Hamilton: What would Alinsky Do?

Regarding Hamilton: What would Saul Alinsky do? He probably would not suggest boycotting the show. He would likely propose something he would find far more entertaining.

First, a little background: 

In 1964, Saul Alinsky arrived in Rochester, New York to organize the black ghetto against the establishment -- the city government and the city's major employer, Eastman Kodak. Riots had recently occurred because among other things, blacks who had migrated from the south during the first part of the century were limited to 1.] menial jobs at Kodak and 2.] confined to living in a ten block-square area of the city with decrepit, substandard turn of the century housing. After riots erupted that summer, realizing that riots are actually counterproductive for the community, Alinsky was invited to counsel the black community on how to actually win the rights that these good people sought.

Here, in his own words, is an easy tactic he suggested which helped win the day against a corporate giant and an oppressive government:

Use the power of the law by making the establishment obey its own rules. Go outside the experience of the enemy, stay inside the experience of your people. Emphasize tactics that your people will enjoy. The threat is usually more terrifying than the tactic itself. Once all these rules and principles are festering in your imagination they grow into a synthesis.

[In order to hit the establishment where it lives,] I suggested that we might buy 100 seats for one of Rochester's symphony concerts. We would select a concert in which the music would be relatively quiet. The hundred blacks who would be given the tickets would first be treated to a three-hour pre-concert dinner in the community, in which they would be fed nothing but baked beans, and lots of them; then the people would go to the symphony hall -- with obvious consequences. Imagine the scene when the action began! The concert would be over before the first movement! (If this be a Freudian slip--so be it!).

On the following morning, the matrons, to whom the symphony season is one of the major social functions, would confront their husbands (both executives and junior executives) at the breakfast table and say, "John, we are not going to have our symphony season ruined by those people! I don't know what they want but whatever it is, something has got to be done and this kind of thing has to be stopped!" (Rules for Radicals, pages 138-140)

Alinsky believed that ridicule and humor can be far more powerful tools for bringing about change than physical violence or confrontation. He has been proven right many times.

Applying Alinsky to Hamilton

Fast forward to today: Many have said that those who were offended by the treatment that vice president-elect Pence received should boycott Broadway's Hamilton. For those who hold expensive seats for a future performance at the Richard Rogers Theatre, Alinsky would probably suggest that rather than selling your tickets or being a no-show, consider an alternative: 

Send a message to the Hamilton cast and its producers by finding theatre-loving homeless persons ambling around Times Square an hour before curtain time and send them to the show in your place. They will especially appreciate this as the weather is turning colder. If they haven't had a bath or brushed their teeth for a few weeks or months, so much the better.

The point is that this would place the theatre, the cast, the production company and the audience in a very uncomfortable situation. Their hands would be tied by their own standards made clear by the cast's spokesman, Brandon Victor Dixon, as he lectured vice president-elect Pence last Friday:

We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us.

Certainly, the cast and theatregoers, comprised of many big-hearted progressives, will welcome the diversity inherent in the presence of the less fortunate in the theatre. Would they call on police to remove the city's most vulnerable, the homeless? Shouldn't theaters be a sanctuary for the homeless, just as NYC is a sanctuary for illegal undocumented immigrants?" Would they protect them, or reject them? Would they turn them away at the door? Don't the homeless have inalienable rights to see a hit Broadway show?

Assuredly, these folks would not want to be seen as hypocrites. They would not dare suggest that these down-on-their-luck folks be turned away or ousted from a show whose cast values diversity -- or would they?

The tactic could continue until a heartfelt apology were issued by Mr. Dixon.

The Ends Do Not Justify the Means

Again, this is what I think Saul Alinsky might propose, not what I would endorse. Clearly, Alinsky had no qualms about treating members of the black community in 1960s Rochester as pawns, used to achieve a goal. That in itself says a lot about Alinsky's approach to community organizing: The ends justify the means -- the universal tragedy of communism and all totalitarian regimes. I would not want to objectify the homeless by treating them as "tools" rather than as persons. We are all God's children, worthy of equal dignity.

So on second thought, for all Hamilton ticket-holding theatre lovers -- go ahead and see the show with a clear conscience -- you paid for it! Just make sure you down a bucket of baked beans first.

Regarding Hamilton: What would Saul Alinsky do? He probably would not suggest boycotting the show. He would likely propose something he would find far more entertaining.

First, a little background: 

In 1964, Saul Alinsky arrived in Rochester, New York to organize the black ghetto against the establishment -- the city government and the city's major employer, Eastman Kodak. Riots had recently occurred because among other things, blacks who had migrated from the south during the first part of the century were limited to 1.] menial jobs at Kodak and 2.] confined to living in a ten block-square area of the city with decrepit, substandard turn of the century housing. After riots erupted that summer, realizing that riots are actually counterproductive for the community, Alinsky was invited to counsel the black community on how to actually win the rights that these good people sought.

Here, in his own words, is an easy tactic he suggested which helped win the day against a corporate giant and an oppressive government:

Use the power of the law by making the establishment obey its own rules. Go outside the experience of the enemy, stay inside the experience of your people. Emphasize tactics that your people will enjoy. The threat is usually more terrifying than the tactic itself. Once all these rules and principles are festering in your imagination they grow into a synthesis.

[In order to hit the establishment where it lives,] I suggested that we might buy 100 seats for one of Rochester's symphony concerts. We would select a concert in which the music would be relatively quiet. The hundred blacks who would be given the tickets would first be treated to a three-hour pre-concert dinner in the community, in which they would be fed nothing but baked beans, and lots of them; then the people would go to the symphony hall -- with obvious consequences. Imagine the scene when the action began! The concert would be over before the first movement! (If this be a Freudian slip--so be it!).

On the following morning, the matrons, to whom the symphony season is one of the major social functions, would confront their husbands (both executives and junior executives) at the breakfast table and say, "John, we are not going to have our symphony season ruined by those people! I don't know what they want but whatever it is, something has got to be done and this kind of thing has to be stopped!" (Rules for Radicals, pages 138-140)

Alinsky believed that ridicule and humor can be far more powerful tools for bringing about change than physical violence or confrontation. He has been proven right many times.

Applying Alinsky to Hamilton

Fast forward to today: Many have said that those who were offended by the treatment that vice president-elect Pence received should boycott Broadway's Hamilton. For those who hold expensive seats for a future performance at the Richard Rogers Theatre, Alinsky would probably suggest that rather than selling your tickets or being a no-show, consider an alternative: 

Send a message to the Hamilton cast and its producers by finding theatre-loving homeless persons ambling around Times Square an hour before curtain time and send them to the show in your place. They will especially appreciate this as the weather is turning colder. If they haven't had a bath or brushed their teeth for a few weeks or months, so much the better.

The point is that this would place the theatre, the cast, the production company and the audience in a very uncomfortable situation. Their hands would be tied by their own standards made clear by the cast's spokesman, Brandon Victor Dixon, as he lectured vice president-elect Pence last Friday:

We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us.

Certainly, the cast and theatregoers, comprised of many big-hearted progressives, will welcome the diversity inherent in the presence of the less fortunate in the theatre. Would they call on police to remove the city's most vulnerable, the homeless? Shouldn't theaters be a sanctuary for the homeless, just as NYC is a sanctuary for illegal undocumented immigrants?" Would they protect them, or reject them? Would they turn them away at the door? Don't the homeless have inalienable rights to see a hit Broadway show?

Assuredly, these folks would not want to be seen as hypocrites. They would not dare suggest that these down-on-their-luck folks be turned away or ousted from a show whose cast values diversity -- or would they?

The tactic could continue until a heartfelt apology were issued by Mr. Dixon.

The Ends Do Not Justify the Means

Again, this is what I think Saul Alinsky might propose, not what I would endorse. Clearly, Alinsky had no qualms about treating members of the black community in 1960s Rochester as pawns, used to achieve a goal. That in itself says a lot about Alinsky's approach to community organizing: The ends justify the means -- the universal tragedy of communism and all totalitarian regimes. I would not want to objectify the homeless by treating them as "tools" rather than as persons. We are all God's children, worthy of equal dignity.

So on second thought, for all Hamilton ticket-holding theatre lovers -- go ahead and see the show with a clear conscience -- you paid for it! Just make sure you down a bucket of baked beans first.