Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals has been in the spotlight since Barack Obama became president. It is well known that President Obama immersed himself in Alinsky’s ideas; using and teaching Alinsky’s techniques as a community organizer. Alinsky’s book and ideas have also been adopted by progressives as a blueprint for their political strategy. I’ve heard any number of people suggest we should adopt Alinsky’s tactics so we can fight fire with fire. I believe there are solid reasons why we should not go down that path.
Saul Alinsky has a reputation as an evil genius. When I read the book the evil part was easy to find, but the genius part was another matter. Instead of a sophisticated plan that left me awestruck, I found a juvenile mish-mash of ideas. This isn’t Sun Tzu’s Art of War, this isn’t Machiavelli’s The Prince, this isn’t chess, heck I’m not even sure it’s checkers. I can understand how its original target audience (college students—an immature group by definition) could take it seriously, but it’s unnerving to realize there are mature adults (including some of our most important political leaders such as Hillary Clinton and President Obama) that actually take this seriously.
There are three core ideas contained in the book: deception, manipulation, and intimidation.
Deceiving people isn’t a long-term strategy for success. Trust is like a china plate. When you break it (no matter how skillfully it is repaired) you can always see where it was broken. Governments that use deception to control their citizens go to great lengths to hide the truth from them, but the truth always gets out. When people realize you have deceived them they will never fully trust you again.
The manipulation techniques taught all have one fundamental flaw: they expect you to play along. It’s as though they are putting on a stage play—a bit of political theater—and everyone is an actor in the play. If everyone doesn’t play their assigned part the play is a flop. Someone accused of violating a political-correctness speech code is supposed to react with shame and contrition (their part in the play), not point out that the speech code itself is absurd. Countering these techniques is simple: refuse to play your assigned part, step back, and point out the reality: “Those aren’t protestors, they are people you promised $50.00 and lunch to hold printed signs and act angry. I’m not going to play the part of someone being protested, because that is not what is happening.”
Alinsky’s intimidation techniques really amount to making threats. He even states that threats don’t have to have anything behind them, but if you make the threat loud and long enough it becomes reality in people’s minds (but only in people’s minds). Like the schoolyard bully, when confronted by someone who refuses to back down their “power” evaporates.
Beyond the initial point that Alinsky’s ideas crumble when exposed to the light of day, there is a more fundamental reason we should avoid them. Not just dark and cynical, quite bluntly they are evil. Given Alinsky’s belief that the end (always) justifies the means, what would you expect? To Alinsky nothing is off-limits—absolutely nothing. He spends a great amount of time explaining that moral questions are not only meaningless, but should be ignored. The only questions Alinsky says matters are: (1) if it will work, and (2) is it worth the cost (the cost to you, not to the people you are hurting; hurting others is not only accepted by Alinsky, it is encouraged if that’s what it takes to get what you want).
Violence—Alinsky not only recommends violence, but cynically speaks as though everybody would use violence if they could. He even uses Gandhi as an example of someone who really, really, really wanted to use violence, but only held back because the circumstances didn’t make it a viable option. Did Gandhi (the father of non-violent resistance) deep in his heart yearn to use violence to kill, maim, burn, and destroy? Alinsky says yes. Is it surprising that President Obama, so deeply immersed in Alinsky’s philosophy, can’t bring himself to condemn terrorist (or even use the word terrorism for that matter). As far as Alinsky is concerned terrorism is a perfectly valid political method.
Polarity—Alinsky doesn’t use the specific term, but he describes (and praises) its use extensively: demonize a person or group, create division, and organize the rest of society against the demonized person or group. Anyone that knows even a little history understands the use of this technique in 1930′s Germany directly led to the death of millions of Jews. Alinsky isn’t a case of “those that forget history are doomed to repeat it.” He knows the history, he just doesn’t care. He takes an entire chapter to make the point that the ends always justify the means, or as he puts it: “Does this particular means justify this particular end?” Alinsky’s answer to that question is always—yes it does. If you demonize a group of people to the point that it results in genocide to get your way, according to Alinsky’s rules that would simply be just another “particular means to aparticular end.”
Ideas like deception, manipulation, intimidation, violence, and a cynical “the ends always justify the means” attitude are not part of the American design. This country was founded on a higher standard, and Americans deserve better. Progressives have no choice but to use the underhanded tactics found in Alinsky’s books to hide the truth about what they are really trying to do, because when brought into the daylight their true goals and philosophy (just like a vampire) crumble into ash.
Our philosophy is based upon ideas contained in The Declaration of Independence and The United States Constitution—ideas that have stood the test of time. When you expose conservative philosophy and ideas to the daylight they don’t crumble, they shine.