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Archive for December, 2007

Review: The End of America by Naomi Wolf

Posted by heyrandy on December 24, 2007

Review: The End of America by Naomi Wolf Chelsea Green Publishing: White River, Vermont 2007

176 pages, end notes, bibliography, no index

Wolf’s most recent book is concerned with the course that America is taking: a steady movement toward fascism. Wolf compares the tactics and methods of the previous fascist governments of Italy and Germany, and the ones in Latin America as well as the Soviet Union to enumerate ten definite steps common to all of them as they came to power. She then shows that these very steps are now being taken here in the USA.


I find Wolf’s book to be both enlightening and frightening. It is enlightening because of the information, but frightening because we are actually heading to a fascist, totalitarian state.


Wolf spends most of her effort in criticism of the Administration of George W. Bush, ignoring the efforts of his predecessors. The Bush Administration has certainly advanced the fascist cause, but to neglect the building of a pervasive welfare state by the Roosevelt and Johnson presidencies is a significant omission as well as betraying her Democratic Party bias. (She does admit that she worked for the Gore campaign on issues concerning women and youth.) While the Republicans are worthy of much blame, the Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act, which she rightly condemns as especially deleterious to freedom, were passed by a bipartisan vote in both houses of Congress. These acts remain in force without any serious objections by either party.


Wolf also misses totally the ever increasing mass of administrative regulations, from every level of government, that restrict and direct every aspect of our lives. Regulations so numerous and complex that it is almost impossible not to have violated one of them. One expects this from a socialist such as Wolf, but it is still an unacceptable omission. To advert to these constraints would be to impugn the wisdom of the Socialists, who advocated for many of these regulations. Wolf doesn’t spend any time extolling the Socialist message, but failing to realize that the real issue is freedom, not “democracy” (a term she uses through out the book) she overlooks the fact that the threat is not just from the fascists. When you are oppressed, it doesn’t matter what political label your oppressors use.


Wolf in effect recognizes the difficulty of affixing political labels by beginning her book with a demonstration of the difficulty in defining fascism. Indeed, it is a slippery term; political labels are handy but imprecise. Even Wolf is unsure of the real meaning of fascism in that she considers Stalin to be a fascist when he was really socialist thug. Given her political leanings, one can expect Wolf to distance herself from Stalin. What ever fascism’s exact meaning, the issue is the devices she adumbrates that tyrants use to obtain and retain power.


The problem, Wolf points out, is the complacency of the public. As long as every one is busy with the latests trends and has sufficient beer there will not be many complaints about the abuse of some minority group the government says are a danger to the public. What time is there for serious thought about political philosophy when there is the latest Brittney exposure? Besides, this week’s game of the century is on today. (Anyone seen the remote?)


Wolf cites some recent examples of what she thinks are fascist reactions that replicate the methods used by past fascist dictators. She has only contempt for those on the right who use their blogs to expose and attack those on the left. She uses the example of the recent flap over Ward Churchill, professor of ethnic studies at the University of Somewhere. (Aside to all college students: any course that has the word “studies” in its description is best avoided. It is almost certainly extreme left wing propaganda. It is far safer to stay with the normal left wing propaganda you will get during your regular required indoctrination.) But here again she misses the larger picture: What is the state doing financing college with money they forcibly extract from the taxpayers? (Pursuing the state’s purpose: control.) She fails to see that the insidious effect that government control of education through financing has had on this country. She forgets, or ignores, the dictum that “he who pays the piper calls the tune.” Her defense of free speech rings hollow when it comes to those who have every right to demand publicly financed institutions obey the desires of those who pay the costs of the institutions’ existence. She does speak of the reluctance of “civil servants”, i. e., bureaucrats, to be critical of their masters, but does not question the existence of the very bureaucracy that is part of the oppressing system. She raises no objection to the breeding of dependence on the government for existence that our current military-welfare-bureaucracy has fostered, but decries the withdrawal of advertising from radio programs that espouse an unpopular socialist line. This is not government fascism; this is private companies spending money as the have the right to.


She also cites the firing of Dan Rather of CBS News because his story about George W. Bush’s attendance at Air National Guard Duty was based upon crudely forged documents. Here is a private company doing what it has a right to do. That Bush’s supporters may have called for Rather’s firing is simply them exercising their right to free speech.


Wolf ignores the economics of fascism (and, of course, of socialism). It has been said that “it takes only three things to wage war: money, money, and more money.” The aggressors in the ongoing war on freedom need money. Where do they get it? Wolf doesn’t say. She doesn’t mention how the taxes in this country are being used to both finance our own oppression and impoverish us into submission. The closest she comes to this is to say that dissenters could be subject to tax audits. She is right, but the idea of abolishing the income tax as a means of resistance is not broached.


Wolf bemoans the recent legislation that allows the government access to your medical records. What ground can she have to object when the government control so much of the current medical industry? Once the government installs a single payer system (i. e., us taxpayers) the bureaucrats will have every right to know about our health. Again, it is a matter of who pays the piper. Here we are defenseless.


What of the main argument of the book, those ten steps? The core of the book is sound. It is here she does us service. She notes that most of the basic plan was the work of Mussolini. Hitler, she says, studied Mussolini; Stalin, Hitler. (She doesn’t say the the Nazi propaganda minister Goebbels studied Edward L. Bernays, Sigmund Freud’s nephew. It is one of the great ironies of Nazism since Bernays was Jewish.) The steps are very obvious. There are all built on lies and fear . And not a little prejudice. “Us” verses “Them”. First it is lies about “Them” (“they are will hurt you”), then it is lies about the government (“we must do this to keep you safe”). The lies tell us to be afraid of “Them” then the lies tell us to be afraid of the government (“you are one of ‘Them’”). Through very public enforcement of the laws against a few (it needs be only a few) of “Them”, rest of “Us” learn to shut-up and be careful. It also helps to be a spy for the government.


The End of America is parallel to John Flynn’s As We Go Marching. Wolf doesn’t cite Flynn (no surprise, Flynn was a major critic of Roosevelt) but many of the thoughts are similar. Wolf shows that the government routinely violates the Bill of Rights (as did Roosevelt). But I find it amazing that even though she has been singled out for special searching at airports, and in the introductory chapter of the book she cites examples of ludicrous actions by those in charge of airport security, she does not make the connection that these government agents are violating the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution with every search.


In spite of the many short comings of the book, the book is valuable. Wolf’s warning is prescient. Her prescription is to have various dissimilar groups unite in common cause against the fascist movement, understand the ten steps, but first clean up your own life. Wolf says she did this by hiring an accountant to examine her finances to prevent her enemies (and ours) from using “opposition research”, the digging for dirt with which to embarrass or blackmail her. She is right here, too.


So get the book from your public library. You will be fighting fascism with socialism.










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