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.
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:
- Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.
- Never go outside the experience of your people. It may result in confusion, fear and retreat.
- Wherever possible go outside the experience of the enemy. Here you want to cause confusion, fear and retreat.
- Make the enemy live up to his/her own book of rules.
- Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.
- A good tactic is one that your people enjoy.
- A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.
- Keep the pressure on, with different tactics and actions and utilize all events of the period for your purpose.
- The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.
- The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.
- If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counterside.
- The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.
- 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.
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.
- Isolate it. You’re a RACIST! — seen your friends, lately?
- Freeze it. You’re a RACIST! — no matter what you say it sounds like justifying racism.
- 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.
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.