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The Towering Power of Saul Alinsky in American Political Science

To amuse myself (see this thread for details) and because I needed to poke around JSTOR for real work purposes, I tried a couple of searches.

I tried the flagship journal of the discipline, the American Political Science Review for articles, full text, and “Alinksy” and got back 3 results (1946, 1968 and 1969).  Keep in mind the APSR is indexed back over a century on JSTOR.

Other major journals that I bothered with:

American Journal of Political Science: 1 (from 2002).

Perspective on Politics:  2 (2004 and 2006).

Journal of Politics:  2 (form 1974 and 1975).

If you search all 116 political science titles for “Alinsky” (without checking to see if they refer to Saul Alinsky specifically) one gets a whopping 55 article.  A search of “Saul Alinsky” in full-text article for the 116 journals in question gives me 38 hits, while “Alinsky, Saul” gives me 7.

Towering figure, indeed.

Well, color me chastised.

Related Posts:

About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. jwest says:

    Credentialed ignorance.

    Not only do we have it teaching in our colleges, we have it running our country.

    Unbelievable.

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  2. So, now you are going to state that Alinsky isn’t the state of the art of polisci, but ought to be?

    Fantastic!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  3. matt says:

    I had never heard of Saul Alinsky till the wingnuts here started QQing about it all over the comments a while back..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  4. wr says:

    Steven — All you’ve done here is prove what an elaborate cover-up academics and politicians have done, deliberating never citing Alinsky so that no one besides jwest will ever know what a seminal influence he is.

    Remember: What’s the first rule of Rules for Radicals?

    Never talk about Rules for Radicals.

    Now jwest’s army is coming for you…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  5. Neil Hudelson says:

    To be fair, I’m sure jwest knew of Alinksy because he had read a good majority of those political journals. After all, if one were to spend most of one’s time accusing others of being either ignorant or stupid, one would at least be well versed in the subject of the accusation, right?

    There’s no way jwest heard Alinsky’s name on Glenn Beck and has just been repeating it ever since, right?

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  6. I think it is a Glenn Beck/talk radio thing. And, shockingly, if you rely on such sources solely, one ends up being poorly informed.

    Alinsky became of relevance in 2008 because of he is considered, as I understand it, something of a father to community organizers. Since Obama worked as a community organizer, the connection becomes clear.

    I suspect that people who study grass roots movements are aware of him, but a major figure in American politics (or political science) he is not.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  7. BTW, that last comment was in response to Matt.

    @Wr:

    Remember: What’s the first rule of Rules for Radicals?

    Never talk about Rules for Radicals.

    FTW.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  8. Southern Hoosier says:

    One thing I find odd, I’ve heard Comrade Obama refered to as a product of the Chicago political machine and a student of Saul Alinsky. Yet Saul Alinsky fought against the Chicago political machine. Comrade Obama now seems to represents everything that Saul Alinsky fought against.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  9. Neil Hudelson says:

    Watching jwest being thoroughly dismantled is usually a mildy amusing part of my day (and indeed, it happens near daily).

    Due to the fact that today has been rather boring, this argument a**-whooping has been been one of the highlights of the day for me.

    I’m sure jwest still sees himself as the victor though.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  10. Funnily enough Alinsky’s Rules For Radicals does seem to be heavily cited in Google Scholar (Rules for Radicals gets 1400+ cites between various editions)… although most of the prominent cites are not in political science, and the cite count really doesn’t indicate whether or not the cites are favorable or dismissive.

    Then again I wasn’t familiar with Frances Fox Piven until the whole GB bru-ha-ha, even though one of my best friends worked as her TA. But my political science training was pretty much the polar opposite of that promulgated in the “New Political Science” (read “far-left-wing activist”) movement, to the extent that my PhD-granting department had purged all its theorists and most of the squishy types too.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. sam says:

    “Alinsky became of relevance in 2008 because of he is considered, as I understand it, something of a father to community organizers. ”

    Yeah, that’s pretty much my memory of him (back in the 60s). I recall hearing him talk about a lecture he gave for Catholic priests interested in organizing: “How to Neutralize Your Bishop”. Sounded funny — and effective.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  12. john personna says:

    I like the “first rules” above. In a nutshell,

    The first rule of Saul Alinsky is that there is no Saul Alinsky.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  13. @Chris:

    I hadn’t heard of Frances Fox Piven until the GB bit, either.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  14. jwest says:

    Chris,

    I realize how awkward it may be for you to jump into the middle of this, but relying on your (and hopefully Joyner’s) intellectual honesty, do you believe that someone who not only didn’t study Alinski, but didn’t even know who he was until a few years ago should hold a PhD in political science?

    It just seems unfathomable that the bar would be so low in that field that this could happen.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  15. michael reynolds says:

    The important thing for Beck is the name: Alinsky. It has the same magic power as Soros. You can’t get a good conspiracy going without your Jews, you know.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  16. michael reynolds says:

    Excellent circular logic, jwest. If a Poli Sci PhD doesn’t know about Alinsky it’s not because Alinsky is largely irrelevant, it must be that the PhD is unqualified.

    It’s like when an astronomer doesn’t even know how to cast a horoscope. Or when a so-called mathematician knows nothing about numerology.

    Ignorance of the conspiracy is proof that you’re part of the conspiracy.

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  17. jwest says:

    Michael,

    Tell me honestly, weren’t you amazed (shocked, saddened) after reading the admission that Steven hadn’t heard of Alinski until a few years ago?

    Certainly you were familiar with him, Hillary’s admiration of him, Rules for Radicals, etc. and you don’t hold a political science PhD.

    Put personal animosity aside for a moment and give me an honest answer.

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  18. Neil Hudelson says:

    jwest,

    I think I can speak for just about everyone on this thread (and please, everyone, let me know if I’m incorrect here):

    No. No one was amazed, shocked, or saddened to hear Professor Taylor had not heard of Alinsky until a few years ago. Why? Because no one had until a few years ago. He is not important in the field of Political Science. There are at least 3 commentors/authors in this thread who have some sort of degree in PoliSci from a variety of universities. None of them have expressed any shock or amazement. Why? Because he is unimportant.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  19. Neil Hudelson says:

    “He” being Alinsky, not the Prof ;).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. jukeboxgrad says:

    jwest, when and how did you first hear of Alinsky? Please be specific. If you can remember.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  21. michael reynolds says:

    jwest:

    Saddened? Shocked? I would say: entirely unmoved. Unsurprised. I experienced an emotion best described as, “Duh.” Or perhaps, “Uh huh.” Or even, “Zzzzz.”

    No one has heard of Alinsky because no one gives a sh!t about Alinsky except for credulous ninnies who listen to Glenn Beck’s lunatic rants.

    Dude: stop listening to Glenn Beck. He is a fraud. He’s a hustler. He lies to people like you and you lap it up because it makes you feel special, and important, and in-the-know. You are not those things. What you are is a sucker.

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  22. Not sure how James Joyner is part of this… although I doubt he’d have heard of Alinsky either.

    First, I can’t really speak for Steven’s training at Texas, but my department was very focused on “mainstream” journal-type political science research, mostly quantitative study of American politics and international relations with an effort to build a quantitative comparative field as well (with more mixed success). This training was largely empirical – look at the world as it is today, usually by studying either voters or political elites (largely elected and appointed government officials – members of Congress, Supreme Court justices etc.) as you find them – rather than normative arguments about who ought to run society, whether the power structure is “fair,” etc.

    Second, by definition the PhD is a narrow, research degree. James, Steven, and I probably have some shared background in methodology and approaches, and probably more common ground in our undergraduate training, but our substantive training was very different (I think James studied IR, Steven studied comparative politics, and I mostly studied American politics). Of the three of us Alinsky was probably the closest to being relevant to what I study, but again my research is on empirical mass behavior – so whether the people “behaving” are motivated by reading Alinsky or Glenn Beck or Oprah (or, more likely, none of the above) really isn’t all that interesting.

    Alinsky might be relevant for people who study social movements, and I guess people who do research (empirical or otherwise) on that would be more familiar with his work.

    As to the normative question as to whether I deserve a PhD not knowing who Alinsky is… I leave that to others to decide. Given what I’ve heard of his work, though, I’m not sure there’s much “there” to really study beyond the plot summary, any more than there was in Piven’s 1960s advocacy.

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  23. I have no idea if James is even paying attention to this thread.

    I can say this: I have known him since 1998 and we taught together for about four years, including working together on the intro to American Gov course.

    Total times we have discussed Saul Alinsky: 0.

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  24. jwest says:

    Neil,

    I’m sure you’re being honest and sincere. It’s perfectly understandable that someone like you wouldn’t know of Alinski and there is certainly no shame in that.

    However, I hold out hope that somewhere there is an intellectually honest individual who was sentient during the ‘70s, was of average or above average intelligence and who is incredulous as I that someone whose entire life is based on political science hadn’t heard of, let alone studied, Alinski.

    Apparently Michael was unaware of Alinski until roughly the same timeframe as Steven. Jukeboxgrad still has no idea of what we’re discussing.

    Personally, I first heard him speak at an SDS rally in 1972, next to Eastern Market in Detroit, but I had already read Rules for Radicals by that time.

    It’s incomprehensible to me how people in the field are unaware of him, but what I find totally unbelievable is how any of you hope to understand the strategy and organization of political campaigns and movements without having any knowledge of the most basic writing on the subject.

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  25. Rick Almeida says:

    However, I hold out hope that somewhere there is an intellectually honest individual who was sentient during the ‘70s, was of average or above average intelligence and who is incredulous as I that someone whose entire life is based on political science hadn’t heard of, let alone studied, Alinski.

    Count me in as another poli sci Ph.D. who’d never heard of Alinsky until the 2008 campaign.

    It’s incomprehensible to me how people in the field are unaware of him, but what I find totally unbelievable is how any of you hope to understand the strategy and organization of political campaigns and movements without having any knowledge of the most basic writing on the subject.

    On the tiny chance you’re actually interested in an answer, it comes in two parts: 1) There are literally thousands of other scholars on these subjects, and 2) clearly mainstream political science pedagogy considers hundreds of those to be more important than Alinsky.

    Something for you to consider, jwest: maybe your belief that Alinsky is an important figure in the study of politics is mistaken. His work may have been important to you or affected you strongly when you were exposed to it, but that in no way implies that the scholarly community shares your opinion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. michael reynolds says:

    Hey, there we go; I’ve heard of SDS. In fact I knew a guy, was friends with a guy, who was SDS.

    I met him when I was working in the law library and he as a para-legal, for a major corporate and lobbying firm in DC. He still had the long hair at that point, 1972. We were both serving our corporate overlords, such radical leftist powerhouses as General Motors, Time Inc., and one of the airlines, I forget which.

    SDS were a bunch of college kids with trust funds. The specter of The Left has always been right-wing bull. Our Left would be Europe’s Right.

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  27. Wiley Stoner says:

    Alinsky was a community organizer from the 1930’s on. He was a lefty for a very long time. Read what Wikipedia has to say about your hero. I do not denial is one of the tools of the left. I first heard of Alinsky when Hillary was trying to do health care during Slick Willy’s first term. Claiming ignorance of what Alinsky professed does not mean you were not taught his tenents as students. Read Alinsky’s writings then you decide where is politics lies. Taylor, was Che a communist? I’ll bet you can write one hell of a defense of his actions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  28. michael reynolds says:

    Okay, I think it’s time to confess the truth: Barack Obama was very close to Saul Alinsky.

    It began when Obama was 11. And ended then, too, because Alinsky died in 1972. But for part of Obama’s 11th year, he and the near-death community organizer were tight.

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  29. MarkedMan says:

    Saul Alinsky had exactly one thing going for him until 2008: a catchy book title that could be used to sum up the 60’s. Other than that he would not be known at all today. Now, of course, he has Glen Beck, and people like jwest can consider Alinsky to be of seminal importance to the mind of Barack Hussein Obama, aka Comrade O’bama. But, of course, that says more about jwest’s mental state than it does Obama’s

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  30. G.A.Phillips says:

    Saul Alinsky and rules for…heehee=the sorry state of liberal politics, propaganda and practice. All of you lib commenters are saturated with it and have never heard of the dude lol…thats how good indoctrination works. lol, read the crap rules then make a check list and apply it to yourselves and then put a check in all the boxes and then get back to me so I can say told you so…

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  31. @jwest:

    Rick hits on it: the bottom line, and that was what I saying in the other thread, is this: Alinsky is not of great consequence to the field of political science nor to American politics writ large.

    He simply isn’t.

    He certainly isn’t as important as Glenn Beck and friends have made him out to be.

    Really, truly, honestly. This is not a left/right thing. This is not about Obama, Hillary, Bush or any other politician you can think of. It is just a fact.

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  32. anjin-san says:

    sentient during the ‘70s,

    Hmm. I come from a family that could be reasonably described at “intellectual elites”. We all all follow politics very closely. I grew up in what most people would consider one of the most “radical” parts of the county, if not the most, in the 60s & 70s. Most of the people in my family loved McGovern.

    Never heard of Alinsky until I started hearing right wing rants in 2008.

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  33. anjin-san says:

    thats how good indoctrination works

    Well, GA, you are right. Just not in the way you think you are.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  34. @anjin:

    Indeed.

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  35. jukeboxgrad says:

    jwest:

    I first heard him speak at an SDS rally in 1972, next to Eastern Market in Detroit, but I had already read Rules for Radicals by that time.

    What do you mean by “first?” You seem to be saying you heard him speak more than once. Really? He died on 6/12/72. So you saw him more than once shortly before his death? How did you get to be such a big fan?

    I had already read Rules for Radicals by that time.

    That book was published in 1971, so I guess you must have read it soon after it came out. How did you get to be such a big fan?

    And you didn’t answer my question. I asked you how you first heard of him.

    And you know the odd thing about him speaking at an SDS rally? A google news archive search reveals almost nothing with “SDS” and “Alinsky” in the period 1960-1973. So I guess the relationship between him and SDS must have been well-hidden. Did you have to swear an oath of secrecy to get admitted to that rally?

    Do you know the other odd thing about you seeing Alinsky speak at an SDS rally? Alinsky and SDS actually didn’t get along:

    The 60’s Student Movement & Saul Alinsky: An Alliance that Never Happened … 1968-1970: Alinsky and the Student Movement Part Ways

    http://organizersforum.org/oldweb/index.php?id=826

    (Free registration required.)

    Also, since you’ve been thinking about him for 39 years, do you think you might eventually learn how to spell his name?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  36. mattb says:

    Jwest: Personally, I first heard [Alinsky] speak at an SDS rally in 1972, next to Eastern Market in Detroit, but I had already read Rules for Radicals by that time.

    This pretty much explains it all.

    J’s got an idea that PhD student = activist … plain and simple. And I’m guessing this would be doubly so for a poli-scientist, who obviously must be in it for some type of activist role.

    Which also helps understand his idea of a college campus. So serious discussion for a sec… starting in the 60’s, if not before, most areas of the social science biforcated into two general approaches:
    1. Theory
    2. Activist/Applied

    If you’re working the theory side — like Stephen and Chris — there’s little space in the classroom for figures like Alinsky (who are considered flavors of the month). Hell its only in the last decade or so that folks at the University of Chicago are willing to admit that Foucault might have staying power.

    If you go to an activist/applied program, then there’s often a lot more direct interaction with folks like Alinsky.

    Like most of the posters here, my Graduate training has been on the theory side. In fact, the only Anthro prof I ever heard discuss Alinksy specializes in Activist Anthropology (and is largely an outsider within the department).

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  37. Ryon Lancaster says:

    At the risk of getting into a discussion with jwest, I actually did read Alinsky as an undergraduate, at the University of Chicago of all places. However, it was just because I saw the book at the bookstore and liked the title. In terms of academic disciplines (I am a sociologist), it really has no importance whatsoever except as a text important in the history of social movements.

    Also, while my memory of his books is hazy at best, I basically remember them not as a model of what the world should look like or how it should change, but instead remember it being more about particular strategies, such as targeting a protest at one store instead of all of them at the same time, or using proxies at annual shareholder meetings. I actually don’t remember it being too radical. I could be wrong, but am too lazy to go over and skim over them right now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  38. wr says:

    Mattb — You’re giving jwest far too much credit. He has no idea of any split in PhD programs. He doesn’t know what PhD stands for. He believes that anyone who actually finished high school is an elitist and thus a Commie.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  39. Just to clarify a couple of things… first I wasn’t even born before Alinsky died. And my parents were center-right Republicans (and my dad was an Air Force officer), so radicalism wasn’t exactly dinner table conversation.

    Second the bifurcation/fragmentation that mattb suggests is even more profound in political science (perhaps due to the nature of the subject matter). As I alluded to above there’s a “New Political Science” movement that is essentially a left-wing advocacy group that accounts for maybe 5% of political scientists (represented mostly by folks from the New School, CUNY, UCSB, and a few other places); typically these people work in the normative political theory subfield, although there are some Americanists too. For the rest there’s various subdivisions based on how “theoretical” versus “applied” the immediate consequences of the research are; mainstream political science tends toward the former while public policy and administration tend toward the latter. The lines aren’t always neat (my work has crossed the divide) but are certainly there.

    Anyway I’m sure some people paid attention to Alinsky, including some political scientists from the activist wing of the discipline. But most of us (I suspect; I haven’t done a scientific poll) probably never did at least until his name started coming up. And the fact people are talking about him makes me no more interested in reading his work, in large part because doing so isn’t going to help me teach better or do better research or get tenure.

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  40. george says:

    From what Taylor says, Alinksky is cited at a rate which is more typical for someone who’s only read in a very narrow field (say astrophysical plasma to use physics as an analogy) than someone who’s a major figure the wider field (say Pauli or Fermi), let alone someone who every educated person has heard about (Einstein or Newton).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  41. mattb says:

    @WR: I’m just trying to make something worthwhile out of JWest’s trolling project.

    So I’m not too concerned about engaging him in a dialog — last time I checked he’s never been interested in that.

    So I just he’s going to play the fool, and I try to respond in a way that’s helpful for those who might be genuinely interested.

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  42. @Steven Taylor: You were reading the wrong magazines Doc. Don’t you have some old Playboys laying around? That’s where the real political scientists discuss their work.

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  43. @Tal: Silly me.

    @jwest: If it makes you feel any better, now that I have seen that Hillary Clinton’s senior thesis was on Alinsky, I can say that I probably had at least heard the name prior to 2008–although that doesn’t change my assessment of his general significance.

    For the record, my senior thesis was on the collapse of communism and the revolution in Poland. Exciting, yes?

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  44. Southern Hoosier says:

    I don’t think anyone other than a few intellects and radicals ever heard Saul Alinsky until Comrade Obama ran for president.

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  45. wr says:

    Steven — Which, by jwest’s logic, proves that you are Stalin. Or Hitler. Or Obama. He can’t actually tell them apart. Just knows them all as names he heard from Beck.

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  46. Southern Hoosier says:

    michael reynolds says: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 20:08

    Okay, I think it’s time to confess the truth: Barack Obama was very close to Saul Alinsky.

    It began when Obama was 11. And ended then, too, because Alinsky died in 1972. But for part of Obama’s 11th year, he and the near-death community organizer were tight.

    From ages six to ten, Obama attended local schools in Jakarta, including Besuki Public School and St. Francis of Assisi School.

    In 1971, Obama returned to Honolulu to live with his maternal grandparents, Madelyn and Stanley Armour Dunham, and attended Punahou School, a private college preparatory school, from the fifth grade until his graduation from high school in 1979

    If they were tight, it had to have been as pen pals.

    In Artful Dodger style, Barack Obama, plays down his mentorship with Communist author Saul Alinsky. But Alinsky’s son, L. David Alinsky, credits Obama for “learning his lesson well” from the Communist guru.

    http://goo.gl/5FzO3

    He must have mentored him through a correspondence course.

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  47. Alex Knapp says:

    I’m trying to figure how a guy who:

    (a) Opposed the welfare state and the Great Society in favor of private charities and organizations;
    (b) Thought that the Civil Rights Act was a bad idea because it involved too much state intervention;
    (c) Had meetings with Barry Goldwater about cooperating on different issues;

    can be described as anything but a libertarian. Sure, his goals were left-wing, but he pretty consistently opposed government intervention in a bunch of different areas.

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  48. MarkedMan says:

    So, is jwest a troll or for real? Observations? Guesses?

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  49. James Joyner says:

    I may have heard of Alinsky before the 2008 campaign but I doubt it. Certainly, it wasn’t part of my PhD program. There’s no reason that he should have been: He had an undergraduate degree in archaeology and spent most of his life working grass roots politics in Chicago. He did write three books: Reveille for Radicals, which is so impactful that there’s not even a Wikipedia page for it; an unauthorized biography of John L. Lewis; and the now infamous Rules for Radicals, published a few months before he died.

    As Chris noted, political science is a very wide field and PhD programs are quite specialized. Certainly, Alinsky’s work is not at all relevant to International Relations, my major field. American Politics was my secondary field but Alinsky is, at best, tangentially related. His work doesn’t touch on national institutions, behavior, or other subjects most Americanists study.

    My third field was Political Theory which, as Chris alluded to, is something of a dying field because it’s not “scientific” enough. Alabama’s lone theorist at the time, the late Daniel Pound, did his PhD in the late 1960s and almost certainly over-emphasized the works of that period and shortly thereafter in his contemporary theory courses. Further, he was quite left-leaning and very sympathetic to advocates of leveling and mass power. If Alinsky’s name was ever mentioned, I don’t recall. Certainly, Rules for Radicals was never assigned or cited.

    I don’t think this was exceptional. If you Google around for political theory reading lists and don’t include Alinksy in your search, you’ll never see his name. If you Google “political science alinsky” this here post that you’re reading will come up #1.

    Looking through the archives here at OTB, Alinsky comes up in precisely seven posts, the earliest of which was November 2008. Some of those posts don’t actually mention Saul Alinsky. For example, one mentions an “Ellen Galinsky.” The earliest mention of Alinsky in the comments section comes in October 2007, in reference to Hillary Clinton.

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  50. jukeboxgrad says:

    James:

    If you Google “political science alinsky” this here post that you’re reading will come up #1.

    It’s also #4 on the list if you do this google: sds alinsky

    And #1 on the list if you do this google: sds alinsky rally

    Which makes me think that jwest’s tale about hearing “Alinski” speak at an SDS rally is fiction. What a surprise.

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  51. Michael Reynolds says:

    What do you get if you Google ‘right wing trolls?’

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  52. jwest says:

    It’s hard to argue with so many credentialed experts in the field of political science.

    I will have to concede that prior to 2008, the only people who knew about the obscure Mr. Alinsky were a right-wing commentator, a Washington Post staff writer and two politicians who shaped their political careers and campaigns around his teachings – Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/24/AR2007032401152.html

    Understanding Clinton and Obama without first understanding Alinsky is a trick apparently only taught in post graduate courses.

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  53. @jwest:

    Not that it is a surprise, but instead of simply admitting you were mistaken you have now decided to deploy some snark and basically declare, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that you are still right about the overwhelming significance of Saul Alinksy to American politics.

    I never thought you were especially amendable to reason and logical argumentation, but you have now proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that engaging you is pointless because no matter what evidence you are provided, and no matter how many experts contradict you, that you are going to stick to your own opinion.

    BTW, I looked at Alinsky’s “rules” and find them rather unremarkable (and hardly unique). This further adds evidence to the fact Alinksy simply isn’t the all important Rosetta Stone you think he is.

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  54. G.A.Phillips says:

    What do you get if you Google ‘right wing trolls?’:) A pic of a hot blonde with big boobs named Triumph, THE HREO OF US ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    “Obama learned his lesson well. I am proud to see that my father’s model for organizing is being applied successfully beyond local community organizing to affect the Democratic campaign in 2008. It is a fine tribute to Saul Alinsky as we approach his 100th birthday.” –Letter from L. DAVID ALINSKY, son of Neo-Marxist Saul Alinsky

    Obama helped fund ‘Alinsky Academy’: “The Woods Fund, a nonprofit on which Obama served as paid director from 1999 to December 2002, provided startup funding and later capital to the Midwest Academy….

    Obama sat on the Woods Fund board alongside William Ayers, founder of the Weather Underground domestic terrorist organization…. ‘Midwest describes itself as ‘one of the nation’s oldest and best-known schools for community organizations, citizen organizations and individuals committed to progressive social change.’… Midwest teaches Alinsky tactics of community organizing.”

    http://www.crossroad.to/Quotes/communism/alinsky.htm

    Urban legend? Myth? Troll propaganda?Or a new course to be taught in political sci 101, who can tell……….

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  55. MarkedMan says:

    “What do you get if you Google ‘right wing trolls?’:) A pic of a hot blonde with big boobs named Triumph”

    Why are her boobs called “Triumph”?

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  56. MarkedMan says:

    BTW, what is it that makes wingers go batsh*t over Alinsky? Is it just because he organized people and believed in individual action? And that, what, goes against the idea that we should all just be silent in the awesome presence of our betters? OK, that was snark, but I’m really curious. Why is saying that Obama worked with people who worked with Alinsky supposed to be the Kiss of Death (TM)?

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  57. jukeboxgrad says:

    jwest:

    Understanding Clinton and Obama without first understanding Alinsky is a trick apparently only taught in post graduate courses.

    What a nice example of blatant, disingenuous backpedaling. Let’s take a look at what you said in the other thread:

    No democrat has ever risen higher than driver for retired aldermen without knowing Alinski frontwards and backwards. … how could you possibly teach or write about anything political without being fully versed in the primary operating manifesto of the democrat party for over 40 years?

    You didn’t just say that “Alinski” was an influence on Clinton and Obama. You said he wrote “the primary operating manifesto of the democrat party for over 40 years.” You said his work is known by every D who “has ever risen higher than driver for retired aldermen.”

    Can you manage to grasp that the claim you are making now (that Alinsky influenced Clinton and Obama) is much, much narrower than the claim you made before? Maybe not.

    And did you bother to actually read the WP article you just cited? If you can manage to get through the first three paragraphs, you’ll understand one key thing that Clinton, Obama and Alinsky all had in common: Chicago. Hillary met Alinsky in Chicago because that’s where she grew up, and that’s where she was in 1968, when she met him. And Obama knew about Alinsky’s work because Alinsky was a famous community organizer in Chicago, and Obama was looking for a job as a community organizer in Chicago. This was years after Alinsky died, but Obama heard people talking about him.

    Yes, it’s true that Clinton and Obama both knew about Alinsky and his work. The Chicago connection has a lot to do with this. If they had been elsewhere, chances are they never would have heard of him. He was well-known in Chicago, but not outside of Chicago (until Glenn Beck et al became obsessed with him).

    So your sweeping claims about his influence (“the primary operating manifesto of the democrat party for over 40 years”) are, like most of your claims, 100% unadulterated bullshit.

    And MarkedMan is asking some good questions that you cannot answer.

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  58. mantis says:

    Why are her boobs called “Triumph”?

    Yeah, shouldn’t it be “triumphs?”

    BTW, what is it that makes wingers go batsh*t over Alinsky? Is it just because he organized people and believed in individual action?

    I don’t get it either. Did this guy kill people or something? Why is it he has attained the same status as every ruthless dictator in history? Because he said you should mock your opponents. The horror!

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  59. cause he said you should mock your opponents.

    Yup:

    Rule 5: Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It’s hard to counterattack ridicule, and it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage.

    source

    The funny thing is, that encompasses a major component of, say, Limbaugh’s approach to commentary as well as the basic tactic used by a number of commenters on this here blog.

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  60. mantis says:

    The funny thing is, that encompasses a major component of, say, Limbaugh’s approach to commentary as well as the basic tactic used by a number of commenters on this here blog.

    Including myself! It’s as if they believe this guy invented mockery.

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  61. Jay Tea says:

    Alinsky’s Rules For Radicals are remarkably non-partisan. They serve very well for any element that is out of power to use against the status quo.

    I’ve noted that, deliberate or not, the Tea Party movement is almost ideally formed to take on the modern-day Alinskyites (whether or not they even know what the term means — I use it as a descriptor, not a formal label). For example, there is no clearly-defined leadership, which largely immunizes them from “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.’ They also use for themselves “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules,” “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon,” “A good tactic is one your people enjoy,” “Never go outside the expertise of your people,” and “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.”

    What’s surprising is when people first read Alinsky’s rules, spelled out, and find themselves nodding as they recognize the various tactics. Alinsky’s genius wasn’t in coming up with them, but in collecting and summarizing them. He wasn’t an inventor, but a discoverer.

    J.

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  62. MarkedMan says:

    Guys, I’ve come to the conclusion that jwest is a self-constructed fiction. He is pure troll. There is simply no way that someone posting their real opinions could be so hackneyed, so jarringly illogical, so intellectually dishonest, and express it in a way that hits every emotional and intellectual hot button guaranteed to make the frequent posters here feel morally and intellectually superior. He’s just too perfect at what he does as to be real.

    I, for one, can have no pleasure in jousting with a fiction. Whoever it is that posts as jwest has successfully crossed the Washington Generals with Professional Wrestling, and perfected a routine that combines predictable and self humiliating failure with spittle flecked rants. Engaging with jwest is just one step short of hiring a bodybuilder to lose in a fist fight. No more.

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  63. mattb says:

    Jay Tea, great analysis…

    What’s surprising is when people first read Alinsky’s rules, spelled out, and find themselves nodding as they recognize the various tactics. Alinsky’s genius wasn’t in coming up with them, but in collecting and summarizing them. He wasn’t an inventor, but a discoverer.

    My only build would be to say he was a “synthesizer.”

    Generally speaking, most of the modern “greats” have rarely been “solitary” inventors or discoverers. Typically ideas emerge out of a lot of formal or informal group work. What a person like Alinsky (or Darwin) did was take a lot of the theory and ideas already floating around, add their own findings and experiences, and then organize it. In the process of organization they created more efficient ways of communicating those ideas.

    (Btw, for an excellent read on this see Stephen Johnson’s new book “Where Good Ideas Come From.”)

    As a side note Jay Tea, while we but heads on most topics, posts like these go to show that you’re still fundamentally interested in a conversation (with a healthy amount of debate sprinkled in). I wish we had more conservative commentators like you.

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  64. mattb says:

    MaskedMan:

    I’ve come to the conclusion that jwest is a self-constructed fiction. He is pure troll.

    A good troll is always *deeply* interested in the conversation, and in particular turning it on it’s head. JWest’s problem is that he thinks he’s doing good trolling but he’s not. His biggest problems are that he’s way too concerned about “winning” and he hasn’t worked to really create a character.

    JWest claims his goal is “to troll in the way liberals talk — twisting facts and always changing the argument so they win.” The problem is that this isn’t a particularly accurate portrayal of liberals on this site (or in general beyond the extremes of Kos). Nor would that be a particularly accurate portrayal of conservatives.

    There’s no question he’s smart enough to be a good troll — read enough of his comments and you see bits of really smart political insight. But whenever he posts — especially the solid analysis — he looks for recognition of his smarts.

    In other words, he wants, on some level to, be taken seriously. But that would require him to participate in the conversation (which he never really does). And neither do most media talkers.*

    That desire to always be “right” undercuts any attempt to take him seriously. Worse, it eliminates much of his effectiveness at actually demonstrating some type of meta point (other than coming across as a jack-ass).And because he can’t commit to just being “troll” he fails at creating a character as well (seriously, look at Zels or even Tsar N. as complete commitments to adopting a “trollsona” or possibly mental illness… still trying to sort out SH).

    Neither fake or real enough, what we’re left with is someone who comes across as angry and kinda pathetic. If he just committed to the character and wasn’t looking for so much direct validation, he’d be a far more enjoyable read (and a step up from SH and the flat out dumb trolls here who don’t care about conversation, being right, or being recognized).

    Or, if he just gave up on trolling and started to actually debate (you know… the type of discussion where you can’t always win), he’d be a lot more interesting.

    For the moment, though, the best way to work with his material — if you care about conversation — is using his claims as a building off point to talk with other commentators here who might be interested in learning more about the realities of PhD programs for example.

    (* – Limbaugh for example never cares if he’s right or wrong — he’s always right. But Limbaugh also doesn’t expect that anyone will seriously engage with him on policy (and he’ll do everything he can to avoid it). Ditto Beck and Hannity. And while some might argue that Liberal hosts are *slightly* more open to those conversations, they really aren’t either (wonking, after a very short point, makes for terrible radio).

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  65. MarkedMan says:

    In the early days of the intertubes, there was usenet, and before that, bulletin boards. And on those bygone comment sections there were some people who got off on stoking flame wars. So, if a group was devoted to the wonderful new medium of Video Cassettes, the troller might come in and say something like “Of course, it is obviously true that VHS is a better format”, causing a flame war to erupt around him. As it died down, he might post under a different persona and claim that “It’s a known fact that anyone who is serious about a video collection has Betamax cassettes” and boom, the fires mount again. They needed to understand the points of view of both sides but it was beside the point as to whether they had an opinion on the issues themselves. And they needed to be smart about hitting as many hot buttons as possible in a single post. And finally, they deployed these smarts in order to maximize indignation, not to win arguments.

    They were called ‘trolls’ not because they were monsters under the bridge, but because they trolled for comments and flame wars like a fisherman going after bass. I see no reason to think such people have gone away. I think the person posting as jwest is one of them.

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  66. mattb says:

    @markedman: Trust me, I go all the way back to Usenet – I remember the first mass (green card) spam and the September that Never Ended.

    I’m just saying that in the intervening years “trolling” has evolved into a performance art form (thank you Something Aweful and 4Chan among others). JWest might have been a “good” troll circa ’98… but now adays he’s bush league at best.

    I’ve seen my share of good trolls — interviewed a few of them — he isn’t one of them… not even close.

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  67. mantis says:

    They were called ‘trolls’ not because they were monsters under the bridge, but because they trolled for comments and flame wars like a fisherman going after bass.

    True. It likely started as “trawling,” but “troll” elicits a more potent mental image, so it evolved that way and stuck. These days, and pretty much ever since blogs appeared, use of the word has shifted towards a general “annoying commenter” definition. Since there seem to be a lot more of them and a lot fewer genuine trolls compared to the usenet days, that makes sense. It’s a shame some of the other terminology has not carried over as well. I almost never hear references to “flamebait” anymore.

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  68. george says:

    What a person like Alinsky (or Darwin) did was take a lot of the theory and ideas already floating around, add their own findings and experiences, and then organize it.

    I don’t know anything about Alinsky, but in the case of Darwin that’s not really true. What Darwin did was an exhaustive study of species examining traits and building the experimental case for the theory. The theory was floating around, but not the accumulation of evidence supporting it – in science at least there’s a huge difference between proposing a theory and making a solid case for it. Darwin did a huge amount of original research (field work if you will) and analysis – which is probably the reason why just about every educated person in the world has heard of Darwin, while maybe one person in a million in the world has heard of Alinsky … and I’m probably being generous at that.

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  69. mattb says:

    George,

    Good points. I didn’t mean to completely disregard the fieldwork. Rather I was trying to point out that the idea of “natural selection” and “survival of the fittest” both circulate before Darwin. His research was able to ground them.

    But given that “Origin of the Species” went through some 10 different revisions after being published (I don’t have stats about how many drafts he made prior to publication) one should not lose track of the amount of work he did in synthesizing and communicating those ideas.

    Following Gladwell, he was a unique mix of maven, salesmen, and connector.

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  70. jukeboxgrad says:

    Jay Tea:

    Alinsky’s Rules For Radicals are remarkably non-partisan. They serve very well for any element that is out of power to use against the status quo.

    Your first sentence (but not your second) is nicely congruent with what NRO said a few years ago:

    The Alinsky Ticket
    McCain-Palin 2008.

    Radical activist Saul Alinsky has had quite a season, especially for somebody who has been dead for 36 years. The two Democratic finalists had Alinsky links. …Clinton … Obama …

    But the candidates who have most effectively applied Alinsky principles are John McCain and Sarah Palin.

    Yes, NR described McCain/Palin as “The Alinsky Ticket.”

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  71. Jay Tea says:

    mantis, you and NRO have an unusual definition of “effective.” I’d say the election results showed them to be ineffective. And some of them are stretches — the ‘go outside their expertise” point was not a matter of choice, but circumstance. The McCain/Palin ticket had nothing to do with that one.

    Further, while the official campaigns might have broken that way — barely — the unofficial campaigns (supporters and the like) were just the opposite. SNL led the charge for the “ridicule” angle. The media took the “make them live up to their own rulebook” part. And so on.

    I take that NRO piece as a bit of whimsy, of poking a little at both sides — not a scholarly analysis in the least. I say that as someone who has written more than a few of those pieces, in particular one where I suggested George W. Bush should get the Nobel Peace Prize and one where I defined him as a radical liberal — and praised him in both contexts.

    mattb, I am infuriated with your suggestion that “synthesizer” would be more effective. Infuriated because it’s so much better than the words I chose. How DARE you show me up like that?

    Seriously, mattb — I tend to let the other party define the tone of my discussion. It’s just that my dustups with mantis and michael (and contemptuous dismissal of wr) tend to be more frequent and get more attention.

    Oh, and exchanges with anjin… and junk, who I have a lengthy history with under a prior identity of his. And…

    OK, you just might have a point here…

    J.

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  72. jukeboxgrad says:

    junk, who I have a lengthy history with under a prior identity of his.

    That’s complete bullshit, since I have no “prior identity” (other than my real name, which I’ve never used for any internet forum).

    I have also never run into someone named “Jay Tea” until here, recently.

    But I hope you tell me what name you’re thinking of, since I’m curious about who you think I resemble, and what makes you so sure that this other name is me.

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  73. Jay Tea says:

    OK, junk, let me amend that:

    …junk, with whom I am 99% certain I have a lengthy history with when he was using another name, and if not is existentially indistinguishable from that particular unworthy.

    As far as that unworthy’s name — if you are him, then you know it already; if you are not, I would rather not risk the “Beetlejuice” effect.

    Before I even started alluding to said old pest, I spoke to you as if you were him, and you reacted as he did, so it became “a difference without distinction.”

    J.

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  74. jukeboxgrad says:

    you reacted as he did

    Here’s how I typically react to you: by pointing out that you’re wrong. Yup, it’s highly significant that more than one person might do that.

    I am 99% certain

    The thing you are claiming to be “99% certain” about is a thing that you are not in a position to be certain about at all. ‘Wild-assed guess based on nothing other than hunch and speculation’ would be a more accurate statement than “99% certain.” Claiming to be “certain” about something when you’re not “certain” at all is a form of lying. What a surprise that you would do such a thing.

    It’s also no surprise that you would make a factual claim that you can’t and won’t prove. This is something you do frequently.

    if you are not, I would rather not risk the “Beetlejuice” effect.

    English translation: ‘I have nothing bearing even a remote resemblance to proof, but instead of admitting that, I’m going to hide behind a lame excuse.’ If I “reacted as he did,” then you should be able to show an example of that you’re talking about.

    And speaking of questions you won’t answer, here’s another one. I’ve been posting under this name since roughly 2004. One easy way to find my comments from that period is this:

    http://www.google.com/search?q=jukeboxgrad+kerry+cambodia

    What motivation could I possibly have to post thousands of times under that name, but then also use a different name sometimes? Unless you’re accusing me of using multiple names in one thread (and you seem to not be doing that), then there’s no logical motivation. So your wild-assed guess, aside from being incorrect, is pointless and dumb.

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  75. Jay Tea says:

    Man, that last response was a dead-on impersonation of Wee I don’t think he could have sounded more like himself than you just did.

    But now I’m 90% certain you’re NOT him. But lemme tell ya, I’ve scrapped with (and thoroughly trounced) your soul mate, off and on, for years.

    Either way, it’s hardly something worth much of my attention. As I said, you might as well be him, as I’ve yet to see a single difference in tone, word choice, attitude, fixations, or beliefs. Especially the part where neither of you ever seems to support or back anything, but instead pretty much exclusively go on the attack.

    Tell you what, junk: I’ll treat you just like I treated Wee as long as you act like him, but I’ll keep my wild-eyed conspiracy theories to myself. I’ll just curse my fate that I’ve run into two of you in my lifetime.

    If you’re nice, I’ll send you a link to where you can read a whole bunch of Wee’s frothings. You’d most likely love them.

    J.

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  76. jukeboxgrad says:

    Especially the part where neither of you ever seems to support or back anything

    That’s hysterically funny, since I routinely support what I say with proof. For example, just above I said I’ve been posting since 2004, and I provided a link to prove that.

    You, on the other hand, usually refrain from showing proof. I’m still waiting for you to show an example of something “Wee” said that sounds like me.

    So thanks for this nice example of projection.

    your soul mate

    This person you’re obsessed with is not my “soul mate.” I’ve never heard of them. I can’t find any of their comments via the searches I’ve tried. I don’t remember ever running into this person, and I have a pretty good memory for this sort of thing. As far as I know, this person doesn’t exist.

    it’s hardly something worth much of my attention.

    Naturally. That’s why you brought it up in the first place. Because you have nothing better to do than make silly claims that aren’t “worth much.”

    If you’re nice, I’ll send you a link to where you can read a whole bunch of Wee’s frothings.

    I’m always “nice.” Where’s the link?

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  77. Jay Tea says:

    juke, I meant an issue. I don’t recall you ever arguing FOR something, only AGAINST. You don’t defend issues, you just lash out and attack those who support something.

    At least, that’s from what little I recall about your stuff. As I said, it tends to blur together.

    So you say you’re not my old pain in the butt. Fine, I’ll accept that — that it’s just a coincidence that I ran into two of your type on line. I’ll think of you as “Wee II” or “Mini-Wee.”

    And no, that’s not his nom du hemorrhoid.

    I am tempted to reach out to mantis, however. He also had dealings with the nutjob in question, and he might be inclined to comment on the resemblance — which is uncanny.

    J.

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  78. jukeboxgrad says:

    I don’t recall you ever arguing FOR something

    When I’m arguing with you, I’m usually arguing “FOR” this: telling the truth. I think that’s important. Too bad you don’t.

    the resemblance — which is uncanny.

    Naturally. That’s why you’ve shown this many examples: zero.

    I can’t find the part of your message where you provide a link (“I’ll send you a link”).

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  79. Not to insert myself too much in a conversation, but I will say this: jukeboxgrad is one of the posters around here who is most dedicated to providing evidence for his comments, which I applaud.

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  80. Jay Tea says:

    juke, you omitted the “if you’re nice” part. And I’d hardly consider snark, condescension, and arrogant self-righteousness “nice.”

    Well, not when you’re on the receiving end, anyway.

    As I said, I’d like to avoid the “Beetlejuice” phenomenon. But if you wander on over to the now-defunct wizbangblue dot com and poke through the archives, paying close attention to the ravings of one L__ W___, you might find it familiar.

    mantis had more than a few dealings with him, and agreed the guy was a raving nutjob. And you two seem to share more than a few affectations, obsessions, stylistic twists, and general “flavor…”

    J.

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  81. jukeboxgrad says:

    the ravings of one L__ W___,

    “Ravings” sounds about right. I notice he said this:

    Watch for the Obamatrons and the Obamedia to renew their attempt to steam roll Clinton … What a wimp! What a putz! … Check out the Arrogant One’s smirking in this video clip

    And he said similar stuff in other posts.

    That reminds you of the way I talk about Obama? I strike you as someone who would talk about the “Obamedia?” Really? You’re funny.

    And by the way, I’m a good enough writer to know that “steam roll” should be written as one word.

    What you were “99% certain” about was quite wacky.

    you two seem to share more than a few affectations, obsessions, stylistic twists, and general “flavor…”

    Not really. If would be nice if you could come up with something remotely resembling a specific example, but of course you’re not going to do that.

    ====================
    Steven, thanks.

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  82. Jay Tea says:

    juke, that’s a dated example. That looks like it was from his “Hillary Clinton is the savior, and Obama is the unworthy interloper” phase. Once Obama clinched the nomination, he became one of Obama’s most fierce defenders — and smacked down anyone who dared repeat his earlier stuff, like that.

    Note that I didn’t cite “inconsistency” as a parallel trait I had noted.

    But you gotta admit, you really do capture his style and voice.

    J.

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  83. jukeboxgrad says:

    that’s a dated example. That looks like it was from his “Hillary Clinton is the savior, and Obama is the unworthy interloper” phase.

    A minimal effort at searching would show you that during the same period I said nothing even remotely similar to what he said during that period.

    So I guess that what he says and what I say are exactly alike, except when they’re not.

    you really do capture his style and voice.

    You keep saying that, but you still haven’t shown a single example of how something I wrote resembles something he wrote. And I know that you won’t.

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  84. Jay Tea says:

    I’m heading out for the evening, but here’s a taste, juke.

    J.

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  85. @Jay Tea:

    I am not seeing it–not even a little bit.

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  86. jukeboxgrad says:

    here’s a taste

    I think you don’t understand what’s needed here. You need to show a chunk of my text next to a chunk of his text, so everyone can see how we “share more than a few affectations, obsessions, stylistic twists, and general ‘flavor.’ ” So what are you waiting for?

    And I don’t appreciate being compared to such a crappy writer. I’m not as good as Michael Reynolds, but I’m a distinct notch above Lee Ward. Example: “rear its ugly head” is an extremely tired cliche. And he used it twice, in his first three sentences. I’m not that unimaginative and lazy. “Republican lie machine” followed quickly by “Republican slime machine” is also unimaginative and lazy. “Lying slimers” is also unimaginative and lazy. I am also not such a sloppy typist: “527slime mchine.”

    This is also bad writing:

    We know the lying slimers will surface, it’s only a question of “when”…

    That should be a colon or semicolon, not a comma. And the quote marks are gratuitous. And when I am introducing a quote (as he is), I would always use a colon at the end, not an ellipsis. His ellipsis at the end is completely wrong.

    I also rarely quote large chunks of text like that without using ellipses to trim it down. He uses zero ellipses in those large chunks of quoted text.

    Another example of his tendency to overuse quote marks is here:

    the “Swift Boating” attacks against Democratic nominee John Kerry

    I would have written that as swiftboating, one word, no capitals, no quotes.

    More sloppy writing is here:

    in the form of the typical right wing smear attacks

    A hyphen is needed there (‘right-wing’), because it’s an adjectival phrase.

    Your problem is that you’re not a good enough writer yourself to be able to grasp what makes my writing better than his. It takes only a casual analysis (like what I just did) to see that his style and mine are quite different.

    What is true is that Lee and I have some similar political attitudes. I guess that narrows it down to many thousands of people who share those attitudes and write stuff on the internet.

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