I’ll bet that most readers will find the title of this post to be either surprising or annoying. But, based on recent events in the United States, I have often wondered about the similarities between our current regime and the rise of Hitler or Mussolini. Certainly people in Italy and Germany went along with some of the most violent and disagreeable leaders history has ever known. Many of them were well-educated. Yet, the advocated and assisted in the systematic murders of millions. I don’t think we’re all that far off in America.
AlterNet has recently posted an interview that focuses on the same topic. The End of America? Naomi Wolf Thinks It Could Happen. From the introduction:
If you think we are living in scary times, your worst fears may be confirmed by reading Naomi Wolf’s newest book, The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot. In it, Wolf proves the old axiom that history does repeat itself. Or more accurately, history occurs in patterns, and in order to understand where our country is today and where it is headed, we need to read the history books.
Wolf began by diving into the early years leading up to fascist regimes, like the ones led by Hitler and Mussolini. And the patterns that she found in those, and others all over the world, made her hair stand on end. In “The End of America,” she lays out the 10 steps that dictators (or aspiring dictators) take in order to shut down an open society. “Each of those ten steps is now under way in the United States today,” she writes.
The 10 steps that are mentioned sound dead-on to me:
1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
2. Create a gulag
3. Develop a thug caste
4. Set up an internal surveillance system
5. Harass citizens’ groups
6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
7. Target key individuals
8. Control the press
9. Dissent equals treason
10. Suspend the rule of law
The list, to me, reads like the Bush Administration’s playbook. It has somehow become subversive (both legally and from a social standpoint) to criticize our government. That’s one of the many reasons that I decided to keep this blog anonymous. The impact of the “phantom menace” (terrorism, of course) has lead us to abandon the very rights that our Constitution was designed to protect. We don’t have open debates on issues, and people are often kept in the dark. The interview does a great job of exposing these ideas. While they may not be comforting, I hope it will motivate more people to see the seriousness of declaring unprovoked wars based on falsified information. I found this round of Q & A to be particularly relevant:
DH: So let’s talk about what could happen here. Is America in denial? Or is avoidance an attitude that seemed to be present in all historical examples? That people assume it’s not going to happen to them. Does the Americans’ denial at this point run parallel with the denial of Germans and Italians? Or do we have our own version of denial here?
NW: That’s a really great question; both are true. It’s really instructive to read memoirs and journals from Germany. People writing, “This can’t last … we surely will come to our senses”; “they can’t gain any ground in the next election … you know, we’re a civilized country”; “this is ridiculous, they’re a bunch of thugs; no one takes them seriously.”
History is particularly instructive in the early days of the fascist shifts in Germany and Italy, when things were really pretty normal. People go about their business, just like we’re doing now. It’s not like goose stepping columns of soldiers are everywhere. It looks like ordinary life. Celebrities, gossip columns, fashion, before getting caught up in a snare. People kept going to movies, worrying about feeding the cat. (laughs) Even while you watch the sort of inevitable unfold.
For more information on Naomi Wolf’s book, see the web site for The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot. She has already made quite an impact with her previous books, including The Beauty Myth, and this one seems no less relevant or pertinent. I’m planning to read it soon, and would love to hear others’ opinions on it. I just hope that people can argue with Wolf based on facts, reason, and logic. There are some interesting comments on the Digg link to the interview. I’m sure many will just label her a “traitor” or focus on standard ad hominem attacks.
There is some potentially good news: It’s not too late to start limiting or correcting some of the damage that has already been done.
Update: If you can stomach it, Fox News has done an “interview” with Naomi Wolf. For a link to the video, see Naomi Wolfe Unnerves John Kasich on O’Reilly Factor. It’s barely an interview, as Wolf is rarely allowed to complete her thoughts or ideas. It’s more like verbal abuse, thinly veiled as “news”.