George Bush, Hitler and Fascist America
Naomi Wolf Cries Fascism
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One of my pet peeves with the Left is the tendency, almost by default, to liken the Bush Administration to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. It is a significant reason I could no longer bring myself to associate with the Left.
Naomi Wolf is a textbook case of this tendency. Last month, Wolf released her sixth book The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot. The book is based on ideas she presented in an article titled, “Fascist America, in 10 easy steps” which appeared in The Guardian last April. In the article, Wolf argued there is a blueprint the Bush Administration is following to close down an open society and that the blueprint was established by Hitler, Stalin and other lesser despots. “As difficult as this is to contemplate,” Wolf writes, “it is clear, if you are willing to look, that each of these 10 steps has already been initiated today in the United States by the Bush Administration.”
The first of these ten steps is to identify an all encompassing enemy. “Creating a terrifying threat—hydra-like, secretive, evil—is an old trick,” writes Wolf. Is Wolf suggesting that the United States created Osama bin Laden? The United States not only did not create bin Laden and Islamic fundamentalism but he declared war on this country nearly five years before President Bush took office. While Wolf does recognize terrorism as a threat she dismisses the notion that Islamic fundamentalism is a threat to civilization itself. Perhaps she ought to read bin Laden’s words especially when, in his 1996 fatwa, he mocks American forces for withdrawing from Beirut and Mogadishu after suffering casualties. Directing his comments to then Secretary of Defense William Cohen, bin Laden praised his jihadists by stating:
These youths love death as you loves (sic) life…Those youth know that their rewards in fighting you, the USA, is double than their rewards in fighting some one else not from people of the book. They have no intention except to enter paradise by killing you. And infidel, and enemy of God like you, cannot be in the same hell with his righteous executioner.
Two of Wolf’s other steps are the establishment of a gulag and the development of a thug caste. Yes, Wolf uses the word gulag in describing Guantanamo Bay echoing the sentiments of Irene Khan, the Secretary General of Amnesty International. It is a curious use of language considering millions of people were killed in Stalin’s gulag whereas at Gitmo all of four people have died by way of suicide. Gordon Cucullu, a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army, has been to Gitmo on five occasions for a month at a time over the past several years. He is writing a book based on his observations that will come out in early 2008. In a recent interview Cucullu, in describing the nutritional regime at Gitmo, stated, “Americans might be somewhat upset to see the detainees eat better than the American guards.” Quite frankly, where it concerns Gitmo, I am more inclined to take the word of someone who has actually observed the proceedings than someone ready to accept the word of Islamic terrorists at face value.
With regard to the thug caste, Wolf bizarrely claims that “groups of angry young Republican men, dressed in identical shirts and trousers, menaced poll workers counting the votes in Florida in 2000.” Clearly she is trying to evoke the Blackshirts and Brownshirts. Yet I am unable to find a report of such any such incident. Who were the alleged perpetrators and victims? In what county or counties did these menacing acts take place? Where are these people now? Do they live in the swamps of the Everglades emerging only on Election Day? If such a thing occurred it was certainly not reported to the authorities nor cited by either the Department of Justice or U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in their investigation of voting irregularities in Florida during the 2000 Presidential election. According to Peter Kirsanow, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, while there were instances where Spanish speaking voters were denied bilingual services there was no large scale effort to keep minority voters away from the polls nor was there any gangs of identically dressed, ill tempered, youthful Republican males wreaking havoc with voters or poll workers. ( http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/kirsanow200310150822.asp)
Given these questionable claims Wolf puts forward as evidence that America is fast becoming the Fourth Reich, I knew I had to query her when she appeared to discuss her book at the Harvard Coop, a local bookstore in Cambridge.
Wolf remarked that she at first did not believe America was on the road to fascism. However, she cited a friend of hers who is the daughter of Holocaust survivors. Her friend kept telling her that the Bush Administration was doing in America what Hitler had done in Germany. Wolf said she didn’t want to believe it until her friend compelled her to read what she had read. I did not ask Wolf what her friend made her read, but whatever it was that she read, it appears she accepted it without a hint of skepticism. After reading these books, Wolf felt the need to write about this dark journey to a closed society. She has also helped find the American Freedom Campaign (http://www.americanfreedomcampaign.org) along with the likes of Wes Boyd, a co-founder of MoveOn.org.
Her lecture generally consisted of half truths and suspect anecdotes peppered with plenty of hyperbole. For instance, Wolf claimed Andrew Meyer was shot with a taser merely because he asked questions. Nonsense. Meyer would not allow John Kerry to answer the questions he asked. Am I suggesting Meyer ought to have been tasered? Absolutely not. There were other ways order could have been restored without having to resort to the use of a taser. Yet if one had not seen the video, one would believe the police just randomly acted against Meyer because he asked the wrong set of questions. She cited Alberto Gonzales firing of the eight U.S. attorneys as a “purge”. In her Guardian essay, Wolf likened the firing of the U.S. Attorneys to Joseph Goebbels purge of the German civil service in April 1933, calling it “a step that eased the way of the increasingly brutal laws to follow.” Yet Wolf never mentioned Janet Reno firing all 93 U.S. attorneys at the beginning of the Clinton Administration. If the Bush Administration firing the eight U.S. attorneys was a purge, then the Clinton Administration’s firing of 93 U.S. attorneys was an ethics cleansing. Get it? Ethics cleansing.
Wolf claims that Verizon Wireless is censoring text messages. Now given that I am a Verizon Wireless subscriber and often communicate with my girlfriend by text message, that topic raised my ears. Indeed, last month, Verizon declined to send text messages from NARAL Pro-Choice America on the grounds it could prohibit “controversial and unsavory” messages. But what Wolf did not mention was that after a public outcry, less than a week later, Verizon reversed its decision. Wolf also said of the Bush Administration that “violent criminals are at the helm of the U.S.” But real dissidents can tell a democrat from a tyrant. The Dalai Lama, Elie Wiesel and Natan Sharansky greatly admire President Bush. Does Wolf take the Dalai Lama, Wiesel and Sharansky to be fools taken in by a violent criminal?
Wolf also complained about her treatment at our nation’s airports. She said that for the past 18 months she has been subject to extra searches and cited as a “top security risk”. How does she know this to be so? Because a TSA employee told her that she was “on the list.” So because Naomi Wolf is on the list (whatever that list might be) she declares America a fascist state. Talk about chutzpah. I have no doubt such a thing is a pain particularly if one travels by air a great deal, and I am sure I would not care for it a great deal if I were in a similar position. Yet I think these experiences have perhaps compromised her capacity to reason. She also described being “menaced” by a New York City police officer at a train station. Wolf also complained that she could only get a small publisher in Vermont to print End of America and that there was a “media blackout” on it. She also said that if a journalist or editor is declared an “enemy combatant” in this country she will stop talking. Clearly this is someone who is at wits end, fraying at the edges.
That emotional state was in evidence when I questioned her. In her Guardian essay, in easy step number nine (dissent equals treason) she warns of arrests of public figures taking place. “If you look at history, just before those arrests is where we are now.” I reminded her of several things. One, we were in a bookstore. Two, we were in a bookstore that had dozens of books critical of the Bush Administration including Charlie Savage’s Takeover, John Dean’s Broken Government, Jack Goldsmith’s The Terror Presidency and Glenn Greenwald’s Tragic Legacy. Third, I pointed out that people were not afraid to speak in this country and that in New England most political commentary was decidedly anti-Bush. Fourth, I reminded her that we were discussing her book in public and not under cover of darkness. Fifth, I further reminded her that the Bush Administration would be leaving in fewer than 460 days never to return. With this in mind, I asked her if she honestly believed that she and the other authors I mentioned would be arrested and imprisoned.
Naomi Wolf did not want to answer my question. She began by talking about Germany in 1931-1932 and that there was an intellectual class strongly opposed to the Nazis before the “tipping point.” Then for some odd reason, she veered off into talking about Dan Rather’s lawsuit against Viacom. I must have got a skeptical look on my face because she then shouted at me, “Let me finish” even though I had not uttered a word of interruption. If Dan Rather has the right to sue his former employer and wins money as a result I am not sure quite sure how this brings us fascism. She then cited journalist Greg Palast (who has also written a book critical of the Bush Administration) being under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security for filming an oil refinery. What she did not mention was while there had been a complaint filed against Palast, he was not arrested and DHS ultimately decided against pursuing any charges.
Since she did not answer my question the first time, I asked her once more. Wolf replied, “I hope not.” She then shouted at me yet again and asked me, “Why are we having this discussion?” If she had permitted me to retort, I would have said because she brought it up in her essay. Wolf then proceeded to tell me she was getting “angry” and then invoked her two children much to the delight of the crowd sympathetic to her who began applauding. I just smiled having successfully gotten under her skin. That was not my intent, although I was prepared for such a reaction.
In all fairness, a few minutes later, Wolf did publicly apologize for getting angry with me citing the need to be civilized. I told her and all assembled that I had taken no offense from her diatribe. But her outburst was quite revealing. Aside from whatever stress she is experiencing in her life, it is also clear to me she has not thought her argument through and is ill-prepared to defend it. After all, if you are going to tell people it is the end of America you ought to expect your ideas to be vigorously challenged and be able to answer tough questions arising from honest scrutiny.
I do not believe Naomi Wolf will be arrested or imprisoned between now and when a new President is inaugurated on January 20, 2009. In the highly unlikely event she should be arrested and imprisoned for anything arising from her writing and speaking (short of inciting people to kill), I will be the first to denounce any such arrest. As unimpressed and unpersuaded I am by her arguments they do not warrant the loss of her freedom. Her ideas ought to be heard and the public can choose to accept, reject or ignore them. Yet crying fascism is not unlike crying wolf. So long as Naomi Wolf insists on calling every transgression, real or imagined, another step towards fascism in America people will turn away from her incendiary language and simply ignore her call to arms.
Aaron Goldstein was a card carrying member of the socialist New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP). Since 09/11, Aaron has reconsidered his ideological inclinations and has become a Republican. Aaron lives and works in Boston.