Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

September 2016

It’s been a while since I have made reference to Saul Alinsky. He’s not the character from Breaking Bad or the spinoff, Better Call Saul. Saul Alinsky was a man credited with creating the profession known as Community Organizer. He wrote a book, Rules for Radicals, published in 1971, a year before his death. According to former presidential candidate Ben Carson, Lucifer was cited by Alinsky as the first successful radical who stood up to the establishment and got his own realm. Carson also said that Hillary Clinton admired Alinsky and wrote her senior thesis on him.


There are 12 rules for radicals and the fifth is:


RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions. (Pretty crude, rude, and mean, huh? They want to create anger and fear.)



As Socrates (younger than Lucifer but older than Alinsky) said, “As a being acts so it is.” That proposition is often illustrated by saying, “If it walks, swims, looks, and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.” So, if like Carson and others, you are down on radicals, I suggest you listen for politicians who ridicule: who are crude, rude, and mean. And then remember this advice from Alinsky on what to do to the radicals to be rid of them and their bad works. Send them on a junket but not to jail. He explained:


“I remember that once I accepted an invitation to participate in a one-week discussion at the Aspen Institute. The argument was made that this would be a good opportunity to get away from it all and write. The institute sessions would last only from 10:00 to noon and I would be free for the rest of the afternoon and the evening.”

Alinsky found, however, that the sessions were engaging and the company convivial. He then chatted through lunch with some fascinating intellectual for so long that there was scarcely time to clean up for cocktails and dinner. After dinner was, of course, too late to begin the hard work of arranging words in a compelling way. The week passed and he penned no new tracts.

“Jail provides just the opposite circumstances. You have no phones and, except for an hour or so a day, no visitors. Your jailers are rough, unsociable, and generally so dull that you wouldn’t want to talk with them anyway. You find yourself in a physical drabness and confinement, which you desperately try to escape. ... You escape into thinking and writing.”

NB: This a rework of my September 2000 column.