The Watering Hole; Thursday June 25 2015; Saul Alinsky

Recently — very recently — I happened across yet one more wingnut mean-spirited reference to Saul Alinsky (I forgot to mark the place, which I have since also forgotten — one of the “benefits” of aging). In any case, the remark was (predictably) both vitriolic and deleterious, with all dirt spouted in the direction/context of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and today’s “Democrat” Party.

Saul Alinsky. I remembered the name, but the reason for the recollection was foggy at best. So I dug a bit, hoping to find a memory refurbishment along with explanation of  maybe some of the current vitriol. Conclusion: Google is cool. With a few quick mouse clicks, I found myself reminded of days long past, of days back in the ’60s when I was but an innocent college kid. Back then, Saul Alinsky (1909-1972) was a community organizer in Chicago (sound familiar?), one who had spent much of the 1950’s organizing various Afro-American community efforts on civil rights issues. In the 1960’s he set up organizer institutes to train others, and his reputation began to spread.

In 1969, in fact, a Wellesley College student chose Alinsky’s work as a subject for her pre-grad thesis entitled “There is Only the Fight: An Analysis of the Alinsky Model.” The student, Hillary Rodham (yes, THAT Hillary), interviewed Alinsky a pair of times for the paper in which she included this, her summary of Alinsky’s philosophy:

“Much of what Alinsky professes does not sound ‘radical.’ . . . His are the words used in our schools and churches, by our parents and their friends, by our peers. The difference is Alinsky really believes in them and recognizes the necessity of changing the present structures of our lives in order to realize them.”

Not long thereafter — 1971 — Alinsky published his third book, Rules for Radicals, A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals. In it, he included the following list of thirteen “power tactics” which, in his context, were methods for organizers to use that were based on principles of direct action via nonviolent conflict and with purpose being to empower the oppressed, the poor, in the ‘modern’ American society. His thirteen rules read as follows:

1. “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.”

2. “Never go outside the expertise of your people. When an action or tactic is outside the experience of the people, the result is confusion, fear and retreat…. [and] the collapse of communication.

3. “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy. Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty. (This happens all the time. Watch how many organizations under attack are blind-sided by seemingly irrelevant arguments that they are then forced to address.)

4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules. You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.”

5. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counteract ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage.”

6. “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”

7. “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag. Man can sustain militant interest in any issue for only a limited time….”

8. “Keep the pressure on, with different tactics and actions, and utilize all events of the period for your purpose.”

9. “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.”

10. “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition. It is this unceasing pressure that results in the reactions from the opposition that are essential for the success of the campaign.”

11. “If you push a negative hard and deep enough, it will break through into its counterside… every positive has its negative.”

12. “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.”

13. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. In conflict tactics there are certain rules that [should be regarded] as universalities. One is that the opposition must be singled out as the target and ‘frozen.’

Diabolical and evil, right? Maybe also subversive? In the same book, Alinsky also noted that . . .

As an organizer I start from where the world is, as it is, not as I would like it to be. That we accept the world as it is does not in any sense weaken our desire to change it into what we believe it should be – it is necessary to begin where the world is if we are going to change it to what we think it should be. That means working in the system.

Alinsky. Diabolical. Anti-American. Obviously.

Shortly before his death in 1972, Alinsky, in an interview in Playboy Magazine, pretty well summarized his worldly views and goals in a mere 65 words:

I’ve never joined any organization — not even the ones I’ve organized myself. I prize my own independence too much. And philosophically, I could never accept any rigid dogma or ideology, whether it’s Christianity or Marxism . . . The greatest crimes in history have been perpetrated by such religious and political and racial fanatics, from the persecutions of the Inquisition on down to Communist purges and Nazi genocide.

In spite of Alinsky’s soft-spoken attitudes and philosophies, in recent years the words ‘Saul Alinsky’ have become the approximate equivalent, in GOP vitriol, of words such as Soros, Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, etc., ad infinitum. The various right wing noise machines have, in fact, spread the anti-Alinsky vitriol via each and every available medium, always in the process linking the “Marxist” Alinsky with prominent Democrats, in particular the former Chicago Community Organizer Barack Obama, and Hillary (Rodham) Clinton, 1969 Wellesley College graduate.

In January 2008 — during the run-up to that year’s November elections — Richard Poe published an article entitled Hillary, Obama And The Cult Of Alinsky in which he notes that “Alinsky viewed revolution as a slow, patient process. The trick was to penetrate existing institutions such as churches, unions and political parties.” Not sure I’ve ever seen a better example of the right wing’s penchant for subtle wordsmithing and meaning alteration than that one, but given that Poe’s co-author on their book which lambasted “George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Sixties Radicals” was David Horowitz, the surprise is minimal at best.

Meanwhile, the seeds of right wing baloney in re Saul Alinsky and his philosophies continue to sprout and grow. A good example is in this, the text of a January 2014 viral email that made the rounds and undoubtedly raised a bunch of wingnut eyebrows in the process. It is, in effect, a complete and total rewrite of Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” noted above, primarily designed to lambast President Obama by linking him to the falsely vilified Saul Alinsky.

Obama was influenced by the writings and philosophies Saul Alinsky, author of the book, “Rules for Radicals,” and later by Frank Marshall Davis, with similar philosophies.

Barak [sic] Obama followed the philosophies of these ‘role models’ throughout his days as a Community Organizer for ACORN, using tactics that appeared to some as ‘shaking down’ businesses in exchange for not branding them ‘hate groups.’

And apparently Obama is still following those radical rules today.

How to create a social state by Saul Alinsky:

There are 8 levels of control that must be obtained before you are able to create a social state.

The first is the most important.

1) Healthcare — Control healthcare and you control the people

2) Poverty — Increase the Poverty level as high as possible, poor people are easier to control and will not fight back if you are providing everything for them to live.

3) Debt — Increase the debt to an unsustainable level. That way you are able to increase taxes, and this will produce more poverty.

4) Gun Control — Remove the ability to defend themselves from the Government. That way you are able to create a police state.

5) Welfare — Take control of every aspect of their lives (Food, Housing, and Income).

6) Education — Take control of what people read and listen to — take control of what children learn in school.

7) Religion — Remove the belief in the God from the Government and schools.

8) Class Warfare — Divide the people into the wealthy and the poor. This will cause more discontent and it will be easier to take (Tax) the wealthy with the support of the poor.

Now, think …

Does any of this sound like what is happening to the United States?

Notice the “author” of the above attributed his diatribe to Saul Alinsky, author of the book, “Rules for Radicals,” but included nothing written by Saul Alinsky. The entire of the text (attributed to Alinsky by inference only) is bogus, clearly intended as anti-Obama and anti-Democrat-in-general verbal drivel that is typical of propaganda everywhere.

Herr Dr. Goebbels would surely be proud of today’s American right wing propaganda machine, given that it so closely obeys a great many of Goebbels’ precepts. As he himself summed it,

“Propaganda is not a matter for average minds, but rather a matter for practitioners. It is not supposed to be lovely or theoretically correct. I do not care if I give wonderful, aesthetically elegant speeches, or speak so that women cry. . . . We do not want to be a movement of a few straw brains, but rather a movement that can conquer the broad masses. Propaganda should be popular, not intellectually pleasing. It is not the task of propaganda to discover intellectual truths.”

There’s probably no better definition of the GOP’s current noise machine anywhere. Not that we should be surprised, of course. There does remain, however, a diametric difference between the views of Herr Goebbels (read also: America’s right wing, aka GOP) and Saul Alinsky. As Alinsky put it,

“My only fixed truth is a belief in people, a conviction that if people have the opportunity to act freely and the power to control their own destinies, they’ll generally reach the right decisions.”

Amen. Ideal America defined. Thank you, Saul Alinsky.


The Watering Hole, Monday, May 21st, 2012: DoD Noise Machine?

PROPAGANDA:prop·a·gan·da: [prop-uh-gan-duh]
1. publicity to promote something: information put out by an organization or government to promote a policy, idea, or cause
2. misleading publicity: deceptive or distorted information that is systematically spread

(Synonyms: slanted, distorted, one-sided, polemical, partisan, extremist, manipulative)

While perusing the recent threads at ThinkProgress, I came across this brief piece with the disturbing headline: “Congressmen seek to ‘legalize the use of propaganda on American audiences.”

The piece referenced an article from BuzzFeed, part of which states:

“In a little noticed press release earlier in the week — buried beneath the other high-profile issues in the $642 billion defense bill, including indefinite detention and a prohibition on gay marriage at military installations — Thornberry warned that in the Internet age, the current law “ties the hands of America’s diplomatic officials, military, and others by inhibiting our ability to effectively communicate in a credible way.”

[Note: While every article that I found on this issue used the phrase, “…in a little-noticed press release…”, not one article linked to the press release itself; so, here is the press release from co-sponsor Rep. Mac Thornberry’s (R-Texas) website.]

The text of the bill, H.R. 5736, (an amendment to the NDAA) co-sponsord by Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), can be found here. I confess to be somewhat confused about the conflicting wording in Section 208, “CLARIFICATION ON DOMESTIC DISTRIBUTION OF PROGRAM MATERIAL.”

`(a) In General- No funds authorized to be appropriated to the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors shall be used to influence public opinion in the United States. This section shall apply only to programs carried out pursuant to the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 (22 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.), the United States International Broadcasting Act of 1994 (22 U.S.C. 6201 et seq.), the Radio Broadcasting to Cuba Act (22 U.S.C. 1465 et seq.), and the Television Broadcasting to Cuba Act (22 U.S.C. 1465aa et seq.). This section shall not prohibit or delay the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors from providing information about its operations, policies, programs, or program material, or making such available, to the media, public, or Congress, in accordance with other applicable law.

`(b) Rule of Construction- Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors from engaging in any medium or form of communication, either directly or indirectly, because a United States domestic audience is or may be thereby exposed to program material, or based on a presumption of such exposure…”

According to a Daily Kos piece,

““It removes the protection for Americans,” says a Pentagon official who is concerned about the law. “It removes oversight from the people who want to put out this information. There are no checks and balances. No one knows if the information is accurate, partially accurate, or entirely false.”

Another article that I came across during my search mentions:

“The Pentagon spends some $4 billion a year to sway public opinion already, and it was recently revealed by USA Today the DoD spent $202 million on information operations in Iraq and Afghanistan last year.”

[Makes ya wonder where the rest of the $350+ billion is spent “to sway public opinion.”]

Mediaite, Dan Abrams’ website, has an article about this as well, along with a related article which states:

“United States Central Command (Centcom) is working with a California-based company, called Ntrepid, to produce new software that would help military service people create fake online accounts (known as “sock puppets”) with the intent of spreading pro-America propaganda (or, alternately, quash anti-American sentiment) across various online comment threads, such those found on blogs or message boards. The military has said that the accounts won’t publish comments for American audiences (as that would be illegal) or even in English, but, rather, in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and Pashto. The accounts would also steer clear of U.S.-based social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.”

[Oh, goody, they’re creating more sockpuppets and trolls?

It already bothers me that our country has been using propaganda overseas for, well, forever; it already bothers me that taxpayer money pays for such bullshit. But taxpayers having to pay to be lied to by our own military? I realize that this occurs already, with so many TV commercials encouraging young men and women to join the armed services, but this amendment appears to want to broaden those efforts to a scope closer to indoctrination than simple recruitment.

We were already lied to far too many times by the Bush administration in order to fulfill Dubya’s wet dream of invading Iraq. We already hear enough lies from politicians, corporations and other interest groups; whether through various news outlets, media commercial advertising, or opinionated pundits. It is hard enough now to sort through and fight all of the lies, both of commission and omission, that permeate our ‘news’ media. With so few real investigative journalists of integrity out there, how much of the truth will still be able to get through to citizens and voters?

This is our daily open thread — feel free to discuss this topic, or whatever’s on your mind!

Sunday Roast, December 4th: Spreading Ignorance Via Email

As I mentioned in my Thursday post, here is the second right-wing e-mail my friend sent me. As you can see, it’s short on facts and long on opinion, but this is what passes for an intellectual argument on the right.

An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that Obama’s socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.

The professor then said, “OK”, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama’s plan…All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will do better than anyone else…(substituting grades for dollars – something closer to home and more readily understood by all).

After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.

The second test average was a D! No one was happy. When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F.

As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.

To their great surprise, ALL FAILED, and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed…Could not be any simpler than that.

Pass this on…remember there IS a test coming up…the 2012 Elections!

These are possibly the 5 best sentences you’ll ever read and all applicable to this experiment:

1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.

2. What one person received without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!

5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, this is the beginning of the end of any nation.

Can you think of a reason for not sharing this? Neither could I.

Actually, I could think of a few reasons for not sharing this. For starters, it never happened. It’s the kind of thing Jon Kyl would use to defend his position on the Senate floor, after which he would claim it was “Not intended to be a factual statement.” If a teacher ever tried to grade a class in this way, he or she would be fired.

Second, the right likes to call anything short of unregulated Capitalism “Socialism.” If they were paying attention, they would know that some of President Obama’s policies have contributed to the income disparity in this country.

Lastly, I really wish right-wingers would try to use common sense and fact-check these kinds of e-mails before sending them off to everyone they know.

So, what else can you find wrong with this e-mail? Or you can talk about anything else you want.

This is our open thread — Discuss!

The Watering Hole, Thursday, December 1st: A Picture Worth Nothing

I’ve never been terribly tolerant of people who refuse to use their brains, but these days what little tolerance I had is now being stretched to the breaking point.  At work, of course, most of us deal with teh stupid at some point or other throughout their day, and, since my job entails speaking with lots of different types of customers all over the country, encounters are inevitable.  And driving, even short trips, has its own special brand of stupid laying in wait to ambush and aggravate the unsuspecting commuter.

However, the latest assault of teh stupid that really started the anger ball rolling with me came via two conservative propaganda emails that a good friend sent to me and several other people.  Now, my friend is conservative and we both know enough not to discuss politics together for more than five minutes, so I was a bit blindsided by the two emails.

The first one, titled “A Picture Worth a Trillion Dollars“, had this photo, with a “letter” starting with “My Dear Friends:  This is what goes on in Washington DC all the time.  House Minority Leader pictured standing, far right, speaks while colleagues play solitaire as the House convened to vote on a new budget.

Alleged House Meeting

Alleged House Meeting

Now, my first thought was “I don’t recognize anyone in this picture, and if that’s House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi with the microphone, then I’m the Queen of the Faeries.”  The email continued,

The guy sitting in the row in front of these two….he’s on Facebook, and the guy behind Hennessy [emphasis is mine] is checking out the baseball scores.  These are the folks that couldn’t get the budget out by Oct. 1, and are about to control your health care, cap and trade, and the list goes on and on… Should we buy them larger screen computers – or – a ticket home, permanently?  This is one of their 3-DAY WORK WEEKS that we all pay for (salary is about $179,000 per year).”

It went on to list the salaries of the President, the “House/Senate members”, the Speaker of the House, and “Majority and Minority leaders”, adding after each that the salaries listed were “FOR LIFE!” It finished with “I think we found where the [budget] cuts should be made! If you agree… Pass it on!”

The first thing that I did was to take a stab at finding this “Hennessy” guy, so I plugged in “Representative Hennessy” into the Googles, and came up with this from the Hartford Courant, about the State of Connecticut State Representative Jack Hennessy. So just to start off, the photo had absolutely nothing to do with “…what goes on in Washington DC…” It took all of about 15 minutes to fact-check the rest of the purported ‘facts’, including comparing the Congressional work-week.of the 2011 session vs the 2009 Congress; the salaries mentioned (some were incorrect) and debunking the “FOR LIFE!” crap, particularly in the case of the President of the United States (the “Former Presidents Act” states that ‘each former president is paid a lifetime, taxable pension that is equal to the annual rate of basic pay for the head of an executive federal department – $199,700 in 2011.’)
On the other hand, it took me several days to decide whether or not I should send a response to the whole email group to whom my friend sent it, or just to my friend, or to not respond at all.  I finally decided to respond just to my friend, so I annotated her email to me and provided links and quotes.  Her response?

“Thanks for fact checking….I personally don’t believe that anyone is Washington DC is doing a good job for the hard working tax payers of the good old US of A and I do believe that our tax dollars are being wasted on the people who have been elected. I know you are a stickler for “accuracy” in whatever is sent by email but the jest [sic] of the email, in my humble opinion as slanted as it may be, was that the Senate, Congress, President, Legislators, etc, etc, are playing games with our welfare & our money. So, if some of the people are mislabled, well I’m sorry but one has to look at the state of our country and wonder “WHY” and also wonder “what are they doing for us & our well being”?”

AAARRGGHH!  While she’s right in some respects, the whole point of my response, that she dismissed in its entirety, was the thought with which I ended my email to her:  “I think that the 2012 elections are important enough that people ought to get real information about current events and politics, and most of the time that real information is not found in chain emails.”

The second conservative propaganda email deserves its own post, which will follow in a few days.

This is our open thread – have at it!

17 States Reported McCain Robocalls

I received mine the other day and was horrified when this message was left :  “Hello. I’m calling for John McCain and the RNC,” – “need to know that Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist, Bill Ayers, whose organization bombed the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, a judge’s home, and killed Americans.”  These propaganda tactics should not be allowed.  What this causes is a myth to be perpetuated and some people believe these lies to be true.  Which leads to what we see in the video below by The Young Turks.

The McCain-Palin Campaign and the Republican National Committee has launched a massive campaign on Thursday, more on this from Huffington Post.

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Will Bush Sign Bill That Prohibits Pentagon Propaganda?

In the 2009 Defense Authorization Bill, it included language in response to criticism about the promotion of propaganda that has been going on with the media military analysts, the Pentagon and the defense contractors – according to Media Matters. The bill has been sitting on President Bush’s desk since Monday, any word from the media on this important matter “crickets” or is the media saying move along – nothing to see here folks.

The Congressional Members responsible for the inclusion of this provision are Rep. Paul Hodes (D-NH), Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND)-which was brought to the forefront by an article in The New York Times.

A subsequent analysis by Media Matters documented more than 4,500 appearances of military analysts in the media, many of whom worked for or had clients with companies that have an interest in obtaining Pentagon contracts.

The bill includes the following provisions:

1.) Prohibits taxpayer money from being used for “publicity or propaganda purposes” by the Department of Defense.

2.) Requires the Department of Defense Inspector General to investigate the media analysts program and report the findings back to Congress 90 days after the bill is enacted.

3.) Directs the Comptroller General of the GAO to issue a legal opinion to Congress on whether the media analysts program violated the law within 120 days of enactment.

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U.S. Spending $300M For Propaganda In Iraq

The DOD has decided to drop $300 million to produce news stories and public service advertisements in Iraq to support pro-America messages and themes. The pentagon has awarded three year deals to private U.S. contractors-last week to four companies- which means this could last long after our withdrawal from Iraq.

This will expand and consolidate what the U.S. military calls “information/psychological operations” in Iraq far into the future, even as violence appears to be abating and U.S. troops have begun drawing down.

The military’s role in the war of ideas has been fundamentally transformed in recent years, the result of both the Pentagon’s outsized resources and a counterinsurgency doctrine in which information control is considered key to success. Uniformed communications specialists and contractors are now an integral part of U.S. military operations from Eastern Europe to Afghanistan and beyond.

Iraq, where hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on such contracts, has been the proving ground for the transformation. “The tools they’re using, the means, the robustness of this activity has just skyrocketed since 2003. In the past, a lot of this stuff was just some guy’s dreams,” said a senior U.S. military official, one of several who discussed the sensitive defense program on the condition of anonymity.

See the Pentagon is trying to compete with the propaganda market dominated by al-Qaeda, as Secretary Gates puts it “We’re being out-communicated by a guy in a cave.” So basically, the government is admitting that anyone with a Web site is doing better than they are at spinning their doctrine. Psst..that might not be a good thing to tell the American people.

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