Opinion

Study Saul Alinsky to understand Barack Obama

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Opinion,Matt Patterson

Second in a two-part series.

There is a vast and perplexing dichotomy between President Obama's rhetoric -- peppered as it is with vows of ethical purity and moral rectitude -- and his actual conduct as president -- characterized by flagrant cronyism and corruption.

Indeed, this dichotomy only makes sense in context of Obama's knowledge of, and affinity for, the theories of radical community-organizer Saul Alinsky.

Born in Chicago to Russia-immigrant parents in Chicago in 1909, Alinsky studied social sciences at the University of Chicago before dropping out of grad school.

Attracted to a variety of left-wing causes, Alinsky began organizing for the labor movement before moving on to organizing communities in the slums of Chicago.

As the Washington Post summarized, Alinsky, "... concluded that electoral politics offered few solutions to the have-nots marooned in working-class slums. His approach to social justice relied on generating conflict to mobilize the dispossessed."

Alinsky synthesized his theory of political agitation is his famous 1971 book, "Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals", considered a founding text of modern community organizing and a classic of radical-leftist agitation-propaganda theory.

Obama received a comprehensive course in Saul Alinsky during his years as a community organizer in Chicago, an experience Obama recalled as "the best education he ever had."

Years later in 2007, The New Republic's Ryan Lizza interviewed then-senator Obama and found him still "at home talking Alinskian jargon about 'agitation,'" and fondly recalling organizing workshops where he had learned Alinsky-esque concepts like "being predisposed to other people's power."

In those years, Obama was schooled by disciples of Alinsky himself, including Mike Kruglik, who remembered Obama as "the best student he ever had," a "natural ... undisputed master of agitation."

Kruglik should know because he studied at the Industrial Areas Foundation, the community organizing school founded by Alinsky. Obama completed the national training course taught by the IAF in Los Angeles.

He then went on to teach Alinsky concepts and methods at community organizing workshops and seminars in Southside Chicago.

Obama also served on boards in Chicago, including the Woods Fund and Joyce Foundation, which dispensed grants to groups specializing in Alinsky-style agitation.

One Alinsky-promoted method for political agitation, a recipe for "how the Have-Nots can take power away from the Haves," is summarized in his famous Rule # 13: "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it."

That is exactly what Obama as president is doing now to the "rich," making them a target and scapegoat for all of our ills, as in this from his 2012 State of the Union address:

"[A] quarter of all millionaires pay lower tax rates than millions of middle-class households. Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.

"Do we want to keep these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans? Or do we want to keep our investments in everything else -- like education and medical research; a strong military and care for our veterans?"

Scapegoating the rich is working just as intended, encouraging the increasingly-violent and rabidly anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street movement, which Alinsky would doubtless support were he alive today.

As one-time Obama supporter Mort Zuckerman laments ".. the door to [the Occupy Wall Street movement] was opened by the Obama administration, going after the 'millionaires and billionaires.'... To fan that flame of populist anger I think is very divisive and very dangerous for this country."

Indeed it is. But the name of Alinsky's game is divide and conquer, demonize some to extract power for others. Decades ago, Alinsky told an interviewer, "Now it's up to us to go in and rub raw the sores of discontent, galvanize them for radical social change."

Obama the student has become Obama the master.

Matt Patterson is the Warren Brookes fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and senior editor at the Capital Research Center.

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Who taught Obama’s teacher? The Mob

Not long before he died in 1972, Saul Alinsky sat down with Playboy Magazine for an interview. At one point, the topic of Alinsky’s involvement with the Chicago mob came up.

Alinsky’s response makes clear his high regard for the Mob, including for the murderous Al Capone, who he described as “in a way a public benefactor.”

Alinsky also acknowledged that he “learned a hell of a lot about the uses and abuses of power from the mob,” and that he applied those lessons “later on, when I was organizing.”

PLAYBOY: Didn’t you have any compunction about consorting with — if not actually assisting — murderers?

ALINSKY: None at all, since there was nothing I could do to stop them from murdering, practically all of which was done inside the family. 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.

And let me tell you something, I learned a hell of a lot about the uses and abuses of power from the mob, lessons that stood me in good stead later on, when I was organizing.

Another thing you’ve got to remember about Capone is that he didn’t spring out of a vacuum. The Capone gang was actually a public utility; it supplied what the people wanted and demanded.

The man in the street wanted girls: Capone gave him girls. He wanted booze during Prohibition: Capone gave him booze. He wanted to bet on a horse: Capone let him bet.

It all operated according to the old laws of supply and demand, and, if there weren’t people who wanted the services provided by the gangsters, the gangsters wouldn’t be in business.

Everybody owned stock in the Capone mob; in a way, he was a public benefactor. I remember one time when he arrived at his box seat in Dyche Stadium for a Northwestern football game on Boy Scout Day and 8,000 scouts got up in the stands and screamed in cadence, “Yea, yea, Big Al. Yea, yea, Big Al.” Capone didn’t create the corruption, he just grew fat on it, as did the political parties, the police and the overall municipal economy.

PLAYBOY: How long were you an honorary member of the mob?

ALINSKY: About two years.

 

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