Alinsky Ball

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Recent days have seen the media and/or new media in an uproar over a couple of incidents that invite a bit more investigation from the intellectually curious. I refer to Rush Limbaugh’s insult of Sandra Fluke, and Kirk Cameron’s gracious response to a question from Piers Morgan about homosexuality.

Now in the interests of accuracy, it should be noted that Rush has apologized for calling Ms. Fluke a slut, and so we should address the apology first. I confess I haven’t mastered all the details of this important situation as I ought to have done, but if Ms. Fluke indicated multiple guys, then the comment should stand. That’s what a slut is. But if she has a steady boyfriend, and she is faithful to him, then it really was uncalled for to call her that. She would be something more like a concubine.

Of sociological interest here is the same reaction for very different behavior, and different reactions for very similar behavior. Rush says something provocative, and everybody goes bonkernuts. Kirk says something judicious and reasonable, and everybody goes bonkernuts. Then, when Bill Maher says things far worse than what Rush did (but in a similar vein and about conservative women), his reputation as the Voltaire of the guttersnipes only continues to rise. Kirsten Powers is notable among liberals for her very lonely objection to this kind of leftist women-bashing. Of course, conservatives point out this double standard all the time, but are serenely ignored. But why?

The answer is because complaints about this double-standard are a sure-fire indication that conservatives still do not have a clue about what is actually going on. They think they are playing football, and the other team is called “the liberals,” and that the same rules apply to both sides, because they are playing football too, right? There are, or ought to be, impartial referees to call the fouls in an equitable manner.

But that is not what is happening. Conservatives are playing football, sure enough, but the other side is playing Alinsky ball. When you line up on the ball, and the linemen on the other side have switchblades and revolvers, the game is not really football anymore. With football, the coach says things like “it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.” With Alinsky ball, it is not how you play the game, but whether you win or lose.

When the cheating is surreptitious, the game can remain the same kind of game, and just be a dirty one. But when the cheating is brazen and open, then what is happening is that the rules of the game are being rewritten. As it turns out the blue jerseys can carry heat. Says right here. But if someone with a red jersey tries it . . . “how dare you, sir? Have you no shame?”

Here is another example — but it is an almost exact parallel. An editorial cartoonist, about to make an insulting joke about Jesus, does not draw himself up at the last minute, thinking about the devastating consequences of the Baptists of Arkansas rioting, and burning Little Rock down. That same cartoonist, about to deliver a witticism at the expense of Muhammad, will sit for a minute, stroking his chin. Then he will put the pen down.

Pitching a fit is a way of getting what you want. If you can get what you want by doing that, then Alinsky would approve. You need to personalize the fight, he would say, and be as unfair to your personalized adversary as you need to be. If he wants you to stop, then he should give you what you want already. Conservatives should read Rules for Radicals, and stop being so surprised.

One final thing. Conservatives should not descend to this level. When the other side plays this way, it does not constitute permission to do the same — however poetic the justice might seem to us. We answer to someone outside the game entirely.

Someone might reply with the objection that he wants to make them howl. But don’t worry about that. Limit yourself to biblical expressions, tactics, epithets, humor, and so on, and they will howl plenty. All of us could get arrested for hate crimes without ever ranging outside the boundaries of our concordance.



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