Conservatives using Alinsky's Rule Number 5

Two of the most interesting stars in the world of conservative broadcasting have newly published books timed for the for the Christmas season.  Michael Savage and Greg Gutfeld are both masters of ridicule, a tool extensively deployed by the left but too little by the right, especially its more respectable regions. The left, after all, was instructed by Saul Alinsky in Rule Number 5: Ridicule is man's most potent weapon. It's hard to counterattack ridicule, and it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage."

Talk radio, the king of conservative media, reaching by far the largest number of people, is home to a number of superstars, who use ridicule extensively. Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, and Michael Savage, each in his own distinctive style, make fun of liberals.

Gutfeld is the exception, working at Fox News, where he co-hosts an afternoon talk show, The Five, and is the creator and host of Red Eye, a 3 AM humor show featuring wisecracking guests, YouTube videos, and general wackiness. The intended demographic seems to include college kids through the upper middle aged, looking for hip and edgy commentary on the news.

The title of Greg Gutfeld's new book, The Joy of Hate, reveals the in-you-face style within, mocking the liberals who call conservatives haters, throwing the charge back in their faces, as in Chapter 7, "A Pep Smear."

The network where I work is evil, or so I am told by people who don't watch it. Which is why my employer is the only media enterprise exempt from the warm hug of tolerance. A half dozen media groups are devoted to tripping it up. Endless comedians, bloggers, and talking heads devote most of their mental energies to demonizing the network. And why? Because out of a media culture that is purely liberal - from newspapers, to networks, to music and entertainment - one entity rejects such easy assumptions about the world. And for the modern, tolerant liberal, that simply cannot be tolerated. Everyone must be in lockstep - before we can disagree, apparently.

The mix of irony and insight is what makes Gutfeld dangerous to the left. His juxtapositions of liberals' rhetoric with their behavior make them appear ridiculous. It is Alinsky's dream: "hard to counterattack." He uses this approach throughout the book, exposing liberal foibles, and arming his readers with arguments they can use with their liberal friends. The conversational tone in which Gutfeld writes makes the narrative adaptable by readers to their own political discussions.

I am encouraged by Gutfeld's increasing visibility at FNC; recently he guest-hosted The O'Reilly Factor, the network's most viewed show, and with his impish and expressive humor, he should continue to rise there. The liberal media, however, is not anxious to increase his visibility beyond Fox, because he is capable of reaching impressionable young minds that might be questioning the indoctrination they have received in the nation's educational system. As, I wrote above, he is dangerous to the left, and I would add, he deserves more respect on the right. Yes, he is a bit of a clown, but he reaches and he teaches minds in a way that learned treatises never will. And always with a wry smile.

The subject of conservative stars who don't get as much respect as they deserve brings us to Michael Savage, whose new memoir is titled Train Tracks. Savage is something of a bête noir among his fellow conservative big names. Part of this can be attributable to his harsh criticism and even mockery of them, and part to his tendency to hot headedness at times when he gets worked up. However, since his firing by MSNBC in 2003, he has managed his temper rather successfully.

Savage is a brilliant original, a mind of considerable breadth and depth, and an artist of the spoken word, a gifted storyteller. Train Tracks is full of stories, ranging from mini-chapters of 300 or so words to long, complicated tales with almost parable-like character. Fans of his, and there are millions of them, will revel in the details of his life, and come to understand his passions and the factors which shaped them.

Although few of them will bother, critics of Savage would also benefit from the book. Savage celebrates and exemplifies striving, and he chronicles his own story of effort, dedication, and sacrifice while earning his PhD from Berkeley, only to discover that because he was not a woman or a favored minority, an academic career would be denied to him. I have a friend with this very same experience who was crushed when he found that the year he was on the market to be hired, all but one of the positions in  his field filled that year were taken by women and favored minorities. He found other work, but giving up his dream (he stopped writing his dissertation with only a couple of chapters left to go) has caused him grief and anger throughout his life. The left styles itself the savior of victims, but never reckons with the victims it creates. Savage is one victim who fought back.

On air, Savage unleashes his wit against his nemeses, ranging from the academic world which rejected him, to the mentally diseased (his term) left, to conservatives who don't measure up to his standards. But he is a performer with a consierable range, and rage is not his only, or even characteristic approach. He is the greatest storyteller in modern broadcasting, weaving a verbal web that captures the listener and takes a journey to a time and place somewhere  the listener has never been. Train Tracks is based on that Savage.

The stories range from Savage's semi-impoverished childhood in New York (the train tracks of the title refer to his first journey out of New York City as a young child in the early 1950s, taking a train from Penn Station to Easton, PA, visiting an aunt and uncle there), to his current life, where, he tells us, he enjoys his 60 foot yacht, the culmination of a lifetime of interest in boats and ships, itself the basis of a number of entertaining stories.

Train Tracks also features a collection of pictures from Savage's life, one of which, showing a teen age muscle-builder Savage, was startling.  From an early age, he obviously learned how to set a goal and reach it. He was one buffed teen.

Reading borh books, I could almost hear the authors reading the words aloud in my mind, so characteristic of the their on-air presence was their prose. Fans of each should be delighted to receive a copy in their Christmas stockings this year.

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