Naomi Wolf: The End of America

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Wolf, Naomi. The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot (White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green, 2007)

Ms Wolf's "echoes" of fascism ring startlingly true in her patriotic warning from the waning days of Bushism. Even today, after a change in administration, we ignore her warnings about citizens' complacency at our own peril. Her "Ten Steps to Close Down an Open Society" are the following:

All dictators: invoke an external and threat; develop a paramilitary force; create a secret prison system; surveil ordinary citizens; arbitrarily detain and release them; harass citizens' groups; target writers, entertainers, and other key individuals for dissenting; intimidate the press; recast dissent as "treason" and criticism as "espionage"; and eventually subvert the rule of law. (p. 29)

These ten steps, together, are more than the sum of their parts. Once all ten have been put in place, each magnifies the power of the others and of the whole. Impossible as it may seem, we are seeing each of these ten steps taking hold in the United States today. (p. 11)

Wolf notes, though, that "you do not need ovens to create a fascist reality. All you need is fear." (p. 68) Rovian fear-mongering has been manifested in several ways over the past eight years, not all of which are the obvious. She makes a great point about Bush's counter-productive torture regime--it wasn't designed to produce useful intelligence:

Because torturing prisoners is counterproductive if the goal is securing the Homeland, and because it makes us pariahs in the eyes of the rest of the world, then what could be some genuine reasons why this is so important to this White House? Consider: If you have a much-hyped threat that you've used to lead the nation into war--and if case after case against the "dangerous terrorists" falls apart--don't you need false confessions? If you torture prisoners, you will certainly obtain an endless stream of false confessions. In this sense, Guantánamo is an efficient machine for producing a high-value political product: false confessions by brown people with Muslim names. (p. 71)
After a certain point in a fascist shift, it doesn't matter whether most people believe the faked news or not--eventually they simply don't have access to enough good information to assess what is real and what is not. [...] Perhaps the barrage of lies serves a more substantial purpose than simply advancing a certain position. Sending a current of lies into the information stream is part of classic psychological operations to generate a larger shift--a new reality in which the truth can no longer be ascertained and no longer exists. (p. 127)

Her analysis reminds me of this image from Project for the Old American Century:

20090227-notfascismwhenwedoit.jpg

Wolf links:
Naomi Wolf (website, Wikipedia)
End of America film website, 2-disc director's cut
Wolf's introduction is online here from the publisher
interview with Tara McKelvey at American Prospect
interview with Don Hazen at AlterNet

fascism links:
Laurence Britt's "Fascism Anyone?" from Free Inquiry
POAC's "14 Points of Fascism"
FDL book salon
Ray McGovern's "Creeping Fascism" at AlterNet
Mussolini's "Doctrine of Fascism"

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on February 27, 2009 6:35 PM.

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