Tuesday, November 23, 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 8th 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 seventh chapter is entitled “Tactics”, a nice military approach.

The historical quotation that leads off the chapter is from Hannibal, referring not to some backwoods 19th century American politico but to the Carthaginian general who inflicted upon the Roman Republic its worst-ever defeat at Cannae: “We will either find a way or make one”.

It’s a tad ironic since in actual history, Hannibal did not go on to attack the City of Rome itself, after he had destroyed the legions that stood in his way and had an unopposed path.

Once again, the ‘war’ mentality is evident in Alinsky. And – even if he claims he’s only offering a ‘technique’ here – it’s a technique that will allow no bounds to what it will do to ‘win’. Truth or reality don’t constitute major obstacles; nor, as We saw in his previous chapter, does Respect, even for those who have been selected for the benefit of being ‘organized’. So if you are in a ‘war’ then – as everybody knows – truth becomes the first casualty because the primary objective is to ‘win’ (the American variant is: to righteously defeat your evil enemy who is soooooo bad that anything you need to do is OK).

No wonder neither truth nor the Constitution seem to have had an effect on the pols or on anybody else who has signed-on to this supporting this Regime.

I also wonder just how much you can construct your daily peace-time life on a war-mentality before you sort of get used to ‘war’ and think it’s just a thang.

And again I point out how much of ‘war’ there is in Alinsky, and his ‘war politics’ and now his ‘war tactics’. This entire thrust is hugely dangerous when applied not only to a deliberative democratic politics but to a Constitutionally-bound criminal law.

Yet the allure of being part of a ‘war’ is stunningly seductive. Thus not only Left and Right but the average person can find at least the appearances of some sense of ‘meaning’ and ‘purpose’ in waging or supporting such a ‘war’. And this is especially true when you have manufactured the ‘sex offender’ as almost the perfect ‘enemy’ or even ‘enemy of the people’. In a way you combine the most powerful attractions and seductions of both the vampire movie and the war movie.

He defines ‘tactics’ as “doing what you can with what you have” although We have seen that you can also ‘create’ what you don’t have, and that what you don’t have may include some vitally substantial philosophical underpinnings. Which is precisely what was done in the manufacture of the SO Mania Regime.

All of his advice flows from his conviction that “power has always derived from two main sources: money and people”. And since the Haves are the only ones with money, then the Have-Nots have to rely on “people”.

Logical enough on its own terms. But then, since “people” are so important to what you want to accomplish (and the So Mania Regime’s various backers have a lot that they wanted to ‘accomplish’) then you have to manipulate your ‘people’ since they don’t always know what’s good for them.

He has some “rules of power tactics”.

His first rule of power tactics is to Consider the parts of your face, he instructs. Take the eyes: “if you have organized a vast, mass-based people’s organization, you can parade it visibly before the enemy and openly show your power”.

On the other hand, consider the ears: if you don’t really have many folks, then use the example of Gideon: “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”.

Alinsky has worked on both ends of the Regime. First, the number of genuine supporters is probably far less than anyone realizes (although there are vast numbers who simply ‘agree’ with the Regime on the basis of those frakkulently inaccurate legislative Findings). Second, the numbers of ‘sex offenders’ have been hugely inflated by vague and elastic definitions, inaccurate registrations, and the ‘technical violations’ of the AWA system.

I can’t help but think that THIS has been the one more often deployed as if it were a form of democratic and deliberative consensus-based politics. And of course, in modern ‘advocacy’ such “din and clamor” consists of shrewdly selected or perhaps manufactured ‘incidents’ of ‘outrage’ and ‘oppression’ and ‘pain’. Rather than get whole bunches of people together demonstrating (since you usually don’t have that many) then you can focus politics instead on the full-face close-up camera shot of this or that (and alleged) ‘victim’.

Mark Rudd, the leader of the student demonstrators at the Columbia University building take-overs of 1968 and later founder of the Weathermen in 1969, some years later acknowledged that “we manufactured the issues”, which led him – logically, from his point of view – to assert that “the issue is not the issue”. What he meant was that the manufactured ‘issue’ was simply the pretext upon which you could whip up a ‘critical mass’ of demonstrators who would somehow apply ‘pressure’ that would somehow result in Year One of the Great New Age.

The media can (and did and do) help by providing the cameras. And in the event that you do scrape up some folks for a demonstration in the bright light of day, the media can (and do) help by not wishing to appear insensitive and actually showing any shots that would reveal the size of your whole (small) set-up. Instead if you have 20 people the camera will tight-focus on that 20 as if it were a shot of merely a fraction of the folks you’d like everybody in the viewing audience to think were really there.

Surely this advice was followed in the manufacture of the SO Mania Regime. Selected ‘victims’ and horror-stories about them were used to inflame public imagination about ‘sex offenders’, backed up by the speculations or downright untrue ‘Findings’ made by legislators.

After a couple-three decades of this sort of thing, the public isn’t going to be able to distinguish between fact and fiction, truth and falsehood, reality and illusion.

And finally Alinsky looks at the nose: “If your organization is too tiny even for noise, stink up the place”. Which if you think about it must have been the operating principle (though not widely publicized to those who ‘just don’t get it’) for inciting the ‘emergency’ and the Stampede that lubricated the SO Mania Regime. Selective information, mis-information, dis-information, inflated numbers, truly inaccurate and perhaps dishonest science, and legislators misusing their authority and office … all in order to cobble together a monstrosity that in one way or another would serve each and all of their self-interested purposes.

Alinsky’s second rule of power tactics is “Never go outside the experience of your people”. Which is shrewd enough.

So you bring the ‘sex offender’ INTO their experience: he’s everywhere, he can assume the shape of a ‘normal’ person or revert to his basic monstrousness, he wants your children, he lives in your community or he’s going to move into it.

Alinsky’s third rule of power tactics: “Wherever possible go outside the experience of your enemy”. Again with the military and war imagery, where – granted – it is indeed a sage operational maxim.

And nicely, Alinsky uses an extended example from William Tecumseh Sherman’s March Through Georgia.

What attracts him about Sherman’s strategy – and it is an impressive point, from the viewpoint of military thinking – is that Sherman refused to let his force take a Shape: cutting himself off from the classic invading-army Shape that included (vulnerable) supply lines and telegraph lines back to some base camp in Union territory, Sherman simply cut loose and marched along, pursuing a line of march that offered no clue as to his next ‘objective’. The Southern defenders had no way of formulating a defensive response because they really couldn’t figure out what he was up to (his intention, marvelously, was not to fight IN Georgia but to march THROUGH Georgia).

Shapelessness works! IF, however, it is wielded by a tremendously gifted and competent military commander within the context of a much larger Plan and – not to put too fine a point on it – Shape. Temporary and purposeful Shapelessness is what Sherman wielded, and since this was the first time it had been tried in the American setting, it worked that much better. And throughout the whole campaign in Georgia, Sherman’s army itself maintained a superb Shape: as a coherent and cohesive military force and instrument it remained capable and instantly responsive to his commands.

So Alinsky’s insight here is hugely fraught.

He is not conducting – or shouldn’t be – a military operation of deliberate deception in the service of Assault. He is proposing a Method of conducting political activity, and within the context of a deliberative democratic politics (although, of course, he considered such a politics to be Not On The Level).

And you can’t expect to manipulate civilians – and indeed a Citizenry – like a military commander commands and manipulates his army. This is a matter of politics. But then, that’s precisely Lenin’s vision: that he needed an ‘army’ of dedicated vanguard cadres to take his orders and impose Shape on ‘the masses’, who in his vision of the Red Revolution are merely those benighted lumps who never functioned as more than the ‘necessary cattle’ witlessly munching the grass. (And then came Stalin …)

Alinsky adds another example from Patton’s Third Army sweeping around the increasingly decrepit German armies in France, but enough.

The point here is the danger of the ‘war-mentality’, especially the Righteous War Mentality, among the Regime’s supporters who have ‘organized’ this thing and sustain it.

But with that goes the reality that the Regime is not simply some bumbling – shockingly bumbling – that was put together higgledy-piggledy in well-intentioned haste. It bears the marks of much ‘strategic’ thinking: it is a tightly-knit and shrewdly constructed iron net, impervious to reason, truth, or the Constitutional ethos. It may have been a huge and lethal mistake, but it was no accident.

His fourth rule of power tactics is to “make them live up to their own rules”. (p.128) “You can kill them with this”, he gloats, “because they no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity”.

Oy and frak.

Who can ever completely live up to their own rules perfectly? What human or human organization? I am NOT here justifying government’s breaking their own laws, but simply pointing out that the unspoken assumption here is that Alinsky’s cadres, cut free from any morality or ethics since they are fighting the genuine Evil of the oppressive Haves, are bound by no rules at all (except his tactical advices).

And note that shrewd elision of a deliberate flouting of one’s own rules, on the one hand, and on the other hand the “Christian church” (he may mean ‘religion’ rather than ‘church’ here) being unable to ever fully fulfill its ideals.

There is, as I have said in previous Posts, that stubborn Incompleteness to all things human: humans are somehow not ‘complete’ in the sense that what they envision as their personal and societal Ideal can never fully be realized; there are failures-to- fulfill and they seem built into the human thing.

Some philosophies – the Eastern ones especially – and even some versions of Christianity – German pietism, for example – respond to this reality by advocating a complete withdrawal from ‘the world’ and from large human affairs.

Other philosophies suggest the imposition of ‘order’ by a government – Hobbes and his Leviathan, for example.

And others suggest that humans must make their best efforts, continuously and deliberately, to try to bring their personal and societal Ideal into actuality – the Framers and the Christian (certainly the Catholic) approach.

But Alinsky chooses the route that winds back at least to Machiavelli and up through the European revolutionary tradition: since nothing can ever be Ideal then there is no Ideal and anything goes. (He makes here the same mistake as the six blind men encountering the elephant in the ancient Eastern story: since there are so many differing and opposed ‘takes’ on the shape of the elephant, then the elephant clearly does not exist. Which is illogical and hugely inaccurate. Or perhaps you can go with the Postmodern Approach: the elephant is merely a ‘text’ for the reader to do with as s/he finds most useful.)

And I can’t ignore the bald and stunning statement “you can kill them with this”. The man is talking about a nation’s politics, for God’s sake.

In the SO Mania Regime, the ‘Sex Offender’ (not necessarily as an actual convictee but as a conceptual construct) is made to take full responsibility for failure or incompleteness, while everyone else (‘normal’ and ‘decent’ in the schematic) can escape from their own failures and incompleteness and take consolation from the fact that they are not ‘sex offenders’ and never will be (well … nobody can be sure of that last part; the ‘definition’ is elastic, after all).

His fifth rule of power tactics, which he claims is contained within the fourth, is: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon”. In a politics of Deconstruction – where the cadres of the assorted advocacies are deliberately seeking to ‘de-valorize’ the established truths, Ideals, structures and beliefs of an entire society and culture – this bit of advice takes its toxic place. Generations of Americans have now been raised within a Zeitgeist redolent with the assorted anti-Western, anti-Adult, anti-whatever ridicule of radical feminism (it’s all just patriarchy and sooo ‘male’), multiculturalism (it’s all just ‘white’ and that’s not worth your respect), it’s all just ‘old’ (and therefore must be ‘changed’), and you name it.

This rule wouldn’t work in the Stampede game. Ridicule has been replaced by Monstrousness. SOs are ‘monsters’ – thus you don’t weaken their ‘power’ by laughing at them but by ‘warring’ upon them through the criminal law (neatly masquerading as ‘regulatory and administrative’ measures and a form of public service).

His sixth rule of power tactics is that “a good tactic is one your people enjoy”. No reason why you can’t have fun while you’re doing all this. And what folks ‘enjoy’ they won’t bother to question, neatly. Assaultive deconstruction can be FUN! AND you get to be ‘cutting edge’ and very ‘with it’ and prove that you ‘get it’ by grabbing an axe and having a whack at it yourself. You can’t imagine this stuff – so widely characteristic of the decades of the 70s, 80s, and 90s without queasy recall of Nazi efforts to get the German people to join in the exhilaration of the Regime’s frakkulence, either by joining in or at least by standing by and cheering and Heil-ing as brownshirts and fellow (and sister) citizens descended into animality, barbarism, and Hitler’s nationalistic version of neo-paganism. Such progress.

There is a lethal allure, a seductiveness, to ‘being the Good guy’, and this is especially so when you can come up with a vivid and lurid ‘Bad guy’ who a) makes you look even more Good and b) is sooo Bad that you can do ANYTHING you want to him and still be Good … or even more Good than you are now.

The seduction of violence and mayhem simultaneously seduced and increased-the-numbers of many many ‘demonstrators’ and students back in the late Sixties. It was hard to tell how many were dedicated to some principle or goal, and how many were just there to enjoy the chance to wreck and wrack.

There is a profound violence inherent in the SO Mania Regime. It is a seductive trap that has already led authorities as well as (deliberately?) ill-informed citizens far down a dangerous road.

His seventh rule of power tactics is that “a tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag”. Hence the need to be constantly coming up with new tactics, new issues, new ‘outrages’. The frakkulent effects of a society’s being continuously and constantly bombarded with an unending stream of such ‘news’ is bound to become demoralized. And its politics will become demoralized. And folks will simply give up on the society and the culture, hope to make a few bucks, and pull up the drawbridge behind them.

The effects of this advice on the SO Mania Regime are clear. The ‘excitement’ of ‘escalating’ combines with the seductive allure of ‘being the Good guy’ while the incessant reports of ‘new’ variants of the Problem that require new and even more invasive laws … it’s a powerful Kool-Aid cocktail.

What you want to avoid, intones Alinsky, is your organizing and your cause turning into “a ritualistic commitment” (p.128) just like “going to Church on Sunday mornings”.

He’s onto something here. But mostly not. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German theologian and pastor who was executed by the Nazis for leading a theologically-based resistance to their regime, was also opposed to ‘the religious man’, by which he meant a person for whom ‘religion’ had merely become a set of social customs, uninformed and un-Shaped by the Gospel demands of Christ. It was for that reason that Bonhoeffer proposed a “religionless Christianity”, by which he meant only that Christianity must be based in an active faith that engaged the entire life of the believer – the Christian ‘Ideal’ you might say.

Bonhoeffer saw how the truly and genuinely ‘spiritual’ can be lost in the dust and noise of daily events – individually and societally – and thus be reduced to a shell of its true authority and redemptive power. But this has always been the challenge of any belief-system (Alinsky’s included): that its adherents lose their ‘edge’ and become dulled to routines of activity rather than living an active life grounded in belief.

Alinsky chooses – as really he must – to define Christianity (as so many other things as well) by its weakness rather than by its strength and the well-established potential of its approach. Which was a dynamic that dovetailed perfectly with the ‘politics of Deconstruction’ as one after another Identity after 1972 sought to do away with any abiding public sense of the value of Large Things and Unseen Things.

This was a recipe for human catastrophe, because humans need to believe and will raise up (as Moses found with Aaron’s Golden Calf) whatever is available as an object of belief. Hence the need – from Christianity’s point of view – to provide an abiding object of belief that would bring humans to a Larger and more Genuine Sense of itself. Otherwise, anybody enterprising and skilled enough would raise up a Golden Calf and offer it as a compelling object of belief.

Bonhoeffer saw the Nazi State as doing precisely this, as Hitler very much intended and as Mussolini pithily described: “nothing outside the State, nothing above the State, nothing against the State”. Given the government-and-State-dependent polity of the National Nanny State envisioned by the cadres of the assorted Identities here, you can see just how America would start heading down this road, in substance if not in ‘spin’.

Alinsky’s eighth rule of power tactics: “Keep the pressure on, with different tactics and actions, and utilize all events of the period for your purpose”. And here you have the unending series of ‘crises’ and ‘outrages’ discussed above, and how – with the help of a shallow media ‘reporting’ – every element of national life is claimed to be either infected or complicit in the great disease of ‘oppression’ and must henceforth be ‘changed’ forthwith. The SO Mania Regime is clearly following the gameplan.

His ninth rule of power tactics: “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself”. Curiously, he offers no discussion here and moves on directly to number 10. I think I can understand why. What he’s implying here, and doesn’t want to get into, is that a good organizer has to make any instance of his/her selected ‘oppression’ seem as awful and terrible and ominous as possible. Selectivity, exaggeration, illogic, and the indispensable help of a media that doesn’t get beneath the appearances you have cagily manufactured and the ‘scenario’ you have carefully assembled for the cameras … all of this is what he advises.

The consequences of a wide, deep, and unremitting stream of such ‘news’ cannot be good: the Citizenry and thus The People become not only misinformed but also, after a while, incompetent to distinguish reality from ‘spin’, substance from appearance. And on top of that fatal consequence, public policies are erected and imposed – on the authority of The People – that are most surely not in the interest of the common-weal and are indeed not in contact with truth or reality.

And can you say ‘Iraq War’? But as I have been saying, long before the Bush-Cheney neocon imperium deployed this bit of advice, the American people had already been drugged into incompetence by the heady media cocktails of a dozen busy Identities and their advocating cadres.

And in order to maintain the illusion that this or that Advocacy’s Emperor (or Empress) has no clothes on then politics must devolve from The People to this or that ‘base’, which is comprised only of those true believers – those who ‘get it’ – who are sure they can see the ‘clothes’. This is a recipe for a Balkanization and fracturing of American politics, so that now the Beltway finds itself in Marshall Tito’s position in the former Yugoslavia: given irreconcilable differences among the many ‘identities’ that comprised the polity, only force applied by the (increasingly-nominal) central government can hold the polity together. But in this country, with enough of the Constitutional Ethos still intact, the Beltway chose to ‘buy’ the loyalty of its irreconcilable fractals, using huge amounts of ‘wealth’ (a wealth that was itself increasingly illusory).

And in the SO Mania Regime you wind up with a ‘base’ that is an amalgam of Left and Right, victimology-types and law-and-order types, advocates and entrepreneurs, all of whom now have at least a triple-interlocked web of motivation for keeping the thing going: to do something Good, to keep the job going, and - as the Aura of Pure Goodness starts to wear thin – to prevent the Citizenry from starting to see what’s really been going on and what has been done on their authority.

It is also a recipe for an intensifying civic Incompetence on the part of the Citizenry and The People and of the national politics. Immature and cartoonish thinking, not at all incompatible with an emotion-based, ‘non-male’ mode of ‘sensitive intuition’ and reliance on ‘personal stories’ become the only basis of political action and national policy.

What will happen now that the central government’s supply of usable cash is dwindling and can’t be increased without destabilizing the currency itself (especially in the eyes of the international community of nations) … what will happen to the American polity as the cash dries up is anybody’s guess.

He quickly proceeds to his tenth rule of power tactics: “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition”. Again, this is a politics of Assault – upon the very competence of the Citizenry to comprehend their own public affairs and to judge what then might be most workable for the common-weal.

The pressure of incessant streams of ‘reports’ and ‘studies’ – especially by those who think that you can be a ‘scientist’ and an ‘advocate-cadre’ at the same time – fueled the SO Mania Regime.

Alinsky’s eleventh rule of power tactics is that “if you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counter-side”. Curiously for someone with pretensions to a military-type textbook approach, he offers as his commentary on this point only a bit of gobbledygook: “this is based on the principle that every positive has its negative”.

I think what he means is that if you push hard and deep enough, you will force a reaction that may appear negative to your interests in the beginning (as your ‘enemy’ succeeds in countering you) but that then that reaction may morph into something positive to your interests (as your enemy oversteps himself). Which is neither an inaccurate nor an unheard-of military thought, but hardly prime strategy.

And it’s curious that he doesn’t say what he means more clearly. Perhaps he’s trying to maintain some of the aura of mysticism or profundity. Although if you’re only writing up a ‘technique’, why would you bother with something like that?

And there’s no guarantee that a counter-reaction “will” perform as expected; that’s a best-case scenario.

But I wonder if something like this wasn’t pressed on Beltway pols once those worthies revealed themselves as receptive as the SO Mania Regime got started up: if you keep trying our plan, no matter how ill-advised or imprudent or whackulous it looks right now, then sooner or later you’re going to break through to the other side and it will all look very good and you pols will look like true visionary leaders and statesmen (or statespersons). It sounds ridiculous, I know – but given what We have seen of the Beltway-advocacies ballet, is it too ridiculous to be possible? I’d say it’s not only a possible explanation but a probable one.

“In a fight”, intones Alinsky, “almost anything goes”. Well, maybe so (although look what’s happened in the GWOT and in Iraq and Afghanistan and Abu Ghraib and Gitmo). And the SO Mania Regime.

But again, this country is a democratic deliberative polity, not a military operation.

His twelfth rule of power tactics is that “the price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative”. And to explain this Alinsky immediately and simply states that “you cannot risk being trapped by the enemy in his sudden agreement with your demand” and saying to you that you were right and please tell us how to fix this.

And he moves on.

I can’t quite make this out as it is written. As best I can figure, he means that you should have a plan to fix the problem, but then wouldn’t your ‘demand’ have pretty much covered that? Or were you simply going to make a ‘demand’ that was really only a ‘complaint’ and hope that the ‘enemy’ would make a fool of himself trying to come up with a placating ‘solution’ that you could then make fun of or disregard or disparage? Or perhaps by simply complaining loudly enough, the ‘enemy’ (being the Beltway pols - in the very beginning anyway – or the public or some such entity theoretically also a part of the American commonwealth) will be so eager to give in to your ‘demand-complaint’ that he will give you more than you might have dared to ask for yourself.

This then would be a variant of the infantile manipulation whereby you scream long and loud enough and your parents – if they are of that nature – will give you whatever you want and more just for some peace and quiet. (Of course then - and the comparison with Hitler’s Modus Operandi in the mid-late 1930s comes to mind – you have no intention of allowing any such further peace and quiet and after a short interval start right up again in order to collect the next round’s tribute.)

In the SO Mania Regime it means. I think, that the advocates cannot permit a too-quick acceptance of initial demands, since Alinsky-ite doctrine requires a whole follow-on sequence of demands. A too-easy acceptance will undermine the fuel for a long-running programme. And the programme has run 20 years already. It has had such a long run because pols were actually threatened by the increasingly immature politics that they themselves were seeking to induce; by that I mean especially the cartoonish, immature thought-process of Either-Or: you’re either for the Regime or you’re for the sex-offenders.

Yet Alinsky is capable of an attention-getting candor when he feels like it. His thirteenth bit of advice is “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it”. Imagine here that the cadres of Identity Politics and all the other follow-on excitements kept this maxim on a handy wallet-size card. What would ‘politics’ look like after a couple-three decades of THAT?

I can’t not-think of that all-purpose mantra ‘the personal is political’, which apparently would include ‘polarization’ – which, by amazing coincidence, is one of the profound problems that recent commentators are suddenly realizing now bethumps so lethally American politics. We are ‘polarized’.

Yes, and it was part of the plan all along. Except that none of the Lefty whiz-kids, those gimlet-eyed cadres of Progress, imagined that anything would go wrong between the conception of their dampdream and its Best-Case-Scenario fulfillment. Sorta like the imperial whiz-kids of the Bush-Cheney imperium as they planned to be “greeted as liberators” in the “cakewalk” that would be the invasion of Iraq.

To the extent that We have been told to greet the cadres of change as liberators, then all of Us are Iraqis and sex-offenders now. And have been for quite some time.

But Alinsky is ready to quote some Scripture at you. “He that is not with me is against me” said Jesus. True enough, but that was an observation, not the coded Go-Word for a concerted plan of assault. Indeed, the same Person also pointed out that God prefers to let the tares grow up with the wheat until the harvest – and if THAT Scriptural bit is accepted as Gospel (so to speak) then no revolution would ever get off the ground. Imagine the look on Alinsky’s face if you were to propose to him that the Haves must be allowed to grow in the field with the Have-Nots until the Master of the Harvest comes and conducts His own winnowing. Like the devil dropping in on a cogitating Luther, you might find an inkwell thrown at your head.

Alas, Alinsky has been doing some ciphering. A leader struggle with his/her assessment that a “situation” is 52 percent favorable and 48 percent unfavorable, “but once the decision is reached he must assume that his cause is 100 percent positive and the opposition 100 percent negative”.

I can only wonder what effect THIS has had on pols, advocate-cadres, and all the assorted elements of the Regime.

This type of math is NOT capable of sustaining a deliberative democratic politics. The whole idea with such a politics is that you try to reach a consensus and that you therefore are open to the complexities among various views and ideas which are built into the whole project of forging a plan that will attract a consensus. Once you have gone to ‘war-mode’ then, as is famously said, truth is going to be the first casualty. Or, as is also famously said, ‘facts don’t matter’. Or, in the old Central European maxim: once the war flag is unfurled, all truth is in the trumpet. Which, come to think of it, is pretty much the theory of ‘revolutionary truth’: once the revolution is on, then ‘the revolution’ is the only arbiter of what is true and what isn’t. As Goering said: “Truth is what the Party decides is good for the German Volk”.

And with truth goes any sense of reality. And the Shape and boundaries that reality-based thinking imposes.
And in a bit of advice that surely was not lost on the whiz-kids of the Bush-Cheney neocon imperium, Alinsky then goes on to quote the Bard: that bit of Hamlet’s about “the native hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought”. Precisely what the neocons – and the cadres of the Left before them – wanted everybody to think. ‘Thinking’ is masculine, abstract, patriarchal and so ‘feeling’ is better. And only girly-men ‘think’; real men ‘act’ – from the gut (or thereabouts).

Phooey. Phooey and baloney.

Without the competence to deploy a serious and engaged capacity to assess and deliberate – which is the core of genuine ‘thinking’ – no genuine and robust deliberative politics can long survive. And, by amazing coincidence, it hasn’t.

It is “political idiocy”, Alinsky asserts, to come up with a problem and then grant that there is ‘another side’ to it. He’s wrong here: it is not political idiocy, it is idiocy in the eyes of any revolution. It is the essence of a revolution that the only reality and the only truth and the only good is that which furthers the objectives of the revolution. And if not, not.

Anyone who has tried to present a case for the dangerous potentials of this Regime may now understand part of the reason why it seems the most intelligent officials so intransigently continue to embrace and sustain it.

So while no revolutionary politics can ever truly accept that there is ever ‘another side’ to whatever it wants to get rid of, yet every democratic politics must accept that probability if it is to conduct a legitimate and accurate assessment as to what might be done.

But Alinsky is going to go with deliberate “polarization” – that there is not and cannot be any ‘other side’ once you have committed to your ‘war’.

But now no amount of Kool-Aid, no matter how artfully a batch is mixed up, can cushion or obscure the consequences of what has happened.

Sobriety is going to be a very painful thing indeed. But after a binge like Ours over the past 40 years, what else could you expect.

(There will be one more Post in this Alinsky mini-series, on his concluding chapter entitled “The Way Ahead”, wherein he shares his thoughts on what needs to be done starting in 1972.)


*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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