Bogeyman: Fox News Attacks Progressives With Fantasy Version Of Saul Alinsky

Fox News personalities have repeated numerous falsehoods about activist Saul Alinsky, including that he was a “Marxist” and that he dedicated his book Rules for Radicals “to Lucifer.” Fox has used this false image of Alinsky to attack President Obama and other progressives.

Fox Portrays Alinsky As A “Socialist,” Claims He “Admired” Lenin And Marx

Varney: Alinsky “Was A Socialist.” From Fox News' America Live:

MEGYN KELLY (anchor): Stu, who is Saul Alinsky?

STUART VARNEY (Fox Business host): OK. Born in Chicago. He was a socialist. He essentially established an aggressive strategy and aggressive tactics for America's hard left. Published a book in 1971 which became something of a textbook for community organizers. It was called Rules for Radicals. He favored direct action, confrontation, an aggressive presentation of the socialist, hard-left position. [Fox News, America Live, 1/24/12]

O'Reilly: Alinsky Was “In The Great Tradition Of Karl Marx, Lenin ... He Even Said He Admired Those Men.” From Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

BILL O'REILLY (host): Look, Saul Alinsky, you know, for people who are involved in political science -- there he is -- this guy, you know, is in the great tradition of Karl Marx, Lenin --

ALAN COLMES (Fox News contributor): Not really.

O'REIILLY: -- people -- well, he even said he admired those men, OK? He said it in his writings, that he admired them and that he didn't respect private property rights. He thought that everybody should be guaranteed a certain style of life, and he worked toward that in a very aggressive way. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 1/24/12]

Fact: Alinsky Was Not “A Marxist Or Communist Or Socialist”

Biographer: Alinsky “Is Routinely Labeled As A Marxist Or Communist Or Socialist, None Of Which He Was.” From a May 2010 article by Sanford D. Horwitt for “Just Books,” a review published by New York University Law School's Brennan Center for Justice:

Alinsky's name and Rules for Radicals are a daily presence on the Internet, especially in Tea Party blogs and, periodically, on Rush Limbaugh's and Glenn Beck's web sites. For most of these commentators, Alinsky is caricatured as a dark, sinister force whose spirit comes alive late at night in the Oval office. He is routinely labeled as a Marxist or Communist or Socialist, none of which he was. [, 5/12/10]

Communists Attacked Alinsky For Advocating American Intervention In World War II. From a 1972 Playboy interview with Alinsky:

PLAYBOY: What was your own relationship with the Communist Party?

ALINSKY: I knew plenty of Communists in those days, and I worked with them on a number of projects. Back in the Thirties, the Communists did a hell of a lot of good work; they were in the vanguard of the labor movement and they played an important role in aiding blacks and Okies and Southern sharecroppers. Anybody who tells you he was active in progressive causes in those days and never worked with the Reds is a goddamn liar. Their platform stood for all the right things, and unlike many liberals, they were willing to put their bodies on the line. Without the Communists, for example, I doubt the C.I.O. could have won all the battles it did. I was also sympathetic to Russia in those days, not because I admired Stalin or the Soviet system but because it seemed to be the only country willing to stand up to Hitler. I was in charge of a big part of fund raising for the International Brigade and in that capacity I worked in close alliance with the Communist Party.

When the Nazi-Soviet Pact came, though, and I refused to toe the party line and urged support for England and for American intervention in the war, the party turned on me tooth and nail. Chicago Reds plastered the Back of the Yards with big posters featuring a caricature of me with a snarling, slavering fanged mouth and wild eyes, labeled, “This is the face of a warmonger.” But there were too many Poles, Czechs, Lithuanians and Latvians in the area for that tactic to go over very well. Actually, the greatest weakness of the party was its slavish parroting of the Moscow line. It could have been much more effective if it had adopted a relatively independent stance, like the western European parties do today. But all in all, and despite my own fights with them, I think the Communists of the Thirties deserve a lot of credit for the struggles they led or participated in. Today the party is just a shadow of the past, but in the Depression it was a positive force for social change. A lot of its leaders and organizers were jerks, of course, but objectively the party in those days was on the right side and did considerable good. [Playboy, March 1972]

Alinsky: “Dogma, Whatever Form It Takes, Is The Ultimate Enemy Of Human Freedom.” From the Playboy interview:

PLAYBOY: Did you consider becoming a party member prior to the Nazi-Soviet Pact?

ALINSKY: Not at any time. I've never joined any organization -- not even the ones I've organized myself. I prize my own independence too much. And philosophically, I could never accept any rigid dogma or ideology, whether it's Christianity or Marxism. One of the most important things in life is what Judge Learned Hand described as “that ever-gnawing inner doubt as to whether you're right.” If you don't have that, if you think you've got an inside track to absolute truth, you become doctrinaire, humorless and intellectually constipated. The greatest crimes in history have been perpetrated by such religious and political and racial fanatics, from the persecutions of the Inquisition on down to Communist purges and Nazi genocide. The great atomic physicist Niels Bohr summed it up pretty well when he said, “Every sentence I utter must be understood not as an affirmation, but as a question.” Nobody owns the truth, and dogma, whatever form it takes, is the ultimate enemy of human freedom.

Now, this doesn't mean that I'm rudderless; I think I have a much keener sense of direction and purpose than the true believer with his rigid ideology, because I'm free to be loose, resilient and independent, able to respond to any situation as it arises without getting trapped by articles of faith. My only fixed truth is a belief in people, a conviction that if people have the opportunity to act freely and the power to control their own destinies, they'll generally reach the right decisions. The only alternative to that belief is rule by an elite, whether it's a Communist bureaucracy or our own present-day corporate establishment. You should never have an ideology more specific than that of the founding fathers: “For the general welfare.” That's where I parted company with the Communists in the Thirties, and that's where I stay parted from them today. [Playboy, March 1972]

Alinsky Disparaged Lenin And Those Who Quote “Mao, Castro, And Che Guevara.” From Rules for Radicals:

What is the alternative to working “inside” the system? A mess of rhetorical garbage about “Burn the system down!” Yippie yells of “Do it!” or “Do your thing.” What else? Bombs? Sniping? Silence when police are killed and screams of “murdering fascist pigs” when others are killed? Attacking and baiting the police? Public suicide? “Power comes out of the barrel of a gun!” is an absurd rallying cry when the other side has all the guns. Lenin was a pragmatist; when he returned to what was then Petrograd from exile, he said that the Bolsheviks stood for getting power through the ballot but would reconsider after they got the guns! Spouting quotes from Mao, Castro, and Che Guevara, which are as germane to our highly technological, computerized, cybernetic, nuclear-powered, mass media society as a stagecoach on a jet runway at Kennedy airport? [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, Pages xx-xxi]

Biographer: For Alinsky, “Communists Were Trouble That His Community Organizations Could Do Without.” From Horwitt's biography of Alinsky, Let Them Call Me Rebel:

Alinsky's own attitude toward communists had changed over the years. In the late 1930s, before the Soviet-German nonaggression pact, Alinsky had been enthusiastic about a United Front strategy, and in the Back of the Yards he had worked amicably enough with the occasional communist. After the war, during the purges of left-wing unions and in the McCarthy period, he was disgusted by the professional Red baiters, spoke out against them frequently, and extended his sympathy and, occasionally, a helping hand to witch-hunt victims whom he knew. Still, he had little patience and sympathy for the relatively few communists he continued to encounter. To be sure, he didn't give more than a scintilla of psychic energy to them, and to the extent he thought about them at all, he held to a very strong stereotype: they were quarrelsome, rigid, dour, humorless. In any event, he thought that to be a communist in the United States was pointless at best and perverse and destructive at worst. In short, communists were trouble that his community organizations could do without. Within an organization, they were apt to be trouble because they were obsessed with pushing ideologically pure issues and otherwise manipulating the agenda for their own narrow interests. They were also trouble, especially if they occupied visible leadership roles, because they made the organization vulnerable to outside attack. In short, he did not like them, did not need them, and as a general matter, wanted them quietly moved out of his community organizations. [Sanford D. Horwitt, Let Them Call Me Rebel: Saul Alinsky: His Life and Legacy, Page 395]

Monica Crowley Falsely Claims Alinsky “Dedicated” Rules For Radicals “To Lucifer”

Crowley: “Alinsky Wrote Rules For Radicals in '71 And Dedicated It To Lucifer.” From Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

MONICA CROWLEY (Fox News contributor): OK, first of all, let's keep in mind who Saul Alinsky was and how he directly influenced Barack Obama. Saul Alinsky wrote Rules for Radicals in '71 and dedicated it to Lucifer. He was the godfather of the leftist --

O'REILLY: The devil.

CROWLEY: Yes, Satan.

O'REILLY: He wasn't Lucifer --

CROWLEY: I'm not making it up.


CROWLEY: Lucifer.

O'REILLY: It wasn't Lucifer Schwartz.


O'REILLY: It was just “Lucifer.”

ALAN COLMES (Fox News contributor): I don't think Lucifer is a Jewish name.

CROWLEY: No, it wasn't Murray Lucifer Schwartz, no. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 1/24/12]

Fact: Alinsky Dedicated Rules For Radicals “To Irene.” Rules for Radicals begins with “personal acknowledgments” to four people:


It is followed by a dedication: “To Irene”:


[Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, Pages v, vii, via Media Matters]

  • “Irene” Was The Name Of Alinsky's Wife. [The Watkinson Library at Trinity College, accessed 1/30/12]

“Lucifer” Is Mentioned As A Warning In A Quote Attributed To Alinsky. A subsequent page contains quotes from Rabbi Hillel and Thomas Paine, as well as another quote attributed to Alinsky:

Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins -- or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom -- Lucifer.


[Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, Page ix, via Media Matters]

Glenn Beck promoted the falsehood about Rules for Radicals' dedication on his Fox News show.

Varney Falsely Suggests Alinsky's Community Organizing Style Was “Beat 'Em Up”

Varney: Unlike Alinsky, Obama Advocated That Community Organizing Be “More Cooperative, Organize Locally For Self-Help.” From America Live:

KELLY: He came up -- he didn't grow up, but he came up -- when he became a professional man in Chicago, he is a noted community organizer. You heard the White House spokesman acknowledge that and say it's all been well documented. But some of President Obama's biographers have said that he is a lot more conciliatory in his approach than Saul Alinsky was. So while they have a lot in common on paper, is there any evidence that they have the same sort of radical philosophy?

VARNEY: Well, in 1988, then-citizen Obama published an essay in which it was all about after Saul Alinsky, how to organize in the state of Illinois. It was much more conciliatory. It was none of the confrontation, beat 'em up, occupy -- none of that aggression. It was indeed more conciliatory, it was more cooperative, organize locally for self-help. That's a very different tactic strategy and style from the Alinsky, hard-left go get 'em.

KELLY: Trying to empower those without power.

VARNEY: Yes. [Fox News, America Live, 1/24/12]

Varney: “The President Backs Occupy Wall Street. That's A Kind Of Alinsky-Style Tactic, Is It Not? Occupy, Take Control, Demand, Be Aggressive.” From America Live:

KELLY: So, I mean, is this a talking point by Newt Gingrich that may sort of tap into folks on the far right who don't like President Obama, or are there legitimate parallels between these two men that should concern some folks?

VARNEY: There are legitimate parallels, bearing in mind President Obama's background as a community organizer in Chicago, where Saul Alinsky was a community organizer and wrote the textbook on community organization. For example, the president backs Occupy Wall Street. That's a kind of Alinsky-style tactic, is it not? Occupy, take control, demand, be aggressive. How about wealth redistribution? That's a key Alinsky element in his strategy in his tactics, wealth redistribution. That kind of thing links President Obama with the Alinsky message. [Fox News, America Live, 1/24/12]

Kelly Notes Biographer Said “Alinsky Was Not A Bomb-Throwing Radical By Any Means.” From America Live:

KELLY: But there may be an influence, in your view, but there's not a direct mentor-mentee, passing the torch down the line in Chicago politics kind of thing.

VARNEY: No. It's not like President Obama reads the book, goes out and says, “Occupy, demonstrate, confront, be aggressive.” Not quite that. It's the influence, as opposed to the direct translation of tactics.

KELLY: This is from an Alinsky biographer who came out and said that Alinsky was not a bomb-throwing radical by any means. Others have said he's not as controversial as, you know, folks like Newt Gingrich would have you believe. But there is a real question about how closely Obama read him or is affiliated with him.

VARNEY: There is. Alinsky says the have-nots should take away the power of the haves. It's that expression “take it away,” it that aggression that goes to the core of the argument. [Fox News, America Live, 1/24/12]

Fact: Alinsky Rejected Violence, Advocated Working Within The System

Alinsky: “Go Home, Organize, Build Power And At The Next Convention, You Be The Delegates.” From Rules for Radicals:

In the midst of the gassing and violence by the Chicago Police and National Guard during the 1968 Democratic Convention many students asked me, “Do you still believe we should try to work inside our system?”

These were students who had been with Eugene McCarthy in New Hampshire and followed him across the country. Some had been with Robert Kennedy when he was shot and killed in Los Angeles. Many of the tears that were shed in Chicago were not from gas. “Mr. Alinsky, we fought in primary after primary and the people voted no on Vietnam. Look at that convention. They're not paying any attention to the vote. Look at your police and the army. You still want us to work in the system?”

It hurt me to see the American army with bayonets advancing on American boys and girls. But the answer I gave to the young radicals seemed to me the only realistic one: “Do one of three things. One, go and 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.” [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, Page xxiii (emphasis in original)]

Biographer: Alinsky “Was Not a Bomb-Throwing Radical By Any Means.” From the Chicago Tribune:

Alinsky's tactics included tying up bank teller lines with volunteers repeatedly exchanging a $100 bill for pennies and vice versa as a way to protest banking institutions, said John Kretzmann, professor at Northwestern University's School of Education and Social Policy. Another involved Alinsky's followers threatening to occupy all the bathrooms at O'Hare International Airport for an entire day. The threat alone granted Alinsky a meeting with then-Mayor Richard J. Daley, Kretzmann said.

“Newt realizes this is just an act, saying Alinsky is a dangerous radical. Gingrich is enough of a historian to know what Alinsky was about,” Horwitt said. “This is something that he is feeding to a part of the conservative right. (Alinsky) was not a bomb-throwing radical by any means.” [Chicago Tribune, 1/24/12]

Alinsky: “To The Organizer, Compromise Is A Key And Beautiful Word.” From Rules for Radicals:

Compromise is another word that carries shades of weakness, vacillation, betrayal of ideals, surrender of moral principles. In the old culture, when virginity was a virtue, one referred to a woman's being “compromised.” The word is generally regarded as ethically unsavory and ugly.

But to the organizer, compromise is a key and beautiful word. It is always present in the pragmatics of operation. It is making the deal, getting that vital breather, usually the victory. If you start with nothing, demand 100 percent, then compromise for 30 percent, you're 30 percent ahead. [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, Page 59 (emphasis in original)]

Right-Wing Media Have Long Invoked Alinsky To Fearmonger About Obama, Progressives

National Review: “Obama Is Still Every Inch The Alinskyite Organizer.” Stanley Kurtz, wrote at National Review's The Corner blog: “Obama is still every inch the Alinskyite organizer. He talks about uniting, even as he deliberately polarizes. He moves incrementally toward radical left goals, but never owns up to his ideology. Instead, he tries to work indirectly, by way of the constituencies he seeks to manipulate.” [The Corner, National Review Online, 8/3/11]

Beck: Videos Of Mob Violence = Alinsky. Glenn Beck said of flash mobs that steal from stores: “I'm pretty sure Saul Alinsky talked about this in his book -- you know, the one that mentions Lucifer as the first rebel? Yeah. He mentioned this as a way of overwhelming the system.” [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 6/27/11]

Beck: Alinsky Came Up With “Blueprint” For Today's “Progressive Nightmare.” Beck said on his Fox News show: “The man who came up with the blueprint for the progressive nightmare that we are witnessing today is Saul Alinsky.” [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 3/21/11]

Limbaugh Asks If Obama Has Ever Had An Idea Not Found In The Communist Manifesto Or Rules For Radicals. Rush Limbaugh said of Obama on his radio show: “Has he ever had an original idea -- by that, I mean something not found in The Communist Manifesto? Has he? Has he simply had an idea not found in Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals?” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 1/25/11]

Ted Nugent: Obama's “Saul Alinsky And The Smoke-And-Mirrors Communist Agenda” Hides An Anti-Gun Record. Appearing on Beck's radio show, Ted Nugent said that Obama “learned so well from Saul Alinsky and the smoke-and-mirrors communist agenda” to hide that he is “the master of deception” on the issue of gun rights. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Glenn Beck Program, 4/1/10]

Beck Calls Obama And Dems “Ruthless, Morally Bankrupt, Ends-Justify-The-Means Saul Alinsky-Ites.” Beck said that Obama and the Democrats are “ruthless, morally bankrupt, ends-justify-the-means Saul Alinsky-ites who will do anything, include eat their own, to get what they want.” [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 3/22/10]

Beck's Two Steps In “Che Indoctrination” Of Schoolkids -- First, The T-Shirt; Then, Read Them Saul Alinsky. On his Fox News program, Beck stated: “This is the second step in the Che indoctrination. First, you get the kids in the T-shirt, and then you read them Saul Alinsky in school, recommended by the president.” [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 2/1/10]

Crowley Suggests Obama Wants Americans To Be Killed In Order To Fulfill Alinsky Agenda. On The O'Reilly Factor, Monica Crowley called Alinsky “a radical who believed in the radical remaking of America by shattering its very foundations,” adding, “I believe that President Obama has taken that to heart to the extent where over the last year, we have seen him apologize for the United States relentlessly.” When O'Reilly responded, “He can't want Americans to be killed,” Crowley said: “Well, how else do you explain his incredibly flaccid reactions to these kinds of attacks against the United States?” [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 1/5/10]

Luntz Likened Clinton's Praise Of Alinsky In Her Senior Thesis To Praise Of “People From Germany In The 1930s And 40s.” Republican pollster Frank Luntz said of Hillary Clinton's college thesis on Alinsky: “In the language she uses she holds him up almost like an icon. ... I don't know how to say this, but that's like holding up some of the people from Germany in the 1930s and '40s.” [Fox News, Hannity & Colmes, 3/5/07, via Media Matters]