Tactics of Targets


Side Issues Targets love to discuss other issues with us, especially those which they have no responsibility for. They will encourage us to bring up side issue to talk about or anything that will shift the focus from the main issue.

Agreement on Something Easy: They will try to get us to agree to something small, then they will push for getting off the hook. It is much easier to say yes, after you have already said it once. They think we are giving in when we agree with them, and some of our members may think so too.

Taking Over: They will do anything to take over an action. It may be something small, but as disruptive as passing out their own attendance sheets. It may be as major a shift as turning an action into an INFORMATION SESSION, with them explaining to us. We didn't go there to get information. They may even try to read regulations or other papers to take over the meeting.

Divide and Conquer: The rule of thumb in dealing with this tactic is: they are choosing to change the subject of the action to something else, and it must be changed back immediately. Specific ways to divide us:

1. Race Baiting: Why is it an issue for them, what color anybody in our organization is? They have effectively used this tool to divide others and succeeded in getting off the hook, as well as lessening the power of the group by dividing it.

2. Red Baiting: Why do they want to picture us as a splinter political group? Again, it changes the subject of the action to what is wrong with us (not them), and divides our membership, as some of the newer members may have seeds of doubt planted

3. Older People from the Younger: This happens when you discuss Lifeline (or whatever issue) should be available to everyone. If it has to be limited to a low-income constituency, the older people should not be divided from the welfare recipients and low-income people. This has happened in utility shut off campaigns which they want to apply to the elderly and not to the core.

4. Staff from Members: They would rather discuss your staff, then the issue. It shifts the power and the action to them, because they are controlling the subject and it divides the members from the staff.

Symbolic Satisfaction: They want to sound like they are giving us what we want and they want us to look like we are happy getting it. Ever see an official call a member by their name? Put their arm around a member's shoulder? (this really puts the woman "in their place") They may call you honey or dear for the same reason. They will be smiling their heads off, touching you on the arm, and answering in a sympathetic and somewhat "I'll do what I can" style, without every specifically committing themselves.

Sympathy: Tactics come in many forms. "Yes, this is terrible" but no follow-up commitments to get anything done specifically. This may also come with the "empty pockets" stories. There's also the real tearjerker [sentence cut off] There are variations of these weepers. Handing out handkerchiefs doesn't win us anything.

I Gave You the: (fill in with something we didn't ask for/need/or is a monument with their name on) Community centers or streets or any other thing they can come up with may have been paid with by money they have no control over. These items may not have been anything they ever had anything to do with. They are visible projects they can point to though and sound as generous as Santa Claus. So you really don't want to ask them for something else that you don't deserve, do you??

You Can't get Anything Done: And by the way you can't, if that's what you end up believing. All it takes is for one or two members to repeat whatever the target says, and the target has now gained legitimacy "See these people understand". Of course some people believe YOU CAN'T FIGHT CITY HALL and this reconfirms what they have been lead to believe. It is very important for members to understand that you can get this done if you don't stop the pressure. The demands would get done, if the people were rich who were asking them. That is why we must be tight in out actions and disciplined to not have "breaking in the ranks" when the target uses their tactics. Without $$ are power is in our numbers and our unity.

I am Only One Vote: When's the last time a target said this to you and one member immediately agreed? It's obviously true. They have only one vote. What are they going to do with their one vote? What are they going to do to get the other votes? Do they think we were born yesterday? They always lobby on any other important issue for votes, why aren't they lobbying on ours.

If I do it for You, Everyone Else will Expect it: How many other groups have been [down] there pressuring him for this. How is he going to deal with us, cause we know we want it and it is our due.

Making an Exceptional Case into the Rule: How many targets have said "I heard/know about a person who does (fill in the blank with some bizarre, crazy, rip-off, terrible thing) and that's why this program/demand/whatever can't be done. The people will go crazy and do the same thing." These exceptions are always made to sound like the rule. This is an effective tactic, because it is easy for many people at the action/meeting to remember a crazy story and understand why they can't do it. There is never a discussion of the exceptions to the rule when the rich and powerful have exceptions made for them. In this case, the rich and powerful abuse exceptions which are actually the rule. But in terms of dealing with the tactic of the exception becoming the rule against us, we must remember there are exceptions to everything. Nothing is perfect.

Pork Barrels and Public Awards: Officials and targets have tactic to "buy off groups". They are very successful. Frequently, programs which receive high media attention are tokens used to appease federal guidelines and mostly buy off community groups/leaders. The program may be a community development paint bucket program, which is hardly a high cost project, but can be easily given to groups who "go along" with the powers that be. High recognition accompanies these programs too, as the city wishes to be appearing as saints. [Missing information]

Co-opt Leadership: Personal recognition of our leadership by targets as well as individual meetings with them sets up our side for being co-opted and neutralized. Public officials are great at this. They know how to "give strokes" and separate our leaders. This dividing tactic must be countered with refusals of leaders to meet with them alone. This recognition also helps breed suspicion by members of the leadership and further promotes a divided group. It is much easier for the leader to begin to view themselves as the important and powerful on, instead of the group.

I Need More Information: What for? To write a book? Is that all they have to say? They won't make a commitment to anything? This tactic has been useful to targets in the past for good reason. Most groups can't wait it out, which is what they want us to do. Most groups are unstable, not tightly organized, and die. It's easy to deal with them. If the rich and powerful made the request, there would be no problem with a commitment. There should be one for us. This is an effective tactic. It may take the form of "we need to do a study fist; a survey first; I need more information" But the reality is they are using postponement to get off the hook. They may refuse to meet with you if they can rid of you without making any commitment. If there is a legitimate need for more information (usually it is just a tactic) this issue should be discussed among the members before the action. If you are stuck at the action and your members have not discussed this, you need to caucus. This is our tactic to meet alone with just our membership and decide whether we want to agree to do this. It usually doesn't take a long discussion to decide, so a few minutes meeting is a win in this case.

No Money: This is common. It is usually an [easy] tactic to hit, because they are accustomed to shutting up anyone they don't want to give $ to, with it, and not accustomed to dealing with responses. Ours could have been in our opening statement to them, but need to be restated. There is $ to do it in rich neighborhoods. There are $ for programs that benefit rich neighborhoods. There is $ for ours too, and we might as well ask the real question: which side are you on? That is the issue, not these blind trails they are using on us. This is also a variation of

I can't do anything for you: If he can't do anything for us, we must be the ones who have something wrong with us for coming to him. WRONG. We know he can do something, and he better get about telling us what. As [Caesar] Chavez said: Don't tell me what you can't do. Tell me what you can.

Millions of Excuses and Tactics: Please add your own. Here are a few more:

You are unreasonable : What is unreasonable? Us giving in? Us selling out? He is unreasonable to us.

You Don't Understand (you dummies): This is to shift the power for us to him. We understand our problems and what can be done and we understand this tactic too.

You Make the Budget Cuts: ( [illegible] get your program/demand funded) : This is not our job. What is his salary/position for? Does he say this to the rich and [powerful]? [illegible] Not likely, and we are expected to deal with this issue. It is not an issue. It is a tactic. If the target gets us to accept this as our responsibility, the power has shifted as we are trying to figure out what to do or where to cut. It is effective in dealing with most groups though.. Everyone knows government funds are strapped. The real question is where they are strapped for - us or their friends?

Coffee, Tea, or Dummy: They like to "neutralize" us. They don't want us to be angry. How about some nice hospitality, while we well mannered folks thank them and the power gets shifted from our purpose to whether we want cream and sugar? Are we there to socialize?

You're Too Emotional: This makes the other side sound civilized and take control again. We are now talking about how emotional we are and changing how we are to suit them. Who has the power now? They can cool us out and shut us up. An amazingly successful tactic.

Discrediting the Organization: Tactics like "they really don't have the people behind them" and other charges mean there won't be discussion of what we are really doing and can move sympathies against us.