Saturday, March 14, 2009

President Barack Obama's Mentor on Mass Organizing Tactics...

[Prefatory Note: This material was first posted to another medium on February 21, 2009. -ISM]

This is from the founder of Chicago style "community organizing" Saul Alinsky and his book Rules For Radicals, a book incidentally that along with its writer{1} influenced Barack Obama in his community organizing days and which Alinsky himself dedicated "To Lucifer the first radical." It was also a book which Michelle Obama quoted from in her speech at the Democratic Convention. Without further ado...

Tactics mean doing what you can with what you have. Tactics are those conscious deliberate acts by which human beings live with each other and deal with the world around them. In the world of give and take, tactics is the art of how to take and how to give. Here our concern is with the tactic of taking; how the Have-Nots can take power away from the Haves.

For an elementary illustration of tactics, take parts of your face as the point of reference; your eyes, your ears, and your nose. First the eyes; if you have organized a vast, mass-based people's organization, you can parade it visibly before the enemy and openly show your power. Second the ears; if your organization is small in numbers, then...conceal the members in the dark but raise a din and clamor that will make the listener believe that your organization numbers many more than it does. Third, the nose; if your organization is too tiny even for noise, stink up the place.

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 of 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 is: 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...

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.

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.

In conflict tactics there are certain rules that the organizer should always regard as universalities. One is that the opposition must be singled out as the target and "frozen." By this I mean that in a complex, interrelated, urban society, it becomes increasingly difficult to single out who is to blame for any particular evil. There is a constant, and somewhat legitimate, passing of the buck....

It should be borne in mind that the target is always trying to shift responsibility to get out of being the target....

One of the criteria in picking your target is the target's vulnerability--where do you have the power to start? Furthermore, the target can always say, "Why do you center on me when there are others to blame as well?" When you "freeze the target," you disregard these arguments and, for the moment, all others to blame.

Then, as you zero in and freeze your target and carry out your attack, all of the "others" come out of the woodwork very soon. They become visible by their support of the target.

The other important point in the choosing of a target is that it must be a personification, not something general and abstract such as a community's segregated practices or a major corporation or City Hall. It is not possible to develop the necessary hostility against, say, City Hall, which after all is a concrete, physical, inanimate structure, or against a corporation, which has no soul or identity, or a public school administration, which again is an inanimate system. [Saul Alinsky: From Rules For Radicals pgs. 126-140 (c. 1971)]

If anything, some of these tactics can be used against the agenda of President Obama now.


{1} On President Barack Obama's Political Mentor (circa February 28, 2009)

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Obama's Poll Numbers Are Falling to Earth

When we have a president who continually says one thing and then does another (or does one thing and says another) why does this news surprise??? The bloom has come off the Obama rose already and for those who think President George W. Bush was unpopular (as he was in the latter half of his presidency), it bears reflecting that GWB was more popular than BHO was at this point in his presidency.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

On the Closing of Another Major Newspaper and on Journalism in General:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

These musings were triggered by the following article courtesy of Matt Drudge:

Seattle paper says workers told jobs will end

I write this as someone who feels bad for those who fall on hard times as a rule and as someone who has lived in Seattle all his life.{1} I also want to disclose up front that I have read the major papers in this town over the years including the subject of this posting. Having noted those things, I wish I could say I was sympathetic but the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has been a liberal rag for years. I tire of papers which attempt to present themselves as "impartial" which are anything but and after the travesty of partiality of last year's election -which made even the previously stooped lows of the msm look about as high off the ground as the top of Washington's monument- I have no sympathy for papers which were blatantly partisan last year and which subsequently lose circulation and go out of business. None whatsoever.

The purpose of the media and city newspapers where they make claims of being "objective" should be to walk the walk not just talk it. I noted last year in a dialogue with my friend Joe on the state of journalism{2} and have written on numerous times in years past{3}, journalism has been stained by those who attempt to editorialize or to take the Hunter S. Thompson "gonzo-journalism" approach{4} in news stories and attempt to pass that stuff off as impartial reporting. The mark of a good journalist is akin to that of a good teacher, good lawyer, good justice, etc.; namely the more you do not know their personal views based on how they do their jobs , the better they are.

Journalism is not the same as commentary which is what I do on this weblog and elsewhere but there are some similarities that should be noted. The first is that neither the journalist nor the commentator should strive as much as possible to represent accurately the views they are either concurring with or taking issue with. The second is that neither the journalist nor the commentator should practice disclosure of particular evidences that may or may not bias their views to more than the ordinary degree of bias that can be expected of someone who holds to a view and does so with more than a transient whim. The third is that neither the journalist nor the commentator should attempt to pass themselves off as completely objective or otherwise "impartial" when indeed no one is. However, the commentator is a bit more free to let their emotion show in their work than the journalist who should like Joe Friday be interested in "just the facts" and present them as is without diminuation or personal spin.{5}

And it should go without saying that the basic principles of reason, logic, and ethics should accompany the work of the journalist or the commentator. To the extent that they do not, I have no sympathy for them or those papers or institutions who would give them succor and opportunities.{6} And it is for that reason that my view of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is that of Rome's view of Carthage; namely "carthago delenda est"{7} and any other newspaper that similarly disgraces journalism should see the same fate that they will. Period.


{1} This will be changing in the current year though at which precise time I am not current sure.

{2} A Dialogue on the State of Journalism (circa October 17, 2008)

{3} Most notably in this expository musing:

On the Subject of "Deep Throat", the Correlative Ramifications Thereof, Etc. (circa June 1, 2005)

{4} I go over this in the thread in footnote one.

{5} The one exception is if the journalist is writing an op-ed which by its very nature is styled as an "opinion editorial" and therefore the requirement of striving for impartiality does not apply.

{6} This is why I have taken the views I have over the years with those I view as being either unprincipled, unscholarly, or otherwise unethical in their public pronouncements no matter who they are: the principle here does not change because of personal esteem or lack thereof with particular individuals.

{7} Literally "carthage, let it be destroyed."

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