Naomi Wolf warns of rising fascism in the USA, sincere warning or clever book marketing scheme?
I was sent a video clip by an esteemed reader titled “The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot.” It’s 45 minutes long, which would mean skipping an episode of the Simpsons, but being a blogger means sometimes taking one for the team, so I sat down and watched it. The gentle reader can watch it here, or, if they don’t want to listen to a 45 minute talk they can simply read the text of her talk here. Or easier yet, skip both of them and read the gist of it below. I’m good at condensing things, the Bible can be boiled down to a few paragraphs for example.
Frankly I wish I had read the text instead of spending my time on the video. There was about two minutes of content in the forty five minute video, which puts it head and shoulders above most speeches and utterances, but still, forty three minutes of false arguments was a bit much. Ms Wolf is particularly fond of rhetorical questions, slippery slope arguments, does not follow arguments, and especially cherry picked data and historical examples. All floating in a stew of bad analogies, appeals to reason, appeals to history, and appeals to emotion. I’m sure her arguments are very appealing to those who already agree with her, and I’m sure she will sell a lot of books.
However, presentation issues aside, she did have some excellent points, even if I mostly disagree with her conclusions. Her basic premise is that despotism is possible in America. Can’t argue that, despotism is possible anywhere. She also claims that the founding fathers were very worried about the possibility of despotism in America, and that our system of government was set up as much as possible to avoid that unpleasant turn of events. Again, most historians and educated folk would agree. Then she goes on to list “ten signs of impending fascism,” and claims that this “blueprint” for eliminating an open society can be seen at numerous times and places throughout history. Here her argument gets a little weak, she basically picks and chooses examples that support her contention, and ignores aspects that don’t. Stalin did not exactly repress an open democratic society for example, so I’m not sure why his rise to power would be a warning to open societies.
It gets worse. She then goes on to claim that nine out of the ten signs can be seen in the Bush administration, and that American Patriots need to rise up and impeach Bush before he declares martial law (step ten.) Hmm. Before I analyze her argument vis a vis the Bush administration, here are her ten steps:
- Create and/or wildly exaggerate an enemy of the people.
- Set up a secret extra judicial justice system.
- Set up a paramilitary force, armed thugs if you will.
- A surveillance apparatus set up to watch the people.
- Harass citizens groups.
- Arbitrary detention and release.
- Target key individuals.
- Control the press.
- Dissent = Treason.
- Martial law.
Well, there you have it. And since we easily see most of these in the past few years in the USA, we are obviously descending into fascism, and it must be stopped. Um, no. The fatal flaw at the heart of her premise, and the one that is ignored by the “Bush is the next Hitler” people is that historically fascism arises when you either have some powerful charismatic individual trying to seize dictatorial power, or you have a clique of generals or such trying to achieve same or hold onto power.
There is no such individual on the horizon in the USA, and the rich and powerful already have absolute control of the country. So there’s no need for the Bush administration to eliminate democracy, since for all practical purposes democracy no longer exists in the USA. Whoever wins the next election is going to be a corporate shill of one flavour or another, suspending the election and declaring martial law would destroy the carefully created mock democracy we have in place, and might actually set forces into motion which could threaten the corrupt power structure that controls America. So in the sense that she is arguing that we will all end up in the gulag in a few years if we don’t stop Bush now, I disagree.
Granted I do think Bush should be impeached for lying us into a senseless war that has cost the lives of thousands of Americans. And while I don’t think that fascism is around the corner in the USA, I would have to agree that some of the things the Bush administration has done are scary in a constitutional sense. That the president can designate an American an “enemy combatant” and strip them of their constitutional rights is very alarming. Many people don’t seem to understand that we are the good guys because we follow the rules. Democracy means rule by law, not rule by decree. Once the government has the power to suspend our rights as it deems necessary…they aren’t rights anymore. It’s a scary precedent to set, and while I don’t agree that Bush is about to declare himself a dictator, I do worry that he has set up the apparatus for some future despot to seize power and openly scrap the Bill of Rights.
What do I think Americans should do to protect their rights? Exercise them. Use em or lose em. Which is why I will be here blogging until the guys in brown shirts come to drag me away. (Well, here in Berkeley they would likely be tie-dyed shirts, not that the colour of their shirts matters.) Have a great day everyone, tomorrow: Nooses, racism, and a Nobel Prize winner demonstrates why scientists should be kept locked in their labs no matter how famous they are.
(The above image of Hitler as an infant is public domain under just about all copyright law. It’s a shame Hitler’s father changed his name from Schicklgruber to Hitler. “Heil Schicklgruber” just isn’t the same, the whole Nazi thing might have died on the vine.)