Robust debate is vital to America. It can put complicated issues in focus and sometimes exposes charlatans. Stating your case with strength and dignity is the sign of a patriot.

But in today's political landscape, ridicule is on the rise, and both the left and the right are using it:

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DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC: She lied. She avoided taking personal responsibility. She blamed others.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Perez Hilton, the judge was on MSNBC.

MICHAEL SAVAGE, RADIO HOST: I don't know who that sick, fat pervert is, and I never want to hear his name.

LOU DOBBS, CNN: We'll be talking also about Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. Guess what? That little love affair with his fellow socialist Barack Obama didn't last long.

ANN COULTER, AUTHOR: To be fair, Obama is the person now most likely to put — or to have poison put in his coffee by Hillary, but that's only because Bill Clinton stopped eating and drinking around Hillary years ago.

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Bush was even kind of a walking punch line. I mean, he's just, you know, and he doesn't mess up as much as Bush.

MICHAEL MUSTO, VILLAGE VOICE COLUMNIST: I know for a fact that Carrie Prejean was Harry Prejean, a homophobic man who liked marriage so much he did it three times. Now he's a babe who needs a brain implant. Maybe they can inject some fat from her butt.

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Now, let's put this into perspective. Talk radio has always had its share of hate-mongers. Some right-wingers make a living doing this. And on the left, the Air America network was all hate all the time, but went bankrupt.

Then a couple of years ago, NBC News began peddling hate on its cable network.

Then a few months ago, the Obama administration tried to brand the Republican Party as a place of fanaticism. The White House actually increased the power of Rush Limbaugh by trying to ridicule him.

But here's the question: Are these tactics an accident, or is there something deeper here?

Enter far-left philosopher Saul Alinsky, a Chicago rabble-rouser who died in 1972. Hillary Clinton actually did a thesis on Alinsky while studying at Wellesley College in Massachusetts.

Before he died, Alinsky wrote a book called "Rules for Radicals," and here is where the politics of ridicule was defined. According to Alinsky, in order to change America into a far-left bastion, traditional Americans must be marginalized. Alinsky lays it out in radical rule five: "Ridicule is man's most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also, it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage."

That is exactly the tactic the hate-mongers at NBC are using, and very close to the White House-Republican deal.

Alinsky also layed out how to attack opponents in rule four: "You can kill them, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity."

Alinsky's saying that because no traditional person is perfect, any sin can be used against them. The American press does this all day long.

The Alinsky principles are followed by a variety of left-wing organizations, including the Developing Communities Project in Chicago, where Barack Obama worked in the late 1980s. That's not to say the president is a disciple of Alinsky's, but he surely knows what the man put out there, as do many committed liberal Americans.

So the politics of ridicule is no accident. It is a game plan, a blueprint. It is currently being used by a major TV news organization, and perhaps by the White House itself.

Now you know.

And that's "The Memo."

Pinheads & Patriots

Sixty-two-year-old Cher continues to performs in Las Vegas and around the country, and she's still in pretty good shape.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice costume you got there.

CHER, SINGER: What do you mean, costume? This is not my costume. I already did my show. I'm going to K-Mart in this.

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I'm sure the shoppers will appreciate that. Whether it's a patriotic gesture is up to you.

But there is no doubt on the pinhead front, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his wife were treated this way in Washington:

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: War criminal. War criminal. War criminal. Arrest this man. Arrest the war criminal. I wish I had some handcuffs to arrest this man. He is responsible for the death of millions of people. War criminal.

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That protester is obviously a pinhead. You can make your point in a much more dignified manner.

You can catch Bill O'Reilly's "Talking Points Memo" and "Pinheads & Patriots" weeknights at 8 and 11 p.m. ET on the FOX News Channel and any time on foxnews.com/oreilly. Send your comments to: oreilly@foxnews.com