Tactics, trajectory, takeover: connecting the dots
Reading through several emails I received this morning it occurred to me that, though each note addressed a disparate bit of leftist dogma, in the aggregate the emails were essentially talking to one another — combining to draw a picture of the contemporary Democratic Party and its complete usurpation by those historically referred to as the New Left.
To try to make coherent the connectedness of these various strains of leftism, as they manifest in policy, in language, in narrative frameworks and the epistemological infestations those frameworks rely upon to maintain their consensus plausibility, I’m going to begin with a bit from Peter Pappas, who has just completed a new book on Saul Alinsky and describes the work thusly:
In my new book, Fanning the Flames: How Saul Alinsky taught the radical left to use ridicule, slander and intimidation to silence conservatives and advance its radical agenda (Birnham Woods Publishing, 2012) I explore how today’s leftists use accusations of racism, white privilege, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and greed to silence conservatives and marginalize their viewpoints.
In 1972, Saul Alinsky, the father of radical activism, wrote Rules for Radicals which codified the revolutionary tactics he used to organize unions, minorities and the poor to seize power from the “Haves” for redistribution to the “Have-Nots.” Alinsky’s rules have been used by the radical left ever since.
The point of my book is not to prove that Saul Alinsky was a “bad” or “evil” man — I am willing to concede that he was a good father, a good husband and a blast to have a beer with. I am not concerned with Alinsky the man, but rather with what the man taught others to do and the extent to which his teachings are followed today by community organizers and their left-wing followers.
I do not argue that the left is substantively evil — its political viewpoints deserve to and should be given a fair hearing in the marketplace of ideas, which is considerably more than the radical left is willing to concede to conservative viewpoints. However, I do believe that the tactics the left uses to enforce adherence to its substantive view are procedurally evil. They are unethical, immoral and highly destructive of our democracy and our nation.
In Fanning the Flames, I emphasize Alinsky’s oft-repeated instruction to radicals to use any means necessary to achieve their radical ends. “The only question the radical asks of a particular means,” Alinsky said, is “will it work.” My book illustrates through myriad real world examples how deeply today’s left has taken this instruction to heart.
Now, some of you — and I admit to being among those, too — will reject what we may see as a dodge of sorts Mr Pappas’ attempt to appear reasonable and responsible in tone: after all, if you are not willing to admit that the Marxism promoted by the New Left is substantively evil, despite the historical death toll and the trail of gulags that mark its totalitarian fantasies like geopolitical breadcrumbs, than you risk coming off as someone asking permission to play critic only after having first paid necessary tribute to the left. Too, granting that the left’s political viewpoints deserve a fair hearing in the marketplace of ideas presupposes either that the left is offering new political viewpoints beyond its liberal fascist collectivism, which it isn’t; or that we haven’t already given the hoary leftist dogma a “fair hearing” and rejected it, forcing the modern left to rely on the very tactics Alinsky proposed in order to compel Americans, through shame, race-baiting, class warfare, and the long march through the institutions, including now the Democratic Party leadership — tactics that Pappas himself allows are “procedurally evil.” That is to say, I see no way or reason to separate out the allocation of evil. The New Left, and those people who make up its activist base, are desirous of destroying natural rights and replacing them with privileges granted by government and a permanent bureaucratic ruling class; they are desirous of mocking and deconstructing individualism, American exceptionalism, and re-writing the Constitution, bending our history to conform to their anti-foundational philosophical worldview, itself the precise intellectual distillation of the ends justifying the means or might making right. Or, if you prefer, I find it curious that one could be forgiven the evil of the procedures they adopt, particularly when to the left, there is no separation between the personal and the political.
Having said all that, I still believe Pappas’ book is an important one, concentrating as it does on the ways in which Alinsky’s language and tactics direct and mold political discourse. In fact, the book touches specifically on tactics that more generally are borne of ideological kernel assumptions that have become institutionalized such that our politics, on both “sides”, has become infested with leftist tropes that move the country inexorably toward authoritarianism, a theme of my blog for the past decade.
Which brings me to the following bridge, articulated beautifully by Caroline Glick, who provides the historical overview for the New Left’s coup — in which, drawing on Arab influence and the radical chic attitude of the times, the movement began coopting blacks and black separatists, demonizing pro-Israel Jews, and driving a permanent and intentional wedge between the Jew-Black alliance that was largely responsible for driving the civil rights struggle.
I recommend you all go read the Glick column and the comments that follow it. Here, though, I’m going to reprint in full an email from Sarah Rolph, who incorporates Glick’s history into a larger bit of scholarship that provides even more context for the tactics and trajectory that have led to the New Left takeover of our country at the highest levels:
[In Glick’s column she] cites this government document which is quite interesting to read (and summarized in her piece). I was curious about all the redactions [to the document, released under FOIA in 2009, but now, strangely, missing. Go figure!] and wondered if any of the material referred to is online. Some of it is; I found the paper from the referenced December 1969 SDS publication (author redacted) right
I wondered who had archived these things, and
it’s them — the hard left still believes in that stuff. I looked around a bit on that site to see who these people are that still think the SDS is of interest, and they are active leftists who still love Angela Davis! There’s a recent piece by someone named Howard Machtinger that’s instructive about what the hard left believes (you will recognize our child president in much of this). I’m providing extensive quotes because the writing is good enough that it’s quite clear what their philosophical premises are — knowing these can help us defeat them.
It begins with a note on the recent election:
“Even in defeat, the right may take solace, if Ryan succeeds in promoting his ultra-free market agenda” … “Ryan’s politics, while extreme and mean-spirited, have a long pedigree in American politics and culture. His combination of extreme individualism and a sometime implicit, sometime explicit, appeal to white/male supremacy runs deep in our culture, and not only among the elite. The influence of individualist ideology on the thinking of many Americans has kept the left on the defensive throughout our history. It is at our peril if we depict Ryan as merely a right wing crazy, though he is surely that, if in a ‘nice-guy’ pose. For, as I will try to show, his politics resonate with American political traditions and with average Americans (mainly, but not only whites). The deterioration of the economy will not automatically lead to progressive action or politics. If we want our nation to become a more decent and more democratic society, we need to respond with an alternative vision of equal resonance. This will include an attractive evocation of the communal and social, an analysis of the structural, but also a recognition of parts of the individualist tradition that are not only compatible with, but essential to, progressive politics.”
Emphases added. (If only that “individualist ideology” had done more than keep the left “on the defensive”!) I read on because I was very curious to learn what “parts of the individualist tradition” might be of interest to them (and how much of the rest they are planning to jettison).
Quite a bit later:
“Despite the near collapse of the world economy in 2008, neoliberal individualism remains the litmus test for economic policy and for ‘Americanism’, as well. It has infiltrated the thinking of many Americans. Young activists are hailed as ‘social entrepreneurs’ rather than as grassroots organizers. In the face of widespread and stubborn unemployment, there are countless initiatives, on the Web or in schools, focusing on individual “workplace preparedness” to prepare a resume, or dress for an interview, but little about collective action. Of course, Wisconsin and the Occupy movement are exceptions, but even in Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker found a way to undermine public unions and prevail against being recalled, at least for the moment.”
Emphases added (that last one is hilarious!! they think “collective action” will get them a job?!)
The author has a partially clear view of reality, as shown here:
“The right perceives, not without justification, the two generations from Progressivism through the Great Society — which resulted in greater, if insufficient, regulation of business and the framework, if not the substance of a welfare state — as an historical aberration from the general trend of American history. Activists in the Tea Party yearn for a return to an era before income tax, government regulation, or (bizarrely) the direct election of Senators.”
…But is blinded by Marxist assumptions, as shown here:
“Market relations have come to dominate in previously relatively insulated social spaces, including education — which has been reduced to a form of vocational training. While public schools have traditionally prepared our youth for their roles in the capitalist economy — in what has been termed the Fordist or factory model — they functioned at some remove from capitalist logic. Now schools of education are dismissed as founts of (John) Dewey-ite socialism and as relics in the new ‘knowledge-based society’. Teachers are no longer honored as surrogate parents and enablers of economic and social mobility, or even dismissed as amiable non-competitors in the market. Test scores have become profit surrogates as the measure of success; teachers unions are routinely demonized (it being the most unionized occupation); and teachers are subject to Taylorist modes of evaluation, where their work is increasingly surveilled and their time regimented. FOX News pulls no punches in demeaning teachers. However, it is not just right wing shock attacks; a bipartisan consensus has encouraged Democrats to go after teachers unions, one of their most loyal electoral bases. So-called ‘reformers’ in the Democratic Party have sometimes led the attack.”
Emphases added. Apparently progressives consider it crazy to pay attention to whether the kids are getting educated. I guess anything resembling an outcome is part of “capitalist logic.” I find it amazing that the assumption is that teachers unions are being demonized for no reason (whereas the reality of course is that they are being criticized for the dual damage they do, political corruption and ignoring the interests of kids).
This is chilling:
“In truth it is no easy task to rally a country around its decline. Yet, as reality sets in, that is exactly what is needed: a vision of our future not steeped in boosterism or exceptionalism but one which can energetically engage new realities such as economic stagnation or impending environmental crisis, not solvable through the individualist or free market kit bag, or by American unilateralism; and not to be wished away. In fact, the goal of left activism is to actually accelerate this fall from a place of domination to one that is more humane, while cushioning the inevitable blow to our society and others by (re)building strong communities and values of solidarity and connecting our efforts with that of others throughout the world. The Arab Spring is part of our renewal, as well.”
Emphases added. So they think they can “cushion the blow” through sheer solidarity, eh? Pathetic. The reference to the “Arab Spring” is not explained for followed up on. I guess the hard left is unaware that the so-called Arab Spring is taking us in the direction of Nuclear Winter.
The essay rambles on:
“As I have noted, there are other opposing, trends in American history and culture, but these have often fought an uphill battle against crude American individualism.”
This is followed by a paragraph about the inexplicable inability of the left’s rag-tag notions to take the country by storm. Finally we come to the recommendations, and they begin with this — emphasis in original:
“We must help people understand and critique the structure of economic opportunity; to break away from understanding economic mobility as purely a triumph of individual will or economic problems as resulting from individual shortcomings.” This is followed by a very long section of purported facts about “constraints on individual action.”
These are long-winded versions of all the baloney you have already heard from these people; society is to blame, the game is rigged, capitalism is the problem, The Man is trying to keep you down… But eventually he does get to the section on “good individualism”, saying:
“Of course, individual experience and choice matter. In our summoning up of the structural and systematic, we cannot lose sight of the reality that these larger entities are mediated by the individual. There is individual accountability. A goal of political organizing is to convince people that each of them has choice and power.”
Hmm. How to reconcile these things? They admit this much, sheepishly (but with painfully amusing examples–this could only be written by someone who grew up in a free country and doesn’t understand how lucky he is to have done so):
“It must further be admitted that the modern notion of the individual does represent a triumph of freedom. People are now freer to choose their life partners or to leave them. The rights of free speech, association, and assembly enshrined in the Bill of Rights need to be protected and expanded, not curtailed. In fact, these individual rights open up space for forms of group solidarity. It is indicative that the free market view of individual rights is skewed. It opposes reproductive freedom (see Ron Paul34) and wants to control and discipline people’s bodies. Nor is it seriously concerned with government surveillance and intrusive police power.This is because its individualism is rooted in white and male supremacy. Women are not viewed as fully formed individuals and paranoia of the ‘other’ justifies the violations of basic freedoms. So the job for critics of extreme individualism is not to downplay the achievement of individual rights, but to broaden their application. It has become routine for the right to identify progressives with societies who have repressed these hard-won individual rights and we should be capable of a convincing response.”
Emphases added. This person is not stupid, but he is willfully blind. The idea that American individualism is “rooted in white and male supremacy” is really nutty. Where does it come from? It seems like maybe this is a good place to focus the battle of ideas. I hear this all the time, “the Constitution was written by rich white slave-owners” as if that invalidates it. What would it take to demolish this destructive meme? As to the idea that there is something nefarious and incorrect about identifying so-called progressives with societies that have repressed individual rights, and that a convincing response could be made… words fail.
Then comes a section on stamping out rugged individualism by promoting community. Then a section on the future, which includes a lot of painfully naive discussion of foreign policy such as:
“New concepts of security are called for, as well as new standards of international behavior. Wikileaks has opened a window on the dirty workings of US international policy — demonstrating the necessity of a more open policy in sympathy with the struggles of people around the world rather than a fruitless attempt at domination.”
Again, this sort of thing can only be written by someone who has no idea how lucky he is to have been born in a country that has, until recently I guess, had a very appropriate concept of security that protects our lives. And here is the paper’s sad semblance of a summary:
“Democracy is premised on the notion that people should have control over how they are ruled. The market as the arbiter of human worth, as such, is anti-democratic at its core. The collateral damage of what establishment economists call market externalities (like pollution or CO2 emissions or offshoring of jobs), betrays its callousness towards society as a whole, its untrustworthiness. A purely market society is a cold, manipulative place without human warmth or nurturing culture. There are greater romances than that of commodity worship. The economy exists for human purposes, for us; we do not exist to be handmaidens of a rigged and often mean-spirited system. As an alternative, we can connect power to solidarity — rather than hopelessly pleading and lobbying the powers that be — recalling the warning of revolutionary Benjamin Franklin: “”We must hang together…else, we shall most assuredly hang separately.” Challenging power is of necessity a group project. Individuals as individuals have little choice, but to accommodate power. Individuals cannot effectively challenge a system; they can only hope to rise in it. Even as fundamental change seems improbable, the task dauntingly formidable; the current self-destructive, dysfunctional, and mean-spirited system is signaling its own impossibility. It is our turn to once more re-ignite ‘the light of freedom’.”
Control over “how we are ruled.” What a dismal vision. The idea of the market as a ruler or arbiter is of course deluded. “A purely market society” is of course an extreme strawman. The market is the market and society is society, they are two different concepts and neither one subsumes existence in the way assumed by progressive loons whose thinking is polluted by Marxist assumptions. “The economy exists for us…. we do not exist to be handmaidens of a … system” shows just how uninformed this person is about the economy–leftists think the economy is an external beast of some kind, not realizing that the economy is another term for the market and those are just terms for *the things we do and charge money for* And that of course is the other concept that needs to be taught to our poor misguided compatriots: what the heck the economy actually is. It goes without saying that the idea that these people are fighting for “freedom” is beyond offensive.
In Sarah’s analysis — and in the text of a kind of recent New Leftist manifesto itself, you can see very clearly all the Alinsky influence — as well as the revisionism and deconstructing of terms that is the stock and trade of leftist narrative peddling.
Sarah notes that the allusion to the Arab Spring and its force as a motivator for the New Left isn’t explained, but I think the connection is fairly simple: when your worldview is predicated on the Rousseavean notion of noble savages and the inherent goodness of the poor or “exploited,” you view revolutionary comeuppance as an end in itself, an instance of form over function — and then are constantly disappointed when the Utopian outcome supposedly presaged by the freeing of the oppressed devolves over time into a new tyranny with a new set of oppressors and oppressed. And that’s because leftism itself as a political model — by way of its ideological assumptions and its enforced collectivism, whereby diminution of the individual into part of some group or class as a way to secure conformity requires a police state mentality — leads inexorably and inevitably toward authoritarianism, totalitarianism, and the reduction of individual humans to masses to be managed by the wise ruling elite. That is, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy of enslavement and economic misery that continues to believe itself, haughtily, and without a clear understanding of the human psyche, a force for moral good and collective bliss.
And each time one of their experiments in perfecting man through the central management of earthly gods — the government and its smothering administrative appendages — fails spectacularly and with a demonstrable history of human suffering, some new attempt, which ignores history, ignores the fundamental trajectory of the kernel assumptions of the philosophy that must always drive collectivism into authoritarianism, totalitarianism, or dictatorship, is proffered by those who, this time, will get it right, their being the smartest of all the wizards of political and social smarts that came before them.
Hubris. And a will to power. All nicely framed for them and by them as the compassionate and moral pursuit of “social justice.”
Which brings me to the next bridge, this time offered by Terry H, who, in introducing an important city journal article from Peter Cove, writes:
Those who cannot remember history are condemned to repeat it. It therefore comes as no surprise that those who willfully ignore history set the stage for an encore. If nothing else the attached article illustrates the degree to which Gramsci’s legions have taken over key societal institutions and use the power of these institutions to rewrite history.
50 years later the schools, media, government, etc go to heroic lengths to gloss over the damage caused by addicting people to other people’s money, and instead dedicate themselves to expanding the addiction as a means to further political agendas that destroy the nation’s economic health. You would think the fiscal cliff drama would bring this into perspective. Instead it serves to illustrate the power of Gramsci’s megaphone to drown out facts and replace them with narrative.
Precisely right. Far from being “fundamentally unserious,” addressing the left’s control not only of the means of disseminating their message, but how that message is packaged and made to work — that is, what linguistic and hermeneutic assumptions they’ve institutionalized to allow their messages to take hold and resonate, and how that resonance is produced and reinforced — is paramount to understanding how to defeat them.
Not only that, but a re-asserting of one of language’s fundamental truisms — interpretation is only that when the object is to understand the signification of author / utterer, which is frozen at the point of signification — is the very remedy for beating off the Gramscian stranglehold on all the things that give leftism its political power: identity politics, political correctness, “authenticity” in speech, meaning (and even “truth”) as a function of an interpretive community’s consensus, of manufactured consent.
It simply must be done. And in order for it to be done, those on the right who cling to the “textualism” that empowers them to use the linguistic tactics of the left to their advantage, must finally reject that incoherent linguistic notion, tied to the idea of “democratizing” a text (a flowery and dishonest description for robbing the individual of his meaning and granting it to the collective, in precise accordance with their economic views, and as a way to reinforce them on the epistemological level).
Intentionalism just is. And it is the key to enacting a massive cultural paradigm shift that will reconnect us to Enlightenment notions of truth and rationality — and lay waste to anti-foundationalism, whose perverse brilliance rests with its absolute claim that there is nothing absolute, freeing its proponents up to argue, as Stanley Fish did, that there is no hypocrisy, there are only the desired results and the ways to attain them.
— Which, if you’ve kept up thus far you’ll note takes us right back to Alinsky, and right back to “the ends justify the means.” And that is a seductive and liberating philosophy, particularly when its coupled with the self-granted belief that all you do is good and right, making the means you use a necessary evil in the culmination of proper and moral and good end: a Utopian collectivism in which the masses are contented and managed effectively and efficiently by their betters in a materialist world ironically built around the idea that materialism itself, as expressed by capitalism and consumerism, is evil.
What is so frightening — but not terribly unexpected — is the growing confidence the New Left has in the success of its takeover of the country. The “post-partisan,” “post-racial” presidency of Barack Obama has been, predictably, the most partisan presidency of our lifetime, with racial division and class division constantly stoked by the very same people who, long ago, cut their radical teeth on what they’ve now learned to package in the parlance of free-market capitalism and American ideals. Phrases like “economic patriotism” and “fair share” and “tolerance” resonate precisely because they pay superficial homage to longtime American sensibilities, even as they are actively working to deconstruct and re-imagine the traditional referents to which they attach themselves: fairness is redefined not as a stable rule of law and an equality of opportunity guaranteed by natural rights, but rather as stealing the fruits of one individual’s labor to transfer it to another individual who hasn’t put in the labor himself; tolerance is no longer defined by our willingness to accept ideas and opinions we may personally find repulsive, but is rather now a form of speech control, whereby any offense given is deemed “intolerant” and worthy of public shame and silencing.
And to that end, we see increasingly bold — and repulsive — attempts at turning Black or Jewish conservatives into “race-traitors” of a sort, while constitutionalists in generally are labeled as extreme and potentially mentally unstable.
Because to the left the personal is the political, the politics of leftists given a platform to reach the public — be they actors or media figures or movie critics or Hollywood producers or newspaper editors — is never far from the surface of anything they do, and in recent years, they are expressed oftentimes with a candor that is jarring.
Take, for instance, this anti-gun screed by a Virginia editorial staff, or this review of Django Unchained from a Boston Globe movie critic, the relevant bits of which are noted by Weasel Zippers and Jonah Goldberg (h/t geoff B):
In “Django Unchained,” Jamie Foxx plays Django, a black slave purchased for about a hundred dollars and freed by a German dentist and bounty hunter named Schultz (Christoph Waltz). A straightforward treatment might have involved having the slave run away north. But the movie Quentin Tarantino has written and directed is corkscrewed, inside-out, upside-down, simultaneously clear-eyed and completely out of its mind.Django is married. He and his wife (Kerry Washington) were savagely lacerated and separately sold. He’s not free until she is. So he works as the bounty hunter’s sidekick, with the bounty hunter agreeing to help him find the wife and rescue her from a Mississippi plantation. . . .
Samuel L. Jackson plays crusty, waxen Stephen as a vision of depraved loyalty and bombastic jive that cuts right past the obvious association with Uncle Tom. The movie is too modern for what Jackson is doing to be limited to 1853. He’s conjuring the house Negro, yes, but playing him as though he were Clarence Thomas or Alan Keyes or Herman Cain or Michael Steele, men whom some black people find embarrassing.
For years, Jackson has been enabling Tarantino to fancy himself this honorary negro. Jackson can deliver the n-word, and other profanities, with ketchup, mustard, and relish. It’s the same here. That word might be fired off more than any bullet. But Jackson is going for something that’s different from the sleazebag he played in Tarantino’s “Jackie Brown.” The white vileness in “Django Unchained” is one thing — it’s stock, even DiCaprio’s psychological version of it — but Jackson’s is what sticks with you. We’ve never seen as life-size a black monster as this, not even in D.W. Griffith. Jackson turns the volume way up on his entire persona to broadcast the nightmare of black self-loathing. It’s a terrifying, fearless, and easily misconstrued performance.
Here, “black self-loathing,” as determined by a presumably more “authentic” black, the critic Wesley Morris, it tethered specifically not only to the trope of Uncle Tom or House Negroes, but to those who are singled out, frozen, and demonized as the real-life objective correlatives to such common literary figures: Clarence Thomas, Alan Keyes, Herman Cain, Michael Steele — all, surprise!, either conservatives or Republicans.
By de-authenticating conservative Blacks, Morris, like many of his white liberal intellectual role models, is reducing authentic blackness to a political position — and specifically, adherence to a political party that historically has always tried to keep blacks on the plantation, both literally and figuratively. That is, he is a useful idiot — and one who appears confident and proud in such idiocy.
Which suggests to me that blackness and its definition for Morris is but a tool to separate out and shame those who don’t follow the leftist collectivist agenda — a punishment, an Alinsky move, and a disgusting display of cynical racial-politicking that has less to do with race than it does to do with power and those who desire it and feel they deserve it.
And that brings us full circle.
I find it impossible myself to disconnect the evil of the procedure from the supposed political legitimacy of the ideology. The Left wants to enslave you. To control you. To manage you. To dictate what you are allowed to have, what you “need” and what you don’t, how much of your labor belongs first to them, and so on.
To aid in bringing the United States in line with past attempts at leftist Utopianism, the New Left is using the Cloward-Piven playbook to try to crash the system, create the global crisis that will remove the US as a hyperpower and allow them to step in and reorganize the society around their notion of “fairness.” Which is precisely this: they know what’s best and they will determine how the rest of us live.
It’s about power. And it’s a story as old as man.
Sorry for the length of this piece. I’m off for the rest of the day, but there’s plenty here to fuel discussion. If you find the observations herein valuable, please share the essay on social media, Twitter, etc. Not to stoke my ego, but rather to lend a kind of unified perspective to anyone who may be open to it.
Thanks, and please, discuss.