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Alinsky Rule 11: If You Push a Negative Hard and Deep Enough it Will Break Through into its Counterside

The eleventh rule is:

If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counterside.

Be honest. Do you even really know what that means in terms of Alinsky tactics? In Rules for Radicals, Alinsky follows up his statement of the eleventh rule by saying,

“…this is based on the principle that every positive has its negative. We have already seen the conversion of the negative into the positive, in Mahatma Gandhi’s development of the tactic of passive resistance.”

In addition, he follows that with a story, and it is in that story that the true meaning of the eleventh rule becomes evident. Let me first address the Gandhi reference and if you will permit me to quote the story that follows at some length perhaps I can shed some light on this rather enigmatic Alinsky principle.

First, how does Gandhi illustrate pushing a negative through to its counter side? Gandhi, and later as he was emulated by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. discovered the power of the negative to accomplish positive results.  When faced with clear inequities it is common to choose some display of force as the remedy. The revolutionary methodology of Gandhi was to resist force not with force, but with passivity. In addition, as with Martin Luther King Jr. to follow, a new method of revolution was discovered. By using a negative, they were able to bring about profoundly positive change. While the concept was not new dating back to the teaching of Jesus and others, it was a fresh execution of these tactics in a vastly different world.

Now for the story Alinsky recites after the eleventh rule in Rules for Radicals,

“One corporation we organized against responded to the continuous application of pressure by burglarizing my home, and then using the keys taken in the burglary to burglarize the offices of the Industrial Areas Foundation where I work. The panic in this corporation was clear from the nature of the burglaries, for nothing was taken I either burglary to make it seem that the thieves were interested in ordinary loot – they took only the records that applied to the corporation. Even the most amateurish burglar would have had more sense than to do what the private detective agency hired by that corporation did. The police departments in California and Chicago agreed, “The Corporation might just as well have left its fingerprints all over the place.”

Alinsky says further,

“When a corporation bungles like the one that burglarized my home and office, my visible public reaction is shock, horror, and moral outrage. In this case, we let it be known that eventually it would be confronted with this crime as well as with a whole series of other derelictions, before a United States Senate Sub-committee Investigation. Once sworn in, with congressional immunity, we would make this action public. This threat, plus the fact that an attempt on my life has been made in Southern California, had the corporation on a spot where it would be publicly suspect in the event of assassination.”

Finally, Alinsky concluded,

“At one point I found myself in a thirty-room motel in which every other room was occupied by their security men. This became another devil in the closet to haunt this corporation and to keep the pressure on.”

Here again, we see an example of how the negative can actually be transformed into a positive when it is handled skillfully. By shining the light on the negative actions of the corporation, and making it clear, that those actions could and would come to light in an unflattering manner Alinsky was able to turn the situation around to his benefit.

Notice also that Alinsky’s conclusion was that it was successful because it allowed him to keep the pressure on. Never lose sight of the fact that the entire emphasis of the Alinsky model is to keep the pressure on at all times. He who maintains the pressure eventually wins the battle.

For a more modern and relevant example of how the eleventh rule is still being used we need look no further than the constant use of class warfare by the Obama Administration. To the Obama Administration it is the so-called “fat cats” on Wall Street with more money than they know what to do with that are creating the suffering for the “have-nots” in society. Leaving aside the Marxist overtones, and the fact that Obama engages in crony capitalism with the so-called “fat cats” he maligns, let us examine how this class warfare strategy is merely an extension of the eleventh rule.

Keep pushing that negative. Keep the pressure on. Keep reminding the public of the disparity of income at every turn. Never mind the fact that the income disparity in America is far less than in other countries, or that even the poorest Americans are rich by world standards, or the fact that the poorest Americans are trapped in poverty by the very entitlement programs that President Obama espouses. Putting all that aside, we can see that the strategy is to remind poor people that they are poor, and to blame their poverty on the rich.

However, if you are poor, are you poor because someone else is rich? Well, possibly if that person stole the money they now possess from you, but otherwise not so much. Wealth is not a zero sum game, but class warfare is an effective tool for inciting discontent amongst both groups. The poor are irate that they have to watch the lavish lifestyles of the rich without participating, while the rich are incited by the same strategy, as they fear that the Government will seek to take their wealth and redistribute it.

Again, putting aside the clear Marxism here let us consider how this is just another way in which the Obama Administration continues to live its political life by Rules for Radicals.

Remember that the eleventh rule seeks to push a negative hard and deep enough so that it will break through to its counterside, and that the fundamental principle of all of Alinsky is teaching is that change comes to those who maintain the proper pressure. Class warfare fits the bill perfectly.

By pushing the negative of income disparity the Administration is able to plead their case to the American public in a way that makes the Republicans sound like heartless “super-capitalists” who would rather let the poor starve than allow any wealthy American to see a dime in tax increases. By forward-loading spending cuts into future years that are not binding on future Congresses, and by accepting millions in donations from the very wealthy Americans Obama excoriates he is also able to apply pressure both on Congress and Wall Street in such a way that they appear to be the ones responsible for America’s economic woes.

Meanwhile, joblessness and crony capitalism thrive while absolutely nothing Obama is doing is helping to ameliorate either problem, but fixing the problem is not the goal. Fixing things is never the goal of Alinsky tactics. Alisnky tactics are always designed to agitate, not mitigate. The use of Alinsky’s rule 11 redounds not to the greater good of Americans rich or poor, but rather to the political fortunes of one man – Barack Obama.

The book will include many more practical methods whereby you will learn to either use or diffuse Alinsky tactics, but as usual, I offer here at least a taste of how to counter the tactics.

Remember the Bush doctrine? You know, the one that tripped up Sarah Palin? The gist of it was that America should intervene In foreign affairs where her interests were threatened.

Remember the Libyan conflict under Obama? You know the one where, unlike Bush, he got absolutely no Congressional approval for his actions?

This is just one area where you can push a negative so that it pushes through to its counter side, and the bonuses are that you get Libs to have to admit Obama is like George W. Bush, and that the Left has been more unlawfully interventionist under Obama than under Bush.

Laud Obama for keeping Gitmo open, increasing drone attacks, disregarding sovereign borders to track down Bin Laden, and for being overtly interventionist beyond even the Bush doctrine and you should have some lively conversations with the Left; conversations that will push a negative deep and hard enough to break through to its counter side.

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Replies to This Discussion

Thanks, that's very interesting.  The constant griping on the part of the CJM against Obama often seems to just re-confirm his image as being that of the "progressive left" (and unbeknownst to those pushing this) making the Republicans look like the evil, corrupt, self-serving rich.  The truth is that almost all politicians are evil, corrupt self-serving (and contributing to their own increased wealth, even if they did not start that way).

This video might interest you (not to trivialise your point).


Hmm.  Plenty of food for thought there.


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