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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Saul Alinsky and the book you don't need to read to know all about


One of my remaining life goals is to meet a Republican who has read Rules for Radicals.

Listening to my 25th national political convention last night, I was drawn up short by one of Ben Carson’s riffs, in which he turned the discipline of logic inside out. He argued- let me see if I can chart this- Saul Alinsky was a radical. He wrote a book for radicals. He called it Rules for Radicals. Hillary Clinton did her senior college thesis on Saul Alinsky, and considers him a role model. Saul Alinsky dedicated his book to Lucifer, prince of darkness.

Therefore, Hillary- well, you can fill in the blank.

"Let me tell you something about Saul Alinsky," he said. "He wrote a book called 'Rules for Radicals.' On the dedication page, it acknowledges Lucifer, the original radical who gained his own kingdom."

Carson asked, "So are we willing to elect someone as president who has as their role model someone who acknowledges Lucifer?"

Today, on CNN, Carson- who claims to have read Rules for Radicals- added to his critique:

"Recognize that this is a very famous book -- 'Rules for Radicals' -- and on the dedication page, you acknowledge Lucifer in an admirable way saying he's the original radical who gained his own kingdom," Carson told CNN's Chris Cuomo on "New Day." "What I am saying is that we are talking about electing to the presidency an individual who embraces someone who obviously is not someone who is consistent."

If you can parse that last sentence, you are a better grammarian than I. As Seth Meyers joked last night, Carson often leaves people confused: was he a brain surgeon, or a brain donor?

Still, I’d have thought Carson, who can only prove he got as far as the dedication page in Rules for Radicals, might have noticed, en route, the copyright date: 1971.

Hillary Clinton’s senior thesis on Alinsky was written in 1969. She interviewed Alinsky twice and did field interviews in Chicago neighborhoods where Alinsky worked. She concluded that while Alinsky’s personal appeal lent much to his campaigns and tactics, and his critique of government antipoverty programs as too centralized and one-size-fits-all was correct, the stress his natural combativeness led him to place on “in your face” activism kept his from becoming a national model.

So unless Ben Carson can prove Alinsky initiated Clinton into his satanic rites two years before his book came out, well, then Carson’s just being Thorazine-dulled numptie again.

Alinsky died in 1972, the year after his sulfurous little book- he called it “The Prince for the Have-Nots” and its message has been fanned into little campfires of conservative fear and boogieman night watches at intervals ever since. They went batshit crazy in 2008, when the two main Democratic candidates for president- Clinton and Obama- both were shown to have read That Book, and Did Not Condemn Its Message.

Writing in the Chicago Reader four years ago, Michael Miner illustrated Alinsky's uses for the like of Ben Carson and the braying delegates to whom he pandered in Cleveland:

Alinsky's son David, who lives in Boston and makes a living upgrading computer networks, brought it up. David Alinsky thinks one reason why theright believes it can tar Obama with Saul Alinsky's name is the name itself. "It's foreign sounding, Russian or Polish or something Middle European," says David. "That kind of folks could never be trusted anyway. He's probably Jewish, and we know all about how those Jews are. We're all for Israel, but we don't like the Jews."

David Alinsky told Miner is was really immaterial whether people who hate on Alinsky have ever read anything he wrote. In the Plagiarists’ Ball that is the Cleveland Convention, someone might want to compare Carson’s Tuesday night raving with what Miner wrote in 2012:

All Gingrich cares to know about Alinsky—ditto the wing of the Republican Party that adores him—is that Alinsky was a community organizer in Chicago, and later so was Barack Obama, who's spoken fondly of him. And guess who wrote her senior thesis about, and then was offered a job by, Alinsky? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Nuff said. That Alinsky-Obama-Clinton-Chicago-dark-side pentagram is evil stuff! Patriots beware.

Newt Gingrich- who attracted more than one observer’s notice for his 2012 presidential crusade’s tactical underpinnings-  has been foaming at the mouth about Alinsky for years. You rarely lose an argument to a dead man, and Newt has been recreating Alinsky in straw for decades “to whip up the froth and frenzy of his followers, whose ignorance of the man is no deterrence to their eagerness, at Gingrich’s behest, to tar and feather him posthumously.

"In his speeches,” Bill Moyers and Michael Winship have written, “Gingrich pounds away at variations on the theme like the piano player in a cheap Western saloon. He declares, “The centerpiece of this campaign, I believe, is American exceptionalism versus the radicalism of Saul Alinsky,” or, “I believe in the Constitution, I believe in the Federalist Papers. Obama believes in Saul Alinsky and secular European socialist bureaucracy.”

It’s all quite clever and insidious, a classic lesson in how to slander someone who cannot answer from the grave, reminiscent of the tactics Gingrich used in those GOPAC memos back in 1996, when he suggested buzzwords and phrases to demonize opponents: corrupt, decay, pathetic, permissive attitude, self-serving and, of course, radical.

In the case of Saul Alinsky, most of the crowd knows nothing about the target except that they’re supposed to hate him. And why not? There’s the strange foreign name – obviously an alien. One of them. And a socialist at that. What’s a socialist? Don’t know — but Obama’s one, isn’t he? Barack Hussein Obama, Saul Alinsky – bingo! Two peas in a pod, and a sinister, subversive pod at that.

He was also effective. A 2015 Salon profile called the organizer “outspoken, confrontational, profane with a caustic wit, one journalist said he looked like an accountant and talked like a stevedore.” Miner points out,

Alinsky was a radical—a charge that cannot be denied, as his two famous books are Reveille for Radicals (1946) and Rules for Radicals (1971). He was a famous Chicago-born community organizer who went on to worldwide fame. He succeeded in getting a lot of what he wanted because he knew how to cut deals, a talent that Gingrich apparently has no interest in, and he created enduring alliances, such as the one the New Republic's Michael Kazin describes here with the Catholic Church. By contrast, Gingrich seems to alienate former friends faster than he makes new ones.

For a party whose unifying principles are exclusion, denigration of others, and stoking the fears that live in the lower brainstem, nothing, but nothing, is more frightening that an effective community activist, except a long dead one who left a book behind. Except for the Brooks Brothers riot during the 2000 Bush/Gore Florida recount, Republican community activists tend to be thin on the ground.

Alinsky- who held a B.Phil in archaeology from the University of Chicago, and did graduate work in criminology there, was drawn into community work by what he saw around him the America's Second City. He was sufficiently well regarded in the 1940s that Adlai Stevenson, then governor of Illinois and a future two-time nominee for president, declared, Alinsky's aims "most faithfully reflect our ideals of brotherhood, tolerance, charity and dignity of the individual."

William F. Buckley, Jr, who took a very high church Catholic’s view of Satan and evolved that curious tilt of his head from a lifetime of looking down on others, wrote a 1966 profile of Alinsky that so impressed the FBI, they put it in their file on the activist:

Saul Alinsky of Chicago is becoming very fashionable; indeed churches and" civic groups are vying for his favor.

For a fee, Alinsky contracts to come into your city and, so to speak, bust up the joint. His purposes, needless to ' say, are noble, like the Jacobins in France who sought to “break up the power” structure -so as to release the energies and increase the opportunities of the lower class. Alinsky is twice formidable. For one thing, he is very close to being an organizational genius. For another, he has a way of making practical idealists feel sort of foolish - by pushing aside their efforts to help the poor or the racial minorities as ventures in futility.

Alinsky cannot abide men of reason or conciliation. He thrives on strife, the more the better, and especially relishes the "opposition when it is tough. Add to all of this, a penetrating sense of irony. "An integrated neighborhood," he once observed, "is defined as the length of time between arrival of the first Negro and the departure of the last white."

Alinsky has been very active since 1960 in a so-called Woodlawn project which took on the mayor, newspapers, and the University of Chicago. There Alinsky's tactics became famous - among them the dispatching of sit-ins to city hall or anywhere else where the administrative congestion was likely to be tight.

Mostly, he likes to deploy ministers and priests since .he recognizes that the police feel a certain spiritual reluctance to take these gentleman by the scruff of the neck and toss them into paddywagons . Alinsky fights to remove human beings from slums- since it is so clear that his hatred for the slums is exceeded only by the hatred for those who have moved out of them. There are those in Rochester who wonder despairingly how one works one's way into Alinsky's affections, except by going to live in the squalor from which he is ostensibly engaged in 'liberating’ them.

You know it had to be a tooth-grindingly agonizing experience when the likes of Buckley had to concede the effectiveness of someone he loathed (Alinsky came off way better than, say Gore Viral or Norman Mailer).

Ben Carson’s curse in life is that this mind is an inch wide and a mile deep. He believes, however, as only one who has been played by Cuba Gooding Jr in a biopic can, that his skill with a circular saw makes him an expert on life, the universe, and everything.

Which is probably why he and his clamoring Teabagistanis didn’t know that their own leaders have been doing Lucifer’s work, arm in arm with Aunt Hillary, for years.

Adam Brandon, a spokesman for the conservative non-profit organization FreedomWorks, one of several groups involved in organizing Tea Party protests, says the group gives Alinsky's Rules for Radicals to its top leadership members. A shortened guide called Rules for Patriots is distributed to its entire network.

In a January 2012 Wall Street Journal on the Tea Party’s tactic of sending activists to town-hall meetings, Brandon explained, "his [Alinsky's] tactics when it comes to grass-roots organizing are incredibly effective." Former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey also gives copies of Alinsky's book Rules for Radicals to Tea Party leaders. In 2012, Philip Klein, a senior editor at the exceedingly conservative Washington Examiner, wrote an article on Gingrich’s populist presidential campaign titled, “Newt Gingrich is a Saul Alinsky Republican”:

Many of the tactics [Alinsky] spoke about—such as exploiting resentment and pitting oneself against the establishment—have become a central part of Gingrich's strategy for securing the Republican presidential nomination.

On NBC's "Meet the Press" this past Sunday, Gingrich attributed his South Carolina victory to two things. The first was the economic pain that people were feeling. He then continued, "The second, though, which I think nobody in Washington and New York gets, is the level of anger at the national establishment."

Gingrich's clashes against the establishment are classic Alinsky.

It’s a lot like closeted gay men attacking the sexual orientation of others, to bolster their bogus bona fides. But that’s another plank in the platform, and another post.

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