Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Naomi Wolf warns of rising fascism in the USA, sincere warning or clever book marketing scheme?

with 11 comments


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:

  1. Create and/or wildly exaggerate an enemy of the people.
  2. Set up a secret extra judicial justice system.
  3. Set up a paramilitary force, armed thugs if you will.
  4. A surveillance apparatus set up to watch the people.
  5. Harass citizens groups.
  6. Arbitrary detention and release.
  7. Target key individuals.
  8. Control the press.
  9. Dissent = Treason.
  10. 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.)

Written by unitedcats

November 1, 2007 at 7:32 am

Posted in Bush, History, Politics

11 Responses

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  1. Thanks for the detailed review, Doug.


    November 1, 2007 at 10:07 am

  2. In answer to your title question, Naomi Wolf is sincere. I do not doubt that for an instant, Doug.


    November 1, 2007 at 11:52 am

  3. I would agree. The fact that none of our so called opposition leaders are calling for Bush’s impeachment over the forged documents issue shows just how bad it is. As long as people like Ms Wolf are still able to do so shows there is still hope, even if I disagree with much of what she says I appreciate her saying it. Thanks for bringing her to my attention. —Doug


    November 1, 2007 at 12:35 pm

  4. Until recently, I don’t think you were calling for his impeachment. It bodes well that you have come to that position, because it demonstrates a shift in public attitudes which is necessary to legitimate such a course.


    November 1, 2007 at 1:35 pm

  5. And I do think there is hope, and Naomi Wolf does too. As she said, when it comes to the stage that people like her go silent, it’s too late.


    November 1, 2007 at 1:52 pm

  6. My friend Ellroon also has a post about Naomi Wolf today.


    November 1, 2007 at 5:00 pm

  7. Small flaw in your flaws – Bush is a charismatic leader, according to a few million people on the right. Imagine what he could do if he was actually articulate.

    As it is, perhaps we can look forward to his last words as the trap opens beneath his feet and he squeaks out “Please don’t kill me”.

    Carla Faye Tucker will just laugh and laugh and laugh….


    November 2, 2007 at 7:45 am

  8. That “Ten Reasons” kinda signals shlock. There are no neat and tidy ten reasons for anything, nor any room for trivia-game in a well thought-out argument.

    Could be her editors, trying to popularize her work … or she could be an airhead, haven’t read her. Ah, for a serious thinker, an interesting writer.

    Well, they used to exist.


    November 2, 2007 at 3:22 pm

  9. […] rule is about as fascist as it gets. Trite as the recently discussed Naomi Wolf’s “ten signs of impending fascism” may be, seeing all of them play out to the end in a key American ally is not something I […]

  10. Great piece. Fair, thoughtful. Just came across it doing a Naomi search…

    Regardless of whether she is completely correct, Naomi has sparked a lot of discussion from many people who would otherwise most likely have remained silent on the issue. The value of that is incalculable.

    Agreed that the corporatists already have control. Which is why getting rid of these Bushco criminals is not the end of the mission, but just the beginning. One scary thought I have: Would an administration that has so deeply gouged our Constitution, claiming such unprecedented power to act above the law and oversight of Congress be planning to willingly hand that power to someone else on January 20th, 2009?

    None of the “front running” presidential candidates would be any better. Just another bunch of corporate puppets.

    So what’s a good citizen to do? Easy. Start paying closer attention to and doing independent research on the candidates the corporate media tries their best to ignore and marginalize (Paul, Kucinich). And remember a little history. Ross Perot received 19% of the vote in 1992. But as exit polls that year indicated, had everyone whose conscience told them to vote for Perot had actually done so, he would have pulled down 40%. When the ones who figured he was the right choice but still didn’t vote for him were asked why, the response was that they wanted to vote for someone who had a chance to win. Go figure!

    John Perry

    November 28, 2007 at 6:44 pm

  11. […] some are even worried about the possibility of fascism in the USA. While Naomi Wolf has made a career out of “crying fascism,” she’s kind of like a reverse Ann Coulter, I’m beginning to worry that she may […]

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