Kai Chang and Sherman Forrest return with the second 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: Well, welcome back to another episode of Shock Therapy. I am Kai Chang.
Sherman Forrest: And I am Sherman Forrest.
Chang: And we are back on chapter two of Alinsky Rules for Reactionaries, stealing Alinskyite tactics for modern reactionary movement. I know we wanna dive right into it. We’ve had a little bit of a pause during these holiday seasons, but we’re right back into the action. And what a crazy week of news again, these last few weeks.
Forrest: Things just keep happening, right?
Chang: The hits are rolling in. And we’re not talking just internet phenomenon and people posting funny cartoons, we’re talking real world consequences. We’re talking about actual resignations of congress folks at this point.
Forrest: Right, congressmen and senators stepping down. We’ve got John Conyers, the most senior Democrat in the House, step down over a sex abuse sandal. And there’s the whole congressional slush fund thing that’s now coming out.
Chang: The payoff fund, that’s right.
Forrest: We’ve got a Republican congressman just yesterday stepping down. And then we’ve got Al Franken, of course. Senator Franken from Minnesota, actually he hasn’t resigned. He said he’s going to resign, which is a funny little weasel word, isn’t it?
Chang: Yeah, go ahead.
Forrest: He announced yesterday he’s going to resign over this whole thing. So they’re dropping like flies.
Chang: Yeah, I think the suspicion is that he’s waiting pending the results of the Roy Moore election and seeing if he loses, then he can say well, if it’s okay for him, it’s okay for me. That’s my guess as to why he’s kinda of creating this potential weasel word out, which he’s gonna end up leaving. Roy Moore’s winning, whether-
Forrest: He is. He’s up ten points or something now. There’s almost no chance he’s gonna lose at this juncture.
Forrest: That has gotta have the senate democrats and Mitch McConnell sweating bullets right now.
Chang: Oh, it’s a very, very good time to watch. We’re gonna go into it a little bit. Rule number four is, I think, we want to touch a little bit on this episode. For those unfamiliar, Saul Alinsky’s rule four for Rules for Radicals is, make the enemy live up to their own book of rules, their own book of virtues. And here-
Forrest: That’s right.
Chang: . . . nothing is . . .
Forrest: This is a … I’m sorry, you go ahead.
Chang: No, it’s nothing more sharper, because you see the left preening and patting themselves on the back and being so pro-women, the #MeToo campaign, the believe all women, accusers need to be listened and believed, not to be questioned, all of these things, all these chickens are coming home to roost in the most absolutely brutal and savage way possible. I think there’s a mutual acquaintance of ours that I think mentioned this, that I think it now makes sense why I think a lot of people on the left are so suspicious of men. If their own men are behaving in such a sleazy and horrible fashion, and we’re assuming that they have very little interaction with men on the right, they can only assume, oh, if people are on our side is this bad, then the men on the other side must be even worse. It’s classic projection, but just awful, awful behavior, right?
Forrest: Right. Well, they obviously have a lot of experience with really horrible behavior on the part [inaudible 00:03:58].
Chang: And brazen. What’s interesting to me is that not one of these men were like, “Hey, you know what? You got me. I’m sorry.” Everyone of them was defiant and belligerent, right up to the point they were presented evidence of their misdeeds, then they folded. There was not one. The guilty behavior of if I did something wrong, you accuse of me, “Hey, you know what? That’s me. I’m sorry. I did it.” To me, there’s at least some hope of repentance and redemption if you at least acknowledge your sins. But here, that’s not what’s going on. It’s just straight up, “I didn’t do it. Screw you. How dare you?” Until you’re presented with irrefutable proof. Then it’s all of a sudden, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I’m a flawed person. I’m trying to evolve. Let me keep my job and vote a few more.” Yeah. Brutal.
Forrest: Well, going back to Saul Alinsky and this rule, which touches on all this stuff. Make your enemy live up to his own book of rules. That’s an extremely effective tactic. Alinsky used it to great effect and the entire left adopted it as a . . .
Forrest: . . . standard operating procedure for dealing with the right. If you go back several decades even, you can see the left really consistently doing to the right. And you see it in their approach. It’s almost like in internet parlance what they call concern trolling. You . . .
Chang: Take the side of the enemy, yeah.
Forrest: Yeah, you confront your opponent while putting yourself on their side and stating their principles and everything, and say, “Hey, we’re all buddies. We all believe that people shouldn’t do this stuff.”
Chang: “And yet one of our guys is doing it. Isn’t is awful? Shouldn’t we do something about this?”
Forrest: Absolutely. It’s classic concern trolling. Then it’s combined with confrontational approach of, “You call yourself a Christian. How can you . . .”
Chang: Dot, dot, dot, yep.
Forrest: “. . . put up with this kind of behavior. Isn’t that a violation of your own principles?” Whenever you hear that kind of stuff, that is a specific tactic, right?
Chang: Outgrowth from the—
Forrest: The Left uses it both rhetorically and politically very extensively. They’ve been using it to rope-a-dope the right for a long, long time, just getting us to fight ourselves and wear ourselves out on pointless . . .
Chang: Purity spiraling, if you wanna call it that. I’ve seen it happen. It’s such a potent weapon, and the thing is it cuts both ways. But I think they’re unaccustomed to having that particular sword turned on them until very recently. So there’s all these howls of, “It’s only supposed to work on the other side.” Well. . .
Forrest: Another aspect of that, one thing for which Alinsky was criticized even by some of the old left when they looked at his methods, was when you use this tactic against your opponents, forcing them to live up to their own rules, it also implies that you are not living by those rules. You’re violating those rules while you’re demanding that they live up to them. There’s really an implicit hypocrisy to that. Is that a utilitarian approach to political action? Absolutely. Does it imply double standards? Yeah.
Forrest: But the fact is that the left has been using double standards like this for decades-
Chang: Half a century.
Forrest: … to get their way, and really the only way to effectively fight that on just a direct level is to use the same tactic against them. Then you get the same self-defeating attitude of, “Well, if we use their methods, we’re just stooping to their level and we’re no better than they are.” Now, that’s not how it works. If you are pursuing the good, if you are pursuing solid values, then attacking someone who is using unscrupulous tactics against you by using their own tactics against them, there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s just self-defense. If someone pulls a gun on you . . .
Chang: Ordinarily, yeah, exactly.
Forrest: . . . you wouldn’t say, “Hey, well, I don’t believe in guns.” You don’t bring a knife to a gun fight.
Chang: And here we’re definitely in a street fight for the soul of the future of the nation.
Forrest: This is an existential battle for the future of America. Does that sound like I’m being dramatic and blowing this whole struggle way out of proportion? I certainly hope not, because it is 100 percent true. This is an existential struggle for the soul of America. And there is no question about that.
When it comes back to making your enemy live up to his own book of rules, the left has been using that against the right for a long time, mostly because the right has been more explicit about what our rules are, and the right is more about being rule-oriented, right? It’s a strength of ours, but it’s also a weakness in that sense. The left would basically make themselves an exception to all of that. They would demand perfectly consistent behavior from the right on the basis of those rules, while at the same time exempting themselves from all of those rules.
Forrest: Which is a tremendously advantageous tactical position to be in. So it’s no surprise they’re doing it. But at the same time, the left has become the dominant power in American politics. They have been for decades. They still like to think of themselves as underdogs, but they control virtually everything. They are vastly powerful.
Chang: News, entertainment, and culture, along with—
Forrest: Entertainment, the university system, bureaucracy. It’s easier to list the things they don’t control than the things they do control. Well, as part of their ruling ideology, one of the disadvantages of having a set of political beliefs that is based almost entirely on the expediency of what works to gain power, and being willing to be overtly hypocritical in gaining that power when you’re taking actions, is that you build up this entire structure of belief around your movement and your ideology, which is just chock-a-block full of internal contradictions. When you base your entire movement on hypocrisies, it becomes nothing but hypocrisy. That’s where the left is now. There’s a tremendous opportunity there for us to turn Alinsky’s rule number four about making them live up to their own book of rules back on them.
Chang: It’s a hodgepodge coalition, yep.
Forrest: We’ve seen a lot of traction with that recently. I think we can do that without having to sacrifice our own values and becoming hypocrites the same way that they have been for so long, because we really come from a more principled approach to these things. So that gives us the advantage that we can look at their belief system, and we can identify the places where their hypocrisies are dominating their thinking.
Chang: And are most easily picked apart for exposure to the middle voting populace. ‘Cause the ultimate goal is winning elections, is placing the right people, representatives, voters to nudge things in the right direction.
Forrest: That’s absolutely right. I think to the level that we’re looking at the left analytically, we need to be looking for the places where their cognitive dissonance is strongest. Where are the hypocrisies the sharpest in their belief system at the most pivotal points? And those are their critical points of weakness, where even small actions you can push at those fulcrum and you can put them completely off balance. That’s exactly the kind of thing that Alinsky did to his opponents. It’s a tactical approach that we absolutely need to adopt. In some ways, we have been adopting it on a much more ad hoc basis, just kind of opportunistically. Of course, Alinsky was an opportunist, too, so he would be totally on board with that.
The sex abuse allegations, I think that’s a great example of that rule number four in action. Here we have the left has put itself out there as they are the champions of women, the dignity of women, women’s rights, empowering women, all these sorts of things, and yet what have all of these major power players over on the left been doing with their power which they have been given—
Chang: Using it to extract sexual concessions from vulnerable people in their employee or subordinate to them. Exactly the accusation they constantly level at these mysterious throngs of terrible right-wing men.
Forrest: Right. We’ve reached a point where things have shifted to where we can use that to our advantage. Now this was tried back with Bill Clinton, back in the early 90s. Bill Clinton, who we have very strong reason to believe, is an actual rapist.
Chang: Anita Broderick, she’s held onto that. Yeah, I believe her.
Sherman Forest: These allegations, they came out during the 1992 election. They had continued to be pursued. Now the left has used its power structure at the time to completely squash these allegations and stop them from getting any traction at all. Back at that point in time, in the early 90s, it was easier for them to do that because they still had total control of the centralized information management system through the media. They could shut down discussion of all of this stuff and silence people who were looking to put this out in the public eye-
Chang: The Drudge Report was just like a static website that has links on it. That was the only formal alternative, political alternative news, that was out there on the other side. But, yeah, go ahead.
Forrest: Absolutely. But now the internet allows for routing around centralized information control. Word gets out and around and can circumvent those controls, particularly if it’s coming from multiple different angles and becomes more of a network swarm attack, there’s no way that the centralized system can defend against that effectively. So we’re now seeing this come out, and it’s not so much about just being against a single target, but a swarm attacking the entire left power structure and going after them at every level.
Chang: One of the things I’ve noticed is now the comments sections and the Twitter reply sections of a lot of conventional news stories are just a nightmare for the left. They have one narrative that clearly they wanna push out, and then the comment section is just a complete wall of like, “Oh, really, that’s an interesting frame.” My favorite, most recently, has to be when, amidst the whole Kevin Spacey thing, I gotta say, whoever Spacey hired to be his crisis PR person, did an amazing job of cramming down, “I am coming out as a gay man.” That was a news story. That was the official news story broadcasted out on every single major news outlet. It was in the PR, it was a consistent news story. And every one of them, underneath those Twitter replies was, “Oh, is that what it is right now?” It was the leading story, and just three comments in, and you’re getting like these links to full … people who are unaware, they cannot be made unaware anymore.
So now I think a lot of them are shutting down their comment section out of fear for that very tactic because, at least control the bleeding just a little bit. But the cat’s out of the bag, I think, especially with freeform things like Twitter, where anyone can reply to major news outlets. They can’t just shutdown every single person with 20 followers who also are aware of the same things that the rest of us are.