Google+
Close
Still the Alinsky Playbook
From the March 19, 2012, issue of NR

Saul Alinsky in Chicago in 1966 (AP)

Text  


John Fund

Alinsky didn’t live to see that, or a number of other fruits of his labors. But just before his death in 1972, he synthesized the lessons he had learned into a book called “Rules for Radicals,” in which he urged radicals to make common cause with anyone to further their ends. The book was even dedicated, presumably tongue in cheek, to Lucifer, “the very first radical,” who “rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom.”

Alinsky argued for moral relativism in fighting the establishment: “In war the end justifies almost any means. . . . The practical revolutionary will understand [that] in action, one does not always enjoy the luxury of a decision that is consistent both with one’s individual conscience and the good of mankind.” 

Advertisement
Where did Alinsky get this amorality? Clues can be found in a Playboy magazine interview he gave in 1972, just before his death. In the closest thing to a memoir Alinsky left, he told how he decided to do his (never-completed) doctoral dissertation in the 1930s on the Al Capone mob, and to do it as “an inside job.” He caught the eye of Big Ed Stash, the mob’s top executioner, and convinced him he could be trusted as a sort of mob mascot who would interpret its methods to the outside world. “He introduced me to Frank Nitti, known as the Enforcer, Capone’s number-two man,” Alinsky told Playboy. “Nitti took me under his wing. I called him the Professor and I became his student. Nitti’s boys took me everywhere.”

Alinsky recalled that he “learned a hell of a lot about the uses and abuses of power from the mob,” and that he applied that knowledge “later on, when I was organizing.” The Playboy interviewer asked, “Didn’t you have any compunction about consorting with — if not actually assisting — murderers?” Alinsky replied: “None at all, since there was nothing I could do to stop them from murdering. . . . I was a nonparticipating observer in their professional activities, although I joined their social life of food, drink, and women. Boy, I sure participated in that side of things — it was heaven.” 

Unlike the mob members he hung out with, Alinsky never coveted great wealth. “He was essentially a thrill-seeker who admitted he was easily bored and always had to stir things up,” says Lee Stranahan, who was a blogger for the Huffington Post until last year, when his research into Alinsky-inspired groups soured him on the Left. “His followers are even more ideological and relentless than he was.”

Alinsky’s tactics of intimidation are a case in point. His most oft-quoted rule is “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. . . . One acts decisively only in the conviction that all the angels are on one side and all the devils on the other.” 

Obama’s White House has honed that tactic to perfection. In 2009, then– communications director Anita Dunn sneered that Fox News “really is not a news network at this point.” President Obama himself has, in the spirit of Alinsky, gone out of his way to lambaste “fat-cat bankers” and greedy health insurers.

“[The administration has] shown they’ll go after anybody or any organization that they think is standing in their way,” Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said in a February speech. “You know the drill. Expose these folks to public view, release the liberal thugs on them, and then hope the public pressure or the unwanted attention scares them from supporting similar causes down the road.” 



Text  


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

NRO Polls on LockerDome

Subscribe to National Review