President Obama is fond of using ridicule to frustrate critics. He recently mocked Republicans for predicting "Armageddon" if health care reform passed. After signing the bill, he cracked that he looked around to "see if there were any asteroids falling," only to discover a nice day with "birds chirping."
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Obama has also used the tactic to dismiss charges that he's pushing a "socialist" agenda, arguing that critics will next accuse him of "being a secret communist because I shared my toys in kindergarten."
But the former community organizer also knows that ridiculing the opposition is an effective tactic taught by the father of community organizing, Saul D. Alinsky a socialist agitator from Chicago whose influence on Obama is deeper than commonly known.
In fact, the tactic is ripped right from the pages of "Rules for Radicals" (Vintage Books, New York, 1971), a how-to manual Alinsky wrote for coat-and-tie revolutionaries.
"Ridicule is man's most potent weapon," reads Rule No. 5. "It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage."
It's just one of 13 rules Alinsky coached his acolytes to follow to "take power away from the Haves." The Haves, represented foremost by corporate America, are "the enemy." They must be identified, singled out and targeted for attack and the more personal the better, Alinsky advised, putting a special bull's-eye on banks.
His 13th rule "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it" is not lost on Obama, who has targeted "fat cat" bankers, "predatory" lenders, "greedy" insurers and industrial "polluters" as enemies of the people.
"Obama learned his lesson well," said David Alinsky, son of the late socialist. "I am proud to see that my father's model for organizing is being applied successfully beyond local community organizing."
Obama first learned Alinsky's rules in the 1980s, when Alinskyite radicals with the Chicago-based Alinsky group Gamaliel Foundation recruited, hired, trained and paid him as a community organizer in South Side Chicago.
They also helped him get into Harvard Law School to "learn power's currency in all its intricacy and detail," as Obama put it in his memoir. A Gamaliel board member even wrote a letter of recommendation for him.
Obama took a break from his Harvard studies to travel to Los Angeles for eight days of intense training at Alinsky's Industrial Areas Foundation, a station of the cross for acolytes. In turn, he trained other community organizers in Alinsky agitation tactics. In 1988, he even wrote a chapter for the book "After Alinsky: Community Organizing in Illinois," in which he lamented organizers' "lack of power" in implementing change.
Decades later, power would no longer be an issue, as Obama infiltrated the highest echelons of the political establishment, thus fulfilling Alinsky's vision of a new "vanguard" of coat-and-tie radicals sneaking behind enemy lines. He preached that changing the system "means working in the system" while not acting or looking radical. "Start them easy," he said in his book, "don't scare them off."
It worked like a charm for Obama. And during the presidential campaign, he hired one of his Gamaliel mentors, Mike Kruglik, to train young campaign workers in Alinsky tactics at "Camp Obama," a school set up at Obama headquarters in Chicago. The tactics helped Obama capture the youth vote like no other president before him.
After the election, his other Gamaliel mentor, Jerry Kellman (who actually hired him and whose identity Obama disguised in his memoir), helped the Obama administration establish Organizing for America, which mobilizes young supporters to agitate for Obama's legislative agenda using "Rules for Radicals" which Alinsky dedicated to "Lucifer, the very first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom."
In fact, the 1971 book, now selling well on Amazon, is required reading for students applying for the program.
"Rules" is more than a manual. It's a diary of Alinsky's worldview, a dark, anti-capitalist one made all the more disturbing knowing that his protege sits in the Oval Office, where he's systematically reorganizing our economy, one industry at a time.
A careful reading of Alinsky's 200-page book leaves you queasy. Even before you get to his rules, which start on Page 126, you realize he hates everything dear to Americans while respecting nothing sacred about America even its founding. He ridicules our most basic morality. He mocks our founders, finding the worst even in Jefferson, a classical liberal.
Alinsky, who died of a heart attack at 63, valued democracy merely as a "means" toward achieving "economic justice." He laughed at "middle-class moral hygiene." He even rebuked activists burdened by decency and troubled by the ethics of his tactics, sneering that they would rather go home with their "ethical hymen intact" than win a battle at any cost.
Alinsky was more than a socialist. He was a moral anarchist. Listen to these perverse proverbs:
"Ethical standards must be elastic."
"In war the end justifies almost any means."
"In a fight almost anything goes."
"It is a world not of angels but of angles."
"The real arena is corrupt."
" 'Reconciliation' means that when one side gets the power and the other side gets reconciled to it, then we have reconciliation." (GOP lawmakers take note.)
"All values are relative."
Bitterly contemptuous of American materialism and individualism, Alinsky was a big fan of Lenin, whom he called a "pragmatist." He claimed that his own philosophy was anchored in "hope" for a more just world.
But this privileged son was simply bored with the status quo and sought to smash it just to see it smashed, while masquerading his unprincipled pique as an altruistic crusade for the downtrodden.
"Agitate," he egged on fellow radicals, "create disenchantment and discontent with the current values," even if none exist.
His story is similar to that of unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers, the rebellious son of a successful Chicago businessman. Alinsky's father owned his own business in the city and put his son through the University of Chicago studying archeology.
Alinsky comes across loud and clear in the narrative of "Rules for Radicals" as a bitter, vulgar Hobbesian cynic. He advocates "fart-ins" and "sh**-ins" to offend the establishment, explaining that the "one thing" that inner-city organizers want to do to whites is "sh** on them." Nothing is off limits. The only thing he truly romanticizes is "ego."
"The ego of the organizer is stronger and more monumental than the ego of the leader," he wrote. "The organizer is in a true sense reaching for the highest level for which man can reach ... to play God." He added: "Ego must be so all-pervading that the personality of the organizer is contagious."
Page 23 of "Rules" is chilling: The American individualist the industrialist, the entrepreneur, the wealth creator "is beginning to learn that he will either share part of his material wealth or lose all of it; that he will respect and learn to live with other political ideologies" that is, neo-Marxism "if he wants civilization to go on."
"If he does not share his bread, he dare not sleep, for his neighbor will kill him," Alinsky warned. In other words, sacrifice and pay your fair share for "social justice" (code for socialism) or face mass unrest and the anger of the mob. Anarchy. Chaos. Blood in the streets.
Alinsky describes "the Haves" of American society as having fallen "asleep" ripe for slaughter. "It is as though the great law of change had prepared the anesthetization of the victim prior to the social surgery to come."
Is Obama acting as Alinsky's star social surgeon, the first to possess the necessary power to carve up the American economy for mass redistribution? If so, "Rules for Radicals" may be his operating manual. More of us should read it.
Sperry, formerly IBD's Washington bureau chief, is a Hoover Institution media fellow and author.