Overheard on Obama Farm: "All speech is free. Some speech is freer than other speech."
IN ITS TUESDAY EDITIONS, the Chicago Tribune tells a tale that could have been written by George Orwell . . . or Saul Alinsky in full "We'll really f*** 'em tomorrow!" mode:
Chicago radio station WGN-AM is again coming under attack from the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama for offering airtime to a controversial author. It is the second time in recent weeks the station has been the target of an "Obama Action Wire" alert to supporters of the Illinois Democrat.THIS READS like a page out of the Industrial Areas Foundation playbook.
Monday night's target was David Freddoso, who the campaign said was scheduled to be on the station from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Chicago time.
"The author of the latest anti-Barack hit book is appearing on WGN Radio in the Chicagoland market tonight, and your help is urgently needed to make sure his baseless lies don't gain credibility," an e-mail sent Monday evening to Obama supporters reads.
"David Freddoso has made a career off dishonest, extreme hate mongering," the message said. "And WGN apparently thinks this card-carrying member of the right-wing smear machine needs a bigger platform for his lies and smears about Barack Obama -- on the public airwaves."
It's the kind of grassroots strong-arm tactic a "community organizer" uses against the city council or a school board . . . or an abusive employer in the community. But to use such tactics as not-so-vague intimidation against a media outlet in the name of stifling free-and-open debate?
And not only that, but to use such tactics not against The Man, but in service of a Washington pol who seeks to become THE Man?
Would Saul Alinsky cheer on a disciple who grabbed the reins of power? Or would he be horrified that his methods had been subverted by the institutional power base in service of Obama's personal ambition?
And the status quo.
Maybe some hints lie in an old Playboy interview with the Old Radical himself, conducted by Eric Norden in 1972:
THE OLD RABBLE-ROUSER really had suburbia's number, didn't he?
PLAYBOY: The assumption behind the Administration's Silent Majority thesis is that most of the middle class is inherently conservative. How can even the most skillful organizational tactics unite them in support of your radical goals?
ALINSKY: Conservative? That's a crock of crap. Right now they're nowhere. But they can and will go either of two ways in the coming years -- to a native American fascism or toward radical social change. Right now they're frozen, festering in apathy, leading what Thoreau called "lives of quiet desperation:" They're oppressed by taxation and inflation, poisoned by pollution, terrorized by urban crime, frightened by the new youth culture, baffled by the computerized world around them. They've worked all their lives to get their own little house in the suburbs, their color TV, their two cars, and now the good life seems to have turned to ashes in their mouths. Their personal lives are generally unfulfilling, their jobs unsatisfying, they've succumbed to tranquilizers and pep pills, they drown their anxieties in alcohol, they feel trapped in longterm endurance marriages or escape into guilt-ridden divorces. They're losing their kids and they're losing their dreams. They're alienated, depersonalized, without any feeling of participation in the political process, and they feel rejected and hopeless. Their utopia of status and security has become a tacky-tacky suburb, their split-levels have sprouted prison bars and their disillusionment is becoming terminal.
They're the first to live in a total mass-media-oriented world, and every night when they turn on the TV and the news comes on, they see the almost unbelievable hypocrisy and deceit and even outright idiocy of our national leaders and the corruption and disintegration of all our institutions, from the police and courts to the White House itself. Their society appears to be crumbling and they see themselves as no more than small failures within the larger failure. All their old values seem to have deserted them, leaving them rudderless in a sea of social chaos. Believe me, this is good organizational material.
The despair is there; now it's up to us to go in and rub raw the sores of discontent, galvanize them for radical social change. We'll give them a way to participate in the democratic process, a way to exercise their rights as citizens and strike back at the establishment that oppresses them, instead of giving in to apathy. We'll start with specific issues -- taxes, jobs, consumer problems, pollution -- and from there move on to the larger issues: pollution in the Pentagon and the Congress and the board rooms of the megacorporations. Once you organize people, they'll keep advancing from issue to issue toward the ultimate objective: people power. We'll not only give them a cause, we'll make life goddamn exciting for them again -- life instead of existence. We'll turn them on.
PLAYBOY: You don't expect them to beware of radicals bearing gifts?
ALINSKY: Sure, they'll be suspicious, even hostile at first. That's been my experience with every community I've ever moved into. My critics are right when they call me an outside agitator. When a community, any kind of community, is hopeless and helpless, it requires somebody from outside to come in and stir things up. That's my job -- to unsettle them, to make them start asking questions, to teach them to stop talking and start acting, because the fat cats in charge never hear with their ears, only through their rears. I'm not saying it's going to be easy; thermopolitically, the middle classes are rooted in inertia, conditioned to look for the safe and easy way, afraid to rock the boat. But they're beginning to realize that boat is sinking and unless they start bailing fast, they're going to go under with it. The middle class today is really schizoid, torn between its indoctrination and its objective situation. The instinct of middle-class people is to support and celebrate the status quo, but the realities of their daily lives drill it home that the status quo has exploited and betrayed them.
Certainly Obama, the erstwhile community organizer, still is adept at Alinskyesque sloganeering and at cutting and pasting from the IAF playbook. But in what way does he propose to rally the middle class against that status quo, which "has exploited and betrayed them"?
Especially when he's running on a platform that's merely a Democratic Party version of the status quo in an attempt to become the duly elected Quo of Quos.