A few days ago, I received at long last an encapsulated exposure of how the radical right puzzles its frame together to see and show what it claims is our political reality. The picture it inadvertently reveals, however, is larger than the one in the assiduously constructed frame. Inside that frame, Obama must either be incompetent because the economy is still moribund, or else he is a nefarious conniver out to destroy Capitalism and end human freedom due to his “radical Leftist” history, associations and aims. Emphasis on radical. Emphasis on deficient intelligence, honor and reliability. (He can’t be any good due to maternal family connection to the CIA and a dead, African father, right? Or, could such judgments be stupidly wrong?)
Never mind how cool, well-educated and rational Obama seems. Emphasize his early, if indirect, connection with Saul Alinsky. Imply he is tainted with (the Right’s twisted version of) Cloward-Piven theory. Don’t tell any undistorted facts about either one. Abuse your readers with a charade of balanced, good sense. Note, by the way, how these radical-rightist writers never imagine how transparent they are to anyone who does even a little research or who has a larger, clearer view than they can frame, plus the 20-20 vision that sees straight into them and finds rather little in there of value.
Why is this? Is it because the radical-rightist starts with a goal of winning political victory by any means available rather than deliberately seeking, knowing and revealing the truth? Yes. “Truth” will become whatever these writers say it is, when they have beaten the opponent. Like Marx, the end justifies the means, including any kind of meanness. This exemplifies the radical reversal of values that typically shows up in tendentious argument when pushed beyond validation.
Back to that writer’s artfully constructed but unrighteously Rightist frame-job. Inside it, ACORN was a nest of schemers bent on tearing down Capitalism. Alinsky was a radical, hate-filled Marxist. Cloward and Piven were trying to tear down the castle of value so as to revolutionize government and redistribute the wealth. These are lies of such spin as only twisted fear and malice produce. Outside that frame, in the real world that should define all our values and thoughts, ACORN was a community service organization with populist leanings and alliance with progressive Democrats (Ah, those terrible, old-time Christian values!)
Saul Alinsky was a fine fellow who spent his life trying to help the downtrodden poor, organize working people and strengthen their unions. He never was a Communist nor a Socialist Party member though often accused of it by Right-Wingers who seem always unwilling to distinguish social concern from “Social-Ism,” or between leftist activism and wild Anarchism. Their tar-brush is wide and sweepingly flung about. Fact is, though, they are well able to tell the difference. They just pose as crudely imperceptive.
The pose is a political weapon. They think its smart to dissimulate and then accuse others of stupid pretensions and mendacity. They put great effort into playing smart instead of being honest and truthful. Near life’s end, Alinsky wrote a how-to book on building organizations for community action against the repressive forces of reaction, titled Rules For Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals (1971) Random House, a Vintage Books paperback, widely present in libraries and classrooms, today. Not all of us can remember what a hell-hole the United States was, for minorities and the poor, from the 1800s up to about 1970, and not yet fully corrected. As for charges of bad ethics laid against Alinsky, it should be noted that not even Machiavelli fully endorsed his own pragmatic teachings.
The self-styled conservative writer, earlier referred, hangs inuendo up in printed air to suggest a deep and devious conspiracy spun by the un-American Left to destroy all that is sweet, good and true in the land of our fathers. He cannot admit his personal stake in property or portfolio trumps public values, or that his identification with Murdoch and the Kochs can only be wishful fantasy. He believes he himself is a realist whereas the opponents suffer from misguided idealism. Let’s take a look at reality.
Unions, especially the Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) are current “whipping-boys” for the common folks’ enemies on the Right. Rightist hacks work up lies and get them spread and recycled until naîve people hear them so much they start believing them. These are the soft-core people the hard-core Right depends on to give them a near approach to majority. The soft-core is continually manipulated by hard-core misrepresentation or spin. The NLRB is now a target since its Bush appointees who favored business have been replaced by Obama appointees who favor labor. The hard-core doesn’t like balance or redress.
Lie after lie about the SEIU is juggled into public notice by the hard-core. With a little initiative, anyone can find out the truth, but too many soft-core people lack initiative due to bias and they don’t care to find out, as if, unwilling to light up they’ll make do with second-hand smoke. If you go online to research Alinsky, his work and influence, you will note that the field is already heavily infiltrated with writing slanted by the Right. If you swallow much of it, you will see Alinsky as something he was not. Keep your head, and you will see the Republican attack-machinists using the most negative aspects of Alinsky’s methods, themselves!
Tea Party-types would have you believe Cloward and Piven were kooks. Professor Richard A. Cloward (1926-2005) was an internationally known scholar and activist, and a widely read social work scholar. According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), he held a Masters in social work and PhD in sociology from Columbia U. Adelphi University awarded him an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters. He was on the faculty of the Columbia University School of Social Work from 1954 until he died. In 1944-46 he was an ensign in the US Navy and then 1st Lieutenant in the US Army in 1951-54. Frances Fox Piven (b. 1932) is today a professor of political science and sociology at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. Canadian born, naturalized here in 1953, she was married to Cloward until his death. They did much work together.
In May, 1966, The Nation printed their article, “The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty.” It urged full enrollment of eligible people in welfare programs in order to collapse the system and require reforms including a guaranteed, minimal income for all. Our radical Right would have you believe they aimed to wreck Capitalism, and worse. It seems the phrase, “Cloward-Piven Strategy” was invented by David Horowitz. In his ill-grounded slant, they hoped to bring down Capitalism by flooding the bureaucracy with so many demands our society would be pushed into crisis and economic collapse, opening the way for the ubiquitous, all-powerful Left to pass “unpopular, socialist policies in a totalitarian manner.” Are you snickering, yet?
This notion became scripture for propagandists, to be popularized on radio and TV by Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Joseph Farah, Stanley Kurtz and beaten like a drum by the oft-weeping clown, Glenn Beck, waving arms at chalked-up blackboards. Their proof is a shadowy web of associations spun together by “Tarzan reasoning” and presented to you once again by Pablum-eating writers on the too-far Right. Enough? Or shall we go FOX hunting?