personal tragedies are within everyone’s realm of experience.
By the same token, a leader should not speak of issues in “generalities like sin or immorality or the good life or morals. They must be this immorality of this slum landlord with this tenement where these people suffer”.
When planning the American Revolution founder John Adams said “There ought to be no less than three or four killed so we will have martyrs for the Revolution, but there must be no more than ten, because after you get beyond that number we no longer have martyrs but simply a sewage problem.”
The first thing to note is the goal the author sets out – to agitate, stir up emotions. Beyond that, this chapter offers some good advice; nothing will be accomplished unless you are able to communicate well with your constituency. It is also true you won’t reach them by speaking above their heads and that little heart wrenching stories reach an audience in a way the big picture does not.
Barack Obama is very proficient at speaking in the terms the people he is addressing can understand. Here is what writer Wayne Root had to say about the President’s “put on your marching shoes” speech at the Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference in September 2011.
“When speaking before black audiences, President Obama tends to be more charismatic in his delivery. He just plays the room differently — gripping and galvanizing, with a preacher-like cadence that can sometimes rise to a holler at points of emphasis.”
“Throughout our history, change has often come slowly. Progress often takes time,” he said. “It’s never easy. And I never promised easy. Easy has never been promised to us. But we have had faith. We’ve had that good kind of crazy that says, ‘You can’t stop marching.’ “
Obama continued in this vein, with knowing references to the civil rights heroes honored during the night’s awards ceremony. “Even when folks are hitting you over the head, you can’t stop marching. Even when they’re turning the hoses on you, you can’t stop,” he said, building into an oratory crescendo that had the crowd cheering him on.
The author uses the alleged quote of John Adams to teach the method of communicating by invoking emotions. Senator Inhofe gave us a recent example of this method employing the emotion of fear. The Senator showed a video on April 25, 2012 of an EPA official teaching his philosophy of enforcement to his staff about 2 yrs earlier. The subject, perhaps better said the target, was the oil companies. The official said his philosophy
“was kind of like how the Romans used to, you know, conquer villages in the Mediterranean. They’d go in to a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw and they’d crucify them. Then, you know, that town was really easy to manage for the next few years.”
The Romans simply killed a few people arbitrarily to serve as examples of the consequences they might face if they rebelled against a Roman dictate. That is one sure way to communicate to an audience that they had better toe the line.
However, with respect to the quotation, there is no evidence Adams ever said any such thing nor would it be correct to say he planned the American Revolution. A search of internet validators turns up several investigations into the source of the remark about the need for martyrs but none of them found any evidence of its having been said by Adams. One validator offered the opinion that the originator was most likely none other than Saul Alinsky himself.
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IN THE BEGINNING
The talent to organize a community seldom comes from within the community itself. When a new organizer arrives on the scene he is greeted with suspicion. Therefore, the first order of business is to establish his credentials, to gain acceptance and trust. People in the community will ask “Who’s the cat?” “What’s he asking all those questions for?” “Is he really the cops or the FBI?” ” What’s his bag?” “What’s in it for him?” Who’s he working for?”, etc.
To gain the peoples trust a new organizer must show a intense anger over some issue. Expressing love for the community accomplishes nothing. It is only a sign of meekness. Anger, on the other hand, unites the organizer with the people in a common cause. It builds faith, faith in the ability and power of the organizer to bring change.
The organizer “is to maneuver and bait the establishment so they will attack him as a dangerous enemy. The word enemy is sufficient to put the organizer on the side of the people, but is not enough to endow him with the special qualities that induce fear and thus give him his own power against the establishment. This need is met by the establishment’s use of the brand dangerous”. That is to say, the organizer’s credentials are not fully established in the community until he has managed to get himself branded by the establishment as both an enemy and a dangerous one.
“The organizer’s job is to inseminate an invitation for himself, to agitate, introduce ideas, get people pregnant with hope and a desire for change and to identify you as the person most qualified for this purpose.” “Power is the reason for being of an organization. Power and organization are one and the same. When those in the status quo turn and label you an agitator, they are completely correct, for that is, in one word, your function – to agitate to the point of conflict”.
The largest training center for Socialist activists in the United States is a community organizer training institute in Chicago called The Midwest Academy. Once their training is complete, organizers go to wherever they are most needed which is seldom back to their own community. They come as strangers to a new neighborhood, hence the need to be pro-active in establishing acceptance.
The Alinsky method for doing that is to stir the pot and get people really mad about something. Then present yourself as the best hope for improvement and change. Hugo Chavez came to power by firing up his people against the United States, going as far as to say the U.S. was planning to invade and conquer Venezuela. At a global warming conference in the Netherlands the Socialist dictator said the U.S. has sent intelligence agents, war ships and spy planes to the Dutch islands of Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire in preparation for a possible military invasion. We laugh but in Venezuela the story works.
Obama started out as a community organizer he chose to use asbestos removal as an issue at the Altgeld Gardens complex in the Chicago area. On a larger scale the favorite targets of Socialism have long been the rich, the oil companies and the banks.
The professor makes it abundantly clear that the development of anger and rage within a community to the point where the masses are ready to be led into conflict is not a by-product; it is the function of a community organizer. This was Obama’s world. Now that he is President he is governing the only way he knows. According to the Alinsky model, harmony is counter-productive. You need a crisis. When you have one you should never let it go to waste. If you don’t have a crisis, then make or allow one to develop.
It would be a serious omission to leave this chapter without mentioning Alinsky’s admonition not to love your neighbor, but if you must, keep it under wraps because it’s a sign of weakness. There is no statement that better expresses the difference between the leaders and the led on the left. It gives understanding to Stalin’s phrase “useful idiots”.
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The tag line following the heading of this chapter is a quote from the great warrior Hannibal,
“We will find a way, or make one.”
The reason for having a defined set of tactics is to provide a specific set of rules that teach “how the Have-Nots can take power away from the Haves”, i.e. how to organize the lower classes in order to take power away from the middle and upper classes. The message from Hannibal is not to constrain yourself to working within societal norms. You need to be able and willing to do whatever it takes to do to get the job done.
These are the thirteen rules of Tactics that need to be observed in the process of wresting power from the establishment. Each tactic is presented here word for word as it appears in the book.
1. Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.
2. Never go outside the experience of your people.
3. Wherever possible go outside the experience of the enemy.
4. Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules.
5. Ridicule is man’s most important weapon.
6. A good tactic is one that your people enjoy.
7. A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.
8. Keep the pressure on.
9. The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.
10. The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure on the opposition.
11. If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counterside.
12. The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.
13. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.
The final rule is by far the most important. The author devotes more pages to an understanding of this rule than to all of the first twelve rules combined. This, of course, is the tactic of personal destruction. Ridicule and personal destruction are the two of the most effective tools known for deflating an enemy’s power and they must be utilized to the fullest extent possible.
By opening with the Hannibal quote, the professor shows his determination to replace traditional Judeo-Christian standards of ethical behavior with a more convenient concept of right and wrong in the minds of his students. If the use of demagoguery, lying and deceit facilitate the creation of a better world then these methods are more than just acceptable practice, it is the moral duty of a leader to employ them. Judeo-Christian principles have no place in Alinsky’s model of political activism.
The key tactics on the list are numbers 13, 5 and 4, in that order.
Number 13 should be familiar to everyone; it’s the tactic of personal destruction. It starts with “Pick the target”; the natural choice is the adversary who represents the greatest current threat, take Sarah Palin as an example. “Freeze it”, be relentless, keep the target always on the defensive. Stop them from moving forward by a constant need for responding to your attacks. The DNC sent a SWAT team of 30 high powered lawyers and Democratic operatives accompanied by members of the liberal MSM to Alaska at the height of her popularity. “Personalize it”, spread a story like the rumor that Palin’s daughter got pregnant while still in high school and her mother lied to cover up for her by claiming the baby was her own. “Polarize it”, surround the targeted person with controversy to maintain the public interest and keep the issue alive.
The practice of personal destruction is deplorable and in many cases vicious. Unfortunately it is also effective. Only you can change that. The more the public recognizes demonizing for what it is and responds inversely to it (backlash), the less effective it will become.
Tactic number 5 is ridicule. Whereas the Democratic Party is the party of personal destruction, it’s the Republican Party that excels at ridicule. Vice President Joe Biden is the current example. Ridicule is very effective because it is nearly impossible to counter attack and it infuriates the person ridiculed, often prompting a reaction that works to the ridiculer’s advantage.
Tactic number 4 is hypocrisy. No one lives up to their own beliefs every hour of every day of every year. When an opponent slips, call them on it. It works better against the Right than it does against the Left. As we have learned from the book, the far Left has lower standards and is less likely to condemn one of their own for violating them. Herman Cain was quickly destroyed by unproven allegations of improper sexual advances. Bill Clinton’s illicit sexual activity went far beyond improper advances yet his popularity within his Party, even among the women, suffered only minor decline.
One more tactic deserves mention and that’s number 12. How can there be a price for a successful attack? The book explains “You cannot risk being trapped by the enemy [Alinsky commonly refers to those with opposing views as the enemy] in his sudden agreement with your demand and saying ‘You’re right-We don’t know what to do about this. Now you tell us’”.
Radical Left leaders know issues are not for solving while the ‘enemy’ is still in control. Issues are tools for building discontent with the status quo, a necessary step in the process of deposing those in control. To solve an issue is to waste it.
If only two things are learned from studying this chapter they should be, (1) the realization that, in politics, ridicule and personal attacks are not spontaneous reactions; they carefully planned and organized tactics chosen as part of an overall strategy, (2) there are no standards of truth or relevance standing behind them.
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THE GENESIS OF TACTIC PROXY
“America’s corporations are a spiritual slum, and their arrogance is the major threat to our future as a free society.”
The title of this chapter is derived from the idea of using corporate shareholder proxies to achieve your own goals. Corporate stockholders have certain rights as to how the corporation conducts its affairs. These rights are exercised by voting and the voting document is called a proxy. The tactic involves persuading colleges, foundations and churches to vote their proxies in solidarity according to the organizer’s plan of attack.
Alinsky stumbled upon this idea when talking to three business administration college students who were opposed to the Vietnam war, but “recoiled from such actions as carrying the Viet Cong flag or burning their draft cards. However, they did believe in using proxies.”
The genesis of the proxy tactic is an example of why an organizer should hang loose. When a door opens unexpectedly, go through it. Be not concerned that it takes you off the path you had planned. Do not fall into the trap set by “our alleged educational system” that teaches “order, logic, rational thought, direction and purpose”. These ideas are invalid because they are too rigid. The organizer must be ready to go where the flow leads him.
The author’s statement at the top of this awkwardly named chapter only needs minor editing to be correct. ”America’s corporations Democratic leaders are a spiritual slum, and their Obama’s arrogance is the major threat to our future as a free society.”
Saul Alinsky must have been quite proud of himself when he stumbled on this idea. Here he was, using capitalist corporate procedures to promote a Marxist cause. He didn’t realize it was never destined to work. Not many corporate shareholders are going to join in solidarity with any radical causes, let alone socialist ones.
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THE WAY AHEAD
The middle class is the largest group in America. The focus, now and in the future, must be on winning the middle class.
These “are a fearful people, who feel threatened on all sides:”. “Seeking some meaning in life, they turn to an extreme chauvinism and become defenders of the ‘American” faith”. “They don’t know what, if anything, they can do. This is the job for today’s radical – to fan the embers of hopelessness into a flame to fight”.
Students who come to college from middle class backgrounds must be taught to reject their parent’s values and way of life as “materialistic, decadent, bourgeois, degenerate, imperialistic, war-mongering, brutalized and corrupt”. No one is better equipped to organize, agitate and convert the middle class than those who have escaped it.
How could this college professor possibly have developed such a dismally incorrect perception of the vast middle class? Psychological projection would account for it. According to Sigmund Freud, projection is a defense mechanism where a person “projects” their own unwanted motivations, desires, fears, feelings and opinions onto someone else – if most everyone else feels and acts with the same fears and emotions that I have then there can be nothing wrong with me.
Also note the lightly veiled contempt for American ideals expressed by adding cynical quotation marks around the words American faith. The author has no faith in this, his country. In fact, disdain for America is a theme that recurs again and again throughout the book. It should not be surprising to see the same attitude toward America coming from Barack and Michelle Obama because it was the Alinsky model of community organizing that Barack followed and briefly taught to ACORN activists in Chicago.
There many things very sad about this closing chapter. The author ends his work with the same hopeless view that he began it. The professor’s only vision for the way ahead is to the drag America’s youth down into the same hellhole he has created for himself. Presumably, then they would fight for…, fight for what? The author never says. I submit they would fight for those very things they so soundly rejected. But they would fight the opportunity to take them, not for the opportunity to earn them.
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