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Civil Incivility

October 8, 2018 Frontpage No Comments

By MIKE MANNO

In another life I was a public official, elected to the City Council of Davenport, Iowa. Municipal elections were, when I served, a partisan affair: I was in the 6-4 Democrat majority.
At the time there was a little-known organizing group, ACORN, which had involved itself in party politics and was claiming to represent various neighborhood groups. Since most of the folks involved were active union members and well known to party insiders, we gave little thought to the group. But that was soon to change.
ACORN turned out to be a very strident and vocal force within the party and soon had many of us divided over how to respond. Many of their complaints were seemingly valid and worth taking a look at. One day, one of my campaign supporters brought to me a list of problems with some inner-city housing that, according to him, the city’s community development department was ignoring.
Could I, he asked, bring the situation up during the beginning of the next council meeting when aldermen were allowed to make referrals to city departments? Sure, I said, I’d be happy to help and present his petition. That was the wrong thing to do. When the council meeting started, I was recognized, and asked that the citizen petition be given to the city administrator for referral.
Then the bomb hit me. A young woman sitting in the front row, someone whom I’d never seen before, jumped up, gave me what she called the do-nothing “turkey award,” and about half the audience, complete with ACORN signs, then stood and chanted that I was a turkey and something needed to be done about the housing matter.
They continued to chant throughout the meeting and followed us outside to our cars afterward. Of course the next day’s paper had a field day, with my turkey award prominently displayed on the front page.
I got a call later from my friend who apologized, but thanked me for being concerned enough to bring the matter before the council. I told him in no uncertain language that I’d had enough with him and his organization and never to call me for help again.
Over the years I’ve thought about that incident whenever there is an “in your face” protest of a political figure or issue. When I was the target, these were relatively small but rare affairs; but today they are no longer small or rare. And my reaction to them is that regardless of their cause, I have little time or respect for those who support or engage in those tactics.
We learned a great deal about ACORN and community organizing during the Obama administration. After all, the president had been a community organizer trained in the same school of Saul Alinsky that ACORN had been. And while ACORN is now gone, or converted into something else, the lessons of the Alinsky school of social organizing is still drawing converts.
Saul Alinsky, for those of you who might not remember, was born in the slums of Chicago in 1909, where he ultimately worked his way through the University of Chicago, then dropped out of graduate school to become a criminologist for the state. From there he became a union organizer with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), and became friends with its president, John L. Lewis. Later he branched out and became a community organizer in the slums in which he grew up.
Ultimately he learned organizing skills from — believe it or not — Al Capone’s second in command, Frank (The Enforcer) Nitti.
He later compared Capone’s gang to a public benefactor. In a Playboy interview (got this from the Internet, not the magazine — just wanted to put that on the record) three months before he died in 1972, he said: “The Capone gang was actually a public utility; it supplied what the people wanted and demanded.”
From those Chicago beginnings, he spread his organizing theories establishing numerous “citizens” groups in various cities among the disadvantaged. In 1971 he published a book based on those theories, Rules for Radicals, which he 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.”
Of course, as you would expect, his theories were a blend of Marxism, righteous indignation, and identity politics. His main problem, however, was that he lacked any real ethics; to Alinsky the ends always justified the means. Thus he proudly tells how he used boycotts of banks to get at landlords, and disruptions of public facilities to promote anger against the public officials who managed them.
In that Playboy interview he talked about “turning politicians against each other, splitting them up and then taking them on one at a time.” In dealing with the poor in Catholic neighborhoods, he would first enlist the priests which “gave us the right imprimatur with the average resident.”
Today the Alinsky confrontation model is being carried on by the left-wing progressives and anti-American billionaire George Soros, who is funding many, if not most, of their activities. Repeated organized shouting at congressional hearings, bullying cabinet secretaries, senators, and other public officials out of restaurants, surrounding their homes with chanting crowds, and leading public figures, like Democratic Cong. Maxine Waters, encouraging such behavior all show the Alinsky theory at work.
As far back as 2012 several political websites were reporting that a Soros-financed group, Center for Social Inclusion, was teaching Democratic members of Congress how to smear their opponents as racist. The trainer, Maya Wiley, said that conservative messages were “racially coded” and people of color are being used.
Of course, that’s not all. Alinsky theory has been nearly universally adopted by the left and is, in my opinion, the main force spinning our political and social discourse out of control. Social media and organized leftist groups routinely bait people with whom they disagree, often times ending careers and bankrupting families. Of course, remember the rule: The ends always justify the means. So now society enters into what can now be characterized as “civil incivility.”
And that civil incivility is now the product of Alinsky theory, for as he said:
“Always remember the first rule of power tactics; power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.”
“If the ends don’t justify the means, what does?”
“Any revolutionary change must be preceded by a passive, affirmative, non-challenging attitude toward change among the mass of our people. They must feel so frustrated, so defeated, so lost, so futureless in the prevailing system that they are willing to let go of the past and chance the future.”
“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”
“The job of the organizer is to maneuver and bait the establishment so that it will publicly attack him as a ‘dangerous enemy’.”
“The organizer dedicated to changing the life of a particular community must first rub raw the resentments of the people of the community.”
“Life is a corrupting process from the time a child learns to play his mother off against his father in the politics of when to go to bed; he who fears corruption fears life.”
“No politician can sit on a hot issue if you make it hot enough.”
So now you see what motivated that girl to get into my face with her turkey award, and why people shout at congressional hearings and bully people with whom they disagree.
But all isn’t lost. Incivility, name calling, and the rest are part of our history. After all, in 1800 the Connecticut Courant reporting on a Thomas Jefferson presidency warned that “murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced.”
That would have made Saul’s day.
(You can contact Mike at DeaconMike@q.com.)

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