Posted a series of tweets pulling together some new and some old stuff about how to take over an organization. Many thousands of ‘engagements’ later – and my typical tweet gets well under 100 – I’m getting the impression this might be of interest to my well over 10 readers here. Note that I’m congenitally disinclined to be a leader, but, because I like getting things done, I often find myself leading this or that. Anyone with experience in a bureaucracy or volunteer organization should recognize how this works. Also, wanting to be in charge and being good at being in charge are independent variables, as it were.
At the end, I point back to a specific post on Rotten Chestnuts, but should say up front that Severian there is the source or inspiration for many of the points below. So, check ’em out. Anyway, recapped and expanded upon:
1 How do you take over? 90% of success is showing up. Therefore, you want to take over? Show up.
This should be obvious. It is almost a corollary to Pournelle’s Iron Law, which states that, in any organization, there will be two broad classes of people: those who work for the aims of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. In every case, Dr. Pournelle asserts without fear of contradiction, it is the latter group who will end up in charge.
Standard example is NASA: There are, or at least were, many dedicated engineers who were inspired and driven by the goals: put a man on the moon, send a probe to Pluto, build a space station. Meanwhile, there are those charged with the day to day operations, for whom interest in the goals is strictly optional. It is this second group that will end up in control.
People with any focus other than being in control- families, a job, hobbies – are at a severe disadvantage. Those people – normal people – would much rather show up at home or work or with friends who share their hobby than to show up where decisions are being made that don’t really seem to touch those things. People with few or none of those things are much freer to simply show up.
2 Next, volunteer for committees & projects. Normal people do as little of this as possible, because it is generally a thankless task and normal people aren’t compelled to take over. Soon, you will be treasurer, secretary, chairman. Soon, you’ll know who need to defeat.
Those NASA engineers are likely to see all the meetings where mundane things get decided, the planning and budgeting and coordination, as a bother, and only show up when they are either compelled to or the specific meeting is about something they care about. They will be hesitant to volunteer, and get out as soon as they can. They have much better things to do than sit in meetings.
Those in admin do not have anything better to do than call and run meetings. Generalized, as above, people with families, jobs and simple concrete goals will minimize showing up. Those with nothing better to do are thus handed control.
One you get to be chairman or the valued sidekick who is able to set agendas, stonewall, add a little poison here and there, you will be able to see who it is in the meetings that is a threat to your control. You can do any of a number of things to eliminate them: stop inviting them to the meetings – chances are they don’t really want to be their anyway – pooh-pooh their positions, let them know that you sympathize but what they want really isn’t in harmony with the purpose of the committee, propose them as leaders of crap subcommittees (Minister of Agriculture, say), etc.
3 Patience. You need to be patient, as you will probably be in a minority at first. It will take time to weed out the troublemakers. You will need to be charming and seemingly cooperative. (Aside: a characteristic of sociopaths and borderline personality disorder folks is the ability to come off as completely sympathetic at first. Only later does the bullying, manipulation, and crazy reveal themselves. True high functioning sociopaths are able to bluff, lie, and gaslight their way to the top in a way that is almost completely invisible to normal people. So, if you want to try this yourself, beware that you may be up against people who will stop at nothing, feel no empathy, and cannot be shamed or embarrassed.)
But you keep showing up. You talk to people sympathetic to your cause, or easily influenced by the attention of someone who so clearly gets it, or a simply sheep that will follow anything that moves, and get them to volunteer. Over time, normal people will burn out & cycle through, and you can start to stack the committee/project with your team. This takes time.
4. You and your team, who are all people who want desperately to be in the inner ring, then scale it up. You are now the gatekeepers. Soon, at first subtly and then baldly, you promote your people and eliminate/marginalize your enemies. Your enemies, of course, are people who haven’t done the work, don’t really understand the issues to the depth the dedicated committee members, who have *devoted their lives* to solving a ‘problem’ that they, themselves, are the sole people qualified to define. Etc.
Sometimes, rarely, your opponents will put up a big fight, try to organize opposition, try to unseat you. If you are patient, you can probably just wait them out. Knowing your way around the bureaucracy as expressed in the committee structures and hierarchy is a huge advantage. Again, keep showing up and be patient. (1)
5. Get your people to join other committees, or, better, form new committees to address the ‘problems’ you see. It seems a few decades ago, academics proposed to form committees or subcommittees to address a load of issues, for example, lack of women in the physics faculty. Once the committee is formed, the leadership can simply refuse to accept or even consider any answer other than blatant discrimination and institutional misogyny. Repeat.
6. Soon enough- maybe weeks for a small thing, decades for large institutions – you can exercise complete negative control: you can stop any initiative you don’t like. Everyone will know this, adding a second layer to the filtering: people who won’t play that game self-select out.
As for where to start, you would want to target the Human Resources department in a large company and hiring committees in public institutions. Leadership roles in voluntary organization such as unions and political parties are often surprisingly easy to get – they are always looking for people for these roles because normal people don’t want them.
If you have the resources to start your own organization, do it, and give it an attractive, Orwellian euphemism of a name. But it is more effective, I think, to subvert existing organizations because that both strengthens you position and removes a platform from which you could be opposed. Note, for example, how any would-be professor who might teach anything other than what the hiring/tenure committee would like to see taught simply never gets a job in the first place (unless he is both very subtle and more than a little masochistic). Thus, the Frankfurt School’s takeover not only provides a platform from which to promulgate and enforce Marxist dogma, but has removed the logical and traditional platform from its opponents.
This is pattern followed by Stalin, who, according to Sevarius over on Rotten Chestnuts, was a career bureaucrat and dedicated committee member. It has been followed at every university in America. Marxists have turned this approach into a science, so much so that even Ms. Bluehair Nosering can pull it off.
We, by which I mean sane people with lives, could try this. But unlike career activists, we won’t like. Nobody said cleaning the sewers was going to be fun.
- When a couple New York State legislators started an investigation into the Communist control of the New York Teachers Union in the 1940, Bella Dodd and her team launched a three-pronged attack: First, identify the teachers who had no plausible deniability, and have them take bullets for the team, and deflect attention by claiming responsibility for every initiative of the Party; second, for those teachers who could plausibly deny any association with the Communist Party, have them lie; and third – I just know you won’t believe this – launch a smear campaign against the politicians behind the investigation. All the sudden, Rapp and Coudert found themselves facing well-organized and completely unscrupulous opposition to their reelection, and had to fend off all sorts of outrageous slander. End result: about 40 teachers lost their jobs, each a committed Red, while over a 1,000 operative skated. Two years later, when the investigation ended, the Communists were still in complete control of the union, and thus of teachers in New York. The follow up: have your guys write the history: it was a Red Scare! Completely unwarranted! Poor victimized teachers! This is the state of things today.