It appears, following Mark’s link, that Jim Pinkerton’s blog has been cyberjacked by a clever hacker who wants to make him look like a crazy person. Or, at least, someone unfamiliar with Milton, or folklore, or with the meaning of “dedication.” Or, could it be…Satan?
One needn’t be a fan* of Saul Alinsky to find the idea that he was a goat-disemboweling, inverted-pentagram-scarred, Venom-listening devil worshipper preposterous. Sure, “Pinkerton” doesn’t actually say that, because then it’d be obvious that the post is a parody.
Attending to dreary reality, “Pinkerton” says that Alinsky dedicated Rules for Radicals to Lucifer. Actually, he dedicated the book to “Irene,” which is not one of the many names for the devil that I’m familiar with. The following page of the book has the Lucifer reference—an epigraph, not a dedication:
As for Alinsky’s relation to Old Scratch, the devil is what you want to make of him. I recently visited the Devil’s Museum, in Kaunas, Lithuania. (I was lured in by the Department of Tourism’s slogan, “Lithuania. Why the hell not?”). As a museum guide observes:
Eastern Europeans have a different view of the devil from that commonly held in the West…[T]he devil is part of the natural world, and in some ways a personification of the forces of nature. The devil is also a joker, though one with a sick sense of humour, and is motivated by mischief rather than outright evil. In many ways he is similar to the Norse god Loki, another earthy figure deeply involved in the affairs of men, and a thorn in the side of the organised and predictable. He is associated with chaos, always on hand to stir up trouble if things look to be going too smoothly. In Pagan times the devil had equal status with the gods, accepted by the people as a normal part of life; it was only after the advent of Christianity that he was reviled and demonised.
Alinsky was raised in a Russian-immigrant, Orthodox-Jewish home. The Jewish concept of Satan is quite different from the Christian one, and immigrants from Eastern Europe had absorbed some of the local folkloric traditions. In any case, Jews don’t much care about Satan one way or the other, and Alinsky’s parents were more concerned about gentiles than demons.
Alinsky went to U. Chicago, where he was an archaeology major. I don’t know what classes he took (why hasn’t Obama had Alinsky’s college transcripts released? hmm…), but there’s a good chance that he read Paradise Lost there. Or he might’ve read it on his own. Milton was a radical, and worked for Oliver Cromwell before growing disillusioned over his excesses. He had conflicted views about Satan, and it’s not clear whether the Satan of Paradise Lost was supposed to be Cromwell; Blake wrote that:
The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels & God, and at liberty when of Devils & Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devil’s party without knowing it.
So, maybe Alinsky’s hat tip to Lucifer was a dog whistle to Cromwellians and a call for the reconquest of Ireland.
Farfetched? Probably. Ill-informed? Absolutely. I’ve never read Paradise Lost, nor The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, nor Rules for Radicals, and haven’t the faintest idea what I’m talking about. (I have, however, seen Venom in concert):
*I’m not especially a fan, but Alinsky’s main influence was on process, not ideology. Jews for Jesus and Karl Rove have learned just as much from him as Obama has.
Update: A reader writes:
In addition to claiming Lucifer as “the very first radical,” Saul Alinsky also calls Moses “a great organizer” in Rules for Radicals! The relevant portion is on pages 89-91 of the 1989 Vintage paperback edition, in which Alinsky retells the story of how Moses convinced God not to destroy the Jews for worshiping the Golden Calf, using this as an example of communication for persuasion.