Alinskyism before Alinsky: an ancient but uncredited legacy

Earlier I was sent a link to an event I consider ridiculous, which I was all set to ignore in my usual manner. I offhandedly forwarded the link to M. Simon, who made an obvious suggestion -- that I ridicule the event.

The event featured programs with titles like "Homosexual Rights and First Amendment Freedoms: Can They Truly Coexist?" That depends on how rights and freedoms are defined and who does the defining, doesn't it? Obviously, free speech per se is not endangered by gay rights per se, unless gay rights are defined as criminalizing "hate speech." I certainly would not define gay rights that way, but I suspect that's the idea the conference is promoting. There's also an idea which has been floating around for some time that gay rights constitutes an abridgment of religious freedom, although once again, that requires defining "gay rights" as forcing people to violate their religious beliefs, as well as defining as "religious beliefs" things like decisions about providing services or employment. Thus, a Muslim cab driver who refuses to transport gay passengers might complain that anti-discrimination laws violate his right to exercise his religion. Or I suppose a fundamentalist Christian parent might complain that it violated his religious beliefs to have his child taught by a gay teacher. While I have trouble seeing such things as interfering with the right to hold religious views (much less actually practicing religion), I suppose some people do think that way. What I cannot understand is why having to hire a homosexual interferes with a religious belief that homosexuality is wrong, any more than being forced to hire someone who eats pork would interfere with the religious prohibitions in Islam or Judaism. Or having to hire an atheist, or having one's children taught by an atheist.

But these examples are not new here, and I am sorry to be such a bore. I guess I'm not doing a very good job with ridicule. I do find it a bit annoying that I get put on these mailing lists, though, because as I told Simon, it places me in a sort of Catch-22 where if I ignore such an email, I feel like a wimp, but if I take it on, then I'm reacting and drawing further attention to it. (Which is probably what the forces of Anti-Gay Inc. want.)

However, there's a greater problem posed by any resort to ridicule. To my consternation I learned recently that it was invented by Saul Alinsky, who made it Rule Number 5:

"Ridicule is man's most potent weapon. It's hard to counterattack ridicule, and it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage."
As Alinksky is "the father of political ridicule," I dare not use it, lest I be accused of being an Alinsky follower. An Alinskyite. (Ugh!) I can't stand Alinksy, so I would hate to be following him in any way. Perhaps I should never ever ridicule anyone or anything again, no matter how ridiculous I consider them to be.

Well what about the idea that there was no political ridicule before Alinsky? What if I consider that ridiculous? Would that make me an Alinskyite too?

I mean, the ancient Greeks loved ridicule so much that they even had a god for it -- Momus, the god of ridicule. Should Momus be renamed "Alinskyous"?

How about the many Roman satire writers like Juvenal and Petronius?

Petronius Alinskyous, anyone?

And I guess we would also have to admit that Thomas Jefferson was a victim of this cruel example of classically Alinskyite political ridicule.


I can't imagine why, but Alinsky is credited nowhere in the description of the above:

In this critical cartoon, Thomas Jefferson as the cock or rooster, courts a hen, portrayed as Sally Hemings. Contemporary political opponents of Jefferson sought to destroy his presidency and his new political party with charges of Jefferson's promiscuous behavior and his ownership of slaves. The cock was also a symbol of revolutionary France, which Jefferson was known to admire and which, his critics believed, Jefferson unduly favored.
Ok, so Alinsky hadn't been born yet, but doesn't that just show his diabolical genius? He actually inspired things that had happened before he was born! Centuries before! Even thousands of years!

So I had best be very careful with ridicule here, lest I fall into the same Alinskyist trap that has befallen innumerable writers and cartoonists throughout human history.

Why, I can't even ridicule Alinsky himself without becoming an Alinskyite! Touch the father of political ridicule with political ridicule and voila! -- you have become an Alinskyite and he claims you from the grave. Seriously, the guy is a tar baby.

(I might wonder whether some of Alinsky's critics aren't giving him a little too much credit, but I think I've committed enough Alinskyisms as it is....)

posted by Eric on 02.14.10 at 04:51 PM


I wish people could worry less about what other people do so long as they don't bother anybody else.
If your god says I'm going to hell, fine. So does everybody else's god. If that religion has a hell of course.
I'm personally rooting for a Jonathan Livingston Seagull scenario.

As for the ridicule thing, that's a child's way to argue.

I use it, but only after trying to engage the other person.
If they won't respond to questions or explain why I'm wrong instead of just calling me names, questioning my motives and ignoring all questions, that's when I do it, once I decide "debate" is useless.

I occasionally find it fun.

Alinsky and his ilk use it to shut down debate. They don't want to find out who's right, they want to win at any cost and think anybody who's into fair play is an ignorant fool.

The best part about them is that quite often they're pretty dim, they're not used to return volleys and that method doesn't require critical thinking, so if you ridicule back, they can't really handle it.

That's when it gets funny.

Veeshir   ·  February 14, 2010 9:03 PM

Have you been listening to Mark Levin?

Larry   ·  February 15, 2010 10:31 AM

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