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Monday, February 6, 2012
NewsBusters Knows Nothing About Saul Alinsky
Topic: NewsBusters

NewsBusters has spent the past couple of weeks ranting about Saul Alinksy. One thing is clear, though: NewsBusters has no idea who Saul Alinsky actually is.

In a Jan. 22 post, Noel Sheppard asserted that "if the media had fully reported Obama's ties to Alinsky and other left-wing radicals in 2008, he never would have beaten Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination." In fact, Alinsky died when Obama was 10 years old and the two never met; thus, Obama has no "ties to Alinsky."

On Jan. 24, Matt Hadro was upset that "CNN's Soledad O'Brien would not brand Saul Alinsky as a leftist radical, and neither would she say President Obama was influenced by his writings – but she had no problem tying Alinsky's controversial beliefs to the Tea Party movement on Monday's Starting Point." Hadro didn't dispute the truth of what O'Brien did report about Alinsky, but did whine that it was a "neutral take."

Also on Jan. 24, Tom Blumer attacked a public radio report on Alinsky, taking offense at its description of Alinsky as "quite a pragmatic, quite a conservative guy." Blumer responded:

In "Rules For Radicals," as quoted here, Alinsky betrayed the fact that he considered half of the American labor movement insufficiently radical, disdainfully characterizing the American Federation of Labor half of what is now the AFL-CIO as "conservative and archaic" because it "clung to craft unionism." The fact is that the AFL's founder, Samuel Gompers, "improved the lives of millions of working men and women ... (and) rightly deserves to be called the greatest friend labor has ever known."

Blumer is selectively quoting Alinsky. In the section of "Rules for Radicals" from which Blumer plucks out the three words "conservative and archaic," Alinsky is discussing how thet AFL was not interested in unionizing workers beyond the craft unions it was familiar with during the 1930s, while the more "radical" CIO "espoused industrial unionism." Alinsky was discussing the AFL's management and expansion philosophy, not its political persuasion.

Blumer does more out-of-context quoting of Alinsky: "As to whether Alinsky was aligned with the bedrock conservative principle that individuals and families should be left to make their own decisions about their lives, he wasn't: 'The greatest enemy of individual freedom is the individual himself.'"

But the full quote from "Rules for Radicals" puts those words in a different context:

Great dangers always accompany great opportunities. The possibility of destruction is always implicit in the act of creation. Thus the greatest enemy of individual freedom is the individual himself.

From the beginning the weakness as well as the strength of the democratic ideal has been the people. People cannot be free unless they are willing to sacrifice some of their interests to guarantee the freedom of others. The price of democracy is the ongoing pursuit of the common good by all of the people. One hundred and thirty-five years ago Tocqueville gravely warned that unless individual citizens were regularly involved in the action of governing themselves, self-government would pass from the scene. Citizen participation is the animating spirit and force in a society predicated on voluntarism.

We are not here concerned with people who profess the democratic faith but yearn for the dark security of dependency where they can be spared the burden of decisions. Reluctant to grow up, or incapable of doing so, they want to remain children and to be cared for by others. Those who can, should be encouraged to grow; for the others, The fault lies not in the system, but in themselves.

Here we are desperately concerned with the vast mass of our people who, thwarted through lack of interest or opportunity, or both, do not participate in the endless responsibilities of citizenship and are resigned to lives determined by others.  To lose your "identity" as a citizen of democracy is but a step away from losing your identity as a person. People react to this frustration by not acting at all.  he separation of people from the routine daily functions of citizenship is heartbreak in a democracy.

It is a grave situation when a people resign their citizenship or when a resident of a great city, though he may desire to take a hand, lacks the means to participate. That citizen sinks further into apathy, anonymity, and depersonalization. The result is that he comes to depend on “public authority” and a state of civic-sclerosis sets in.

From time to time there have been external enemies at our gates; there has always been the enemy within, the hidden and malignant inertia that foreshadows more certain destruction of our life and future than any nuclear warhead. There can be no darker or more devastating tragedy than the death of man’s faith in himself and in his power to direct his future.

Alinsky sounds almost like a tea partier there, doesn't he?

Speaking of which, Tim Graham simply refuses to admit that right-wingers like the tea party are using "radical-left theorist" Alinsky's community organization tactics.

In a Jan. 27 post, Graham freaked out at the idea, as expressed by a Washington Post blogger, that "if Alinsky were alive today, he’d surely be camped out in front of the White House, using every trick in his book, 'Rules for Radicals,' to point out the many ways in which the president is not an infiltrator of the dreaded establishment, but the personification of it." Graham huffed: "The charge against Obama did not begin with Obama as president. They begin with Obama's time as a community organizer in Alinsky's Chicago." Graham then irrelevantly quotes right-winger Stanley Kurtz trying to make the Obama-Alinsky connection.

In a Jan. 31 post, Graham was offended that an Alinsky biographer -- who Graham doesn't seem to think knows very much about Alinsky -- claimed that Alinsky was not "terribly ideological," which happens to be true. Still, Graham whines: "Could we please stop trying to imply he wasn’t a radical leftist writing to a radical audience?"

Again, Graham was offended that it was pointed out that right-wingers use Alinsky's tactics, adding, "How this makes Alinsky less radical is anyone’s guess." Well, right-wingers are using Alinsky's tactics, not only does it mean that Alinsky can't be that radical, it means that Alinsky's radicalness is irrelevant.

Graham seems to have forgotten that. Or perhaps he and his fellow NewsBusters are too invested in the idea of Alinsky as bogeyman that they don't want their readers to know the truth.

Posted by Terry K. at 7:46 AM EST

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