Tuesday, August 11, 2009
News Talk Online August 11, 2009: How Social Discourse Keeps Bottoming Out
Alinsky's Rule 12 lives on
We all hope that the economy has bottomed out and will rebound. I'm hoping that the debate over the political and social issues of the day has as well - but I fear that it has not and will not.
I recently received a missive from one of my conservative friends breathlessly "revealing" that a letter written by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stated that anyone opposed to President Obama's proposed policies is "un-American" I, of course, read the letter - concerned that the Democratic Party leadership might make such an outrageous claim.
When I read it, I saw that that's not exactly what was said. They were saying that the organized disrupting of town hall meetings on the president's proposed health reform bill is un-American because it goes against the grain of our tradition to drown out one's political opponent.
Perhaps the term un-American was a bit strong. But Pelosi and Reid make good points. We saw it during the presidential campaign and I had hoped that it would end after the election. The vilification of the individual rather than an attack on ideas. Sadly, it carries on today.
Now, every time I raise this issue, my Republican friends correctly point out that the Democrats don't exactly have clean hands when it comes to this issue. Of course, they are right. One only has to look at the attacks on Sarah Palin - and to a lesser degree on John McCain during the presidential campaign to see that this is true. But two wrongs, as my mother taught my sister and me, don't make a right. And since I am not only non-partisan but anti-partisan it wouldn't be fair to discount my observations based on the grounds of political ideology.
The tactic of attacking the person rather than the issue actually comes from the father of community organizing, Saul Alinsky, a person who President Obama studied and perhaps followed when he was a community organizer in Chicago.
Alinksy's 12th rule for radicals:
Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. Cut
off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people
and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but
very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)
Unfortunately, we see this tactic best deployed on Paltalk. When you don't have a good argument to counter one made by someone with whom you disagree, you can always call him "stupid." During yesterday's News Talk Online a whole lot of people who disagreed with one chatter were dismissed as "stupid" in text.
You can't hardly blame the person for disrupting the discourse in such a rude manner. He was only following the lead of partisan proponents in Washington. But, again, as Mother would say: two wrongs ...