Master Of Change And His Disciples

The following excerpt of an essay by John Perazzo published at Front Page Mag is a splendid starting point for educating oneself concerning the unsavory tactics of revolutionaries, radicals, and enforcers rising up from both the Left and the Right. Read it all. The link to the full essay, which is rather long and comprehensive, is at the end of this excerpt.

Saul Alinsky

Saul Alinsky in 1960s Chicago

AMERICANS ARE WELL-ACQUAINTED with presidential candidate Barack Obama’s legendary pledges to bring “change” to America’s political and social landscape. (For example, see here and here and here.) Indeed, “Change We Can Believe In” is the slogan that adorns the homepage of his campaign website and so many of the placards displayed by the supporters who attend his speaking engagements.

His Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, is also well practiced at issuing calls for change. Her “Change and Experience” ad campaign was but an outgrowth of her 1993 declaration, as First Lady, that “remolding society is one of the great challenges facing all of us in the West.” Most Americans are unaware, however, that when Obama and Clinton speak of “change,” they mean change in the sense that a profoundly significant, though not widely known, individual—Saul Alinsky —outlined in his writings two generations ago.

Alinsky helped to establish the confrontational political tactics, which he termed “organizing,” that characterized the 1960s and have remained central to all subsequent revolutionary movements in the United States. Both Obama and Clinton are committed disciples of Alinsky’s very specific strategies for “social change.”

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Alinsky stressed that organizers and their followers needed to take care, when first unveiling their particular crusade for “change,” not to alienate the middle class with any type of crude language, defiant demeanor, or menacing appearance that suggested radicalism or a disrespect for middle class mores and traditions. For this very reason, he disliked the hippies and counterculture activists of the 1960s. As Richard Poe puts it: “Alinsky scolded the Sixties Left for scaring off potential converts in Middle America. True revolutionaries do not flaunt their radicalism, Alinsky taught. They cut their hair, put on suits and infiltrate the system from within.”

While his ultimate goal was nothing less than the “radicalization of the middle class,” Alinsky stressed the importance of “learning to talk the language of those with whom one is trying to converse.”[63] “Tactics must begin with the experience of the middle class,” he said, “accepting their aversion to rudeness, vulgarity, and conflict. Start them easy, don’t scare them off.”[64]

To appeal to the middle class, Alinsky continued, “goals must be phrased in general terms like ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’; ‘Of the Common Welfare’; ‘Pursuit of happiness’; or ‘Bread and Peace.’”[65] He suggested, for instance, that an effective organizer “discovers what their [the middle class’] definition of the police is, and their language— [and] he discards the rhetoric that always says ‘pig’ [in reference to police]. Instead of hostile rejection he is seeking bridges of communication and unity over the gaps. He will view with strategic sensitivity the nature of middle-class behavior with its hang-ups over rudeness or aggressive, insulting, profane actions. All this and more must be grasped and used to radicalize parts of the middle class.”[66]

A related principle taught by Alinsky was that radical organizers must not only speak the language of the middle class, but that they also must dress their crusades in the vestments of morality. “Moral rationalization,” he said, “is indispensable to all kinds of action, whether to justify the selection or the use of ends or means.”[67] “All great leaders,” he added, “invoked ‘moral principles’ to cover naked self-interest in the clothing of ‘freedom,’ ‘equality of mankind,’ ‘a law higher than man-made law,’ and so on.” In short: “All effective actions require the passport of morality.”[68]

This tactic of framing one’s objectives in the rhetoric of morality precisely paralleled a communist device for deception known as “Aesopian language,” which J. Edgar Hoover described as follows:

“Nearly everyone is familiar with the fables of Aesop…. Often the point of the story is not directly stated but must be inferred by the reader. This is a ‘roundabout’ presentation. Lenin and his associates before 1917, while living in exile, made frequent use of ‘Aesopianism.’ Much of their propaganda was written in a ‘roundabout’ and elusive style to pass severe Czarist censorship. They desired revolution but could not say so. They had to resort to hints, theoretical discussions, even substituting words, which, through fooling the censor, were understood by the ‘initiated,’ that is, individuals trained in [Communist] Party terminology….

“The word ‘democracy’ is one of the communists’ favorite Aesopian terms. They say they favor democracy, that communism will bring the fullest democracy in the history of mankind. But, to the communists, democracy does not mean free speech, free elections, or the right of minorities to exist. Democracy means the domination of the communist state, the complete supremacy of the Party. The greater the communist control, the more ‘democracy.’ ‘Full democracy,’ to the communist, will come only when all noncommunist opposition is liquidated.

“Such expressions as ‘democracy,’ ‘equality,’ ‘freedom,’ and ‘justice’ are merely the Party’s Aesopian devices to impress noncommunists. Communists clothe themselves with everything good, noble, and inspiring to exploit those ideals to their own advantage.”[69]

But Alinsky understood that there was a flip side to his strategy of speaking the palatable language of the middle class and the reassuring parlance of morality. Specifically, he said that organizers must be entirely unpredictable and unmistakably willing -—for the sake of the moral principles in whose name they claim to act—to watch society descend into utter chaos and anarchy. He stated that they must be prepared, if necessary, to “go into a state of complete confusion and draw [their] opponent into the vortex of the same confusion.”[70]

One way in which organizers and their disciples can broadcast their preparedness for this possibility is by staging loud, defiant, massive protest rallies expressing deep rage and discontent over one particular injustice or another. Such demonstrations can give onlookers the impression that a mass movement is preparing to shift into high gear, and that its present (already formidable) size is but a fraction of what it eventually will become. “A mass impression,” said Alinsky, “can be lasting and intimidating. Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.”[71]

“The threat,” he added, “is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.”[72] “If your organization is small in numbers,” said Alinsky, “conceal the members in the dark but raise a din and clamor that will make the listener believe that your organization numbers many more than it does.”[73]

“Wherever possible,” Alinsky counseled, “go outside the experience of the enemy. Here you want to cause confusion, fear, and retreat.”[74] Marching mobs of chanting demonstrators accomplishes this objective. The average observer’s reaction to such a display is of a dual nature: First he is afraid. But he also recalls the organizer’s initial articulation of middle-class ideals and morals. Thus he convinces himself that the People’s Organization is surely composed of reasonable people who actually hold values similar to his own, and who seek resolutions that will be beneficial to both sides. This thought process causes him to proffer—in hopes of appeasing the angry mobs—concessions and admissions of guilt, which the organizer in turn exploits to gain still greater moral leverage and to extort further concessions.

In Alinsky’s view, action was more often the catalyst for revolutionary fervor than vice versa. He deemed it essential for the organizer to get people to act first (e.g., participate in a demonstration) and rationalize their actions later. “Get them to move in the right direction first,” said Alinsky. “They’ll explain to themselves later why they moved in that direction.”[75]

Among the most vital tenets of Alinsky’s method were the following:

  • “Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules. You can kill them with this, for they can no more live up to their own rules than the Christian Church can live up to Christianity.”[76]
  • “No organization, including organized religion, can live up to the letter of its own book. You can club them to death with their ‘book’ of rules and regulations.”[77]
  • “Practically all people live in a world of contradictions. They espouse a morality which they do not practice.… This dilemma can and should be fully utilized by the organizer in getting individuals and groups involved in a People’s Organization. It is a very definite Achilles’ heel even in the most materialistic person. Caught in the trap of his own contradictions, that person will find it difficult to show satisfactory cause to both the organizer and himself as to why he should not join and participate in the organization. He will be driven either to participation or else to a public and private admission of his own lack of faith in democracy and man.”[78]

    We have seen this phenomenon played out many times in recent years. For instance, a case of police brutality against black New Yorker Abner Louima in 1997 was cited repeatedly by critics of the police as emblematic of a widespread pattern of abuse aimed at nonwhite minorities. Similarly, the misconduct of a handful of American soldiers at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison in 2004 was portrayed as part of a much larger pattern that had been approved by the highest levels of the U.S. government.

    And on the battlefields of the Middle East, any American military initiative that has inadvertently killed innocent civilians has been cited by opponents of the war as evidence that U.S. troops are maniacal, bloodthirsty killers. In each of the foregoing examples, the allegedly hypocritical American authorities were accused of having violated their own “book of rules” (rules that are supposed to govern the conduct of the police or the military).

    Alinsky taught that in order to most effectively cast themselves as defenders of moral principals and human decency, organizers must react with “shock, horror, and moral outrage” whenever their targeted enemy in any way misspeaks or fails to live up to his “book of rules.”[79]

    Moreover, said Alinsky, whenever possible the organizer must deride his enemy and dismiss him as someone unworthy of being taken seriously because he is either intellectually deficient or morally bankrupt. “The enemy properly goaded and guided in his reaction will be your major strength,” said Alinsky.[80] He advised organizers to “laugh at the enemy” in an effort to provoke “an irrational anger.”[81] “Ridicule,” said Alinsky, “is man’s most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage.”[82]

    According to Alinsky, it was vital that organizers focus on multiple crusades and multiple approaches. “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag,” he wrote. “Man can sustain militant interest in any issue for only a limited time. New issues and crises are always developing.”[83] “Keep the pressure on,” he continued, “with different tactics and actions, and utilize all events of the period for your purpose.”[84]

    Toward this end, Alinksy advised organizers to be sure that they always kept more than one “fight in the bank.” In other words, organizers should keep a stockpile of comparatively small crusades which they are already prepared to conduct, and to which they can instantly turn their attention after having won a major victory of some type. These “fights in the bank” serve the dual purpose of keeping the organization’s momentum going, while not allowing its major crusade to get “stale” from excessive public exposure.[85]

    Read it all.

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