An Asymmetry of Evil over Good

People have found creative uses for the asymmetries between good and evil. (See Chapter IX of the book here.) One example is in the tactics of the mid-twentieth century community organizer Saul Alinsky. He pioneered methods of agitating for social change, publishing his advice as the book Rules for Radicals. Many radical groups have copied his tactics to attempt to force their kind of societal change upon everyone.

Two of his planned protests are illustrative of his general approach. (Note that these were only threatened protests; they were not actually carried out. But he was always prepared to follow through, because if anyone called his bluff, he stood to lose credibility.) Both quotes that follow are from Rules for Radicals. First, a threat against the city of Chicago via its airport:

O’Hare Airport became the target…we tie up the lavatories. In the restrooms you drop a dime, enter, push the lock on the door — and you can stay there all day. What are the police going to do? Break in and demand evidence of legitimate occupancy? An intelligence study was launched to learn how many sit-down toilets for both men and women, as well as stand-up urinals, there were in the entire O’Hare Airport complex and how many men and women would be necessary for the nation’s first “sh*t-in.” The consequences of this kind of action would be catastrophic in many ways. People would be desperate for a place to relieve themselves. … O’Hare would soon become a shambles. The whole scene would become unbelievable and the laughter and ridicule would be nationwide.

Regrettably, another of his protest threats had a similar theme:

I [Alinsky] suggested that we might buy one hundred seats for one of Rochester’s symphony concerts. We would select a concert in which the music was relatively quiet. [Those] who would be given the tickets would first be treated to a three-hour pre-concert dinner in the community, in which they would be fed nothing but baked beans, and lots of them; then the people would go to the symphony hall — with obvious consequences. Imagine the scene when the action began! The concert would be over before the first movement! (If this be a Freudian slip — so be it!) … The one thing that all oppressed people want to do to their oppressors is sh*t on them. Here was an approximate way to do this.

His juvenile tactics were effective because he knew it was far easier to threaten or commit harm, than to do something good: It is more provocative to rally people to occupy airport restrooms than to organize them to pass out food and drink to tired travelers. It takes only one day to ruin a symphony, but 90 lifetimes to create one. It is unfortunate, but evil does have this kind of perverse advantage over good.

We must avoid would-be leaders who exploit the advantages evil has over good. Reliance on such tactics to get what one wants is an indication of low character, and such leaders cannot and should not be trusted.

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