How to Choose Your Means: Conservative Rules for Radicals (Part 3)

April 29, 2009 by Lisa Krempasky  
Filed under Politics

Does the end justify the means? Conservatives have a tendency to play by the rules so we view this question as irrelevant. We have a blanket rule that the end does not justify the means and when the liberal does not play by this rule we criticize them. But by doing so we let them define the field of play and by defining it they have control of it.

The better question is does this end justify this means. Really every political action we take is a means. Some clearly are acceptable. Some we view as unacceptable. Take the example of stealing. Stealing is wrong. Plain and simple it is wrong. But the vast majority of people will steal food when their children are starving. Criticizing them for doing so neither feeds their child nor protects our food from being stolen. That does not mean we should compromise our morality, but to successfully win we must understand that most people will compromise their views given the right circumstances. That knowledge can be used for you or against you. And the enemy is using these rules and tactics. Failing to acknowledge them only guarantees we do not know how to fight.

That being said Alinksy lays out eleven concepts about end and means:

1. People are more concerned about means when they are not directly involved in the issue. In the case of the stealing mother, while she may feel remorse for stealing she would feel far more remorse for letting her child die when there was something she could do to prevent it. It’s easy for us to sit back and say she is wrong, but it is not our child.

2. Means is judged by your political position. To Americans the Declaration of Independence is a proud statement of independence from a leader who should not retain authority over us. The British saw it differently. To them it was traitorous rebellion.

3. In war the end justifies almost any means. We see this with our congressmen and their newly found politically correct disguist for waterboarding. In 2001 and 2002, shortly after 9/11 they were all in favor of doing whatever it took to stop the terrorists. Today with the memory faded they have an entirely different view.

4. Judgment of the means must be made in the historical context where they were undertaken. See the above example of waterboarding after 9/11 versus the view of waterboarding today. You must make your judgment for your means in the moment. History either views it favorably or unfavorably, but will look to the context of when the decision was made.

5. Concern with means increases as more means are available. In the stealing mom example, if taking that piece of bread was the only thing actually keeping her child alive she is not judged harshly and is generally viewed with compassion. If, however, she is offered a job that she refuses to take or is given food that she refuses to cook or has other means to obtain that food, then stealing is looked upon harshly. Creativity in means will often provide an acceptable, but also marketable, means. Acceptable is no good if it goes unnoticed.

6. The less important the end, the more alternative means you can consider. One tendency of radicals is to look at whatever our end is as extremely important. Here we must be realistic and view the objective through the eyes of those we wish to join with us. Almost universally Americans viewed planes crashing into the Twin Towers as important and would go to virtually any means to make sure this did not happen again. Yet the vast majority of Americans do not care about saving a bug on the verge of extinction, or at least do not care enough to make an effort to stop the extinction. Pick an end for which you can get a critical mass of backers.

7. Winning justifies your end. Winning is the difference between being a traitor and a founding father. If you are not sold out to your cause enough to win you are on a fools errand to use any drastic means.

8. The morality of the means is judged by your strength at the moment it is employed. Put simply, people don’t like a bully. If the enemy is about to surrender and you kill them instead your end does not justify your means. But if your back is against the wall and you are on the verge of defeat a bullet to the head of your enemy is imperative.

9. If you means is effective it will automatically be hailed by the enemy as unethical. We see this political speak in the tea party movement. The media has portrayed the movement as anti-American. Why? Because they need the PR machine to convince scores of people seeking redress of their complaints that they are unethical. The movement is too large already and pressure must be put on others not to join. This pressure is proof of the effectiveness of the means.

10. You do what you can with what you have. History remembers Ghandi as a peace activist. But there is evidence that peaceful protest was not his preferred political method. He used civil disobedience because he had no guns. If he had had guns he would not have had trained men to use them. But what he had was a large number of bodies that could show up. Seeing that he crafted a strategy that worked with what he had.

11. Phrase the goals very generally. Make them marketable. We must have a slogan that engages and motivates people. Obama was a master of this. He sold hope and change. Who could be against hope? Who could be against change? But what do they mean? They mean something different to each person. Each person can project their hope and their change into that general goal.

Using these guidelines we can develop effective strategies, we can use effective means to justify our particular end or goal. Using these strategies we can regain political power and take back our nation!

In part 2 we identified the problem and the parties need to obtain a solution to the problem. In part 4 we will explore the role our language plays in our political cause.