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Radicalism Goes Mainstream

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"Artim:

Why does the Left sympathize with radical Islamic extremists? Over the July 4th weekend a story about how a recent New York City Council resolution that recommend the city’s school system shut down to commemorate two of the most important Muslim holidays was picked up by Islamic groups and declared as a victory for Allah and Islam. Why would these nut-balls do such a thing? By “nut-balls,” I mean the New York City Council. This is the same New York City that went through the horrors of 9–11. What are these people thinking? Even Mayor Bloomberg has better sense. Give him time. It won’t be long before he capitulates. “Righteous violence” has always been rationalized by the Left going back to early Union violence because it was a means to bring down the establishment:

The use of violence was justified, many in the New Left comforted themselves, because theirs was a violence to end all violence, a liberating and righteous violence that would rid the world of a system that deformed and destroyed people. Such glorious ends justified, even ennobled, violent means.[1]

Organizations like Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) used violent rhetoric almost from their inception in the early 1960s. John Lewis, the very liberal Democrat representative from Georgia, boasted when he addressed the March on Washington in August 1963, “We will march through the South, . . . the way Sherman did. We shall pursue our own ‘scorched earth’ policy and burn Jim Crow to the ground—nonviolently. We shall crack the South into a thousand pieces and put them back together in the image of democracy.”[2] From September 1969 to May 1970 radical leftists in the United States “committed about 250 attacks, or almost one terrorist bombing a day (government estimates put that number much higher). During the summer of 1970, there were twenty bombings a week in California.”[3]

If this isn’t enough, there was a bizarre link between the Weathermen, the SDS, and Charles Manson. Bernardine Dohrn, who is married to ACORN leader Bill Ayers and is an Associate Professor of Law at Northwestern University School of Law and the Director of Northwestern’s Children and Family Justice Center, was a member of the Weather Underground who made the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. At a 1969 “War Council” meeting held in Flint, Michigan, organized by the Weathermen, she told the crowd of about 400: “Offing those rich pigs with their own forks and knives, and then eating a meal in the same room, far out! The Weathermen dig Charles Manson.”[4]

For a time Manson was the darling of anti-war protester Jerry Rubin. Rubin wrote of Manson in We Are Everywhere: “His words and courage inspired us. . . . Manson’s soul is easy to touch because it lays quite bare on the surface.”[5] Rubin later admitted that he was angered by Manson’s “incredible male chauvinism.” High praises for ritualistic, political murder but indignation for male chauvinism. Typical. A reporter for the Los Angeles Free Press expressed similar sentiments when he found out that Manson was “both anti-Jewish and anti-black.”[6]

Why did some on the radical left see Manson as a hero? Perhaps it was because Manson articulated the same rhetoric of violence that spewed forth from the SDS and Weathermen and actually put their views into action as a way to bring down “the system.” Manson believed that the Tate-LaBianca murders he orchestrated would start a race war. Manson had acted upon the radical revolutionary tactics that Tom Hayden, Huey Newton, and Bernardine Dohrn had been suggesting for quite some time.

It is significant that Timothy McVeigh and Islamic extremists share the rhetoric of 1960s radicals. Two years before he blew up the Morrow building, McVeigh wrote a letter to the Union-Sun & Journal (Lockport, New York): “We have no proverbial tea to dump; should we instead sink a ship full of Japanese imports? Is a civil war imminent? Do we have to shed blood to reform the current system? I hope it doesn’t come to that, but it might.” Compare McVeigh’s rhetoric with that of Hayden: “Violence can contribute to shattering the status quo.”

The bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City was a desperate and radical response directed at “the establishment.” It’s conformity to liberal resistance tactics is frightening—but no liberal reporter is likely to make the connection. The Left has worked too long to establish itself as a political and cultural force to admit that its history is filled with incendiary rhetoric and real violence. Did Bin Laden follow the Left’s tactics in his assault on America? Are radical Islamic Muslims following a similar plan?

The American Left is trying to destroy our nation in hopes of building a new one by capitulating to what they believe are common goals with radical Islamists and by undermining the core values of America through the tactics set forth by Saul Alinsky (1909–1972) in his Rules for Radicals. It was Alinsky who wrote, “Do one of three things. One, go find a wailing wall and feel sorry for yourselves. Two, go psycho and start bombing—but this will only swing people to the right. Three, learn a lesson. Go home, organize, build power and at the next convention, you be the delegates.”[7] Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are students of Alinsky’s methods.

Hillary had met Alinsky at Methodist church outing when she was a teenager. They were impressed with one another. In late 1968, Alinsky offered Hillary Rodham a job working for him. She had insider aspirations. She wrote her Senior Thesis on Alinsky in 1969: “There is Only the Fight . . .”: An Analysis of the Alinsky Model. While Alinsky believed that “the system” could only be changed from the outside, Hillary believed it could be changed from the inside. She, and many others like her (e.g., Ayers and Dohrn), took Alinsky’s “radical” methods and made them mainstream. “Seventeen years later, another young honor student was offered a job as an organizer in Chicago. By then, Alinsky had died, but a group of his disciples hired Barack Obama, a 23-year-old Columbia University graduate, to organize black residents on the South Side, while learning and applying Alinsky’s philosophy of street-level democracy. The recruiter called the $13,000-a-year job ‘very romantic, until you do it.’” The rest, as they say, is history.

For the most part, Alinsky’s methods were not that radical. There was nothing wrong with going to law school, as Clinton did, or working for “street-level democracy.” The methodological predecessor to Alinsky, Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937), “used the sixteenth-century Reformation as a paradigm for his notion of the ‘organic intellectual’. Gramsci’s assertion that ‘all people are intellectuals, but not all people have the function of intellectuals in society’ directly parallels Martin Luther’s emphatic insistence that ‘all believers are priests, but not all believers have the function . . . of priests in the church.’”[8] It’s unfortunate that much of the church was silent as Gramsci, Alinsky, and other intellectuals laid the groundwork for today’s mainstream radicalism. Alister McGrath’s comments ought to be heeded:

If Christianity is to survive and flourish, it needs organic theologians, not well-intentioned yet tunnel-visioned students of Richard Hooker or Thomas Aquinas, who know their ideas backwards, yet can neither critique nor apply them, nor even see the need to do so. Nor does it need theologians who simply mimic the alien values of western academic culture, which scorns commitment and excoriates religion. Happily, there are many theologians within the academic system whose loyalties lie beyond it. Our quarrel is not with academic excellence, but with academic introversion. Gramsci was no friend of the church in his time; perhaps now, his ideas might come it its aid.[9]

“And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light” (Luke 16:8).

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Endnotes
1
 Richard J. Ellis, The Dark Side of the Left: Illiberal Egalitarianism in America (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1997), 137.
2
 John Lewis, “A Serious Revolution,” in Massimo Teodori, ed., The New Left: A Documentary History (Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1969), 102.
Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 188.
Vincent Bugliosi, with Curt Gentry, Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1974), 222. Rothman and Lichter tell it a little differently in Roots of Radicalism: “Dig it: First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them, then they even shoved a fork into the victim’s stomach. Wild!” (42).
Jerry Rubin, We Are Everywhere (New York: Harper & Row, 1971). Quoted in Bugliosi and Gentry, Helter Skelter, 221–222.
Bugliosi and Gentry, Helter Skelter, 222. 
7
Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals (New York: Vintage Books, [1971] 1989), xxiii. 
8
Alister E. McGrath, The Future of Christianity (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2002), 146. 
9
McGrath, The Future of Christianity, 153. Saul D. Alinsky

 
Article posted July 7, 2009

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