Monday, November 8, 2010


I continue with an SO-specific look at Saul Alinsky’s 1971 book “Rules for Radicals”*. There is a corresponding Post on my other site here.

As I’d said, the Master Post for this 6th installment contains a discussion with all the page quotations, and you can access it here.

In this Post I will simply deal with the SO-relevant material.

His fifth chapter is entitled “Communication”.

Alinsky defines communication taking place “when they understand what you’re trying to get across to them”.

That’s a narrow and limited approach to communication; ‘sharing’ or the exchange of views isn’t in it. But then, if those whom you have targeted for ‘organizing’ don’t really know what’s good for them and if you are there to move or manipulate them toward where you are sure they need to go, then why waste time?

It’s this type of ‘communication’ that lubricated the Mania Regimes: it’s not ‘communication’ in any ‘civilian’ sense (such as you might find in a reputable dictionary); rather, it’s more the one-way pumping of selected information (or spin or what-have-you) being aimed at recipients not for the purpose of informing them so they can make a reasoned decision but merely to stampede them. (Which means that any government office-of-communications has a purpose not covered in a dictionary.)

Naturally too, this has the effect of habituating the government to a certain dishonesty (to put it nicely) when dealing with the Citizens: dishonesty and manipulation are simply folded into the concept of ‘Communication’, which is a good thing that everybody thinks a government should be doing.

Which is what the Beltway wants everybody to think.

“When you are trying to communicate and can’t find the point in the experience of the other party at which he can receive and understand, then, you must create the experience for him.”

In other words, you know what s/he SHOULD be experiencing, so you have carte-blanche to ‘create’ what you are already sure should be there. Thus, among other things, the unending series of ‘symbolic incidents’ that are designed for no other purpose than to convince large numbers of people (modern communications technologies are far more efficient in pulling this gambit on masses of people rather than the slow one-person-at-a-time approach) that derange a democratic politics, derailing it from a ‘politics of substance’ and rendering it merely a ‘politics of symbolism’ and ‘appearances’.

The SO community will be familiar with this phenomenon, even if at least at the beginning its origins and precise causal dynamics were not clear. Having made up their minds what SHOULD be ‘there’ (because they believed it was there OR because the wanted and needed it to be there) then advocates and ‘experts’ made the Alinsky-ite pressure-moves on legislators who were eager to have such ‘cover’.

And so in the Mania Regimes of DoVi and SO you see a ‘politics of appearances’ rather than substance mutate into a ‘legislation of appearances’ rather than substance: in terms of the what the statistics and ‘stories’ claimed, in terms of the purported monsters that were committing them (whether a few hardened recidivists or millions of lumpish unripes, take your pick) … there is no ‘there’ there.

And from a ‘legislation of appearances’ rather than substance you mutate further into a ‘jurisprudence of appearances’ rather than substance, by way of a ‘law enforcement of appearances’ rather than substance.

And the whole thing becomes a hall of mirrors. Only lethally so.

Alinsky’s vision floods wide and deep. His vision spreads like a toxic flood: “For another example of the same principle, here is a Christian civilization where most people have gone to church and mouthed various Christian doctrines, and yet this is really not a part of their experience because they haven’t lived it. Their church experience has been purely a ritualistic decoration.”

He echoes many serious religious thinkers, whether he knows it or not. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the intense and acute German pastor who would take part in the plots against Hitler and be executed just a couple of weeks before the Nazi surrender, visited New York in the early 1930s. What struck him were the shallowness and superficiality – although buttressed with an optimism and enthusiasm that he found to be unserious – of the theology and ministerial students he encountered in his year of study at a great metropolitan divinity school.

But it was one of the abiding themes of his vision, and he preached this in 1932 at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin on Reformation Sunday of that year, that they were all there not to celebrate Martin Luther but to bury him and his spirit, and with it the spirit of a genuine religious commitment lived out with the entire mind, heart, and soul of a human life.

This accusation can be leveled at just about any congregation of believers at any time in any religion, but coming as it did on the last Reformation Sunday before Hitler took power (January, 1933) the message bore a special intensity and focus.

Yet Alinsky is no minister. His observation about the abiding distance between living a ‘genuine’ and a ‘conventional’ religious life is not made to encourage or exhort folks to a less-incomplete or more perfect religious or spiritual commitment. No, it’s to justify the adolescent simplistic reduction, the one precisely made by Holden Caulfield in J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye”: everybody is a phony.

And therefore everything they do or preach or believe is phony.

And if they say that they are not phony then you can’t believe them because they’re phony.

You can see why adolescents can be so moody, being convinced that they have brilliantly figured out the ‘real’ nature of life and yet then have to live in so phony a world. And perhaps with the fear that they themselves are phony – which terrifies them … and yet, it never ever occurs to them, even in the depths of their Angst, that their analysis itself might be wrong: THAT never occurs to them. Funny how the psychological night moves.

The dissatisfaction stemming from the imperfection or incompleteness of human existence – the dukkha of Eastern mysticism – is for the revolutionary merely a useful pretext for his/her adolescent reductionism: what is there is phony, which justifies our doing whatever we have to do to clean up Dodge by bringing the revolution to fulfillment for everybody’s good.

The revolutionary does not want to improve anybody: a little improvement here or there, the very stuff of daily life, is nothing but evasion and postponement of the Inevitable Struggle that will bring about that creative destruction which will smooth and clear the path of the revolution toward Perfection.

I suppose Lincoln ran into this sort of thing when the Abolitionists realized that he was saying he was Anti-slavery but not Abolitionist – and it enraged them that he would try to make such a distinction. Abolitionism shared the revolutionary impatience: if you find wheat growing with the tares, you must immediately rip out the tares (exactly what Jesus said God has chosen NOT to do).

It’s not just impatience in the sense of time; it’s an existential impatience, an impatience with the very existence of an irritating or undesirable or disliked state of affairs (and – always dangerous – with the human beings whom you associate with that state of affairs).

But Lincoln was a leader, not a revolutionary: as a human being he was and always had been Anti-slavery; but as a leader he knew that (at least up until the circumstances of military success made it possible) Abolitionism could not be embraced as national policy because it would rip the nation apart.

The SO Mania Regimes participate in this Alinsky-ite simplistic revolutionary reduction: ‘men’ are phony, and sex-offenders are the worst of ‘men’ so they are the most evilly phony of all and you can’t trust them. And in the Abolitionist existential impatience: they must be Abolished because their ‘evil’ must be Abolished and it must be done now because it is so evil or at least could become even more evil if allowed to continue.

Of course, you then have to factor in Alinsky – who draws on Lenin but also on advertising and marketing strategy, especially as those strategies were applied to the manipulation of public opinion by that dark master, Joseph Goebbels – and once you’re dealing with Alinsky-ite Method (and almost all of today’s ‘advocacy’ is rooted in it, whether the current practitioners realize it or not) then you have to consider the elements of exaggeration, selectivity, and outright ‘manufacture’.

Whenever you’re dealing with the Alinsky Method, you have to be on your guard. That’s not suspicion of an irrational kind: he wages ‘war politics’ and if you are in his sights, and the sights of those whom his organizers have organized, then they have already decided that you are a Have, that you Have something – even if what you Have is a ‘monstrous evil’ that, for everybody’s benefit (including their own, nicely) must be warred-upon until it is thoroughly abolished.

And in the SO Mania Regime, that’s exactly what they are aiming for.


*My copy is the paperback Vintage Books/Random House edition that reprints the original 1971 edition. The ISBN is 0-679-72113-4. All my quotations and page references will be taken from this edition.

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