Shock Therapy: Episode 7—New Rules for Reactionaries, Part 1

Kai Chang and Sherman Forrest return with the first part of a special episode delving into Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals in the Age of Trump. Alinsky died decades ago, but his legacy controversial endures in a book that has attracted millions of readers on the Left and Right. Listen to the audio and read an abbreviated transcript, below.

Kai Chang: Welcome back to another exciting week of Shock Therapy. This is Kai Chang.

Sherman Forrest: I am Sherman Forrest.

Chang: What a week we’ve had in news from … I can’t even keep track of the number of dominoes that are dropping here, and there’s like the, what was it, several hundred sealed deals that were of Congressional sexual harassment cases in which people were paid off to stay silent. There’s Al Frankenstein. Weinstein was two weeks ago news.

Forrest: Congressman Conyers, don’t forget about him.

Chang: Conyers just … He’s not stepping down. Everyone of them-

Forrest: No, he’s gutting it out, although he initially denied, but then Cernovich was holding back the gotcha, and so he reversed himself on that pretty quick.

Chang: It’s amazing.

Forrest: We can be taught.

Chang: Yes. Yes. This is just the tip of a large, ugly iceberg that we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of the amount of just incredibly disgusting behavior.

Forrest: We’re getting close to 100 accusers on Harvey Weinstein now. Hollywood is imploding, quite frankly. Now, it’s spreading to politics. It doesn’t show any signs of letting up there. It’s going everywhere.

Chang: Crashing this plane with no survivors. No brother. They expect one of us in the wreckage. What an amazing time to be alive.

Forrest: It represents a tremendous opportunity for us, and I think we’re seeing I won’t call it piling on, but I will say that we’re seeing some movement toward exploiting this opportunity and really taking advantage of it.

Chang: Absolutely. This is the thing. I feel like the old-school GOP would feel that all of these things are beneath them. It is unseemly to talk about such things. It’s the losing with the principle and honor. I don’t know that you saw the essay today by Jonah Goldberg on the National Review about the… “It’s just so awful. We have to find ways to condemn all misbehavior on all sides.” The whole kind of grandstanding. Yeah.

Forrest: That’s a dangerous position for them to take because a lot of their buddies are up to their earlobes in it too. We already know about a bunch of them going all back to Denny Hastert and his whole pederasty thing.

Chang: That’s right.

Forrest: There’s a lot of them on both sides, and we need to pursue all of them and use this as an opportunity to take them down. It’s an opportunity that only comes along every once in a while. Like the National Review talking about their principles. Okay, we got to force them to stick to those principles. We need to take those principles and hang them around their necks, because they are up to their earlobes in corruption.

Chang: On the topic of principles, this is something we were talking about earlier in a private conversation about forcing your opponents to live up to their principle is, in fact, a very classic Alinskyite tactic, which we’re …

Forrest: That’s right.

Chang: … looking … It’s what, rule number four, if I remember correctly, right, of the Rules for Radicals.

Forrest: Yeah. That’s Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. That is rule number four, make the enemy live up to his own book of rules.

Chang: What a rule here. We’ve got the Left to loudly signal about being an advocate for women, being a “believe-every-accuser” and all of these other very incredibly strident…

Forrest: Fighting rape culture. I guess they would know all about rape culture, wouldn’t they?

Chang: They would. I think there’s a mutual friend, I think, mentioned that. He mentioned how this notion that it makes sense why feminists on the left are so hostile toward … If this is how their own men behave, they figure that the men on the right must be even worse, and it’s all classic projection. We have every single self-proclaimed male feminist, every one of them one after the other, from actors, comedians, politicians, each of them. The louder they signal about how much they love and respect women, how they’re a big ally, the bigger the box of creepy crap seems to be coming on out.

Forrest: Yeah, [inaudible 00:04:55] believe that they are surrounded by a culture of rape and misogyny, because on the Left apparently they are.

Chang: They probably actually are. It’s a brutal and it’s a … It’s somewhat amusing and also somewhat sad. I feel like almost … Go ahead.

Forrest: I think this is a critical opportunity though, for us as part of the Trump insurgency, making America great again, really pushing to restore and fix our political system. We need to address some of these really deep corruption issues, and be active fighting on that. This culture of sexual abuse is really at the core of it on many levels. It’s interesting, having that whole business about make them live up to their own principles as an Alinskyite tactic. I think there’s a huge unexplored territory there that maybe you and I, because I know we’ve talked about this, and we have a lot of ideas about it. Maybe we should share some of those ideas for the rest of our listeners.

Chang: I think that would be an excellent idea.

Forrest: Get into talking about some Machiavellian political theory as we have in the past, and then learning from our opponents, learning from Saul Alinsky who was, although he was a radical Marxist.

Chang: Communist.

Forrest: Yeah. Left-wing activist who was staunchly opposed to everything that would be on the right political program, he was hands down one of the most effective political agitators in American politics in the 20th century. There’s absolutely no question.

Chang: No doubt about that. Think about the world that was around in 1965 and how much of what he wanted to get accomplish actually did get accomplished. Putting aside the moral judgment, clearly the tactics work, and to whatever extent we can salvage and steal the playbook from the enemy it is absolutely appropriate to grab what we can and turn those guns against the beast …

Forrest: Learn from your …

Chang: … that they have created. Absolutely. You’ve read a little bit more about this. I was surprised. I actually got a copy of Rules for Radicals myself, and I was expecting a masterful tome of very clever anecdotes and masterful theories. He’s actually an awful writer. As effective as he is, and again I’m not disagreeing with his effectiveness, holy crap, he’s a terrible, terrible writer. The meandering anecdotes, the just rambling. It’s like this is the Bible that took down the capitalist west. I’m impressed, but also somewhat horrified.

Forrest: I’ve read two of his books. His earlier one Reveille for Radicals, which was published, I believe, in 1946, and then Rules for Radicals which came out a number of years later, they’re both kind of along the same theme. They’re both written in essentially the same style, which is extremely wandering, conversational, anecdotal. I know there’s a tendency on the right to talk about Alinsky as this master string puller kind of …

Chang: That was my impression, for sure, [crosstalk 00:08:44] and that was shattered reading his book.

Forrest: Demonic mastermind sort of a thing. He really wasn’t like that. If you read his books, the very first thing you realize is that as effective as he was as a political activist, his understanding of politics and power and activism was really much more intuitive and instinctual than it was intellectual. He would get himself into these situations and he really was a consummate opportunist. In some ways he was almost a left-wing version of Donald Trump. It’s kind of odd to say that, but he…

Chang: Minus the charisma, you think? Was he charismatic? I don’t know very much about him as a person. Go ahead.

Forrest: One of his big principles was that leadership for organizing community and political activism needed to combine imagination with accident. You would use your imagination to come up with ideas of how to put your opponents on the wrong foot, how to exploit their weaknesses, how to get what you want, how to move from a position of no power to having some power, having no money to having some money, having no supporters to having some supporters, and that’s where the imagination comes into it, and then to combine that with accident, opportunity, and just taking advantage of things as they come along. He was an extreme opportunist on every level, and in some ways, that’s very similar to Donald Trump, and I mean in a very, very different way.

Chang: That element, I see.

Forrest: It’s a very anti-fragile approach to political activism. Donald Trump is the anti-fragile businessman. He’s the anti-fragile politician. Well, I’ll just say Saul Alinsky was an anti-fragile activist. One of the challenges that he faced his whole career was that because so much of what he did was so dependent on his instinctual understanding of what he was doing, when he would leave a movement, it would lose a lot of its energy because it was dependent on him. His biggest struggle during his whole career was to try and create local movements that would …

Chang: Survive him.

Forrest: … continue to thrive once he stepped away from them. It was something that he was challenged by his whole career. His whole thing was about power. It is very interesting because as a left-wing activist, usually the left-wing, the radical revolutionaries, they tend to be very doctrinaire and very ideological. They tend to be purists. They tend to be universalists, and all of these things. On an ideological level, that was certainly true of Alinsky. He was a universalist and an equalist on every possible level. He was a radical socialist, but at the same time, he had a tremendous appreciation for and an intuitive understanding of practical politics. He was almost an instinctual Machiavellian, which is a really interesting combination for a left-wing political activist. It’s not something you usually see.

I think it was a big part of why Alinsky was so successful. I actually think it’s a big part of why we can learn a lot from Alinsky’s method over here on the Right, where Machiavellian methods are perhaps a little more naturally congruent with our goals and our approach.

Chang: Especially since we’re still pretty far out of power. Machiavellian tactics … Guerrilla warfare, you have to employ it if you are the one out of power, and in spite of having the presidency we’re still very, very far out of the power in terms of both control of the deep state and banking and all the other major institutions that they’re in their death throes, but they still command tremendous influence, and their combined financial might completely dwarves whatever financial power Trump may wield both personally and through his allies.

Forrest: That’s absolutely true. We do have a beachhead now in the White House, which cannot be understated. That’s extremely important. It’s also extremely unexpected. It’s a tremendous opportunity that in our previous episodes we’ve talked about this before. This is critical that we do not waste this opportunity.

Listen to the rest.



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