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August 23, 2010

Alinsky's Fourth Rule

Reader Eric Hines was kind enough to send this guest post, which I am delighted to publish.

A few days ago, Grim and I had a brief discussion on these pages about mixing genders in a military headquarters (specifically, although the subject has broader implications). I suggested that obligations, and the like, need not change simply because women were now present, and that equal enforcement of regulations should remain the norm. Grim demurred somewhat, responding with Saul Alinsky's fourth rule and pointing out the dangers of dogma. If I've oversimplified Grim's position, or otherwise mischaracterized it, he is, of course, free to correct me. I'd like to expand that discussion somewhat, focusing here on Alinsky's fourth rule (make the enemy live up to his/her own book of rules) and on equal enforcement (regardless of milieu).

Alinsky's fourth rule is one of thirteen described in his book Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals, and this rule contains two traps. I say here, "Bring it on. Let's do this." The first trap is that we would, necessarily, defend our book of rules as though it were sacrosanct and immutable. Of course it will be imperfect, being a book of Man, and so Alinsky's radicals will succeed in exposing our hypocrisy and defeating us. But not if we don't accept that trap. I say "bring it on" because here is an outstanding opportunity to give our book an operational, acid test, knowing it to be flawed. What better way to expose our rule book's weaknesses and errors, and so to strengthen the one and correct the other, than through the open challenge and discussion with those who disagree with us? And so it's "Thank you, Mr Radical, for helping us to make our rule book even better." And herein lies the second trap. It is important to not allow Alinsky's radical to control the definition of our rule book. It's our rule book; the definition of it must be ours. "No, Mr Radical, you've misinterpreted what this particular rule means, and you've misunderstood how this particular rule fits into our overall environment. Here are the correct meaning and fitting."

In the end, I suggest one of two things will occur. Most likely, we'll win over the radical because he'll lose the argument — on our terms — or he will be exposed for the distortionist troublemaker that he is through his continued, insistent, and repeatedly exposed, distortion of our precepts and so lose credibility in society at large. There is the possibility that our idea is a bad one; in that case, indeed it should be tossed and replaced with a better one.

The other point concerns equal enforcement. When a police officer writes a ticket for one motorist and gives another a warning for substantially the same speeding, is he enforcing the law equally? Yes, no, maybe. If the officer is basing the distinction solely on gender, or skin color, or some other irrelevant discriminant, the enforcement is, indeed, uneven. If the officer is evaluating the totality of the situation and deciding that one motorist needs the lesson of a ticket but the other needs only the reminder of the warning, I suggest this is equal enforcement. We pay officers to make this judgment all the time.

Some would say, "No, you have to treat everyone exactly the same. No exceptions." See Alinsky's fourth rule above. Some would be misinterpreting our definition of our rule and misunderstanding our application of our rule. People are not cookie cutter copies. We're individuals, every one of us unique and, in that sense, a separate entity from all others. We expect, and are expected, to be treated, even today, as individuals — we each get our separate juries and distinct court cases, for instance. And, indeed, all of us are capable of making such valuations and arriving at appropriate, differing responses to apparently identical situations. For in the end, what is enforcement? It is not the act of enforcing, but rather the outcome of that enforcement. The ticket is needed to compel obedience to the traffic law in the one case, and a warning achieves adherence to the traffic law in the other. In both cases, the traffic law becomes equally followed by both motorists. For awhile. And then the cycle is repeated, perhaps with modifications.

This takes work. The Left would like to stop the work and just have us all be carbon copies (obedient ones, at that). It's harder to treat people as individuals than as groups. It's harder to be results oriented than to be procedure oriented. Conservatives and libertarians and Tea Partiers and freedom lovers generally recognize that freedom takes constant effort, constant vigilance. Because those freedoms are well worth the cost.

Posted by Cassandra at August 23, 2010 05:46 PM

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Comments

It's our rule book; the definition of it must be ours

They claim those rules as their own. It's why a traitor is more dangerous than an enemy soldier, simply because the traitor knows more of the weaknesses of his fellows, having lived amongst them as one of them. An enemy soldier will have a hard time getting the locals to define their rules based upon what the enemy says, sans force. But a local can cry out for change, based upon "making the rule book even better".

And so it's "Thank you, Mr Radical, for helping us to make our rule book even better.

Can't make it better if you aren't the ones enforcing it or controlling policy. Those who do in the chain of command, aren't briefed on Alinsky. Case example, Clark and Casey.

Most likely, we'll win over the radical because he'll lose the argument

Radical movements are not based upon free form debate and information exchange.The argument is only a smoke screen. The radical isn't betting on winning the argument, but using it as cover for other activities.

If the officer is basing the distinction solely on gender, or skin color, or some other irrelevant discriminant, the enforcement is, indeed, uneven.

He acted stupidly.

Doesn't have to be irrelevant. It can be relevant discrimination, and it'll still be judged a violation of the rule of law.


Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 23, 2010 07:20 PM

Here's my problem with your formulation:

The military doesn't get to write the rule book. Say they start with a rule that says, "We will only allow men to do X."

This rule is challenged on the grounds that it is unfair. "Just allow women to serve", Congress says.

"But not all women can meet our current standards (which are there for a reason). If we allow women to serve we'll have to lower the standard to accommodate them and the overall quality of our forces will decline."

"Oh no", says Congress. "We don't want to impact readiness! Some women can meet the standard. Let them try!"

So the military allows women to serve. Along comes a Congressional committee on women in the services and they say, "Well, you may have allowed women to serve, but they are not serving/getting promoted/passing this exam" at the same rate as men. There are fewer women than there are in society at large. Therefore, the process is unfair."

"But you said you'd be happy if we allowed women who can meet the current standard to serve. You said there was no need to change the rules or lower the standard. But now that we've done as you asked, you're changing the rules."

To which Congress replies, "You work for us. Deal with it."

And the standard is lowered.

Was the rule book "improved"? I would argue "no" - we now have two standards where once there was only one. Administering two standards takes more effort and costs more money than one. We now need two sets of living quarters because women can't shower or bunk with men. And now X percent of the active forces can't meet a standard that all of them could meet before.

How is this better?

A perfect example of things having to change when women are allowed to serve is pregnancy. Men do not get pregnant, though they undeniably father children. But fathering children doesn't make men undeployable.

So an exception will have to be made for women. It's still against the rules, however, to commit adultery or fraternize. Supposedly women who break this rule are subject to disciplinary action.

So a general in Iraq says, "OK Congress - I'm going to take you at your word and enforce this rule you made."

I think we all know what happens next because we just saw it happen in real time.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 23, 2010 10:39 PM

Ymar's argument demonstrates the need for controlling the debate rather than yielding the terms of reference to the radical. It's true enough that when it's the boss who is the radical, it's hard-to impossible to control the debate. But that's always the case, whether we're arguing with idiots or attempting to engage in constructive debate with those who disagree with us. The boss gets to call the shots. Almost always.

In a democracy, or in a republican democracy, we get to change who our bosses are periodically. This also is hard to do--especially so for the military--but difficulty is no excuse for not trying. Defending our book with a view to improving it, rather than defending a mythical or dysfunctional status quo, won't always succeed, but on the whole, over time, substantial progress will be made.

The rule book certainly was not improved by Congress' functional insistence on two standards. This is not a failure of improving the book; the book would have been damaged at least as badly by the Congress' insistence on constantly waiving standards, or by saying women can't even try because most of them will fail the physical standards, or by saying the men's standards must be lowered, also, or any of a number of other such...changes. The General's "failure" in Iraq wasn't so much a failure of improving the book as it was the bosses interference with his attempts to enforce existing standards--a failure to enforce, not a failure of enforcement.

Sounds like pipe dreaming, or pie in the sky, to be sure. Something similar to this is why I resigned my commission, though. And Lord Nelson faced outright mutiny on the eve of a critical battle, and he had to remind his sailors who their true enemy was. But faced with the memory of that mutiny and a very real threat of its imminent recurrence, he made, or forced the Admiralty to make, many of the changes the sailors needed. Even against the bosses, improvements can be forced. But they'll only be forced if the battle is joined. Never if it's merely talked about.

My formulation is a constant struggle. The only success we can have is the chance to struggle some more. That's what we get for living in a Hobbesian world with the thinnest of veneers of civilization separating us from the darkness.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at August 23, 2010 11:16 PM

Apparently, George Orwell was off by a few decades...

Posted by: camojack at August 24, 2010 12:39 AM

In the end, I suggest one of two things will occur. Most likely, we'll win over the radical because he'll lose the argument — on our terms — or he will be exposed for the distortionist troublemaker that he is...

You missed Option Three, Cass -- the radical will condescendingly point out that your naïveté is refreshing, but irrelevant to the argument, and he will then redefine the argument to fit his own terms as often as necessary. The counter is to keep hammering him on the *original* point, expose the changes in his premise, and follow his argument to its absurd conclusion.

You're *good* at doing all that, btw...

Posted by: BillT at August 24, 2010 05:26 AM

...Option Three...the radical will condescendingly point out that your naïveté is refreshing, but irrelevant to the argument, and he will then redefine the argument to fit his own terms as often as necessary. The counter is to keep hammering him on the *original* point, expose the changes in his premise, and follow his argument to its absurd conclusion.

As you say, there's a very large premium on maintaining control over the terms of reference and of the discussion generally. This takes constant engagement; there's nothing here that's fire and forget.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at August 24, 2010 06:44 AM

Bill, E Hines is the author of the original post. Cassandra posted his writing as it stood under her name.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 24, 2010 09:54 AM

Cassandra posted his writing....

It's true enough that Cassandra ought take no heat for my musings, or her generosity in putting them out here, but I think we're all more interested in the message than the messenger.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at August 24, 2010 11:23 AM

I should have just set up a login for you but I was too busy :p

Anyway, I've noticed that no one pays attention to the "posted by" thingy.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 24, 2010 11:26 AM

The thing about Alinsky's fourth rule is that it captures a deep truth about the nature of rulebooks. What we call a "rule" is an attempt to create a single standard for unlike cases. Any two cases will always be different in some aspect of their particulars. Applying the standard requires discretion (as your police example). As soon as discretion is applied, however, you're no longer 'living up to your rulebook,' and the Alinsky argument can be applied.

You also have to keep in mind what Alinsky is after. The ultimate goal is not to destroy the rulebook. It is to destroy every tradition and foundation that has anything like a rulebook. The rulebook is only a means to an end to destroying the traditions and foundations, so that radical change is possible.

For that cause, the proper response seems to me to be threefold.

1) Discriminate between gentlemen and non-gentlemen, according to the standard we discussed last week. A gentleman constitutes himself as a defender of the civilization. (Gentlewomen, obviously, also fall in this category). Those who are trying to hold up the society are on one side; those trying to destabilize and alter it are on the other.

2) Make no pretense that rules are to be evenly enforced. Make it clear that the rulebook assumes discretion, and that discretion is to be broadly passed to everyone in the class of gentlemen (not merely police officers, whose official status is not demonstrative: a policeman can be a defender of society, or can be himself a radical using his position on Alinskite grounds. See, e.g., the Chicago police).

3) Be clear that the traditions, and not the rulebook, are the important thing. If the rules have to be changed to preserve the traditions, the society, the culture, the nation... change them. Or place the scope of changes within the realm of acceptable discretion.

Posted by: Grim at August 24, 2010 12:10 PM

One of the so-called traps set up by radicals is their idea of a living constitution and immutable laws that morph into an entirely new immutable law to suit the occasion. It is my experience that they start from a position of superiority, politely belittle your educational background as sub-standard if not his alma mater, call into question your ability to comprehend COMPLEX ideas if you attended his institution, trump your life's experience if any of it included the military, ultimately calling your a racist or ad hominem attack regarding your subjugation of the victim/entitlement classes.

Knowing this logic flow in advance prepares you for a thoughtful presentation refuting the predictable arguements from the radical point of view. Discussions with radicals is like herding cats. They go in all different directions to avoid the original point of the discussion to avoid accountability. Logic is not their friend because of their being enamored with the sound of their own voice and the rapture with which their ideas are delivered.

Cumbaya versus real-politik. History is inconvenient for the dreamers and those who embrace HopeandChange.

Posted by: vet66 at August 24, 2010 12:20 PM

I've noticed that no one pays attention to the "posted by" thingy.

*No* one? I've told you a million times to stop exaggerating!

Posted by: BillT at August 24, 2010 01:24 PM

It's true enough that Cassandra ought take no heat for my musings, or her generosity in putting them out here, but I think we're all more interested in the message than the messenger.

Dealing with Alinsky, the messenger is actually far more important than the message. An honorable enemy can have any message imaginable, yet they remain honorable and thus can be dealed with. A dishonorable enemy, can also have numerous messages around, but what matters is that they can't be dealt with using trust.

Getting the messenger's character wrong, is a critical mistake when dealing with Alinsky and his radicals. Because dealing with honorable enemies, is not the same as dealing with dishonorable enemies, regardless of what cause they serve.

On the matter of messengers, it is true that whether E HInes or Cassandra makes the point, is of little critical or all consuming difference in the end. However, the point is habits. Good habits arrive from making the correct distinction in minor matters, so that performance is guaranteed when matters become serious. After all, it is hard to perform the critical distinction when it matters, when one did not bother to acquire the right habits in circumstances where it didn't matter.

Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance

When dealing with the Alinsky crowd, it will make a difference whether the people behind a cause are those of honor or those of a tyrannical bend. In this case, we can exchange Planning for Practice.

Perception is a vital ability to acquire and sustain, in the war against those who use propaganda, deception, and misunderstandings as their weapon of choice. If we cannot perceive the subtle differences amongst ourselves, we are likely to miss the far larger implications amongst the enemy.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 24, 2010 02:11 PM

The thing about Alinsky's fourth rule is that it captures a deep truth about the nature of rulebooks. What we call a "rule" is an attempt to create a single standard for unlike cases. Any two cases will always be different in some aspect of their particulars. Applying the standard requires discretion (as your police example). As soon as discretion is applied, however, you're no longer 'living up to your rulebook,' and the Alinsky argument can be applied.

Here is an example of having fallen into Alinsky's first trap (at least that one claimed by me to be the first). You've defined my rulebook and tried to change away from the Truth. No, Mr Radical, you've misinterpreted my book. Here is the correct understanding:.... And you proceeded to that correct understanding in your second point. My rulebook explicitly allows for discretion and apparently uneven application, and so when I--or my police officer--apply discretion, each of us is following our rulebook with approximate exactitude.

I'm not sure of the importance of the distinction between the gentleman/woman and the nongentleman/woman, beyond knowing on whom I can count as we defend civilization--or just our society--assuming we two honorable persons can agree on what constitutes a proper defense in the first place. That's an important item, so maybe that's sufficient. Certainly, there's more to the nongentleperson than those who oppose. I suggest that a significant fraction, if not an outright majority, of this group are merely indifferent in some guise.

Be clear that the traditions, and not the rulebook, are the important thing. If the rules have to be changed to preserve the traditions, the society, the culture, the nation... change them. I'm not sure this (traditions vs rules being what's important) is universally true. Sometimes the radical is right. Sometimes the traditions have to be tossed--not only externally imposed ones from an overseas government, but sometimes internal ones, also, that might otherwise have survived a "mere" successful rebellion. In this regard, I offer Gordon Wood's The Radicalism of the American Revolution.

Discussions with radicals is like herding cats. They go in all different directions to avoid the original point of the discussion to avoid accountability. Discussions with honorable persons are not too different from this; although we're not generally trying to avoid anything. We just have no focus. Look at the discussions following Cassandra's Gender Rants post. None of us hewed to her subject with any strictness....

Cumbaya versus real-politik. History is inconvenient for the dreamers and those who embrace HopeandChange. This can be a dangerous mischaracterization. The danger arises from misunderstanding the danger presented. There's nothing at all cumbaya or Hopey/Changey about Alinsky or Ayers or Dohrn.

Good habits arrive from making the correct distinction in minor matters, so that performance is guaranteed when matters become serious. A Critical Item. We must train like we'll fight, for we shall surely fight like we've trained.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at August 24, 2010 04:20 PM

I should have just set up a login for you but I was too busy :p

Not sure I want one. It's your blog. No one should get in without your prior permission. And you answer the door with knives drawn and pistols cocked. [g]

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at August 24, 2010 04:23 PM

EH: In my experience I worry more about felons released from prison after convincing a liberal psychiatrist they are fit for society having "learned their lesson" during incarceration. Then there is prison release due to overcrowding.

Ayers, Dorhn, Alinsky, et al, are not as dangerous as the lack of resolve to confront them by ordinary citizens. We may have that opportunity prior to the runup to November's elections where Tea Party folks and conservatives are provoked by Alinsky acolytes. Preparing for that possibility and actively confronting impostors posing as conservatives effectively neuters their machinations.

I am tired of watching a speaker get shouted down is a direct violation of free speech usually festooned with someone running down the aisle heaving a pie at the speaker. That would be a good time for someone to stand up and intercept the perp. The SEIU thugs are a case in point. It simply requires the commitment to stand up and confront them in a peaceful manner. They are mostly cowards and losers in final analysis.

Posted by: vet66 at August 24, 2010 06:44 PM

I see your Gordon Wood, Mr. Hines, and raise you one Sidney Painter! Far more of the traditional liberties of the American Revolution were traditional than is appreciated -- the questions were their breadth of enjoyment, and whether they should be connected to practical service in defense of the civilization (or at least, the realm).

I think we may have gone too far on that point, and ought to look at tying rights to service -- that is, recognizing that rights arise from the performance of duties, which creates the space in which we are free. Those who are working against that space ought not to enjoy the same rights, because they do not perform the duty. Instead of defending the civilization, they are undermining it.

Posted by: Grim at August 24, 2010 06:46 PM

We kept a lot of the traditions and outlooks of our erstwhile English masters. The tradition tossing to which I was referring were a far more representational government than even the "constitutional" monarchy of George's government--i.e., no hereditary government head--all aspects chosen by the people--and all those citizen soldiers in the colonies taking the colonial aristocracy--the landed gentry--at their word and functionally tossing them as their betters--demanding their own one man-one vote participation in the new representational government.

Heinlein wrote of extending the franchise only to those with honorable discharges from military service. I don't disagree with the concept. If you don't have any skin in the game, you can't be trusted to take your responsibilities seriously. And it's likely you don't even understand those responsibilities.

Although I suggest that, as was pointed out in the Declaration of Independence, some of our rights arise from the simple fact of our existence, being endowed to us by our Creator.

Thanks for the Painter point-out. On order and funds obligated.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at August 24, 2010 07:15 PM

I my experience, felons should be more worried about being released from the safety of prison. For they should be declared outlaw and thus if killed, be a justified homicide.

This whole "protecting society" by locking up criminals, is entirely back arsewards. It inculcates a nation of sheep, not free men and women.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 25, 2010 12:41 AM

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