Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Tactics of Saul Alinsky and Their Use By Modern Progressives Today

The modern progressive left of today has as their champion a man that started out as a community organizer in Chicago who just happened to become President of the United States of America. It would seem that a younger Barack Obama learned to organize and achieve the ends to which he aspired by using the tactics articulated by another community organizer from an earlier generation in Chicago - Saul Alinsky.

Alinsky started out with organizing grass root rent strikes and in organizing people in protesting of the conditions with which the poor people in Chicago had to contend in the 1930's. His tactics and effectiveness as an organizer brought him to great prominence in the 1960's as anti-establishment revolutionaries and radicals organized under his "ends justify the means" tactics.

In 1971, shortly before his death by heart attack the following year, Saul Alinsky wrote his infamous tome, "Rules For Radicals".

"Rules for Radicals" begins with an unusual tribute:

"From all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins – or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom – Lucifer."

Alinsky's tactics have been used unceasingly by the progressive radicals ever since and continue to this day because of their ruthless effectiveness. Further, when history and the facts are contrary to the left's ideological goals and values, as they often are, they cannot rely upon reasoned debate and logic, hence the resulting usage of these typically pernicious and dangerously effective rules.

Saul Alinsky's Rules for Power Tactics include the following:

* Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.
* Never go outside the experience of your people.
* Whenever possible, go outside of the experience of the enemy. Here you want to cause confusion, fear and retreat.
* Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules. You can kill them with this. They can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.
* Ridicule is man's most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also, it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage. (This is one of the most common tactics employed by the left against conservative targets today.)
* A good tactic is one that your people enjoy.
* A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.
* Keep the pressure on with different tactics and actions, and utilize all events of the period for your purpose.
* The threat is generally more terrifying than the thing itself.
* The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.
* If you push a negative hard and deep enough, it will break through into its counterside.
* The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.
* Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. (In this case think of the left's demonization of Reagan, Bush, Gingrich, Palin, McCain as being stupid, superficial, intellectually un-curious etc.)
* In a fight almost anything goes. It almost reaches the point where you stop to apologize if a chance blow lands above the belt.
* One of the criteria for picking the target is the target's vulnerability ... the other important point in the choosing of a target is that it must be a personification, not something general and abstract.
* The enemy properly goaded and guided in his reaction will be your major strength.

Alinsky, accordingly and understandably, was the frequent target of criticism that he wasn't ethical. Because of this constant charge leveled against him he also included a set of rules for the ethics of his power tactics. You can see from these why his ethics were so frequently questioned.

Rules to test whether power tactics are ethical:

* One's concern with the ethics of means and ends varies inversely with one's personal interest in the issue.
* The judgment of the ethics of means is dependent upon the political position of those sitting in judgment.
* In war the end justifies almost any means.
* Judgment must be made in the context of the times in which the action occurred and not from any other chronological vantage point.
* Concern with ethics increases with the number of means available and vice versa.
* The less important the end to be desired, the more one can afford to engage in ethical evaluations of means.
* Generally, success or failure is a mighty determinant of ethics.
* The morality of means depends upon whether the means is being employed at a time of imminent defeat or imminent victory.
* Any effective means is automatically judged by the opposition to be unethical.
* You do what you can with what you have and clothe it in moral garments.
* Goals must be phrased in general terms like "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," "Of the Common Welfare," "Pursuit of Happiness," or "Bread and Peace."

As one can plainly see, Alinsky was adept at justifying whatever actions were partaken of, as long as they served the ultimate goal at hand.

His ethics smack of the moral relativity seen in society today, particularly amongst the far left. It has been suggested to me by many a liberal in my debates that most progressive ideologues today do not even know who Alinsky is. This may very well be true; however, one cannot argue that his egregious tactics and the justification of the same by the left is quite well known and utilized constantly to great but pernicious effect.
As for me, I was always taught that you do not do the right thing the wrong way.  This is a sentiment with which I am sure Mr. Alinsky would greatly disagree.


lisa said...

He's running his presidency by his hero's rules.
Amazing how many people don't know this and that his mentor was Frank Marshall Davis.

you may want to post this link for Dave Dubya

T. Paine said...

Lisa, what you and I know about the Tea Party being composed of Americans regardless of color is something that is completely lost on the progressives.

Dubya is a case in point. I suspect that Dubya is a decent guy and probably really does care about the country. The problem is, like most progressives, that he is congenitally blind to the fact that it is typically progressive policies that end up hurting not only the poor people they claim to have compassion for, but for everyone.

You present them with facts and links and they immediately dismiss it as propaganda or ignore the information altogether if they can't find any ridiculous argument to make in opposition.

Dubya, Anderson, et al, are probably good folks, like I said, but they claim the right is evil, racist, authoritarian etc without any regard to economics or history. They end up projecting the evils of progressivism on conservatism.

Further, I have learned that they tend to be annoyed greatly by debate with anyone that has an opinion contrary to their own. They are seemingly not interested in discussion and become irate when one does not "see" the "truth" of their flawed system of beliefs. It is sad.

Frankly, I am tired of being called names and being portrayed as intolerant and brainwashed, when an objective outsider would easily point out the hypocrisy of their statements of that sort.

Sorry for the venting, Lisa. I appreciate the link, but Dubya and all would laugh, ignore it, or come up with some preposterous argument. Frankly, I don't care to waste my time with them anymore.

T. Paine said...

By the way, I want to further add that I respect Splash, Marquis and a few other leftists for at least checking out the conservative point of view via blogs such as mine or other sources etc.

While we all disagree much of the time, they at least don't live in an echo chamber where the only voice they hear is their own and their fellow Kool Aid drinkers.

It would seem that such is not the case for Dubya. He is of the group that will complain about Fox, Limbaugh, Beck, conservative bloggers etc without ever really having taken the time to listen, watch, or read any of them. He would rather get his information second hand about such evil conservatives from Maddow, Daily Kos, Huffington Post etc.

He, it appears, is of the type that is for diversity of skin pigmentation, but certainly not of ideas. Sad, because he obviously is an intelligent guy...

lisa said...

I love the wisdom of Thomas Sowell. He his non-partisan and genuine:

Dave Splash said...

It would seem to me, based on the casual and incomplete treatment of Mr. Alinksy's book and career, that the modern right has been employing the same tactics since the 1990s (and probably earlier). Funny how it's not so horrible when done to advance a right wing agenda. Tea Party hero Andrew Breitbart is a perfect example. He knowingly unleashes doctored videos to advance an agenda, and rather than admit he was wrong to do so, he attacks the critics and claims it is part of a conspiracy to destroy him (he claims he was attempting show racism on the "other side" yet it sure sounds like "Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules" - now if only Breitbart found real examples instead of making them up...) Mr. Beck utilizes the same tactics time and time again.

Conservatives routinely mock their opponents (right out of the "Power tactics") and they also "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it" (i.e. Nancy Pelosi, Al Gore, President Obama, Joe Biden, Rahm Emanuel, etc.) There are actually hundreds of examples I could cite.

Sounds, to me, that you admire hardball political tactics when it is done by your side, but somehow abhor the same tactics when done by the other. As for the "ruthless effectiveness" of Alinsky, why then have Republicans been president for 26 of the last 40 years, how have conservatives been able to thwart the major policy priorities of liberals for the better part of the last 40 years (i.e. no single payer health care, no alternative energy, etc). Seems to me that the right has been much more effective using these tactics than any liberals ever have.

I don't know who Dave Dubya is supposed to be, but if it's me, I would suggest to Lisa that you at least try reading something not from the conservative echo chamber. You used to come to my blog, but after being challenged twice, you stopped coming. I would suggest that is the behavior you consistently accuse liberals of engaging in. I know Paine frequents sites that aren't Fox (of course he still holds those silly right wing views, so my counter to the right wing kool aid is not working...yet).

The current political climate is toxic, and it cannot be attributed to one party or one side. Both sides engage in some ugliness. What is frustrating is how the right - led by Glenn Beck -- seem to feel it's all one way. That is narrow minded, and objectively false. If the situation is ever to get better, an acknowledgment of that fact needs to be made by some powerful figures on the right and the left. Right now, it's easier for the right, as they don't have the responsibility of governing. It's a lot easier to attack then do actually achieve something. But, if you looked objectively at the first 18 months of Obama's term in office, he has had some serious legislative achievements, and he did them all without any help from the other side. Democrats since FDR have wanted to reform our healthcare system, Obama finally passed that first step. He also achieved the first serious Wall St reform since the 1930s. There are others, but I know you'll just rip him apart, call him a mentally ill Commie who wants to destroy America, so why bother...

lisa said...

I go to left wing blogs Dave but they are always right and I am alwasy wrong. OK I'll drop by your blog. I forgot about you to tell you the truth. No offense.

T. Paine said...

Splash, first, you are not the Dave Dubya to which Lisa and I were referring. (If you notice in my comment, I said that I actually have respect for Dave Splash for at least checking out the other side of the argument.)

As for Breitbart, I don't know. He claims that the first part of the video that was originally shown was all he had initially. The exculpatory part was not given to him until after the initial release. I don't know if this is true or not. If so, he still is at fault for not investingating further. If not, then I agree with your characterization of him.

I am curious how Beck uses Alinsky tactics in your opinion. I don't dispute that he might have done so in the past, but not as a normal and regular part of his repretoire. Can you give me examples, Splash?

The main difference I see between the conservative and progressives on the topic, is that conservatives attack Obama, Pelosi, Reid due to differences on policy such as healthcare. The criticisms are typically policy-based.

The progressives DO personalize it far more often. Palin, Reagan, Bush is stupid. Palin is a vain diva that spends a fortune on campaign clothes etc. That is the difference, sir.

By the way, over the 26 of 40 years that the GOP captured the White House, a vast and greater majority of those years showed that congress was controlled by the Democrats.

As for Obama's achievements, well objectively he did indeed accomplish health care and financial reform legislation. These acts are tyranical, unconstitutional, and only serve to consolidate federal power, but he did indeed achieve them.

Dave Splash said...

Does all the substantive/policy criticism that you claim conservatives participate in include all the Obama is like Hitler, Stalin, etc. Pelosi is evil, Reid needs to be "taken out" via "second amendment remedies"? Because I have not seen too much substantive debate coming from the right in decades. I see a lot of paranoid fantasies being passed off as "policy debate," but not much real substance beyond Obama is coming to take your guns, put you in a FEMA concentration camp, and destroy America. Oh, yeah, and that he is not really president since he's a Kenyan Maoist. Where is the substance in that?

Where is the substance in your hero, Mr. Beck, likening himself to a Nazi hunter and saying "to the day I die, I am going to be a progressive hunter"? Is he really debating anything of substance when all he wants to do is kill or destroy anyone who thinks differently?

I think this is a silly argument. Do you honestly believe that opposition to the Bush agenda was just because some thought he was stupid? No, it was because he gave tax cuts to the wealthy, turned a budget surplus into a massive deficit, started an illegal war, decimated the 4th amendment and illegally spied on Americans w/o a warrant, burrowed political appointees into lifetime federal jobs, engaged in torture, outed a CIA agent...the list goes on and on.

T. Paine said...

Your information on Beck is absolutely wrong. He has never said that he wants to kill anybody. He has emphatically stated that he does not condone that violence be used in our cause. That is ridiculous.

As for Bush, those tax cuts were for EVERYONE, Dave. The surplus was already draining before Clinton left office; remember Gore whining about how the GOP was talking down the Clinton/Gore economy? Not to mention that the impact of 9/11 did not help the surplus. Bush did spend recklessly though. I do agree there.

The war was not illegal; he had a UN resolution and congressional approval.

The 4th amendment is STILL being shredded under the Obama administration for the exact same reasons you mentioned.

Political appointees, like the unprecedented number of czars that report only to the president, is something of which Obama is far more guility.

If you consider waterboarding torture, then I guess he is guilty of that, but in the circumstances given and the results achieved, I can live with that.

Valerie Plame's identity was hardly a secret and it was Armitage that outed her anyway. Not Bush.

So far you have one allegation that has minimal merit, and I suspect your continuing list would be likewise, sir.