There was kind of an odd blog post yes­ter­day at Pro­tein Wis­dom. That a post on Pro­tein Wis­dom is con­sid­ered odd will give some clue as to just how unusual it was, con­sid­er­ing it was on a blog which quite hap­pily dis­cusses the evo­lu­tion of lan­guage, what’s going on in the after­life, and the finer points of Xtreme Wrestling.

It began:

This will be an espe­cially per­sonal post, but as it brings into sharp relief many of the ideas I’ve spent years writ­ing about here, I fig­ured it’s worth sharing.

Be patient. I will get around to the prac­ti­cal demon­stra­tion and I think it will sur­prise you. The topic needs some ground work.

One rea­son I decided to do this was that I really didn’t under­stand exactly what was being talked about when peo­ple dis­cussed Alinsky’s rules. I under­stood the words iso­late, freeze, and polar­ize, but when put all together I couldn’t relate to what they were talk­ing about. What, for exam­ple, was meant by pick­ing a tar­get and freez­ing it? It’s a pretty safe bet Alin­sky wasn’t talk­ing about ice sculpture.

I respond well to real life analo­gies. Jeff’s post and the jour­ney it led me on pro­vided them.

The Alin­sky Rules

Here are Alinsky’s rules, cour­tesy of Pro­fes­sor Barn­hill of the Uni­ver­sity of Wis­con­sin at Oshkosh:

  1. Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.
  2. Never go out­side the expe­ri­ence of your peo­ple. It may result in con­fu­sion, fear and retreat.
  3. Wher­ever pos­si­ble go out­side the expe­ri­ence of the enemy. Here you want to cause con­fu­sion, fear and retreat.
  4. Make the enemy live up to his/​her own book of rules.
  5. Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.
  6. A good tac­tic is one that your peo­ple enjoy.
  7. A tac­tic that drags on too long becomes a drag.
  8. Keep the pres­sure on, with dif­fer­ent tac­tics and actions and uti­lize all events of the period for your purpose.
  9. The threat is usu­ally more ter­ri­fy­ing than the thing itself.
  10. The major premise for tac­tics is the devel­op­ment of oper­a­tions that will main­tain a con­stant pres­sure upon the opposition.
  11. If you push a neg­a­tive hard and deep enough it will break through into its counterside.
  12. The price of a suc­cess­ful attack is a con­struc­tive alternative.
  13. Pick the tar­get, freeze it, per­son­al­ize it and polar­ize it.

Off the Island

The occa­sion for Jeff G.‘s post was pro­vided by one of his pro­fes­sors whom he liked and respected essen­tially kick­ing him off the island.


Would you mind tak­ing my name off your “about” page on Pro­tein­wis­dom? I’ve always liked you and your fic­tion, and your and [name redacted] impe­tus to make that con­fer­ence hap­pen, at that moment in time, did a great deal to speed this pro­gram along. I was also sim­ply grate­ful to have you in the pro­gram when you came along, because you were–and are–a very smart and intel­lec­tual fic­tion writer, a rare com­mod­ity still, to this day. But I am more and more alarmed by the writ­ings in this web­site of yours, and I do not want to be asso­ci­ated with it.

Brian Kite­ley

In his post Jeff G. says one rea­son for his dressing-​​down was Dar­leen Click’s artis­tic and evoca­tive (note the bro­ken flame in Liberty’s torch) car­toon (Hmm­mmm… some­body get­ting all worked up over car­toons. Déjà vu all over again?).

His posi­tion seems to be that allow­ing Darleen’s comic to stand — the Pres­i­dent rap­ing lady lib­erty “is not a polit­i­cal car­toon and you know it,” he told me — was sick and irresponsible.

OK. Here’s where we get back to Alinsky.

In his phone call with the redoubtable Jeff G. this Kite­ley tool men­tions the racism of Darleen’s cartoon

I also noted that I found the spe­cific ques­tion of how exactly the car­toon was “racist” an inter­est­ing one…

and in his email he talks about being alarmed.

But I am more and more alarmed by the writ­ings in this web­site of yours…


OK. We’ll start with this new kid — alarmed — and then go for the Tah-​​Dah! Moment with the Ben Cartwright — Com­man­der Adama — Cap­tain Kirk — Cap­tain Picard… The Big Guy… of the Rule 13 crowd.

This alarmed theme is rel­a­tively new. I didn’t hear it until the Tea Party thing started hap­pen­ing. Sud­denly the man­darins who had their G-​​spots stim­u­lated by the very IDEA of Speak­ing Truth to Power got the willies when peo­ple who had been scorned by the news media and their elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives made up some signs and got together to make their voices heard.

Alarmed. Rule 13: Iso­late it. Freeze it. Polar­ize it. You are scar­ing me! When some Con­gressper­sons walked past some demon­stra­tors on their way to do their worst the scene was described by the media like brave sav­iors of the repub­lic being sav­aged by a horde of zombies.

Expect a lot more of this You are scar­ing me theme. Iso­late it. Who wants to side with a bully?


And now for a demon­stra­tion of how the cur­rent Big Gun of Rule 13 destroyed a very for­mi­da­ble polit­i­cal adversary.

  1. Iso­late it.  You’re a RACIST! — seen your friends, lately?
  2. Freeze it.   You’re a RACIST! — no mat­ter what you say it sounds like jus­ti­fy­ing racism.
  3. Polar­ize it. You’re a RACIST! — you’re at the other end of the con­tin­uüm even from real racists because they don’t see them­selves that way.

Remem­ber Bill Clin­ton?  One of the best polit­i­cal cam­paign­ers who ever drew breath. One shot of Rule 13 crip­pled him and the sec­ond round put him away for good.

He described some things Obama said as a fairy tale. That was it. Plainly and sim­ply (since this all started with Jeff G.), Hot Air. He said an Obama account of his vot­ing on the Iraq war was a fairy tale.  Here it is.

Fairy Tale


A fairy tale.  For that remark Clin­ton encoun­tered a tsunami of crit­i­cism about racist lan­guage. Because, as the crit­i­cism went, every­body ought to know that to accuse a black man of telling fairy tales was the worst sort of racism. Polar­ize it. Prior to the first per­son say­ing that every­body ought to know thing nobody knew it, but since every­body ought to know (if you’re not a You-​​Know-​​What)  then almost imme­di­ately every­body DID know it and Clin­ton, our First Black President

After all, Clin­ton dis­plays almost every trope of black­ness: single-​​parent house­hold, born poor, working-​​class, saxophone-​​playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas

was hounded at every cam­paign stop until the topic of dis­cus­sion was not Obama’s truth-​​fudging but just how much Bill Clinton’s racism was hurt­ing Hillary’s cam­paign. So the Come­back Kid dis­ap­peared. The most for­mi­da­ble asset Hillary Clin­ton pos­sessed was tar­geted, frozen, iso­lated, polar­ized, and cut off at the knees. Nobody mak­ing such charges thought Clin­ton was a racist. At least ini­tially. The peo­ple par­rot­ing them? Who knows if they ever actu­ally know things, or just repeat things. Nobody thought Geral­dine Fer­raro, the Demo­c­ra­tic VP nom­i­nee in 1984, was a racist, but she had to quit the cam­paign after being called one.

Frozen, Iso­lated, Polar­ized — Gone

One by one the most tal­ented, capa­ble peo­ple Hillary Clin­ton had were tar­geted, frozen, iso­lated, polar­ized, and then the trig­ger was pulled and they were gone.

So now, thanks to Jeff’s friend, The Per­fesser, and Bill Clinton’s fairy tale, I under­stand in prac­ti­cal, real-​​world terms what is meant by Rule 13. Jeff’s Per­fesser maybe was afraid that some­body would see the Dar­leen car­toon and then check the About page and then he would be frozen and iso­lated in acad­eme, which can’t be pleas­ant. Still and all, though,  just from the text of his email, the guy sounds like a tool.

But now I know. And I hope you do too. What Rule 13 is and how it is used. Just tac­tics. Noth­ing to do with real­ity or beliefs. Nobody thought Clin­ton was a racist but it was use­ful to call him one. Worked, too.

So if you hear behav­ior for­merly praised sud­denly being viewed with alarm, or find that call­ing some­thing a fairy tale is sud­denly racist, just think: Rule 13.

Because I don’t want any­one read­ing this blog to be a tool.

And if you have stuck with me this far here is your reward:  back to where we started. A racist car­toon! And here is Jeff G.‘s com­plete post.  Worth it.


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3 Comments to “A Practical Demonstration of the Alinsky Method”

  1. ikejakson says:

    There’s a lot of Rule 13 going on in Pol­i­tics right now. I mean just take health and care, take care but not about your health; take Bamacare and who cares?

    Nobody cares; but it proves that Rule 13 works.

  2. Art Stone says:

    Was the YouTube account can­celed before or after the blog post?

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