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‘Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins — or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer’ — from the early editions of Rules for Radicals.  Alinsky later dropped it, since he was using the book to train clergymen as community organisers.

Saul Alinsky Rules for RadicalsThe past two posts looked at the life and mind of Saul Alinsky, who was a Marxist mentor of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama.

Why should we care?  One, the progressive social Gospel is becoming ever more entrenched in the Protestant denominations. Two, the Catholics have already suffered infiltration by the far left (including Alinsky himself). 

So, it’s worthwhile finding out just what Alinsky’s successful formula is, especially as it won last year’s Presidential election.  And, if you’re a young, thrusting clergyman working in an urban area, you might already have encountered the social Gospel and Rules for Radicals.   

You can read more here (including the parenthetical explanations), but these are the 12 rules from the book dedicated to Lucifer:

RULE 1: ‘Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have’. Power is derived from 2 main sources – money and people. ‘Have-Nots’ must build power from flesh and blood. (These are two things of which there is a plentiful supply. Government and corporations always have a difficult time appealing to people, and usually do so almost exclusively with economic arguments.)

RULE 2: ‘Never go outside the expertise of your people.’ It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone. (Organisations under attack wonder why radicals don’t address the ‘real’ issues. This is why. They avoid things with which they have no knowledge.)

RULE 3: ‘Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.’ Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty. (This happens all the time. Watch how many organisations under attack are blind-sided by seemingly irrelevant arguments that they are then forced to address.)

RULE 4: ‘Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.’ If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules. (This is a serious rule. The besieged entity’s very credibility and reputation is at stake, because if activists catch it lying or not living up to its commitments, they can continue to chip away at the damage.)

RULE 5: ‘Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.’ There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions. (Pretty crude, rude and mean, huh? They want to create anger and fear.)

RULE 6: ‘A good tactic is one your people enjoy.’ They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing and will even suggest better ones. (Radical activists, in this sense, are no different than any other human being. We all avoid ‘un-fun’ activities, but we revel at and enjoy the ones that work and bring results.)

RULE 7: ‘A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.’ Don’t become old news. (Even radical activists get bored. So to keep them excited and involved, organizers are constantly coming up with new tactics.)

RULE 8: ‘Keep the pressure on. Never let up.’ Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new. (Attack, attack, attack from all sides, never giving the reeling organization a chance to rest, regroup, recover and re-strategise.)

RULE 9: ‘The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.’ Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist. (Perception is reality. Large organizations always prepare a worst-case scenario, something that may be furthest from the activists’ minds. The upshot is that the organization will expend enormous time and energy, creating in its own collective mind the direst of conclusions. The possibilities can easily poison the mind and result in demoralization.)

RULE 10: ‘If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.’ Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog. (Unions used this tactic. Peaceful [albeit loud] demonstrations during the heyday of unions in the early to mid-20th century incurred management’s wrath, often in the form of violence that eventually brought public sympathy to their side.)

RULE 11: ‘The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.’ Never let the enemy score points because you’re caught without a solution to the problem. (Old saw: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Activist organisations have an agenda, and their strategy is to hold a place at the table, to be given a forum to wield their power. So, they have to have a compromise solution.)

RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalise it, and polarise it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)  Think of the endless, merciless attacks on Sarah Palin!

What personality traits did Alinsky look for in a potential community organiser?

  • ego (‘reaching for the highest level which man can reach — to create, to be a “great creator”, to play God’)
  • curiosity (raising ‘questions that agitate, that break through the accepted pattern’)
  • irreverence (‘nothing is sacred’;  the organiser ‘detests dogma, defies any finite definition of morality’)
  • imagination (‘the fuel for the force that keeps an organiser organising’)
  • sense of humour (‘the most potent weapons known to mankind are satire and ridicule’)
  • confidence along with an organised personality to present the reason for his actions ‘as a moral rationalisation after the right end has been achieved’.

And, as we saw in the post about Dr Diaz, the potential US Ambassador to the Vatican, reasons must be cloaked in moral language and the notion that something radical must meet with the ‘common ground.

Coming up next week: Details on Alinsky’s connection with the Catholic Church in the United States — don’t miss it.


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