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What Saul Alinsky Really Said. Hint: Conservatives Won’t Like It

2018-02-28

Many Republican propagandists have tried to tie Barack Obama to Saul Alinsky in some way, in part because of Alinsky’s radical reputation, but aside from a similarity in that both were, for a time, community organizers, Obama was only ten years old when Alinsky died– so it is unlikely that they ever met or that Obama studied under Alinsky.  There has also circulated a document falsely claiming to show Alinsky’s goals, which I will not reproduce here.  The web site snopes.com evaluated those claims and found them without foundation.  They did, however, present a real list of rules from Alinsky’s work, published in 1971, and that is probably just as maddening to conservatives:

Always remember the first rule of power tactics: Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.

The second rule is: Never go outside the experience of your people. When an action is outside the experience of the people, the result is confusion, fear, and retreat.

The third rule is: Wherever possible go outside the experience of the enemy. Here you want to cause confusion, fear, and retreat.

The fourth rule is: Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules. You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.

The fourth rule carries within it the fifth rule: Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage.

The sixth rule is: A good tactic is one that your people enjoy. If your people are not having a ball doing it, there is something very wrong with the tactic.

The seventh rule: A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag. Man can sustain militant interest in any issue for only a limited time, after which it becomes a ritualistic commitment, like going to church on Sunday mornings.

The eighth rule: Keep the pressure on, with different tactics and actions, and utilize all events of the period for your purpose.

The ninth rule: The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.

The tenth rule: The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition. It is this unceasing pressure that results in the reactions from the opposition that are essential for the success of the campaign.

The eleventh rule is: If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counterside; this is based on the principle that every positive has its negative.

The twelfth rule: The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative. You cannot risk being trapped by the enemy in his sudden agreement with your demand and saying “You’re right — we don’t know what to do about this issue. Now you tell us.”

The thirteenth rule: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.

(photo of a radical skateboarder courtesy of pixabay.com and vivisorg; see Alinsky’s sixth rule)

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