Recently I heard a talk show host wonder aloud why president Obama spent much of a recent speech about the federal budget attacking Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Committee on Budget. It seemed counterproductive to attack a person with whom, presumably, you would be negotiating, and it was not very presidential. Later that same day, I heard another talk show host explain it! He said the presidentâ€™s behavior was a technique right out of Saul Alinskyâ€™s Rules for Radicals – in order to win, ignore the issues, single out someone on the other side and attack him. Alinsky was the original â€œcommunity organizerâ€, and Rules for Radicals is his manual.
The presidentâ€™s peculiar behavior suddenly made sense. It then occurred to me, might some local peculiar political behavior also be explained by Alinsky? The circus surrounding Tucson Unified School Districtâ€™s(TUSD) La Raza Ethnic Studies Program came to mind.
I started reading Rules for Radicals and it was not long before things began to fall into place.
According to Alinsky, a community organizer must first â€œrub raw the resentments of the people of the community.â€# One Ethnic Studies student said that she â€œdid not knowâ€ she was oppressed before taking the class. Nice!
The people will be ready for action when a particular issue becomes a focal point – like the proposed moving of the class from core to elective. The particular tactic will depend on a number of things, like the resources that are available. In our case study, the Ethnic Studies organizers did not have a big pile of money, or guns, or the like, but they had lots of children.
So, what can be done with a bunch of pissed-off kids? Well, Alinskyâ€™s third rule is: Whenever possible go outside the experience of the enemy.# Now, school board members generally know how to control public meetings. They can screen speakers, limit speaking times, etc. They were not prepared, however, for a physical assault on the proceedings where the facility itself commandeered – and by children no less! No one knew what to do when the attack was launched, and there was no way anyone would take the responsibility for initiating the spectacle of a bunch of kids being handcuffed and hauled downtown. Very nice! This attack also complied with Alinskyâ€™s rule number six: A good tactic is one that your people enjoy. Nothing appeals to kids more than telling them that they are smarter than adults, and the rules do not apply to them.
No one seriously thinks that the kids cooked this up themselves. In fact, according to board member Michael Hicks, TUSD board members Burns and Grijalva were communicating final arrangements to the kids with their phones during the study session that preceded the public meeting.
At this point, I am sure that some of you are wondering why I am not expressing concern over the fostering of hate and resentment, the exploitation of children, and the general flouting of any morals and ethics. It is because Alinsky and his followers themselves are not bothered by morals and ethics. This is about what they do and why, not about what they ignore. The following oft-quoted passage from the chapter on means and ends, in which he justifies using low blows, says it all, â€œWhat was my alternative? To draw myself up in righteous â€˜moralâ€™ indignation saying, â€˜I would rather loose than corrupt my principles,â€™ and then go home with my ethical hymen intact?â€#
The ends justify the means.
Alinskyâ€™s misanthropic approach to hope and change is paradox that continues today. He was a brilliant and highly educated man. Rules for Radicals is both captivating and sad. It is captivating in that it expresses the pure, unconstrained pursuit of an end. It is sad in that one realizes that the reader is not exempt from his lying manipulations to further his end.
Perhaps the fact that Alinsky and his followers see everyone as a pawn is an aspect of American history that ought to be taught to the Ethnic Studies students.