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Defeating Political Ridicule
American Thinker ^ | May 15, 2009 | Kyle-Anne Shiver

Posted on 05/17/2009 1:24:30 AM PDT by neverdem

The fourth rule of tactics:  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.
 - Saul Alinsky; Rules for Radicals; 1971; p. 128
Now, I'm not certain whether Bill O'Reilly is pulling our leg here, as he ruminates over whether the politics of ridicule being employed nearly nonstop by our new President's administration is intentional or not.  O'Reilly seems way too smart to think that a whole staff of folks just somehow have Alinsky-styled ridicule down pat, polished to a perfect t, with every "i" dotted, as though they all popped yesterday from a political Big Bang.

Nevertheless, I've been working for the past year on solid methods to defeat this politics of ridicule - the tactics advocated by Saul Alinsky to every 60s radical that ever burned a draft card or a bra, or vowed to smash monogamy or made a nail bomb.  These are the tactics that laid the foundation for the vast Alinsky-originated community organizations from coast to coast.  Although some may think of Obama's movement and his victorious administration in terms of a political Big Bang, there is a much more design paradigm, which I prefer.

I'm of the old skeptic school myself, generally believing that whenever something looks too good to be true, it most likely is.  And that whenever something appears orchestrated and perfected among many, there is a plan at work behind the scenes.

It was Barack Obama himself, not I, nor anyone else, who claimed -- often -- that his community organizing with the Alinsky-designed DCP in Chicago was the "best education" he ever had.  It was Barack Obama who touted his work with ACORN's Project Vote.  It was Barack Obama himself who taught Alinsky Power Tactics at the University of Chicago.  And it has been Barack Obama himself, who adopted whole-hog Alinsky's "Ideology of Change" and all of its slogans.

When Michelle Obama gave her speech at the Democratic National Convention last August, she used a direct Alinsky quote, saying that hearing Barack speak of changing "the world as it is" into the "world as it should be," were the magic words that so endeared him to her.

"What follows is for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be."
 - Saul Alinsky; Rules for Radicals; p. 3.

Case closed.  The politics of ridicule, which have infected our national discourse for the past 40 years were designed by admirer of Lucifer, hijacker of Christian jargon for power purpose, ends-justify-all-means father of community organizing, Saul Alinsky.  Barack Obama's best education came from him, not Harvard.  And this Administration daily employs Alinsky Ridicule on steroids.

Day in, day out, 24/7, the American people are treated to bully, gang-style ridicule.  Most of it aimed at conservatives and the GOP, of course, for now.

But make no mistake:  anyone who stands in defiance of this Administration's policies will be ridiculed without mercy.

How Ridicule Works

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

Saying taught by wise mothers to kindergartners

Yes, it's a pretty darned sad sight when grown men and women indulge in playground bully tactics that are as old as the hills.  That's all ridicule is.  It's the thing a bully and his little gang of half-witted followers use to get their way without ever having to actually pull a real punch.  And wise mothers have been teaching their smart kids how to defeat this low-blow tactic for eons.

But to defeat the tactic of ridicule, it's helpful to remember how it works. 

The bully's intention, of course, is to get a rise or a bucket of tears out of his victim.  The bully's intention, whether on a playground or in an older gang, is always the same.  Taunt the victim until he finally cracks and explodes with anger or throws the first punch, and then sit back and watch the self-destruction.  Goad the target with taunts, which are intentionally aimed at the victim's soft spots. 

The bully listens and watches carefully.  He's trained himself to spot weakness, to search out his victim's vulnerabilities. 

At the playground age, vulnerabilities tend to be physical anomalies.  In adolescence, bullies move towards picking out weaknesses in sexual appeal.  In adulthood, they move towards the things Alinsky talks about in his books, a person's moral code or a group's racial makeup or the age-old standby, a group's religion.

But as Alinsky notes himself, ridicule alone is a losing game.  It isn't the ridicule that rises victorious in a political war.  No, that's just the temptation put out on the table, exactly the way tempters have done it since that little episode in the ancient Garden.

The key to defeating any tempter, whether on a playground or on a political stage, is simple.  Do not take the bait.  No matter how much one is goaded and bullied and laughed at and ridiculed, the only answer to the temptation is to refuse it.  

Alinsky made a living off his own background as an unattractive, smaller-than-average child, forced to bear the brunt of neighborhood bullies.  Sanford D. Horwitt, Alinsky's biographer, spends dozens of pages describing young Saul's difficult childhood, where he was a veritable outcast.  What made his own shortcomings even more potent fodder for the bully class was the fact that his father had left his mother and wasn't there to help the little boy figure out how to be a man of strong character.  Even worse than this was the fact that his mother was an in-your-face, overbearing shrew of a woman that struck fear into the hearts of everyone in her vicinity.

Horwitt relates how young Saul's mother would keep an eye on her little boy -- the chubby, not-great-to-look-at kid without a Dad in residence -- as he played with neighborhood kids in the street.  Whenever the group would light into Saul, his mother would raise the window and scream at the other children, always rushing to his defense, and inevitably crushing his own power to save himself.  Alinsky's mother had such a vicious mouth that she struck fear in the hearts of even the adults in the neighborhood. 

And Saul absorbed these awful childhood lessons, quite to America's detriment.  Powerless to protect himself from ridicule, seeing his mother's inflamed response, which only served to heighten his tormenters' resolve, he internalized what he later described in Rules for Radicals as "man's most potent weapon," ridicule.

What is the key to ridicule's success, according to Alinsky?

 " infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage."

As he witnessed his mother's infuriated response to the bullies attacking him, he became the observant bystander.  What did he see?

Act I:  Bullies gang up on Saul and taunt him for being short, chubby, not athletic, whatever. 

Act II:  Mother takes the bait and gets into the game, screaming at the boys for hurting little Saul.

Act III:  The boys react to Mother from the safety of the street and the protection of their numbers, by intensifying the bully tactics.

Act IV:  Mother becomes so infuriated and out of control that she finally screams threats and near-obscenities at the little boys, who have just magnificently played the adult for a real fool.  Mother is in complete disarray; the boys stroll off down the street laughing victoriously.

Saul Alinsky later used this very play for the foundation of his politics of ridicule, specifying that the strength is not in the ridicule.  The strength of ridicule is always, every single time, the "enemy's reaction."

In his childhood play, Mother was the enemy engaged by the ridiculing youth.  As soon as the children gathered and began taunting little Saul, Mother appeared at the window like clockwork.  Mother's reaction emboldened and added great worth to the bullies.  They got to see her emotional meltdown every single time.

"The enemy properly goaded and guided in his reaction will be your major strength," wrote Saul Alinsky in his own middle-age.

Defeating Ridicule Is As Simple as 2 + 2

When the Democratic Party is employing an age-old playground tactic, perfected in adolescence, the key to stopping it is easy as pie. 

This ain't hard, folks.  Every real grown-up learned this in grade school.

Whether dressed in Armani or playground garb, ridicule is child's play.

I suppose that when overgrown adolescents, who're all in adult bodies, use it, though, it does throw the normal adult a curve.  It's the kind of behavior with which adults have grown rusty at coping.  Nevertheless, ridicule in adult politics should never, ever be allowed to triumph, as it is now.

The temptation to jump into the fray with both feet in one's mouth is certainly understandable, but is not advisable.

Here is my 3-step formula for stopping ridicule in its tracks.  I have tried this with great success with every over-grown adolescent I've encountered.  It works especially well with my liberal friends, most of whom are now conservative converts.

Step One:  Properly recognize the ridicule tactic when it is employed. 

The most easily-spotted ridicule tactic is name calling.  "You're a disgusting homophobe."  "You're a racist."  "You're an idiot."  "You're a poor-people-hating rich person."  "You're a homophobe." 

The second most easily-spotted ridicule tactic is what psychologists call, "projection."  The ridiculer assumes that you, his rhetorical enemy, possess the same moral code as he and that you have the same defects as he does.  Since human nature never changes, and there simply are no new sins, some of what the projecting opponent spouts may ring true, and this is the bait.  If a person says something like, "Your side lies," odds are that he is right, at least to a certain extent.  I've yet to meet a person who would swear that he has never told a single lie.

But this is a potent trap.  It's a generality without specifics and it distracts from the real issue at hand.  The intended victim, recognizing a grain of truth in the projector's argument, becomes defensive, which delights the ridiculer.

Step Two:  No matter how sweet-sounding, how cutesy humorous or how viciously personal the ridicule, the intended victim's victory is in refusing to take the bait. 

Ridicule is stopped in its tracks by the strong-willed, wise person, who simply ignores it and moves the debate to the higher ground where real adults discuss matters of importance.  Reason trumps ridicule every single time.

If the ridicule is especially deleterious, then it is possible to retort, "Now, why do you want to be this vicious?  Why can't we talk about this like real grown-ups?" 

It helps to sound especially sweet when saying this; think Scarlet O'Hara

Actually, though, I can see John Wayne saying something similar without the batting eyelashes. 

Real strength has no need to stoop to nastiness.  Ever.

Step 3:  In political debate, the expert ridiculer is constantly attempting to draw his opponent into a defensive posture on the ridiculer's ground.  It's a rhetorical trick, a sleight of hand performed with one's mouth.

And the way to defeat it lies not in defensive statements that attempt to argue the point raised by the ridiculer.  Defensive statements, trying to refute the ridiculer's taunt, simply reinforce his claim.

Ridicule should disgrace its perpetrator, not you.  And the object is to do exactly that.  Do not take the bait.  Ignore it completely, give a knowing little laugh if you like, but move back up to your own ground of reason immediately.

At all costs, remain calm; ridicule is an emotional tactic aimed at causing you to replace reason with uncontrolled passion.  But use powerful language of courage.  There is absolutely nothing to be gained by giving the proverbial inch in your argument as you prepare to give up the mile, which will be goaded out of you next.

It's possible to deflect ridicule with a reverse taunt, perfectly aimed, such as, "Now, you know that's a pile of poppycock." But reverse taunts must be delivered with delicate care to diffuse emotions with geniality, not enflame them.

Every single time a conservative takes any of this intentionally inflammatory bait and attempts to defend against it, the ridicule simply becomes more intense.  Why?  Because as the father of political ridicule  Saul Alinsky  explained himself, the strength lies not in the ridicule, but in "the enemy's reaction."  The goal is to make you lose your cool and self-destruct.    

Of course, these are the same kinds of tactics employed by the precocious child against his parents, whenever he wants something they will not give him.  If that thing is the $500 pair of Wacky-brand-of-the-month athletic shoes, then the parent is assailed as a stingy tightwad who does not love his own child as much as all the other parents love their children.  If that thing is a later curfew, then the parent is assailed as the most old-fashioned, untrusting, stick-in-the-mud tyrant that ever gave birth to offspring.

These tacky little tricks are as old as the hills and twice as predictable.

And the adult who gives airtime to adolescent ridicule is the fool that tops all others.

The keys to victory: 

But never, ever, ever, ever, ever give an inch to the devilish lure of ridicule.

As Democrats have become the Party of Pernicious Ridicule, the GOP must be the ever-stalwart Party of Reason.

Reason resonates in the minds of men and women; ridicule is child's play.

Kyle-Anne Shiver is a frequent contributor to American Thinker.  She welcomes your comments at

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Editorial; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: alinsky; mustread; politicalridicule; ridicule; saulalinsky
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The left richly deserves ridicule. It generates one problem after another domestically with their populist activism for more taxes, government intervention and statism. In foreign affairs, they consistently undermine our foreign policy.
1 posted on 05/17/2009 1:24:31 AM PDT by neverdem
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To: neverdem

Go check out “Yes, Minister” or “Yes, Prime Minister” on youtube. It was a hilarious show that ridiculed the British Labour party mercilessly back during Thatchers day.

It is a potential gold mine of ideas for lampooning the Demo-Socialists.

2 posted on 05/17/2009 1:32:08 AM PDT by PetroniusMaximus
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To: PetroniusMaximus
Go check out “Yes, Minister” or “Yes, Prime Minister” on youtube. It was a hilarious show that ridiculed the British Labour party mercilessly back during Thatchers day.

Man, this really is a treasure trove. Thanks for mentioning this, I haven't laughed this hard in a long time.

3 posted on 05/17/2009 1:45:25 AM PDT by GOP_Raider (Have you risen above your own public education today?)
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To: neverdem

Is there ANY reason the Republicans can’t utilize Alinsky’s tactics against the scumbags?

4 posted on 05/17/2009 1:46:39 AM PDT by Lancey Howard
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To: neverdem

Great article!

5 posted on 05/17/2009 1:49:51 AM PDT by chicagolady (Mexican Elite say: EXPORT Poverty Let the American Taxpayer foot the bill !)
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To: Lancey Howard

Yes. They don’t have 90% of the MSM to help re-enforce it.

6 posted on 05/17/2009 1:57:25 AM PDT by pnut22
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To: neverdem

The phrase, “Just not my ears” or “Not my ears”, something similar. Any political cartoonist with a set of balls would have obamaFuhrer crazy.

7 posted on 05/17/2009 2:01:01 AM PDT by fortunate sun (Undermine Obama with every thought, word and deed.)
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To: Lancey Howard
Is there ANY reason the Republicans can’t utilize Alinsky’s tactics against the scumbags?

Republicans could, if they had newspapers that would print the exchange, or TV news that would report it.

I will say that if you ever want to throw a left winger completely off of his game, you only have to do two things:

1) Laugh at him. No matter what he says, act like its the dumbest thing you've ever heard, even if it's something like "9/11 was an inside job". Instead of getting mad, laugh at him.

2) Tell him he is very uneducated and that he should read a book now and then, or a newspaper. #2 works very well with #1. Chuck a fact or two out there and laugh at him for not knowing it.

The reason that this works so well is because left-wingers always imagine themselves to be the smartest people around. That is part of the allure of the Left - you can be called smart without having to know a damn thing and be called moral without having to engage in a single moral act. It is a cult that makes worthless people believe they are special. Many if not most of them are very insecure, and when you place their intellect in doubt and treat them as being silly, they crack. You simply keep it up long enough and their own self doubts eat away at them. It works on the internet, too.
8 posted on 05/17/2009 2:09:39 AM PDT by fr_freak
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To: fr_freak

It’s called arrogance.

9 posted on 05/17/2009 2:17:11 AM PDT by freekitty (Give me back my conservative vote.)
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To: neverdem

I feel it is absolutely essential that we defeat and deflect Alinsky-style ridicule. I too think that it ceases to exist when the opposing side refuses to go defensive.

HOWEVER, this article does not mention that there is another phase to the current ridicule style: the THREAT of being called a [racist, homophobe, heartless rich person, etc]. And the reaction nearly everyone has to this threat, which is to move in the direction the threatener intended.

This is now done with “humor.” The court jesters who have mocking down to a science are people like Bill Maher and Jon Stewart. The ridicule so cruelly and appear to have such a following that most public figures fear the potential of these men mocking them before they decide what they will do.

I don’t know exactly how to counteract these somewhat more devious ways, but we need to figure it out and instruct every single conservative and Republican, because most of them are as scared to death as boy Alinsky before his mom opened the front window.

10 posted on 05/17/2009 2:21:25 AM PDT by Yaelle
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To: neverdem

“D”s have no moral code. Some “R”s lie and cheat like some politicians but they at least ascribe to a code which makes them accountable. When a member gets caught they boot him out.

When you have no moral code no one can call you a hypocrite. Its a great advantage that the “D”s have. When they get caught all they say is everybody does it or your guys does it and they are off the hook. Its a license to be a scumbag.

Prime example Ted Kennedy. Social degenerate and arguably a murderer yet the “D”s hail him as a hero.

11 posted on 05/17/2009 2:23:28 AM PDT by Outrance
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To: pnut22

I agree.

One of the points that the author is missing is that ridicule is also powerful in the way that it employs fence sitters. No one likes to be ridiculed or bullies, so they join the bullies.

I believe most people out there get their news from Jon Stewert and other comedians. This is because, for most people, politics isn’t about reason, it’s about being a part of something, being a part of a group. Which group would you rather hang out with? The cool kids, or the geeks?

Unfortunately, pop-culture has reinforced the idea that the cool kids are the liberals and the geeks are the conservatives. And guess what? It’s the cool kids that ridicule the geeks.

Michael Steele said something ridiculous to the effect of the Republicans needing to be the hip-hop party. There’s actually a grain of truth to that. Conservatives have lost the image battle. Brain-dead young people may not be able to tell time off an analog clock, but they understand what’s cool and popular. Sorry folks, but it ain’t being a conservative.

While correct in saying that conservatism needs to be “cool,” what he’s incorrect about is being cool by trying to act like it. A geek is never going to be cool simply by dressing in low hanging pants and wearing lots of bling. He’s still a geek and all the cook kids will make fun of him even more. Instead, conservatism must change the culture. We must fight the culture wars ourselves.


Number one: we must use ridicule ourselves. There is so much illogic to the liberal position, there are so many caricatures of liberal code pinks, gay activists, stupid tree-hugging hippies that this shouldn’t be hard at all.

2. Employ shame. Shame is something that liberals have effectively trumped with political correctness. We need to bring back shame. When a union worker gets $30/hr and a full pension with a high school diploma because of their union connections while the salaried engineer is unemployed, that’s shameful. When we pay our taxes, pay our debts while free-loaders do not, that’s shameful.

3. Tell our story. A big reason why the left has won the cultural war is because they get to tell their story repeated, while the right is content in the smugness of being right. How many episodes in Law and Order where the rich corporate exec is the bad guy? I love Law and Order and can tell you, if there’s a rich corporate exec, he’s dirty! Conservatives need to lose their smugness and go out there and tell the story from the conservative viewpoint.

4. Show that there’s cool in conservatism and be proud of it. I think America can use some “redneck chique.”

Anyway those are some of my random thoughts on a night I can’t sleep.

12 posted on 05/17/2009 2:25:24 AM PDT by foobarred (Disclaimer: I have a right to be stupid and wrong. Please don't legislate that right from me.)
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To: neverdem

Saving for later

13 posted on 05/17/2009 2:46:10 AM PDT by NoPrisoners ("When in the course of human events...")
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To: kalee

for later reading

14 posted on 05/17/2009 2:50:53 AM PDT by kalee (01/20/13 The end of an error.... Obama even worse than Carter.)
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To: neverdem

It would be a whole lot easier if we could just shoot them and be done with it ... but OK, I’ll try the calm, mature, rational approach.

15 posted on 05/17/2009 3:06:23 AM PDT by spodefly (This is my tag line. There are many like it, but this one is mine.)
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To: neverdem

I think this article really misses the mark, and it doesn’t understand the problem.

The power of ridicule, Alinsky’s point, was not at all about bullies. It was about labeling, minimizing, and removing an opponent/argument from serious consideration by the general populace.

This is the tactic employed against Sarah Palin, most effectively by the late-nights and SNL. The plan was to remove Palin from serious consideration by making her instead and object of scorn IN THE MINDS of the average American.

So, you can’t just act dignified and drive on. You have been branded, and you’ve been branded a comic sideshow....something to be laughed at. Your serious discussion cannot be heard.

That is why Pres. Bush’s decision to remain quiet was so tragically wrong.

16 posted on 05/17/2009 3:20:38 AM PDT by xzins (Retired Army Chaplain, Pro Deo et Patria)
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To: fr_freak
Is there ANY reason the Republicans can’t utilize Alinsky’s tactics against the scumbags? Republicans could, if they had newspapers that would print the exchange, or TV news that would report it.

That brings up the other advantage the left has with using ridicule.

The verbal barbs fit nicely into a 15-second sound bite geared toward what seems to be the average person's attention span.

Responding with reason takes more time.

17 posted on 05/17/2009 3:31:56 AM PDT by Quiller (When you're fighting to survive, there is no "try" -- there is only do, or do not.)
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To: pnut22

But they have 90% of talk radio.

18 posted on 05/17/2009 4:08:06 AM PDT by FroggyTheGremlim
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To: eCSMaster

And the left is doing what they can to hijack it. All the best to Rush, Sean, but they do a lot of preaching to the choir.

19 posted on 05/17/2009 4:33:00 AM PDT by pnut22
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To: fr_freak
“The reason that this works so well is because left-wingers always imagine themselves to be the smartest people around. “

You are absolutely correct. I disagree to some extent with this article in that you can't let lies stand unchallenged. A lie unchallenged is sometimes taken as truth. We have seen this time and time again when the left has hurled false accusations against Republicans.

I do agree with the author that an angry emotional response, or engaging in debate is not the answer. I believe the best response to these tactics is something along the lines of Reagan's famous “There you go again..”.

Ultimately, what you said is absolutely the key. The ability to appear kind and respectful while at the same time questioning the left’s knowledge and intellect is probably the most effective way to deal with them. They have successfully characterized themselves as the ‘smart party’ and the ‘progressive’ party. We let them do that, and it's time to turn the tables. Why is it ‘smart’ and ‘progressive’ to cling to failed old social policies like socialism?

One last comment is that I think it also helps to point out publicly the tactics the other side is using. This puts everything they say under a microscope. I would favor actually political advertising that educates the public on exactly what Alinsky’s tactics are, and that gives examples of the left using them. Once you know someones best ‘move to the basket’ it is much easier to recognize and stop.

20 posted on 05/17/2009 5:18:23 AM PDT by pieceofthepuzzle
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