Saul Alinsky. Ever hear of him?
He wrote a book called Rules for Radicals. It was published in 1971. He died in 1972.
He wanted to write a book for so-called have-nots to gain power by any means necessary. The book is not some self-help book to provide inspiration, but it is instead a radical playbook. It’s about gaining power.
Here are a few of his rules:
- “Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.”
- “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. There is no defense. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage.”
- “Keep the pressure on.”
- “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.”
- “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”
Alinsky’s playbook is playing out broadly in our world far more than we realize it. The themes: power, anger, ridicule, isolationism, and polarization.
For instance, in the Russian-Ukrainian war, an April 3, 2022, Human Rights Watch article noted some of the war crimes being committed:
- “A woman told Human Rights Watch that a Russian soldier had repeatedly raped her in a school in the Kharkiv region where she and her family had been sheltering.”
- Russian soldiers threw a smoke grenade into a basement in Vorzel; they shot and killed a woman and her 14-year-old son when they emerged.
- In the village of Staryi Bykiv, Russian forces rounded up six men and summarily executed them, according the mother of one of the men.
- In Bucha, Russian forces rounded up five men, pulled T-shirts over their heads and shot one of the men in the back of the head.
Despite these kinds of claims, the Russian response has been to blame Ukraine for starting the war, violating cease-fire agreements, stalling peace talks, making up stories of war crimes, and even blaming airstrikes on their own people.
The Russian response is straight out of Alinsky. Ridicule. As Alinsky notes, there’s no opposition to ridicule.
Why do I write? In this era of ever-increasing polarization and questions over media bias, we need to pay attention to the rules for radicals playing out in our own understanding of events happening around us.
If we see ridicule, for instance, in the face of uncontroverted facts, we need to dig deeper, pay attention, and ask about the agenda at work.
In so doing, by questioning the agenda at hand, we become better citizens, able to contribute to meaningful discussion and to a world that is moving forward with good, kindness and peace.
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Published April 11, 2022
Topics: Culture Commentary