A Comparison Between Emotional Abuse and Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”

The tone of public discourse about politics in our country today alarms a lot of people of different political persuasions. Events in my recent personal history have caused me to educate myself about emotional abuse tactics that others have used against me. I’ve noticed that a lot of these tactics are prominent in social media and the “mainstream” media. It seems to permeate almost all pop culture, entertainment and “news” which is why I avoid most of it and have for many years. I thought it would be interesting to compare emotional abuse tactics that I have personally experienced with Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” and see if there is any overlap.

Here are links to the source documents I used for my comparison:

And here are the results:

My Personal Experience Rules for Radicals
Intended target I was likely perceived as vulnerable because of grieving a deep personal loss and having suffered a recent and extreme career and financial downturn Low-income communities and “have nots”
Gaslighting Ex-boyfriend tried to convince me that I have a lot of illnesses and that my web site gave him a virus. Ex-boss told me I’m not smart enough to learn things in classes I wanted to take. “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty.
Name-calling and put-downs Just in the last week I’ve had the following terms applied to me – “dumb”, “mouth-breathing”, “brain-dead”, “stupid”, “subhuman dwarf”. These were in one-on-one interactions where the people knew exactly who they were addressing.
My ex-boyfriend mocked my physical appearance and gloated and mocked me over signs that I was hurt by his actions.
“Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also
works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.
Isolating you from your support networks My ex-boyfriend put down my family and sabotaged a reunion I had with some friends I hadn’t seen in years.
My ex-boss instructed co-workers not to help me with my projects.
“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the
target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.
Projection – accusing you of doing things they are doing themselves My ex-boyfriend had a lot of debt and I have none but he accused me numerous times of being bad at handling money. “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.”
They accuse you of being “too sensitive” in order to deflect their abusive remarks When people taunt you and hurt you until you react, they can accuse you of all kinds of things, such as being neurotic and mentally ill. And that’s just the beginning! “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.”
They try to make you feel as though they are always right, and you are wrong Abusive people have criticized me for not having enough money then got angry at me for working too hard.
I’ve been put down for taking classes to help me with my career while simultaneously being put down by the same person for my career not being sufficiently successful. I’ve been put down for things that I think are common sense – getting exercise, wearing sunscreen, eating healthy food, losing weight, saving my retirement money for retirement, combining car trips to save on gas. An abusive ex-roommate used to put down my hair color (it was natural then!). There doesn’t seem to be any aspect of my life that is too trivial for someone else to take notice of and attack.
“Keep the pressure on. Never let up.” Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance.

Results: there is not a one-to-one correspondence, but there is some overlap. I recommend you read the signs of emotional abuse very carefully – is someone in your personal life using those tactics against you? Is the media using those tactics against you? Are political movements using those tactics against you? I’m not pointing the finger at only one side here – I’ve been abused by people from different political points of view. My goal in writing this is to make you more aware of abuse in your life and inspire you to refuse to tolerate it – no matter who is doing it to you!

9 thoughts on “A Comparison Between Emotional Abuse and Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”

    1. It looks like in the comment section in the above article I linked to they are not going to publish my last comment so I’ll post it here:

      Your beef is not with me. I did not release starlings into Central Park in the 1890s. I wasn’t even born then. You are making arguments against arguments that I did not make. I am doing no harm to other birds by having starlings living in my house – they are prolific breeders in the wild yes, but they are very difficult to get to breed in captivity. There are breeders in Europe who breed starlings on purpose and they had to experiment with ways to get them to breed in captivity because without special conditions it will not happen. My understanding is that you have to put the parent birds in a movable aviary over a grassy surface so they can feed the babies their natural diet. If they cannot have access to the natural diet they do not breed. They do not feed the captive starling diet they eat to their babies. I have one male and one female and they do not breed after living together for 7 years. I did not acquire a male and female with the intent of breeding, I ended up with one male and one female because it’s almost impossible to tell the sex until they are almost a year old. My female starling is named Attila because I did not know the sex until it was too late to change her name. I’m well aware of the characteristics of starlings, that’s why I chose the name Attila. I did not choose the name for my other starling, he is named Pooky and was originally thought to be female by his original owner. I acquired him at the age of 3 months and Attila at the age of 5 days.

      There is a scientist in Oklahoma who is doing a lot of starling research that is very interesting. What I have gleaned from his films that I have watched is that he likes heavy metal music (because he made a video of himself asking his starling Chur if he wants heavy metal and Chur said “yes” and he started up the music and Chur sang like crazy. I don’t know if that means anything in particular, but it’s a cute video!). I saw no evidence of pot smoking. Not being a pot smoker myself I don’t know a lot about it. My understanding is that it makes you kind of unambitious. This guy is pretty ambitious. He writes computer software that analyzes bird speech patterns and invents filming techniques to get great shots for his documentary films. I think he’s working on or has received a doctoral degree. I doubt he’s into sparking leaf.

      My response to what you assert are facts:
      1. true
      2. true
      3. My understanding is that current research shows that they have an impact on Northern Flickers and Red Bellied Woodpeckers. Other bird declines that are often attributed to starlings are currently thought by some scientists to be due to human impacts on bird habitat and food supplies. Both Northern Flickers and starlings live in my neighborhood. We recently lost a lot of habitat due to a new condo complex being built down the street and a lot of old trees with holes got taken down. These two species compete directly for those nesting spots. What will happen? Some of the starlings have taken up nesting in in AT&T store sign down the street.
      4. Sounds plausible, I do know that there are ecological niches occupied by certain species and if you disturb the balance there can be trouble.
      5. Yes starlings evolved on other continents entirely until the 1890s and if my memory is correct I don’t think there are any other Sturnidae species that naturally occur in North America. I’ve read that a few Myna species have been introduced.
      6. My understanding is that starling populations peaked in the 70s or 80s in North America and are slightly down but not by a huge amount. In Europe they have lost 50% of their population in some areas.
      1-6 I don’t know if any of our species have become extinct because of starlings but it does seem like a possibility. It’s pretty common for a stressed population to be vulnerable to factors that they might be able to shake off otherwise. Just about all songbird species on our continent are stressed because they need a lot of invertebrates to feed to their young and invertebrates are in major decline. I manage my garden organically and plant things that support birds and invertebrates to help fight this. I could have one of those official bird habitat designations but my condo complex does not allow signage. But when I move to my new home in August after getting married I will start working on it ASAP! Northern Flickers are one of the species that regularly visits my water garden. I heat it in winter so the birds can get water when our lake is frozen over and I am treated to lots of great bird sightings that way.

      Anyway, continuously making arguments against arguments that I did not make either means you didn’t read my comments, didn’t understand them or are pretending not to. That is emotional abuse technique #13.

      What my comments on emotional abuse have to with the article we’re commenting on is this: the article is about hate. I’m interested in the link between hate and abuse, and the link between human and animal abuse. I’m particualary interested in this article because I’m considering becoming a therapist to help abuse victims AND I’ve encountered extreme human behavior that surprised me as a result of people finding out that I live with two starlings. I’ve explained this previously so you knew the answer to that question already.

      You are correct that if you don’t “have a spine” you will get abused. Animal and human predators look for weakness. That’s why I want to raise awareness. I’m trying to accomplish that right now by commenting on this very popular article. In my own life I attracted predators because I was going through a bad time after my Mom’s death. According to you I deserved it becasue I was not strong enough. Birds will attract predators from having an illness or an injury, that’s whey they try to hide it as long as possible. Humans try to hide their vulnerabilities as long as possible for the same reason. One way to hide it is to take the predator role. There are other ways to avoid being prey that don’t involve being a predator and I have learned some of them and I am grateful. I’m still learning all the time.

      Last night my fiance was working so I watched a movie with my starling Pooky who was in one of his snuggly moods. During almost the whole movie he was tucked under my chin with my hand cupped around him and my thumb stroking his back. There is another side to starlings that most people will never see but I’m one of the lucky ones who is blessed! Pooky is alive because somone found him on the ground as a five day old baby and decided to keep him warm and feed him and find him a home. Others would have walked away or did something cruel to him. I am glad Pooky is alive and I think he is too. It’s hard to know what a bird is thiking but having read about bird psycology and body language he appears to be happy.

      Here is a pic of my fiance with Pooky – one of my favorite pics!

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