Sunday, September 20, 2009

Reading Saul Alinsky

I have had a great time reading Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals". He is a terrific writer and a serious thinker.

His theorizing is very relevant to studying and understanding terrorism not because he believed in violence--though he appears to have been threatened by it on more than one occasion--but because he sees the world as conflict between the good guys and the bad guys and thinks that whether an action helps the good guys or the bad guys should be the standard by which the morality of all other actions and adherence to all other norms should be judged. The similarity of this doctrine to that of terrorists is obvious enough. It is explicitly Machiavellian and indeed he describes his book as a Machiavelli for the have nots.

Also, though there is no advocacy of violence in the book there is a lot of bending and breaking of rules and norms of good manners.

He also has lots of great suggestions and principles for any political conflict whether it is with the haves or with anyone else. An underlying principle is that what you are doing in a conflict is trying to get the other side to react. It is the reaction or over reaction of the other side that helps your side. Ridicule is a great weapon from this point of view. For one thing it is fun. for another it makes the other side mad and more likely to do something stupid.

I have been thinking of this as I have been watching the tea parties and the reactions to them. Everyone has focused on the shouting at the town hall meetings as evidence of the right using the left's tactics. That is a dumbing down of the Alinsky's theory (I know less about his practice). He does advocate a form of Mau Mauing in a circumstance where the have nots are completely disorganized and convinced of their own powerlessness but it is only a minor part of the work, only a couple of pages. What seems more in the spirit of Alinsky is the use of humor.

Here is a link to some t-shirts for sale with slogans from the signs at some of the recent tea-parties. I particularly like the one that says, "It doesn't matter what this sign says, you'll call it racist anyway." I also liked, "Obama lies, Grandma dies." That seems to me to be Alinsky-like in spirit and result. It is taking aim at one of the main pretenses of the government party's legitimating myths, that the real reason anyone opposes it is because of racism. And the result, the angry accusations of racism from some of the left commentariate following Jimmy Carter's statement has been just what Alinsky would have predicted and hoped for. "We do not call anyone that disagrees with us racists, you racists!"

Finally, one of the people that best understands and uses Alinsky's principles, the current occupant of the White House, has declined to take the bait. That is just what Alinsky would have recommended it seems to me. Good thing the left doesn't have Alinsky's street smarts anymore.

1 comment:

richman said...

Hey I noticed you linked to my site and I read this very interesting blog post.

I've always thought Obama is highly vulnerable to old fashioned ridicule. He has a cold, distant, narcissistic personality. He doesn't have a thick skin. He got mad at Fox for not "airing a single positive story" about him. He told a reporter not to make fun of his ears. In debates he would give angry looks when McCain made a good joke about him or his policies. All of these episodes point to an all too serious person.

What we try to do with the project and the t-shirt site is introduce creative ridicule to the entire country. The left made it cool to make fun of Bush. However, Obama is just as target rich (dancing on ellen, looking in general like a DB, teleprompters, flip-flops) and more vulnerable. Where Bush didn't care and let it ride, Obama will get angry and let it affect his performance.

Interesting post. Thanks for the link.