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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Obama, Hitler both community organizers

During her speech at the Republican National Convention, vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin said:

"I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a 'community organizer,' except that you have actual responsibilities."

After the speech, Barack Obama specifically criticized Palin's jab at his community organizing experience, calling Republicans "out of touch":

"I would argue that doing work in the community to try and create jobs, to bring people together...that that's relevant only in understanding where I'm coming from, who I believe in, who I'm fighting for and why I'm in this race."

The Democratic governor of New York recently suggested that Republican attacks on community organizing had "overtones of potential racial coding."

The left's response to Palin's remarks can be encapsulated in a meme you've probably already heard: "Jesus was a community organizer; Pontius Pilate was a governor" (you can even get it on a bumper sticker now.)

Over at National Review's blog, Mark Hemingway called the meme "monumentally stupid" and "demonstrating a total lack of Biblical literacy."

For the left, community organizing is treated as an unequivocally good thing. Jesus was a community organizer (CO); Martin Luther King was a CO; Barack Obama was a CO. The first two were good guys, so the last one must be as well, right? What could possibly be wrong with the being a professional community organizer?

Well, lots... at least potentially.

If you're wondering what a CO does, the Wikipedia entry on the subject is not very helpful. In fact, since the RNC convention, the entry has undergone so many modifications from both Democrats and Republicans that its neutrality is now being disputed (and check out the discussion thread for the entry here.)

But let's grant that both Jesus Christ and MLK were community organizers in some sense. Don't worry, don't worry: I'm not about to give the left back their meme.

Because, you see, Adolf Hitler was also a community organizer.

After all, Hitler was instrumental in organizing the National Socialist German Workers Party, and he later organized his own private army, the SA, and used it to intimidate politicians and further his own odious goals for Germany.

One organization for COs defines community organizing as: 

"[Community organizing] is a values-based process by which people - most often low- and moderate-income people previously absent from decision-making tables - are brought together in organizations to jointly act in the interest of their communities and the common good."

We can ignore the part about "the common good" for now. Some of the worst obscenities of the 20th century have been committed by people who claim to be devoted to "the common good."

In Mein Kampf, Hitler himself wrote that,

"The greatness of the Aryan is not based on his intellectual powers, but rather on his willingness to devote all his faculties to the service of the community. Here the instinct for self-preservation has reached its noblest form; for the Aryan willingly subordinates his own ego to the common weal and when necessity calls he will even sacrifice his own life for the community."

Of course, saying that all community organizers are as bad as Hitler is just as ridiculous as saying that they are all as good as Jesus. The point is simply that community organizing is a morally neutral term: it's a tool that is used in the attempt to reach certain goals.  Identifying what the common good consists in is by no means easy or uncontroversial. All I want to say is that we should judge a community organizer by the particular good he wishes to bring about.

In other words, the nature of a CO's goals -- his conception of the common good -- is what determines whether his particular community organizing activities are a good thing or not.

So what about Obama? After Palin made her jab about community organizing, I was planning on writing a piece on the many different meanings of community organizing, and what it specifically refers to now. However, it appears that Melanie Phillips has already done the job.

In her column, Phillips gathers together certain facts about Obama's background and his associations that suggest that -- well, his form of community organizing may not be such a great thing after all.

Start with Saul Alinsky, the so-called "father of community organizing." Alinsky was what one might call a "stealth Marxist." History has shown that the people (especially Americans) are not going to take to Marxism if it is presented to them openly. They are too divided, too obsessed with their "narrow" self-interest to take Marxist ideas seriously.

Therefore, the only way for the Revolution to succeed is by careful, incremental steps, with the ultimate agenda concealed from the common people, who would reject it if they knew the full truth. To keep the lower and middle classes in line, the Marxist agenda had to be dressed up in moral/religious rhetoric, with each step justified on the basis of common interest. This deception is acceptable because any means is appropriate when it comes to bringing about the Revolution.

Community organizing, in which groups of people are brought together to support a goal they are told it is in their interests to achieve, is thus one way of getting closer to socialist utopia. The idea is to align different groups of people together in support of different parts of the revolutionary agenda, with each of those parts justified without recourse to the ultimate goal. At the same time, no one but the community organizer himself and his closest acolytes know the master plan.

(Compare this method to how Hitler reached the zenith of his power: the master plan was sketched out in Mein Kampf, but not discussed publicly much until there was no way to stop it from coming to completion.)

We don't know how seriously Obama takes the ideas of Alinsky. We do know that Obama got his job as a community organizer through former students of Alinsky's. In The Nation (hardly a source biased against Obama), David Moberg wrote that "Obama worked in the organizing tradition of Saul Alinksy." After the Democratic National Convention, Alinsky's son praised Obama in the Boston Globe, saying:

"Barack Obama's training in Chicago by the great community organizers is showing its effectiveness. It is an amazingly powerful format, and the method of my late father always works to get the message out and get the supporters on board. When executed meticulously and thoughtfully, it is a powerful strategy for initiating change and making it really happen. Obama learned his lesson well."

Not all community organizers are really crypto-communists, although at least some of them are. Community organizing is simply a tool that people like Alinsky wanted to use to bring about their own idea of "change." Judge a CO by his goals and, in my view, Alinsky comes out pretty poorly. So does Hitler.

Barack Obama's idea of change also leaves something to be desired.

The point is that community organizers may be fascist scounderals like Hitler or Machiavellian socialists like Alinsky. Obama is likely somewhere in between these two. It's time for the left to give their new meme a rest.

UPDATE: It should be noted that the "Jesus was a community organizer" meme has made its way into the halls of Congress, care of Rep. Steve Cohen (Democrat, naturally.)

Posted by Terrence Watson on September 10, 2008 | Permalink


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Maybe it was a stupid thing to criticize to begin with. Some community organizers are good, some community organizers are bad, but to have disdain for the accomplishments of all of them is utterly ridiculous.

Posted by: Voice of Reason | 2008-09-10 12:52:09 PM

The fate of community organizers.

Jesus Chist - Crucified on a cross.

Adolf Hitler - Bombed to death and suicided (alleged)

Martin Luther King - assassinated

Barrack Obama - Already committed political suicide and destroyed by Hillary and Sarah.

Posted by: John V | 2008-09-10 12:59:38 PM

Sweet silver angels over the sea
Please come down flying low for me

One time I trusted a stranger
'Cause I heard his sweet song
And it was gently enticing me
Though there was something wrong
When I turned he was gone

Blinding me his song remains reminding me
He's a bandit and a heartbreaker
Oh but Jesus was a crossmaker

I hear the thunder come rumbling
The light never looked so dim
I see the junction get nearer
And danger's in the wind
And either road's looking grim

Hiding me I flee desire's dividing me
He's a bandit and a heartbreaker
Oh but Jesus was a crossmaker

Posted by: Judee Sill | 2008-09-10 1:04:55 PM

"Jesus was a community organizer; Pontius Pilate was a governor"

I think there is something inherently libertarian about this -- non-governmental, decentralized activism and the communiy level. I like it.

Of course, I agree with your general view that their is nothing inherently good about CO.

Great post.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-09-10 1:19:00 PM

Jesus Was a Community Organizer, Pontius Pilate a Governor, and Steve Cohen a Douchebag

Posted by: The Dude | 2008-09-10 2:11:23 PM

Steve Sailer:

"Like most questions about Obama's life, the answers about his community organizing revolve around a single word: race.

As Obama wrote in his 1995 autobiography Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance:

"In 1983, I decided to become a community organizer. … That’s what I’ll do, I’ll organize black folks."

The Obama campaign's recurrent “steelworker” shtick is supposed to make you think Obama moved to Chicago to help guys named Kowalski. But the last thing Obama wanted to do in 1985 was help anybody with a Central European name."

Posted by: DJ | 2008-09-10 3:52:42 PM

"Some of the worst obscenities of the 20th century have been committed by people who claim to be devoted to "the common good."

Even greater atrocities were committed in the name of Marxist universalism.

Stalin's Jews

"An Israeli student finishes high school without ever hearing the name "Genrikh Yagoda," the greatest Jewish murderer of the 20th Century, the GPU's deputy commander and the founder and commander of the NKVD. Yagoda diligently implemented Stalin's collectivization orders and is responsible for the deaths of at least 10 million people."

Posted by: DJ | 2008-09-10 3:59:47 PM

B'Nai Brith:

From Self-Help to National Advocacy: The Emergence of Community Activism

"One of the more notable triumphs of the Jewish Labour Committee was in the small town of Dresden, Ontario, a town with a population of 1,700 at the end of World War II, of whom approximately three hundred were black. It was a town that became infamously identified with racism in the late 1940s. However, it must be noted that Dresden was not Montgomery, Alabama or Albany, Georgia. There were no bombs, no Southern red-necked sheriffs or the like, but there were venues catering to the public at large that refused to serve Black citizens.

[And of course there were venues catering to the public that did serve black citizens. It was called freedom of association, the freedom to discriminate.]

One group of local Blacks were determined to change things and formed the National Unity Association, which turned to groups such as the JPRC and the JLC for support. Sid Blum, director of the Joint Labour Committee, as well as two of his predecessors, Donna Hill and Vivian Mahood, kept the Dresden issue in the public eye. JPRC lawyers such as Bora Laskin and David Lewis supplied useful legal advice, while a broad coalition of labour, Jewish human-rights organizations, the National Unity Association, and its black sympathizers brought pressure on the government of Premier Leslie Frost to prosecute the Dresden offenders and to pass stronger legislation."

For the JPRC (and Obama) community organization to advance "human rights" was always a very selective thing. There were only certain humans whose rights were worth advancing.

Posted by: DJ | 2008-09-10 4:10:25 PM

Jesus Christ was NOT a community organizer. I repeat, he was NOT a community organizer.

That's a myth perpetuated by liberation theology.

That particular brand first surfaced in churches whose countries fell under marxist rule, primarily in South America,

The premise of being liberated from something is that somebody else is responsible for your misery.

Without getting too theological about it, the Bible recognizes one race ... the human race.

IMHO, liberation theology creates divisions. Just listen to Rev. Wright, Jessee Jackson, Al Sharpton and their ilk.


Palin's husband Todd (?) is a member of the United Steelworkers of America. Could that account for Obama's recent obsession?

Posted by: set you free | 2008-09-10 4:17:58 PM

What about the community organising of Obama's mentor, the Rev. Wright, to whom he gave $53,0000:

"People have to put up with who cares what a poor black man has to face every day in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people. Somebody missed that. You got nervous because we got some white members here. I am still in Bible country. I am still in the text. Jesus was a poor black man who lived in a country and who lived in a culture that was controlled by rich white people. The Romans were rich. The Romans were Italians which means they were European which means they were white. And the Romans ran everything which was in Jesus's country. It just came to me within the past few weeks y'all why so many folks are hating on Barack Obama. He doesn't fit the model. He ain't white. He ain't rich and he ain't privileged. Hillary fits the mold. Europeans fit the mold. Giuliani fits the mold. White men fit the mold. Hillary never had a cab whiz past her and not pick her up because her skin was the wrong color. Hillary never had to be worried about being pulled over in her car as a black man driving in the wrong... I am sick of negros who just do not get it. Hillary was not a black boy raised in a single parent home. Barack was. Barack knows what it means to be a black man living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people! Hillary can never know that. Hillary ain't never been called a nigger. Hillary has never had her people defined a non-persons. Hilary ain't had to work twice as hard just to get accepted by the rich white folk who run everything or to get a passing grade when you know you are smarter than that C-student sitting in the white house. OH I am so glad that I got a God who knows what it is to be a poor black man in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people. He taught me, Jesus did, how to love my enemies. Jesus taught me how to love the hell out of my enemies and not be reduced to their level of hatred bigotry and small-mindedness. Hillary ain't never had her own people say wasn't white enough. Jesus had his own people siding with the enemy. That's why I love Jesus y'all. He never let their hatred dampen his hope."

Posted by: DJ | 2008-09-10 4:48:25 PM

Set You Free,

I see what you're saying, and you're totally right. Jesus was certainly not a community organizer in the Saul Alinsky sense (or even the Barack Obama sense.)

I mean, what can we say? He had some followers, he drew some crowds, he gave some speeches, and talked at least a little bit about change.

If that's all you need to do to be a community organizer than Hitler was definitely one. Obama, too :-)



Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2008-09-10 4:57:58 PM

Great post.

Posted by: Tiger184 | 2008-09-10 5:09:31 PM

Over at the Richard Dawkins website, some historians have pointed out that almost nothing is known or said about Jesus of Nazareth by contemporary sources. And almost everything that is attributed to him has antecendents in the mythology of the day.

There is very little evidence that the personality written about in the Gospels ever existed. He seems to be a fabrication, not a community organizer.

Posted by: Grant Brown | 2008-09-11 12:43:14 AM

Could you guys miss the point by a larger margin? Does anyone think Obama is saying he's Jesus? The point people are making is that Jesus helped his people; would you have laughed at that? Was he a lesser person, because he wasn't the mayor of a town?

Obama was a community organizer, which is a selfless role; he helped his community; he did a good thing, regardless of how anyone tries to spin it. But the Republicans scoffed and laughed at this good thing he did.

I guess when someone decides to help out his or her neighborhood, they should assume that the wealthy and powerful in this country think they're little more than a joke.

Posted by: Kip | 2008-09-11 6:54:03 AM

There is very little evidence that the personality written about in the Gospels ever existed.
Posted by: Grant Brown | 11-Sep-08 12:43:14 AM

Could you cite primary sources from the Carthaginian or Roman side that Hannibal existed? Or any archaeological that Hannibal existed?

Posted by: The Stig | 2008-09-11 9:25:07 AM

Jesus is actually a better-documented historical figure than anyone else in the first century Roman empire below the rank of provincial governor. To doubt his existence is irrational.

Posted by: ebt | 2008-09-11 1:47:42 PM

“Jesus was a community organizer and Pontius Pilate was a Governor”. As usual, Democrats and liberals are weak on the Bible. If Jesus was such a “community organizer” then why was he crucified? Hmmmmm? So did he organize the mob that murdered him? Bad analogy. furthermore, the last two lovely presidents that the Democrats gave us were governors…so does that apply to them also. Doubt it. The left needs to dump this mantra before it bites their backside.

By the way, the reason Jesus was crucified was because He spoke the truth which is precisely why the media and Libs are so incensed with Sarah Palin.

Posted by: Jim E. Davis | 2008-09-12 11:54:57 PM

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