Free Markets, Free People

Alinsky’s Rule 12: starting to wear thin

Andrew Briebart makes some pretty good points in his editorial about the “GWB43 virus”. He posits that the demonization of Bush by the left, which worked pretty well, is now being applied to any target of opportunity who dares stand up to leftist dogma and threatens to be effective at it. He quotes one of the sources of this strategy, Saul Alinsky’s infamous Rule 12:

Rule 12: 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.)

I never cared that much for Bush, but I certainly didn’t feel the molten hatred for him exhibited by the left. As a result, I didn’t realize just how effective Bush hatred was as a strategy until early 2008.

It was clear from very early on in the campaign that any GOP candidate would be running into the wind. The feckless Republicans didn’t help their own cause, of course, yet there wasn’t really any possibility of “running against Bush” within the GOP to try and change the party’s direction. The left, with the complicity of the media, made darn sure of that.

The only person involved who leaned that way, Sarah Palin, was subjected to the most vicious character assassination I’ve seen in my lifetime. I’m not a great fan of Palin, but that doesn’t blind me to the way she was treated. The molten hatred came out again, and it didn’t matter if it was founded on anything but rumors and emotional impressions.

Since then, Breibart lists the others who have endured the same treatment, including individuals such as Joe the Plumber and Carrie Prejean. We even saw Obama and his lackeys get into the act when they targeted Rush Limbaugh.

However, none of those were particularly effective. Oh, the left went along with the usual vitriol, but in the wider world Joe the Plumber and Carrie Prejean are more likely to be seen as victims who stood up for themselves.

Alinsky’s Rule 12 has limits. Using it too often makes it progressively less effective. The left is diluting the tactic to the point that it becomes meaningless, or even counter-productive.

Next up for Alinskyite demonization are the tea party / town hall attendees. Again, the media is all too complicit. But this attempt faces big obstacles. First, people are simply tiring of it. Plus, a large, diffuse target is not nearly as easy to demonize as a person.

According to the polls on Obama’s healthcare plan, it doesn’t seem to be working. Nancy Pelosi had to do some backtracking after calling them “un-American”. Even though leftists and media types raise the spectre of a violent mob, the most significant case of violence so far was perpetrated by bussed-in union thugs supporting the healthcare bill.

The left apparently thought they had been given a weapon with infinite ammunition. But it doesn’t work that way. If you go into your office today and accuse a particular co-worker of dishonesty, you’ll probably be taken seriously. If you do it with a different co-worker every week for a few months, you won’t.

Everyone involved starts to realize that it’s just a tactic. Then they begin to wonder why you’re doing it. Are you trying to cover up something?

Alinsky’s advice works well if leftists choose their targets carefully, and use Rule 12 about once or twice a decade. Using Rule 12 once a month isn’t going to work. Perhaps Saul should have warned them about that.

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16 Responses to Alinsky’s Rule 12: starting to wear thin

  • It depends on where it is applied.  My local stations all carry advertising for the NJ governors race.  Corzine is trying to tar Christie with the Bush brush.   The alternative would be running on his record and that is a death sentence for Corzine.

  • I believe you give the public too much credit in noticing trends.

    I also believe much of this theatre is aimed at the young as its all new to them.

  • “As a result, I didn’t realize just how effective Bush hatred was as a strategy until early 2008.”

    The Democrats did use it to the optimum in 2008. However, life is a bitch, and what comes around goes around. Now the stupid Democrats in control are having their little hatred pushed right back in their faces, and they are wholly unable to either argue it down or to try to stop it. They can try and fight it, but they end up looking like the crass hypocrites that they are.

    BTW, Corzine is lost for the Dems.

  • As of Friday in Mexico – I’m now a demagogue too because I’m against amnesty for people who snuck into the country, and I’m supposed to feel bad, I guess, that they did that and now I won’t just say it’s all good and let them stay.
    Let’s see so I’m a Demagogue, a pawn of Big Insurance, I’m, I’m…no, never mind, there are too many things to list – I’m just an Un-American bad person all around.  I can see that now.
    Thank you Mr. Alinsky, Thank you Mr. President.

  • I wonder how they’ll howl when rule 12 gets applied to them?

  • looker:
    I thnk the term you are looking for is Reid’s term “evil-monger”

  • Maybe Alinsky never read Aesop’s Fables (“The Boy Who Cried Wolf“)

  • Aesop was a “dead white European” slave .. definitely somebody that the Left would try to forget.

  • By the way- this isn’t a new phenomenon. The left’s only tactic since the 1960s has been Rule 12. (Well, that and violence I suppose)

  • Mike Tyson once opined that “everyone has a plan until he gets hit.”  I think we’re seeing that at play here.  When the Republican party was reeling under years of eroding support for the Iraq war, years of eroding support for Bush and months of ugly economic news, the tactic of making Bush the face of the Republican party worked very effectively.  That’s what comes of being the President when things are not going well, you and your party take your lumps.
    But the left seems surprised that when their guy is in charge, the same dynamic comes into play.  What’s more, it comes into play with Democrats in charge of the White House, the House of Representatives, and the Senate, as well as following a stimulus which hasn’t stimulated and an economy that continues to founder in spite of the media’s attempts to tell us that it isn’t so bad.  Suddenly, the tactic of blaming the other guy falls flat?  WHO’D HAVE GUESSED!?!?
    The biggest surprise is that no one on the left, not the Obama administration, not congress, not their legion of advisors and supporters– none of them seemed to have a plan on hand for what to do if things didn’t immediately turn around!  So they’re taking a strategy that’s not good to use in this situation, and running it into the ground, and they’re scratching their heads when it doesn’t work.  It’s mind-boggling, yet fascinating to watch.

  • “Aesop was a ‘dead white European'”
    Ha! So is Alinsky!
    It’s not just the molten vitriol, it was the hysterical projection. Now that they’ve spent 8 years shrieking about Bush shredding the Constitution, violating privacy rules, executive overreach, fascist, Hitler, etc., it’s somewhat ineffective when we call out Obama’s actual Constitutional shredding.
    It just sounds like petty payback. “Oh yeah, well your guy is worse!” doesn’t have the same impact as a clear-cut, unprecedented case of executive overreach.

  • Like a lot of American presidents, Bush’s qualifications were nothing great. Roughly equivalent to Jimmy Carter’s qualifications. Compared to Reagan, Nixon, and George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, like Carter, didn’t bring much heavy-duty experience to the party. The historical jury has come back on Carter: bad president. The historical jury hasn’t even begun to meet on George W.

    But George W. and Carter had the minimum in terms of qualifications.

    Obama, on the other hand, had a straight up disqualifier: 20 years of heavy involvement with a lunatic church that was based in both Marxist and racist teaching. (Cf. The “black theology” a/k/a “black liberation theology” of James Cone, which is an amalgam of the Marxist liberation theology of Latin America and black nationalism.)

    This must be laid at the feet of the Democratic Party, whose leaders repeatedly vouched for Obama in the face of such an appalling background, and shouted down any mention of these things.

    That Obama’s defenders have the balls to call Obama’s critics racists is the clearest case of mass psychological projection since the Soviets called the U.S. “imperialistic” while the Soviets held the Warsaw Pact countries under the gun.

    Coulter had it right again. If you want to know what the Left is up to, listen to what they are accusing you of.

  • Maybe a few of them will wake up after the fiasco of the Obama years and see that all Alinsky got for them was to poison the well of political discourse and gain the left an unending hatred from conservatives, libertarians and even many moderates.
    I used to be one of those conservatives who hated Ann Coulter, and the radicals on the right for their rhetoric.  But not anymore, I don’t really care what you call these peices of human shit called Democrats. My loathing is absolute.

  • That’s what they do with conservatives, jews, creationists, pro-lifers and pretty much anyone who doesn’t dance to the liberal tune.

  • Add on top of all of this, we should see a MAJOR economic wipeout begin this fall which will be squarely and unmistakeably associated with the Democrat party, like the wipeout of the Great Depression is associated with Hoover. Obama will end up in Hoover’s category, with a excellent chance of being rated the worst president ever, not only by contemporaries, but perhaps by historians as well. About the only ones who will still like him when he leaves office will be the hyper-partisan socialists and communists in the Democrat party.