Baiting? See Saul Alinsky, Strategist Of The Proletarian Left

I get a lot of heat from the left for adopting one of their tactics: baiting. But let’s see where those tactics comes from. Saul Alinsky. Our president’s hero.

The western concept of political debate originated in the right of the enfranchised warrior to debate tactics in order to gain consensus on those tactics — since unlike eastern militaries, western tactics required individual initiative. The citizen warrior’s right was predicated on forgoing theft, fraud, and violence, and speaking the truth and only the truth in the process of that debate. If truth was abandoned, error was presumed, passons could be forgiven. But if RIDICULE was employed, then the prohibition on violence for the purpose of debate was forgone, and the ridiculed could fight and kill the man who broke the contract by which we put down our weapons and enter debate.

While Marx and marxists were wrong in their understanding of the physical world, of human nature, and of economics, they could be counted upon to adhere to rational discourse and confine themselves to moral criticism.

Saul Alinsky was one of the first people to strategically abandon the western principle of honest discourse and promote argumentative ‘the ends justify the means’.

To those of us who are from the aristocratic manorial tradition, within which dishonesty, cowardice, or loose and libelous words are reason to end someone’s life, Alinsky’s tactics are a violation of every civic principle, and draw out our basic conservative instinct to kill threats to our hierarchy, social order, and group competitiveness.

His strategy (from a lost link) is this:

CREATE AN IDEOLOGICAL ARMY OPERATING ON EMOTIONAL ANTAGONISM NOT A PROGRAM OF RATIONAL SOLUTIONS THAT THEY ARE UNABLE TO INTELLECTUALLY DEFEND ON THEIR OWN.
Through a process combining hope and resentment, the organizer tries to create a “mass army” that brings in as many recruits as possible from local organizations, churches, services groups, labor unions, corner gangs, and individuals.

Alinsky provides a collection of rules to guide the process. But he emphasizes these rules must be translated into real-life tactics that are fluid and responsive to the situation at hand.

SUN TZU: DECEPTION IS MORE POWERFUL THAN HONESTY
Rule 1: Power is not only what you have, but what an opponent thinks you have. If your organization is small, hide your numbers in the dark and raise a din that will make everyone think you have many more people than you do.

SPEAK IN THE IGNORANT VOICE OF YOUR PEOPLE SO THEY FEEL THEY SPEAK THROUGH YOU
Rule 2: Never go outside the experience of your people.
The result is confusion, fear, and retreat.

Rule 3: Whenever possible, go outside the experience of an opponent. Here you want to cause confusion, fear, and retreat.

ARGUE FOR BLACK OR WHITE FALLACIES THAT FORCE THE CRITICISM OF YOUR OPPONENT BUT WHICH DO NOT REQUIRE YOU TO DEFEND YOURSELF OR PROPOSE SOLUTIONS
Rule 4: Make opponents 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.”

AVOID REASON, IT WOULD ONLY EXPOSE YOUR LACK OF A SOLUTION OR UNDERSTANDING OF POLITICAL REALITY.
Rule 5: Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It’s hard to counterattack ridicule, and it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage.

THE LOWER CLASSES HAVE NOTHING USEFUL TO DO, SO GIVE THEM AN EXCUSE TO ENTERTAIN THEMSELVES AND CELEBRATE A UNITED IDENTITY. SUCH RELIGIONS ARE OPIATES OF THE MASSES.
Rule 6: A good tactic is one your people enjoy. “If your people aren’t having a ball doing it, there is something very wrong with the tactic.”

A MEANINGFUL ARGUMENT IS OPEN TO CRITICISM AND REQUIRES INTELLECTUALIZATION OF THE SOLUTION. INSTEAD, MAINTAIN THE GROUP’S EMOTIONAL AND MORAL ANTAGONISM TOWARD YOUR OPPONENT AND AVOID THE SELF DOUBT THAT WOULD OCCUR IF THEY HAD TO BECOME INTROSPECTIVE.
Rule 7: A tactic that drags on for too long becomes a drag. Commitment may become ritualistic as people turn to other issues.

CONTROL THE INITIATIVE BUT PREVENTING YOUR OPPONENT FROM DETERMINING THAT YOU HAVE NO PROPOSED SOLUTION OTHER THAN THE ACCUMULATION OF POWER. THE RATIONAL MAN CNANOT UNDERSTAND THIS SIMPLISTIC A STRATEGY: OBTAIN POWER. ONCE YOU HAVE POWER YOUR ARGUMENTS DO NOT MATTER. POWER CAN BE OBTAINED THROUGH MORALIZING, CRITICISM AND DISTRACTION. IT DOES NOT NEED TO BE OBTAINED BY SOLUTION, ARGUMENT OR REASON. THAT ONLY WEAKENS YOU.
Rule 8: Keep the pressure on. Use different tactics and actions and use all events of the period for your purpose. “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition. It is this that will cause the opposition to react to your advantage.”

RELY ON TERRORISM WHENEVER POSSIBLE. CREATE FEAR BECAUSE UNCERTAINTY AND FEAR IS A GREATER THAN THE ACTUAL RESULT. PEOPLE WILL ABANDON MAORAL AND TRADITIONAL PRINCIPLES IF YOU MAKE IT HARD ENOUGH FOR THEM TO RESIST YOUR PURSUIT OF POWER.
Rule 9: The threat is more terrifying than the thing itself. When Alinsky leaked word that large numbers of poor people were going to tie up the washrooms of O’Hare Airport, Chicago city authorities quickly agreed to act on a longstanding commitment to a ghetto organization. They imagined the mayhem as thousands of passengers poured off airplanes to discover every washroom occupied. Then they imagined the international embarrassment and the damage to the city’s reputation.

STICK WITH YOUR ATTACKS, NEVER OFFER SOLUTIONS THAT WOULD ExpOSE YOU TO CRITICISM
Rule 10: The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative. Avoid being trapped by an opponent or an interviewer who says, “Okay, what would you do?”

DEMONIZE INDIVIDUALS. DO NOT ENGAGE IN REASON. DO NOT ENAGE IN FACTS. SIMPLY DEMONIZE AND RIDICULE THE INDIVIDUAL AND HIS POLITICAL POWER TO INFLUENCE OTHERS WILL DIMINISH.
Rule 11: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it. Don’t try to attack abstract corporations or bureaucracies. Identify a responsible individual. Ignore attempts to shift or spread the blame.

CONTROL YOUR ENEMY’S RESPONSES TO YOU SO THAT HE BECOMES EMOTIONALLY RATHER THAN RATIONALLY ENGAGED AND LOSES HIS ONE REAL STRENGTH: RATIONAL SOLUTIONS.
According to Alinsky, the main job of the organizer is to bait an opponent into reacting. “The enemy properly goaded and guided in his reaction will be your major strength.”


2 Responses to “Baiting? See Saul Alinsky, Strategist Of The Proletarian Left”

    • Curt Doolittle says:

      No I wasn’t familiar with him, but thanks to you I am now.. :) I just plowed through all of the articles on the organized list, as well as the last year’s worth of postings on his web site. I’ve pulled his blogroll into the roundtable’s syndication software as well.

      He’s fantastic. His crude and acerbic wit are wonderfully engaging. And He writes long and thorough posts, which I love.

      I haven’t thought about this in a while, but crass wit that is open and challenging is a common cultural adaptation in the technology community. The reason is that the industry is full of pandering incompetents. And so people who speak in challenging terms and are willing to defend themselves rather than go with the momentum of the group are often trusted more in group discussions and given more decision making power and influence. So guys like Mencius are trained to talk like this. (I know, i’m part of the same culture in many ways.)

      The direct-technocratic culture is so endemic on the east side of Seattle that it’s actually created a kind of an annoying civic culture because it’s pervasive. Although, it has a wonderful side effect: sales people NEVER EVER make the kind of bullshit claims that they do in much of the rest of the world, because they’re afraid of hour long tirades by intelligent, direct, and intolerant people. :)

      I find that interesting in particular, because here in Canada, idiotic sales people abound — the culture, even among the few technologists, is too pleasant to correct them. So bad information spreads like a virus.

      I have a few observations about Mencius so far. Mostly that he’s an exceptional critic. I don’t think his analysis is spot on. I’m not sure he has any solutions that are better than Hoppe has stated. But basically, I don’t disagree with him on anything.

      One of the problems we have in the propertarian spectrum, is that radical libertarianism on the Rothbard side, through the Mises institute, and therefore around Hoppe, has attracted too many ‘nuts’. Hoppe has departed that organization effectively, and is now isolating himself from ‘nuts’ but his personality is not suited to evangelization (unlike Walter Block). I can’t tell what else is going on down there in Alabama but I am not sure it’s all that good. I don’t think French is a good choice. And I think Lew’s age and French’s presence are, despite being wonderful people, the core of the problem for the next generation of the movement.

      The smart people continue to coalesce around Hoppe. The Bleeding Hearts have wider appeal, but they don’t have a visionary, the organizational structure, or enough of a canonical program to serve as the center of the movement. The GMU crowd is actually not helping us right now. I can’t figure out if they’re a net add or not. Cato is out, and always will be because its constituency is the government, not the citizenry. So, as Mencius states, and I suggest in the article we’re commenting upon, there is no existing organization to build something better around. And while Mencius proposes a sort of organic solution, the fact is that all ideological frameworks sufficiently useful in order to maintain power require a canon. And canons have editors. And editors build organizations. And organizations spread ideas.

      Again, thank you so much for the suggestions you expose me to. Seriously. I really appreciate it. You’re wonderful. Thanks.

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