Home > National > Alinsky’s Star Pupil Uses ‘Rules’ As A Manual For ‘Social Surgery’

Alinsky’s Star Pupil Uses ‘Rules’ As A Manual For ‘Social Surgery’

May 14, 2010

By PAUL SPERRY Posted 05/14/2010 06:42 PM ET

President Obama is fond of using ridicule to frustrate critics. He recently mocked Republicans for predicting “Armageddon” if health care reform passed. After signing the bill, he cracked that he looked around to “see if there were any asteroids falling,” only to discover a nice day with “birds chirping.”

 Obama has also used the tactic to dismiss charges that he’s pushing a “socialist” agenda, arguing that critics will next accuse him of “being a secret communist because I shared my toys in kindergarten.”

But the former community organizer also knows that ridiculing the opposition is an effective tactic taught by the father of community organizing, Saul D. Alinsky — a socialist agitator from Chicago whose influence on Obama is deeper than commonly known.

In fact, the tactic is ripped right from the pages of “Rules for Radicals” (Vintage Books, New York, 1971), a how-to manual Alinsky wrote for coat-and-tie revolutionaries.

“Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon,” reads Rule No. 5. “It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage.”

It’s just one of 13 rules Alinsky coached his acolytes to follow to “take power away from the Haves.” The Haves, represented foremost by corporate America, are “the enemy.” They must be identified, singled out and targeted for attack — and the more personal the better, Alinsky advised, putting a special bull’s-eye on banks.

His 13th rule — “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it” — is not lost on Obama, who has targeted “fat cat” bankers, “predatory” lenders, “greedy” insurers and industrial “polluters” as enemies of the people.

“Obama learned his lesson well,” said David Alinsky, son of the late socialist. “I am proud to see that my father’s model for organizing is being applied successfully beyond local community organizing.”

Obama first learned Alinsky’s rules in the 1980s, when Alinskyite radicals with the Chicago-based Alinsky group Gamaliel Foundation recruited, hired, trained and paid him as a community organizer in South Side Chicago.

They also helped him get into Harvard Law School to “learn power’s currency in all its intricacy and detail,” as Obama put it in his memoir. A Gamaliel board member even wrote a letter of recommendation for him.

Obama took a break from his Harvard studies to travel to Los Angeles for eight days of intense training at Alinsky’s Industrial Areas Foundation, a station of the cross for acolytes. In turn, he trained other community organizers in Alinsky agitation tactics. In 1988, he even wrote a chapter for the book “After Alinsky: Community Organizing in Illinois,” in which he lamented organizers’ “lack of power” in implementing change.

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    IBD Exclusive Series: Old Books/New Relevance


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    In this ongoing series, we’ll summarize the key ideas and lessons of influential books of the past — and how they continue to be relevant to what’s happening today.  From Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals to Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, we’ll discuss how eerily prophetic these books have been, and how understanding them can help us put our present circumstances in their proper historical context.

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