Shuck and Jive

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Listening to the Wolf

Have any Shuck and Jivers read Naomi Wolf's
The End of America?

Amy Goodman
interviewed her on Democracy Now last week.

Here is a
speech of hers on Youtube at the University of Washington.

Here is an interview with Stephen Colbert.

The United States is on the road to becoming a fascist society, right under our very noses.

That is the premise of the book. Here is the introduction.

Here are the ten steps. Read
this article for further explanation.
  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
What do you think, kids?

Hat tip to Abundance Trek


  1. You've lost me here, friend.


  2. I haven't read it yet, but I plan to. Basically she is saying we are in the process of losing our democracy and becoming a fascist state, and the ten steps listed are the benchmarks to determine whether this is happening. All of those steps are either well underway or have already happened; they look pretty familiar don't they?

    I did browse through the book recently; she appears to be writing a long letter to a young patriot on this subject and this sets the tone of the book. I was also interested to read what she said about the department of Homeland Security. Nazi Germany was also referred to as the "Homeland," a term that carries global implications. Only in recent years have we referred to the United States as the Homeland.

    That's just one point of interest from what looks like a timely and important book; see the Democracy Now interview here.

  3. I was wondering if you had seen this book yet...

    I grew up under a totalitarian government - ardently supported by the local Evangelical Presbyterian church and by the US government.

    It had started out as a democracy.

    Because of this personal experience I have made it a hobby of sorts to look for the historical patterns shared by countries that start out as democracies and end up as totalitarian states. America's consistent support of right wing versions of these states for the last 60 years led me years ago to the conclusion that it could happen here too. (Obviously nothing in America's value system is intrinsically opposed to totalitarianism.) But then why was the pattern missing in the US? It seemed paradoxical.

    Until the Patriot Act.

    Now I see the pattern here too. And the conservative Evangelicals and Fundamentalists are right there, backing it up all the way.

    Fear and paranoia have a lot to do with it. Lack of understanding of how fragile democracies really are is also a factor.

    One element the author leaves out is the perception or allegation that dully elected government officials are too corrupt. Every totalitarian government uses the real or alleged corruption of elected government officials as an excuse to abolish democratic government. (A key reason for us to be ever vigilant and to take that excuse away by forceful participation in the process)

    Church politics can function as a petri dish of State politics. People behave in church out of the same set of values they express in State politics. See for example Will Spots' claim that Louisville church leaders are corrupt. He says it is one of his reasons to withdraw from and even undermine the process.

    Arsonist publications like 'the Layman' play in to totalitarian overthrows exactly that way.

    This book is a must read. And a fair warning. The next five years will be pivotal in American history.

  4. I think we are in greater danger from totalitarianism if we move in a more socialist direction where there can be a real centralization of power. Personally, I feel there are alot of checks and balances built into our system.

    Also, most Americans are fiercely independent, and value personal and economic liberty, conservatives, and libertarians, especially. I guess in a fallen world, we can never say never. But, I think a facist state is pretty unlikely here.

  5. Grace, it almost did happen here.

    I think it's instructive to look at Wolf's steps and think about which of these steps we've taken or not taken. I think it was Rachel Maddow who pointed out that when the military undertook a successful coup in Thailand, they followed Wolf's steps almost to the letter.

    Thom Hartmann relates the story of an American psychologist who went around West Germany immediately after World War II to get a sense of how the German people were able to allow such monstrous things to happen. One respondent said (and I'm wildly paraphrasing) that it was just so incredibly gradual that you never really noticed it happening. One little surveillance program would be instituted in the name of national security and people wouldn't object, thinking "I've got nothing to hide". Finally, by the time someone noticed how bad it had gotten, it was too late.

    It is VERY important to note that both Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were right-wing governments that believed in merging state and corporate interests, leveraging the power of both by taking certain actions of government out of the hands of the elected government beholden to the citizenry to corporations beholden only to their shareholders' investments.

    Of course, things were just as horrible in the Soviet Union of the time, and while it was built on a very different ideological base, the tactics Stalin used were not too different from those Hitler and Mussolini did.

    It also doesn't follow that socialism leads to totalitarianism. As Jodie mentioned, she saw first-hand how pro-business totalitarian governments come to power. In the socialist democracies, especially in Scandinavia and northern Europe, the states are consistently ranked as the most free by groups like Freedom House and the Economist. A huge part of that comes from the fact that (to use the health care example) when you get screwed by the health care system in Sweden, you go to your member of parliament and raise hell, and s/he will respond because s/he will be up for reelection before long. Here, if you get screwed by the health care system, and you can complain til you're blue in the face to the insurance company, but other than suing (which is increasingly difficult), you have no recourse since the only voters the CEO is accountable to are the shareholders.

  6. Well, you have some good points, Flycandler. Thanks! Maybe it's an individual thing as well. I have this strong libertarian streak, and am not too strongly drawn to socialism.

    But, I'm sure that there are many awesome Christian people out there who would see things very differently. One thing I do know is that our unity is in Christ, around the gospel.

    We're not all going to agree concerning some of these complex social and political issues, for sure. :)

  7. Well, of course we're going to have differing points of view on that. "Freedom of conscience" is one of the crucial values of the Reformed faith.

    That having been said, I think that we as Christians have a duty to oppose totalitarianism and brutality in whatever form it may appear. "He has told you, o mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"

  8. I could be wrong, but I doubt that a full-fledged, single-party fascist state is in the cards in the US. Instead, I think we'll just see more of the same--a steady loss of human rights like we've seen under the Bush regime--the spying, the detentions, the torture, the secrecy, and so on--but with a democratic veneer superimposed over it all to lend the whole process an air of legitimacy.

    Remember that the Democrats overwhelmingly voted for the PATRIOT ACT, so they are complicit to some degree with what is happening now. The real problem that I see is that unless a President is held accountable for his crimes, there is nothing to stop him from continuing. The Democrats won't impeach Bush and Cheney, and I can't imagine in a million years any leading Democratic politician in Congress calling for Bush's trial as a war criminal, but in fact that is what Bush deserves.

    I think that 1930s style fascism went out of vogue a while ago. There are easier ways for the ruling class to exert its control over society. With a corporate controlled news media, election rules that shut out third parties, a Supreme Court that grants the executive branch the ability to act with impunity whenever it stamps the words "national security" on its repression, a compliant Congress--it would just be way too messy to install a full-fledged fascist police state like you saw in Spain or Italy 70 years ago when they can do things much easier.

    I believe that we aren't so much a democracy as a corporate dominated oligarchy with a few democratic flourishes for show. If Hillary Clinton, former member of the Wal-Mart board of directors and early supporter of the war in Iraq, becomes president, I doubt very seriously that she would challenge corporate power or seriously oppose imperialism.

    I'm less concerned about a future era of fascism than I am about the present era of complacency and complicity.

  9. I agree so much, Fly. I think the difficulty arises when Christians, or people of good will in general can't agree how to best walk all this out.

    How can we guard our individual rights and freedoms, and yet, protect innocent lives, keep us safe from the terrorists? Do we need the Patriot Act right now, despite the risks?

    Even in terms of the war in Iraq. I want peace, and the US out of war as much as anyone. What Christian doesn't feel in this way.

    But, I would have a real concern, that if we just abruptly withdrew from Iraq, before the govt. is stable, that we are simply abandoning the Iraqi people? Might there be even a greater loss of innocent lives, and increased foothold given to the terrorists?

    What is the best thing we can do to help Iraq, guard our freedoms, fight terrorism, keep us safe, Fly? I'm not sure, and don't have all the answers.

    It's definitely easy for me to understand why equally committed, well-meaning people in the church disagree.

    I'll just sit back, and listen to everyone's sharing for awhile.

  10. John,

    The YouTube lecture is perfect.

    In the country I grew up in, they had presidential elections every five years to legitimize the dictator. They rotated him out and a new guy took his place. They knew four or five administrations out who the next president was going to be.

    She didn't mention the country by name, but the blueprint was used there too.

    Heads up America!

  11. We have to be prepared to acknowledge it could happen here; to do otherwise is taking another step towards allowing it to happen.

  12. Grace, just a couple of quotes that more or less sum up what I think:

    "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." --Ben Franklin, 1759

    "If fascism ever comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross." --Sinclair Lewis

    "This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. [...] So first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is: fear itself. Nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed effort to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life, a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory." --Franklin Delano Roosevelt, First Inaugural, 1933.

  13. If you are truly worried about losing our national sovereignty and becoming a fascist state, then please I implore you to go to the polls on February 5th (in TN) and vote for someone who will save our Democracy! Ron Paul, 08'-Join the R3volution.

  14. ...or alternatively, vote for John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Mike Gravel or Hillary Clinton. ;-)

  15. Flycandler, how can you be for Obama or Hillary? They both want war with Iran and to keep us in Iraq for another 5+ years. People have to realize that both parties at the very top are controlled, and as we’ve seen can both be sold to the highest bidder. Look at how much money Clinton and Obama have taken in and where it has come from. Trust me Clinton is on the same side as Bush and the neo-cons. The Elites are running the show and Hilary and Obama are a part of it.

    Everyone I know personally that actually understands what is going on in this country cannot stand anyone in the democratic/republican candidates save dennis kucinich, or Ron Paul. There is a reason for that:

    Because thinking there is a difference between democratic or republican makes a difference as pointless as choosing between Salem and Newport Cigarettes. One taste better than the other, but they will both make you kill you eventually, and niether is your friend. The reason why this country always falls for the BS has everything to do with party idenity. It doesn’t matter if your a democrat war monger, or a Republican war monger, your still a war monger. It doesn’t matter if your a democratic socialist, or a republican fascist, your still going to be power hungry, and feed on the people. One just gets it done faster.

  16. I'll quote from my hero, the late, great Molly Ivins, writing in 2000 a column targeted at Nader voters in swing states:

    "Not to Texas-brag, but we are No. 1 in the art of lesser-evilism. I have voted for candidates so putrid that it makes your teeth hurt to think about 'em. Why? Because they were better than the other guy.

    So here you are, trying to spot that fine hairsbreadth of a difference between the sanctimonious Gore [this was pre-Inconvenient Truth] and the clueless Bush, ready to damn them both in favor of a straight-shooter like Nader. Here's the problem: Government matters most to people on the margins. If I may be blunt about this, we live in a society where the effluent flows downhill. And the people on the bottom are drowning in it.
    When you are barely making it in this society, hanging on by your fingernails, with every unexpected expense a crisis, it matters which is the lesser of two evils.
    This is an old argument between radicals and liberals; sometimes I'm on one side, and sometimes I'm on the other. In the primaries, I vote to change the world; in November, I vote for a sliver more for programs that help the needy."

    October 2000