May 15, 2009
Defeating Political RidiculeBy Kyle-Anne Shiver
Now, I'm not certain whether Bill O'Reilly is pulling our leg here, as he ruminates over whether the politics of ridicule being employed nearly nonstop by our new President's administration is intentional or not. O'Reilly seems way too smart to think that a whole staff of folks just somehow have Alinsky-styled ridicule down pat, polished to a perfect t, with every "i" dotted, as though they all popped yesterday from a political Big Bang.
Nevertheless, I've been working for the past year on solid methods to defeat this politics of ridicule - the tactics advocated by Saul Alinsky to every 60s radical that ever burned a draft card or a bra, or vowed to smash monogamy or made a nail bomb. These are the tactics that laid the foundation for the vast Alinsky-originated community organizations from coast to coast. Although some may think of Obama's movement and his victorious administration in terms of a political Big Bang, there is a much more design paradigm, which I prefer.
I'm of the old skeptic school myself, generally believing that whenever something looks too good to be true, it most likely is. And that whenever something appears orchestrated and perfected among many, there is a plan at work behind the scenes.
It was Barack Obama himself, not I, nor anyone else, who claimed -- often -- that his community organizing with the Alinsky-designed DCP in Chicago was the "best education" he ever had. It was Barack Obama who touted his work with ACORN's Project Vote. It was Barack Obama himself who taught Alinsky Power Tactics at the University of Chicago. And it has been Barack Obama himself, who adopted whole-hog Alinsky's "Ideology of Change" and all of its slogans.
When Michelle Obama gave her speech at the Democratic National Convention last August, she used a direct Alinsky quote, saying that hearing Barack speak of changing "the world as it is" into the "world as it should be," were the magic words that so endeared him to her.
Case closed. The politics of ridicule, which have infected our national discourse for the past 40 years were designed by admirer of Lucifer, hijacker of Christian jargon for power purpose, ends-justify-all-means father of community organizing, Saul Alinsky. Barack Obama's best education came from him, not Harvard. And this Administration daily employs Alinsky Ridicule on steroids.
Day in, day out, 24/7, the American people are treated to bully, gang-style ridicule. Most of it aimed at conservatives and the GOP, of course, for now.
But make no mistake: anyone who stands in defiance of this Administration's policies will be ridiculed without mercy.
How Ridicule Works
"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."
Saying taught by wise mothers to kindergartners
Yes, it's a pretty darned sad sight when grown men and women indulge in playground bully tactics that are as old as the hills. That's all ridicule is. It's the thing a bully and his little gang of half-witted followers use to get their way without ever having to actually throw a real punch. And wise mothers have been teaching their smart kids how to defeat this low-blow tactic for eons.
But to defeat the tactic of ridicule, it's helpful to remember how it works.
The bully's intention, of course, is to get a rise or a bucket of tears out of his victim. The bully's intention, whether on a playground or in an older gang, is always the same. Taunt the victim until he finally cracks and explodes with anger or throws the first punch, and then sit back and watch the self-destruction. Goad the target with taunts, which are intentionally aimed at the victim's soft spots.
The bully listens and watches carefully. He's trained himself to spot weakness, to search out his victim's vulnerabilities.
At the playground age, vulnerabilities tend to be physical anomalies. In adolescence, bullies move towards picking out weaknesses in sexual appeal. In adulthood, they move towards the things Alinsky talks about in his books, a person's moral code or a group's racial makeup or the age-old standby, a group's religion.
But as Alinsky notes himself, ridicule alone is a losing game. It isn't the ridicule that rises victorious in a political war. No, that's just the temptation put out on the table, exactly the way tempters have done it since that little episode in the ancient Garden.
The key to defeating any tempter, whether on a playground or on a political stage, is simple. Do not take the bait. No matter how much one is goaded and bullied and laughed at and ridiculed, the only answer to the temptation is to refuse it.
Alinsky made a living off his own background as an unattractive, smaller-than-average child, forced to bear the brunt of neighborhood bullies. Sanford D. Horwitt, Alinsky's biographer, spends dozens of pages describing young Saul's difficult childhood, where he was a veritable outcast. What made his own shortcomings even more potent fodder for the bully class was the fact that his father had left his mother and wasn't there to help the little boy figure out how to be a man of strong character. Even worse than this was the fact that his mother was an in-your-face, overbearing shrew of a woman that struck fear into the hearts of everyone in her vicinity.
Horwitt relates how young Saul's mother would keep an eye on her little boy -- the chubby, not-great-to-look-at kid without a Dad in residence -- as he played with neighborhood kids in the street. Whenever the group would light into Saul, his mother would raise the window and scream at the other children, always rushing to his defense, and inevitably crushing his own power to save himself. Alinsky's mother had such a vicious mouth that she struck fear in the hearts of even the adults in the neighborhood.
And Saul absorbed these awful childhood lessons, quite to America's detriment. Powerless to protect himself from ridicule, seeing his mother's inflamed response, which only served to heighten his tormenters' resolve, he internalized what he later described in Rules for Radicals as "man's most potent weapon," ridicule.
What is the key to ridicule's success, according to Alinsky?
As he witnessed his mother's infuriated response to the bullies attacking him, he became the observant bystander. What did he see?
Act I: Bullies gang up on Saul and taunt him for being short, chubby, not athletic, whatever.
Act II: Mother takes the bait and gets into the game, screaming at the boys for hurting little Saul.
Act III: The boys react to Mother from the safety of the street and the protection of their numbers, by intensifying the bully tactics.
Act IV: Mother becomes so infuriated and out of control that she finally screams threats and near-obscenities at the little boys, who have just magnificently played the adult for a real fool. Mother is in complete disarray; the boys stroll off down the street laughing victoriously.
Saul Alinsky later used this very play for the foundation of his politics of ridicule, specifying that the strength is not in the ridicule. The strength of ridicule is always, every single time, the "enemy's reaction."
In his childhood play, Mother was the enemy engaged by the ridiculing youth. As soon as the children gathered and began taunting little Saul, Mother appeared at the window like clockwork. Mother's reaction emboldened and added great worth to the bullies. They got to see her emotional meltdown every single time.
"The enemy properly goaded and guided in his reaction will be your major strength," wrote Saul Alinsky in his own middle-age.
Defeating Ridicule Is As Simple as 2 + 2
When the Democratic Party is employing an age-old playground tactic, perfected in adolescence, the key to stopping it is easy as pie.
This ain't hard, folks. Every real grown-up learned this in grade school.
Whether dressed in Armani or playground garb, ridicule is child's play.
I suppose that when overgrown adolescents, who're all in adult bodies, use it, though, it does throw the normal adult a curve. It's the kind of behavior with which adults have grown rusty at coping. Nevertheless, ridicule in adult politics should never, ever be allowed to triumph, as it is now.
The temptation to jump into the fray with both feet in one's mouth is certainly understandable, but is not advisable.
Here is my 3-step formula for stopping ridicule in its tracks. I have tried this with great success with every over-grown adolescent I've encountered. It works especially well with my liberal friends, most of whom are now conservative converts.
Step One: Properly recognize the ridicule tactic when it is employed.
The most easily-spotted ridicule tactic is name calling. "You're a disgusting homophobe." "You're a racist." "You're an idiot." "You're a poor-people-hating rich person." "You're a homophobe."
The second most easily-spotted ridicule tactic is what psychologists call, "projection." The ridiculer assumes that you, his rhetorical enemy, possess the same moral code as he and that you have the same defects as he does. Since human nature never changes, and there simply are no new sins, some of what the projecting opponent spouts may ring true, and this is the bait. If a person says something like, "Your side lies," odds are that he is right, at least to a certain extent. I've yet to meet a person who would swear that he has never told a single lie.
But this is a potent trap. It's a generality without specifics and it distracts from the real issue at hand. The intended victim, recognizing a grain of truth in the projector's argument, becomes defensive, which delights the ridiculer.
Step Two: No matter how sweet-sounding, how cutesy humorous or how viciously personal the ridicule, the intended victim's victory is in refusing to take the bait.
Ridicule is stopped in its tracks by the strong-willed, wise person, who simply ignores it and moves the debate to the higher ground where real adults discuss matters of importance. Reason trumps ridicule every single time.
If the ridicule is especially deleterious, then it is possible to retort, "Now, why do you want to be this vicious? Why can't we talk about this like real grown-ups?"
It helps to sound especially sweet when saying this; think Scarlet O'Hara.
Actually, though, I can see John Wayne saying something similar without the batting eyelashes.
Real strength has no need to stoop to nastiness. Ever.
Step 3: In political debate, the expert ridiculer is constantly attempting to draw his opponent into a defensive posture on the ridiculer's ground. It's a rhetorical trick, a sleight of hand performed with one's mouth.
And the way to defeat it lies not in defensive statements that attempt to argue the point raised by the ridiculer. Defensive statements, trying to refute the ridiculer's taunt, simply reinforce his claim.
Ridicule should disgrace its perpetrator, not you. And the object is to do exactly that. Do not take the bait. Ignore it completely, give a knowing little laugh if you like, but move back up to your own ground of reason immediately.
At all costs, remain calm; ridicule is an emotional tactic aimed at causing you to replace reason with uncontrolled passion. But use powerful language of courage. There is absolutely nothing to be gained by giving the proverbial inch in your argument as you prepare to give up the mile, which will be goaded out of you next.
It's possible to deflect ridicule with a reverse taunt, perfectly aimed, such as, "Now, you know that's a pile of poppycock." But reverse taunts must be delivered with delicate care to diffuse emotions with geniality, not enflame them.
Every single time a conservative takes any of this intentionally inflammatory bait and attempts to defend against it, the ridicule simply becomes more intense. Why? Because as the father of political ridicule Saul Alinsky explained himself, the strength lies not in the ridicule, but in "the enemy's reaction." The goal is to make you lose your cool and self-destruct.
Of course, these are the same kinds of tactics employed by the precocious child against his parents, whenever he wants something they will not give him. If that thing is the $500 pair of Wacky-brand-of-the-month athletic shoes, then the parent is assailed as a stingy tightwad who does not love his own child as much as all the other parents love their children. If that thing is a later curfew, then the parent is assailed as the most old-fashioned, untrusting, stick-in-the-mud tyrant that ever gave birth to offspring.
These tacky little tricks are as old as the hills and twice as predictable.
And the adult who gives airtime to adolescent ridicule is the fool that tops all others.
The keys to victory:
But never, ever, ever, ever, ever give an inch to the devilish lure of ridicule.
As Democrats have become the Party of Pernicious Ridicule, the GOP must be the ever-stalwart Party of Reason.
Reason resonates in the minds of men and women; ridicule is child's play.
Kyle-Anne Shiver is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. She welcomes your comments at www.commonsenseregained.com.