I have recently begun reading Saul Alinsky’s ‘Rules for Radicals’. It’s not required reading as part of my secret initiation into the global left wing conspiracy (as Glenn Beck might have you believe). In actuality, I first heard about Alinsky from the Limbaughs and Becks of the world. It was ultimately the spooky tones and fearful respect that they spoke about Alinksy with that brought me to the book. I know their forced awe was mere play acting—a way to put the satanic force of a foreign and insidious sounding holy text behind the every move of Barack Obama—but I had a hard time resisting the bait. I’ve always been compelled to eat the forbidden fruit. It’s part of my makeup. As Jessica Rabbit might say, ‘I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.’
Alinksy had me intrigued at the book’s dedication:
“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—our 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”
And he sealed the deal early on with this wonderfully resonant statement:
“I detest and fear dogma. I know that all revolutions must have ideologies to spur them on. That in the heat of conflict these ideologies tend to be smelted into rigid dogmas claiming exclusive possession of the truth, and the keys to paradise, is tragic. Dogma is the enemy of human freedom. Dogma must be watched for and apprehended at every turn and twist of the revolutionary movement. The human spirit glows from that small inner light of doubt whether we are right, while those who believe with complete certaintly that they possess the right are dark inside and darken the world outside with cruelty, pain, and injustice. Those who enshrine the poor or Have-Nots are as guilty as other dogmatists and just as dangerous. To diminish the danger that ideology will deteriorate into dogma, and to protect the free, open, questing, and creative mind of man, as well as to allow for change, no ideology should be more specific than that of America’s founding fathers: ‘For the general welfare’.”
And it is in this true statement that the undoing of Glenn Beck and his Tea Partying acolytes can also be found. Mr. Beck has talked about ‘knowing their playbook’ and ‘using their rules against them’, and maybe he did go to the ‘Rules For Radicals’ Wikipedia page and pick out a few:
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.
This one would account for Fox & talk radio’s attempts to exaggerate the number of attendees at Tea Party protests.
Rule 2: Never go outside the experience of your people. The result is confusion, fear, and retreat.
An obvious must-obey for the demographic Beck & co. is working with.
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.”
The social networking that has gone on in Tea Party circles is undeniable. A chance for otherwise regular, hard working folks who tend to lead relatively insular lives to get together with others and form communities would be hard to pass up.
And of course, there’s this:
Rule 9: The threat is more terrifying than the thing itself.
Which is the entire platform of the puppeteers of the tea party movement.
These may be useful tactics, but I think it’s that guiding principle I stated above that makes attempts at change more solvent and honest.
And, of course, the participants in this movement aren’t ‘Have-Not’s’. For the majority of their lives, they have been the pets of the current system. They have been given just enough to keep them content and quiet. As long as they have had air conditioning, fast food, television crime dramas, and politicians willing to pay lip service to their weird social issues (while doing virtually nothing to advance them in reality), they’ve been more or less content. They are not ‘change’, although, if they looked at the situation hard and honestly enough, they might realize that they would certainly benefit from some.
cross posted at The Daily Kos