In almost every significant difference of opinion or major debate over my past 40 years, I’ve encountered numerous ways in which opposing sides discuss their point of view. It’s perfectly normal for people to see and understand things differently. The world would be filled with boring people, with a lot fewer inventive / creative ideas if we thought alike. Openly discussing ways in which we differ, may lead to a better understanding and perhaps reconciliation. Then again, people often become intractable, emotional, and unwilling to understand why they might be wrong.
To begin, here are some ways that debate fails:
Common Logical Fallacies (a.k.a. “Errors in Thinking”)
Cause/Effect: The assumption that because one event occurs before another, that the first event causes the second (Does the sun rise because the rooster crows?).
False Authority: Selecting experts who don’t have creditable knowledge or credentialed expertise (e.g., a movie star is not an expert on selecting the best toothpaste brand no matter how white his/her teeth are).
Part-to-Whole: Proving part of an argument wrong does not necessarily discredit the entire list; nor does proving part of an argument validate the entire argument.
When adopting a position or idea, we must be brutally honest with our “facts” and assumptions. Basing an opinion on false claims, flawed or incomplete information, sets us up to ridicule or shows our personal ignorance on a topic which we claim to understand.
The latest arguments over whether or not a Confederate Flag should be flown at public buildings has gotten a lot of people involved with the debate. Unsurprisingly, whenever something strongly held as a symbol is discussed, it creates arguments that push the boundaries of rationality.
Here are just a few extreme ideas in circulation.
- The Confederate Battle Flag should not be sold in stores or online auctions. WalMart, eBay, Sears, Amazon, and K-Mart, to name a few.
- The Confederate Battle Flag should not fly anywhere. Some politicians are trying that one out. Like most things they say, this will change as they receive feedback from their pollsters and constituencies.
- The U.S. flag should also not be flown because the nation is racist, etc.
- The argument that everyone is offended by something or someone, so let’s quit arguing over this because nothing should be considered offensive.
I’ve seen or heard the following general outline used by many conservative talk show hosts. President Barack Obama represents everything wrong about government leadership. For all intents and purposes, he’s a covert operative for some unnamed group of like minded radicals intent on destroying the United States. President Obama is described by some as a left wing radical who was weaned on the writings of Saul Alinsky and had a boyhood relationship with communist poet Frank Marshall Davis in Hawaii. Starting out as a community organizer hardly seems the curriculum vitae for national leadership, yet he was propelled to the top by people with like minded interests, who saw him as the standard bearer to advance those interests. To that end, like all politicians who are in elected office, he has been a success.
What has been in wide circulation over the air waves and Internet, is a mis-quoted variant from Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. These misquotes and misunderstanding of Saul Alinsky show just how far people can take things out of context and use them for debate or lecture. If we recall the game telephone from our childhood, this is an adult update of that game.
Here is the false narrative in circulation which is an amalgam of several altered and unrelated sources (hybrid of ideas from Communism, Ayn Rand and Saul Alinsky).
Obama was influenced by the writings and philosophies of Saul Alinsky, author of the book, “Rules for Radicals,” and later by Frank Marshall Davis, with similar philosophies.
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?
The words in the above quote are not what he said.
These are the actual words of Saul Alinsky as a list of “power tactics”, which Alinsky outlined in his 1971 book, Rules for Radicals:
Always remember the first rule of power tactics: Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.
The second rule is: Never go outside the experience of your people. When an action is outside the experience of the people, the result is confusion, fear, and retreat.
The third rule is: Wherever possible go outside the experience of the enemy. Here you want to cause confusion, fear, and retreat.
The fourth rule is: Make the enemy live up to their 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.
The fourth rule carries within it the fifth rule: Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage.
The sixth rule is: A good tactic is one that your people enjoy. If your people are not having a ball doing it, there is something very wrong with the tactic.
The seventh rule: A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag. Man can sustain militant interest in any issue for only a limited time, after which it becomes a ritualistic commitment, like going to church on Sunday mornings.
The eighth rule: Keep the pressure on, with different tactics and actions, and utilize all events of the period for your purpose.
The ninth rule: The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.
The tenth rule: 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.
The eleventh rule is: If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counterside; this is based on the principle that every positive has its negative.
The twelfth rule: The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative. You cannot risk being trapped by the enemy in his sudden agreement with your demand and saying “You’re right and we don’t know what to do about this issue. Now you tell us.”
The thirteenth rule: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.
When you read what he wrote, you can easily identify the differences to what is in circulation. It doesn’t have anything to do with health care, national debt, schools or the flying of flags. Of course those who argue this last point suggest, the reason the Confederate flag is in question, is to polarize people in this country to divide and conquer.
The Internet is a force in democratizing ideas via mass communication, before Barack Obama became President. I think the Internet is a quicker way of showing the differences people have had all along. People around the world can express their ideas, challenging previously held personal convictions. This is disruptive in nature but part of evolution in thought.
Furthermore, in order to understand these writings in context, rather than use them to mis-characterize anyone that might incorporate some or all of them (Tea Party, Black Panthers, CIA, OSS, etc.), we need to know a little about Mr. Alinsky and why he thought the way he did.
Saul Alinsky grew up in a period of history which endured two World Wars, as well as the single most significant economic down turn in modern recorded history. He wanted to help people be paid more for honest labor. During his era, the 16th Amendment on personal income tax was passed. The interpretations of the 14th Amendment for equal protection under the law were new as well. See Brown v. Board of Education 1954. The Social Security Act (1935) was passed in order to alleviate some of the worst conditions severely impoverished, working class, survivors felt in an era of burgeoning industrial giants, that rose in power due to the toil of those working for them.
Alinsky saw the inequities in American society. Despite it’s many opportunities and promises, there were a lot of people who were not part of that dream. He didn’t believe in the myth that anyone who couldn’t make it big was because they were just lazy or stupid or both. He saw the many injustices which non-European origination people received, and decided in his own way, to help those with less political and economic power have a voice and better opportunities in mainstream America.
To argue that everything which challenges status quo as another plan to subvert / destroy the U.S. is a false Cause/Effect assumption. Furthermore, misquoting public figures and then using those fabricated words to discredit others, is complete manipulation and disinformation, which oddly enough sounds more like what they claim were Saul Alinsky’s rules.