Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Gordon Gekko in Red
Radical theorists never really go away. The debates over what Machiavelli really had in mind still continue, but they are almost irrelevant because it is not what he meant that matters, but what The Prince has meant to actual leaders and rulers as a guide for taking and holding power. The scribblings of every halfway notable leftist scribe drawing out a theoretical society built on some perfect method are still around, no matter how much they have been discredited in practice.
Alinsky is the last of them, not the truly last one, but the last of them with anything meaningful to say about applying leftist politics to the modern state, far less interested in how an ideal system should work and far more interested in how to realistically seize power in a modern state with open elections and all the other aspects of a free society. The burial ground of most leftist thinkers is their ends, their goals lead to an unrealistic system, that is also true of Alinsky, but in an entirely different way. The left generally assumes that the ideal can be made real by applying an ideal philosophy, radicalizing the oppressed and confronting the oppressors. Alinsky is not the idealist's theoretician, he is to theory what a pickpocket is to economics, not very interested in how money is made, but quite interested in showing you how to take it out of someone else's pocket.
The Alinsky way is self-corrupting in the most direct way possible. Those who choose to follow it don't go astray out of nobler motives, they have few of those to begin with. And that self-corruption destroys any possibility of the ends. If the traditional left usually has to come to power to realize the futility of change and give in to its impulse to rob and kill in the traditional autocratic way, those who follow the Alinsky way don't take that long. Turning the means into the ends has been their business all along, and they don't need to wait until disillusionment sets in to get to work.
Totalitarian leftist regimes end up purging their own idealists for not getting with the means as ends program. Lenin and Stalin butchered the very people who made the revolution happen, because they would interfere with their drive for absolute power. But Alinsky offered a preemptive purge for the American left, it didn't take all the way, without the deluded idealist, the left would hardly exist, but he sharpened its predatory instincts.
The only possible outcome of the Alinsky path is a mafia state. For Alinsky disciples, the means are always more important than the ends, and the more they corrupt themselves and their own movement, the more the country they run starts resembling Russia or Nigeria as a corrupt hellhole where no one trusts anyone and underhanded deals, bribery and con games are the national pastime.
Corrupt methods end up corrupting everything they touch. The institutions, the ideas and the people. And the more corrupt those methods are, the more swiftly they corrupt. Alinsky dedicated his book to the devil, but failed to draw the appropriate lessons from the futility of satanic ambition for accomplishing anything except putting the devil in charge.
Milton's devil chose to rule in hell, rather than serve in heaven. Alinskyism turns viable nations into hells where the majority of people are on the bottom and a small number of devils rule over them at the top. Revolutions in the name of the many for the sake of a few, divide and conquer social chaos that ends up creating ungovernable societies overseen by thugs and their overlords.
Ends as means as a political program makes for something very much like Obama, a moderate veneer over a leftist veneer over a mafia center. First fool the moderates, then fool the left and then make out like a bandit. In practice this means that there are some centrist policies on top, a deeper layer of leftist policies and everything below that is just grand theft government.
The first deception of the program is to fool everyone involved into believing that they are actually following a political agenda, rather than a power grab with assorted looting. And while most ideologies do eventually boil down into a power grab with looting, there is never anything else on the table here. The first to be corrupted are the corruptors who then go on to corrupt others by teaching them to carry off a massive con game whose participants are engaged in a massive theft and power grab disguised by a revolutionary ideology.
Compulsive deception leads to a career in deception and the best con artist wins. That is how the figure at the top of the pyramid has ended up being our pharaoh whose endlessly shifting identity shows how well he can fool people while his policies show how well he can steal from them. Having spent so much time organizing for power and deceit, those are the only two things he can do or knows how to do. Even when actually making things better might benefit him, his skill set is too limited to deviate from that narrow range of tactics.
Alinskyism, like any form of criminality, turns people into criminals. Which is why trying to exploit them or reverse engineer them is a dangerous thing. The tactics are indeed ideology agnostic, the problem is that they are not only not dependent on any ideology, but they degrade the belief set of those who employ them. The more they employ them, the more they learn to think in a pattern that places tactics so far above goals that the deceptive and corrupting tactics become the goal.
There is nothing all that innovative about slowly undoing everything that makes a viable nation function and reducing it to barbarism. The only difference between Rules for Radicals and the Turner Diaries is that the former is a more practical guide for working within the system to destroy a country. But what do you get at the other end is the larger question. Besides a lot of wrecked cities, a lot of corpses and a small number of revolutionaries in charge after all the killing is done.
The Alinsky approach doesn't require killing, but once you have spent enough time undermining all the systems and institutions that prevent society from boiling down into a murderous civil war between different groups, it becomes inevitable. Corrupting the system of civilization ends up leading to barbarism, particularly when it is done by people whose own barbarism is increasingly obvious.
That is also what we are seeing in the United States now as the rules for playing the game are becoming more important than the end result in a variety of fields. But unlocking the rules feeds a cynicism that reduces every interaction to its purely mechanistic qualities with the only end being that of extracting maximum value while subverting the system. When the pretensions to ideology and the romanticism of rebellion are stripped away, the Alinsky approach accomplishes the same thing. It is a method for seizing power, not for creating anything worth seizing. The very methods that are used to seize power devalue the system and the way of thinking that it trains ensures that those who follow its path will go on extracting maximum value for themselves while bankrupting the system even once they are in power.
Gordon Gekko in a red suit is the figure standing at the end of Alinsky's red brick road. The naked greed and power lust which exists entirely for its own sake, apart from any ideology. But one need not walk Alinsky's specific path to get there anyway. Soros has managed to coin his own unwritten version of the same approach, marrying his financial speculation with his god complex and taste for world revolution. And he's only the most flamboyant of the bunch. The cannier sort like Warren Buffett keep their All-American image intact, smiling while they grab the loot with both hands.
These figures exist in every political movement on the left and the right. They are the Dorian Gray painting that sits behind the final sellout and the final abandonment of every principle. Their sin is not greed, it is of not being able to conceive of anything beyond that greed. They are the destroyers of systems and beliefs, because they can be. They are at the end of every belief, every ideology and every struggle. They are the death of an idea.
Like The Prince, Rules for Radicals is in some ways a work of perfect satire, yet unlike Machiavelli, it is unlikely that Alinsky intended to satirize the venality and deceptiveness of the left, or to comment on how those qualities caused their movement to lose its soul and some of its most faithful adherents time and time again. Yet that is unintentionally the end result.
Obama serves as the final commentary on the Alinsky rules and their end result. Obama is Alinsky's Moll Flanders, the hypocrite triumphant and with nothing to show for it than the practice of that hypocrisy. The most significant thing about him being not what he is, but what he is not. That emptiness is the final summary of his identity and that of the Alinsky program.