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Acton Lecture Series: Alinsky for Dummies

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Joseph Morris at Acton Lecture Series

We’re posting the audio from Mr. Joseph Morris’ excellent May 6 Acton Lecture Series presentation, Alinsky for Dummies: His Persistent Influence and Its Meaning for American Society and Politics. As Lord Acton warned that power corrupts, Saul Alinsky — the father of modern “community organizing” — rejoiced that corruption empowers.

Saul Alinsky
Saul Alinsky
As Morris pointed out, decades after Alinsky’s death his ideas and teaching continue to shape the American political and social landscape. Barack Obama’s first job in Chicago was as an “organizer” for an Alinsky group; Hillary Clinton’s undergraduate thesis was written on Alinsky’s precepts; contemporary organizations from the notorious ACORN to the Catholic-Church-supported United for Power and Justice are among Alinsky’s progeny. The lecture provided an overview of Alinksy’s thinking and showed how that thinking is applied in current events. Morris encouraged ALS attendees to read Alinsky’s short but seminal Rules for Radicals, widely available in inexpensive paperback editions.

Listen to the lecture online here:

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Joseph Morris
Joseph Morris
Joseph A. Morris, a graduate of the college and the law school of the University of Chicago, is a partner in the law firm of Morris & De La Rosa, with offices in Chicago and London, maintaining an active practice in constitutional, business, labor, and international law. He is a member of the bars of the Supreme Court of the United States, the Supreme Court of Illinois, and several other courts. Mr. Morris served under President Reagan as assistant attorney general of the United States [in charge of international affairs and director of the Department of Justice Office of Liaison Services. He has appeared on numerous national and local television and radio programs. He has served as an American delegate to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. A leader in B’nai B’rith, he is also a member of the advisory board of Catholic Citizens of Illinois.

John Couretas John Couretas is Director of Communications, responsible for print and online communications at the Acton Institute. He has more than 20 years of experience in news and publishing fields. He has worked as a staff writer on newspapers and magazines, covering business and government. John holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in the Humanities from Michigan State University and a Master of Science Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University.


  • Mark Sofman

    I can’t seem to locate the link to the audio

  • Patrick Powers

    Is there an tutorial: Audio Links For Dummies :)

  • Norman Clemo

    A transcript of the lecture would be much appreciated.

  • Patrick: Under this line …

    Listen to the lecture online here:

    You’ll see the embedded audio player. Click on the arrow in the player.

    Just checked it in both IE and Firefox and it works.

  • Patrick Powers

    John, Thank you for your courtesy in pointing to the correct way to listen to the audio. I really meant to joke about the “Dummies” aspect of the title, since there are now so many books for dummies in the bookstores.

    I am surprised that there are so few feedback posts on Alinski topic, as it is seminal to understanding the current administration. Morris is very thorough in his presentation of the alliances and effects of Alinski. We need to thank him for his efforts in bringing forth the facts on Alinski.

    In keeping with the “…For Dummies” theme, we might consider another series of books in what I think in a “Culture Wars” genre. Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute and frequent contributor at Acton has a new book “The Battle” in which he identifies 30% of the population that are Liberal, but currently controlling the 70%, who are the governed. It is profitable to become aware of Alinski to understand the Liberal mindset and tactics.

    Alinski’s dedication of “Rules for Radicals” to Lucifer brings to mind Dr. Peter Kreeft’s writings in the Culture War series that resolves with pointing us toward the devil as our primary enemy in our current battle for hearts and souls. As Morris points out, truth and falsehood were irrelevant to Alinki, as they are to the Father of Lies. Kreeft has a condensed but understandable book on the “Refutation of Moral Relativism.”

    Alinski’s relationships with Catholic charitable services and the renouned author Jacques Mauritan are troubling.

  • Carol Williams

    I agree that the response to Alinsky himself is tepid. When I first read his name in connection with the beginnings of the current financial near-collapse it set my hair on fire! I began researching him and quickly recognized that Alinsky’s fingerprints are all over virtually every injury done to our nation in the last 50 years. And yet when I seek to share this information I can see the unspoken reaction: “Well, I never heard of him so he must not be anybody. Next!”

    But I am gratified to see and hear his name cropping up more often on talk radio and in conservative news bits. I think the answer lies in Alinsky’s own tactics; ie, keep agitating until people do recognize the name and demonize the heck out of him. The latter shouldn’t be hard to do considering who and what he was.

  • Carol Williams

    Also, a huge thank you to Mr. Morris for his very engaging presentation. It filled in gaps in my own understanding. It was very interesting to note weaknesses in the tactics themselves, as when coalitions turn on one another. It reminds me of Ms. Pelosi being recently boo’ed by a faction of feminists. If the Tea Parties et al can just maintain momentum I have no doubt America will overcome the onslaught.

  • Dennis Sinclair

    Great talk that filled in a lot of gaps and will get me to read “Rules for Radicals.” Thank you, Mr. Morris