Bill Moyers, Progressive Propagandist

Bill Moyers does not like Newt Gingrich, in part because Gingrich is supposedly guilty of disrespecting the dead.   The veteran commentator lays the charge against Mr. Gingrich at the beginning of  Bill Moyers Essay: Newt Gingrich and the Real Saul Alinsky (5:13).

Saul Alinsky, author of the Leftist handbook Rules for Radicals is, according to Moyers, a "good American being demonized despite being long dead...Here's how you slander someone who can't answer from the grave."  He then shows three clips of Newt Gingrich on the stump.  Here are Gingrich's statements in their entirety:

If you believe as we do in the Declaration of Independence, and you think that's a better source than Saul Alinsky, welcome to the team.

The president believes in a kind of Saul Alinsky radicalism that would lead to a secular European socialist model. 

If you have a Reagan conservative versus a Saul Alinsky radical, it's a pretty easy debate.

This is slander?  No, it's not.  Yet Moyers claims these as examples of "malicious, false, or defamatory" statements.  Preposterous!  Gingrich says nothing bad about the man whom Moyers later calls a "self-professed radical," although it's clear that Gingrich disagrees with him.  If there's anything akin to slander going on here, it's Moyers falsely accusing Gingrich of being slanderous. 

Gingrich's audience fares no better.  "Saul Alinsky isn't around to defend himself, but that hasn't kept Newt Gingrich from using his name to stir up the froth and frenzy of followers whose ignorance of [Alinsky] is no deterrence to their eagerness, at Gingrich's behest, to tar and feather him posthumously."

Moyers claims to know quite a lot about the people in Gingrich's audience: "The crowd knows nothing about the target [Moyers's emphasis, here and elsewhere], except that they're supposed to hate him..."

Really?  How does Moyers know of the crowd's knowledge of Alinsky?  There is no way he can, but that doesn't prevent him from pretending he does.  A lot of conservatives are well-read, so the people listening to Gingrich may know a lot more about Alinsky than Moyers gives them credit for.  Understand that I'm not making any claim about what those in Gingrich's audience do or don't know.  To do that, I'd have to be presumptuous on a scale with the learned commentator.

Memo to Moyers regarding hate: it is possible to disagree with someone, even severely, without hating him.  But we can be sure that Moyers is well aware of the rhetorical usefulness of the accusation of hatred: after all, it's commonly accepted that those who "hate" have a fatal character flaw that delegitimizes their criticism of the target of their "hatred."

Nice spin job using "hate", Bill, but what was that you said about Gingrich's use of  "radioactive demonize his opponents"?  Aren't you doing the same thing?

Moyers continues: "...they're supposed to hate [Alinsky], and why not?  There's the strange foreign name -- obviously an alien -- one of them..."

So, if we believe Moyers's assessment of the crowd Gingrich attracts, they're not only gullible and ignorant, but also hateful and xenophobic.  Where did Moyers get this information?  It's certainly not in the video clips.

"...and [Alinsky is] a socialist at that.  What's a socialist?  We don't know.  But Obama's one, isn't he?  Barack...Hussein...Obama-slash-Saul Alinsky?  Bingo!  Two peas in a pod -- a sinister, subversive pod at that."

Moyers has already established that this intellectually and morally corrupt crowd is following Pied Piper Newt into the sea, so of course they're afraid of the boogeyman, too.   Moyers's actions reminds us of Alinsky's thirteenth rule: "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it."1

At this point in the commentary, even if one knows nothing else about Saul Alinsky, one does know for certain that Bill Moyers has done his best to thoroughly discredit Gingrich and anyone who shares his disdain for Alinsky.  If these reprobates don't like Alinsky, by contrast there must be something good about the guy, right? 

Yes, there were good things about the radical strategist, such as his concern for his fellow man, and Moyers spends most of the remainder giving us a glimpse of Alinsky's efforts on behalf of others, in part as a union activist.

Moyers says Alinsky was neither communist nor socialist, although he worked with such people, and that they were bound together not by ideology, but by conscience.  As final evidence of Alinksy's good intentions, Moyers informs us that at the time the radical organizer died in 1972 "he was planning to mount a campaign to organize white, middle class Americans into a national movement for progressive change.  Maybe that's why Newt Gingrich has been slandering Alinsky's name." 

How unprogressive of Newt, how unappreciative he is of Alinsky's good intentions. 

One can always expect any leader to claim good intentions, but for Leftist leadership, whether they be sincere or not, it's an operational dictum.  After all, Alinsky himself wrote, "All effective actions require the passport of morality."2  On the other hand, one can depend on the liberal rank and file to actually have good intentions.  Their hearts are in the right place.   They love humanity, the planet, and the animals, too. 

In their pursuit of a given cause, great numbers on the Left readily adopt moral relativism when it suits their purpose (a moral relativist is one who possesses a moral compass but denies there is any true moral magnetic pole).  Yet, in spite of this relativism, these same people are moral absolutists concerning their convictions.   Why sacrifice for the common good if there is any doubt that it's the right thing to do?  How can one keep up the righteous steam needed to power the fight for social justice if oppression isn't really wrong?

Ask a serious liberal about his beliefs on, say, health care policy or equal rights for gays, and the answer will be drenched in moral certitude. (And judgment.  The popular liberal protestation, "You're being judgmental!" is generally a mere rhetorical device used to silence the voicing of judgments of which they don't approve.) 

The liberal's sense of right and wrong is as black and white and as firmly held as that of a staunch Puritan, and the further to the Left he is, the more starch there is in that big white Puritan collar.   The relativist/absolutist moral dichotomy accounts, at least in part, for this contradiction: those who claim to possess great tolerance are often intolerant toward those who disagree with them.  

So, whether you're Newt Gingrich or just someone in the crowd, if you don't agree with the Left's reasoning or with the ideology they adopt in order to right wrongs and heal the planet, what kind of person does that make you?   To reasonable, perceptive, and truly tolerant liberals, it may merely make you a member of the honorable opposition. 

To others, though, it makes you morally suspect at best, corrupt at worst, an incarnation of that horrible picture of Dorian Gray.  It makes you a target, someone a pious Puritan will strap into the dunking chair, as Deacon Moyers amply illustrates.

Bill Moyers ends his commentary with what he apparently thinks is a 'Gotcha!' moment: Dick Armey and Newt Gingrich actually use Alinsky's Rules for Radicals! 

But here's a sharp pin for Bill's big balloon: political, military, and business actors throughout history have studied and learned from their opponents, and they have often turned those opponents' strategies and tactics against them.  It's a smart move to learn from the opposition, especially for conservative activists who study the writings of a man William F. Buckley described as "very close to being an organizational genius."  It's also wise to "know your enemy."

The problem is not that Moyers admires Alinsky as a good man, but that he is intellectually dishonest and vindictive regarding those who don't share his admiration.   His erudite tone and his measured, smooth-as-silk delivery seem to be aimed at damning what he portrays as knuckledragging conservatives as much as praising Saul Alinsky, and this stains Moyers's commentary with brutish propaganda. 

Another legendary master of mobilizing people for a socialist cause, a man much maligned and long dead, like Alinsky, may be smiling from his grave.  After all, it does seem that Josef Goebbels would approve.

Robert Babcock writes from Lawrence, Kansas, where he ventures now and then to wrestle a few words into pleasant coherence.  His email address is

1.  Rules for Radicals by Saul D. Alinsky, 1989 Vintage Edition, p. 130.  (The book was originally published in 1971 by Random House.)


2.  Ibid., p. 44.