May 3, 2010

"[C]oncern with ethics increases with the number of means available and vice versa."

"To the man of action the first criterion in determining which means to employ is to assess what means are available. Reviewing and selecting available means is done on a straight utilitarian basis -- will it work? Moral questions may enter when one chooses among equally effective alternate means."

From a list of Saul Alinsky quotes selected by Right Wing News.

I also liked this story:
The difference between fact and history was brought home when I was a visiting professor at a certain Eastern university. Two candidates there were taking their written examinations for the doctorate in community organization and criminology. I persuaded the president of this college to get me a copy of this examination and when I answered the questions the departmental head graded my paper, knowing only that I was an anonymous friend of the president. Three of the questions were on the philosophy of Saul Alinksy. I answered two of them incorrectly. I did not know what my philosophy or motivations were; but they did!
I wonder if that is as severe of a criticism of the teachers as he seemed to think. The teachers haed learned and taught Alinsky's philosophy based on what he put in writing, but he had access to his own brain, which was continually creating new material and choosing, when writing, what to include and how to frame things.

Note how he shifted from the phrase "the philosophy of Saul Alinksy" (the subject of the questions) to the "philosophy or motivations" of Saul Alinsky. He had unique access to knowledge of his motivations, and I wonder how honest he was with himself or in his written answer to the questions about what his motivations were (if that's what a question called for). The teachers might have wanted some critical thinking about Alinsky, while he may have flattered himself.

The author is not the best judge of what is contained in his own books, because it is confused with all the other things he thinks and the things he meant to say but didn't or wishes he had (or hadn't) said.

On the other hand, there's Woody Allen's great fantasy of producing the author to refute some jackass's assertion about what is in a book:

19 comments:

SteveR said...

written examinations for the doctorate in community organization and criminology

But I repeat myself

peter hoh said...

A favorite professor once tossed off the observation that Freud was not a Freudian. While those who read and followed were busy creating a system based on his writings, Freud was moving ahead.

shoutingthomas said...

I haven't watched a Woody Allen movie since college... 40 years ago.

He's still just as dreadful as I remember.

I only watched Allen's movies back in college because, back then, I thought that there was something to be gained by getting in the pants of liberal women. Jesus Christ, was I wrong!

Allen is an ongoing indoctrination in the wimped out, sensitive posture that defines the appropriately liberal man. Sickening shit. Just looking at that son-of-a-bitch makes me want to slap him.

Does anybody watch this crap any more?

I discovered some time after college that there were women in this world who don't want to turn their men into a limp dick sissies. Once I realized this, I abandoned liberal women to their dildoes.

This posture, of course, was created as a sort of apology for Jim Crow. White men are supposed to be forever eating shit over this.

Fuck it. When is this idiot shit going to be over? I can only speak for myself. Woody Allen can go fuck himself.

As if to prove just how sexually sick this posture is, the lowlife bastard is fucking his step daughter. Ms. Althouse, you've accurately characterized the disgusting behavior of Roman Polanski. What's your problem applying the same yardstick to this sick bastard?

Triangle Man said...

"You're either on the bus or off the bus."

John Hawkins said...

In all fairness to Alinsky, in one part of his book, he described doing certain things because they seemed to make sense at the time and then going back later and figuring out the reasons he did what he did. He admitted that they might be nothing more than him justifying himself after the fact.

Kirk Parker said...

Shouting: Crimes and Misdemeanors is a notable exception, wouldn't you say?

Big Mike said...

Here's the question I'm wondering. Did Alinsky never contemplate that his "rules" might be used against his side? If so, was he expecting that his side would emerge victorious from the resultant descent into the mud pit?

I was going to add that it is fortunate for liberals that no conservatives ever adopted Bill Ayers' strategy for achieving political aims, but then I remembered Eric Rudolph. The difference between their fates is enlightening: Bill Ayers and his wife Bernardine Dohrn (by most accounts the nastier piece of work) are university professors (he actually has the title of the "Distinguished Professor") and close friends of the president, while Rudolph is serving five consecutive life sentences.

There's a lesson to be drawn here.

Kirby Olson said...

What works isn't a very good criterion. Something might work once, but not lead to anything sustainable. Terrorism doesn't really help, and all that Alinsky offers is basically terrorism.

Kevin said...

Already been done-

Issac Asimov wrote a short story about a college professor who invented a time machine, and brought back Shakespeare. He enrolled Shakespeare anonymously in a colleague's Shakespeare course. Shakespeare flunked.

spongeworthy said...

I'm not a huge Woody Allen fan--though I can never see the McLuhan scene too often--but I don't think shouting thomas is being fair to Allen. Yes, he glorifies the nebbish to some extent. But the nebbish is always a nebbish, never some alter ego or superhero in disguise.

Just a nebbish.

Oligonicella said...

"The author is not the best judge of what is contained in his own books, because it is confused with all the other things he thinks and the things he meant to say but didn't or wishes he had (or hadn't) said."

Tripe. Unless the book is a free-flow-of-thought thing, writing isn't that chaotic.

holdfast said...

Bill Ayers and Timothy McVeigh were both paranoid men who hated the US government, and saw bombing as the logical response. The difference it that McVeigh was far more competent, and that he also got his just desserts, whereas Ayers was as lousy a bomber as he is an educator, and he was able to invite the future first couple over for dessert at his Hyde Park house.

Stan said...

I remember a golf pro on the golf channel relating this about the great Ben Hogan -- Hogan had written a famous book about the golf swing in which he claimed he made a particular move with some body part (and that everyone should). Yet, analysis of old film of his swing showed that he didn't actually do what he said.

I think it actually even more likely that people fail to communicate precisely with their words than that they fail to sense accurately what their bodies are really doing. But we do both and often.

Trooper York said...

I don't often agree with shoutingthomas but he is right on the money about Woody.

edutcher said...

The title of the post was distilled nicely by Sykes and Fairburn (who taught the unarmed combat course given to Commandos and Rangers during WWII), "When you're fighting for your life, there's no such thing as fighting fair".

shoutingthomas said...

I haven't watched a Woody Allen movie since college... 40 years ago.

He's still just as dreadful as I remember.

...

Does anybody watch this crap any more?


He did an album, "Stand Up Comic", (some of the bits he did on the Carson show when it was still in New York) and it's still a scream. I know what you mean about the movies, though.

Big Mike said...

Here's the question I'm wondering. Did Alinsky never contemplate that his "rules" might be used against his side?

Probably not. I think his idea was predicated on the proposition the Establishment would always remain ladies and gentlemen and nice guys.
Robert Rogers strikes again.

I was going to add that it is fortunate for liberals that no conservatives ever adopted Bill Ayers' strategy for achieving political aims, but then I remembered Eric Rudolph. The difference between their fates is enlightening: Bill Ayers and his wife Bernardine Dohrn (by most accounts the nastier piece of work) are university professors (he actually has the title of the "Distinguished Professor") and close friends of the president, while Rudolph is serving five consecutive life sentences.

Interesting you mention the difference between the Ayerses. Look at the mug shots of the two. Ayers has his head tilted to one side as if he thinks he's making some heavy statement about the Establishment, the kind of thing you'd expect from John Lennon; his worse half has a look on her puss reminiscent of an old-line West Pointer captured on Bataan who isn't bowing to anybody.

Nora said...

"I have on occasion remarked that I felt confident that I could persuade a millionaire on a Friday to subsidize a revolution for Saturday out of which he would make a huge profit on Sunday even though he was certain to be executed on Monday. -- P.150"

Haha, give this to all the Obama's donors to read. However, as I said on some earlier thread. Alinsky just adopted marxism-leninism and Trotzky writings to our time with the example from history of the 20th century that is closer the his reader. Even the above quote is just an extention of the Marx's "the capitalists will hand us the ropes to hang them from".

backbackheyhey said...

This reminds me of a scene in Back to School with Rodney Dangerfield. He has to write a paper on a Kurt Vonnegut book, so he hires Vonnegut to write the paper. IIRC, he got a failing grade.

george said...

You know, it is almost as if we didn't have great minds like Jefferson and Madison to study. Marx, Alinsky etc... are only interesting as object lessons in how societies come to fail. Every revolution based on their principles has failed and usually in a grand fashion. Their principles may gain power but to no good end.

Whereas the Founding Fathers were radicals of an entirely different sort. They were successful ones. They were also intelligent, moral and had a mastery of the English language. All of these things should appeal to true scholars.

So who do our professors choose to sanctify from their lecterns? All we ever hear about is how our kids are radicalized by leftist dogma in college like the suicide bombers are radicalized in the madrassas. And then we act surprised when we get a ruling class that is wholly ignorant of, and antagonistic to the founding principles of the country.

You can't emulate failure and hope to succeed. You can't teach people to go out and blow things up and expect any good to come of it. There is no surer sign a society is in decline than having the likes of Alinsky taught in our colleges... unless it is having one of the abominations produced in such classrooms as president.

Faux intellectuals cling bitterly to Marx and his ilk because the common man rightfully rejects them. How else could they justify their salary? How could they be seen as the holders of some secret knowledge if the country is already based on best principles laid out by brighter and better men than they?

Anyone can be Alinsky or Marx. Anyone can be bitter. Anyone can project their inadequacies onto others. Such failures are the default state of lesser minds.

But it takes a great man to be a Washington; a genius to be a Franklin. These we have in short supply.

Kurt said...

Now I see that I have remembered the Marshall McLuhan scene completely wrong. Over time, I came to believe that it was in the movie Manhattan rather than Annie Hall and that it occurred at a cocktail party and not in a movie theater line. I wonder what Freud, McLuhan, Woody Allen, Marx, or even Saul Alinsky would have to say about the significance of the way I re-edited the scene.