An interview with author Naomi Wolf, whose new book, “The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot,” may confirm your worries about democracy in America.
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.
If we want an open society, she warns, we must pay attention and we must fight to protect democracy.
I met with Wolf to discuss what she learned while researching this book, how the American public has received her warnings, and what we can do to squelch the fascist narratives we are fed in this country each day.
Don Hazen: Let’s take up a big question first — your fears about the upcoming U.S. presidential election and what the historical blue print about fascist takeovers shows in terms of elections.
Naomi Wolf: We would be naive given the historical patterns to have hope that there’s going to be a transparent, accountable election in 2008. There are various ways the blueprint indicates how events are much more likely to play out. Historically, the months leading up to the national election are likely to be unstable.
What classically happens is either there will be a period of provocation, and we have a history of this in the United States — agitators who are dressed as or act like activist voter registration workers, anti-war marchers … but who engage in actual violence, torch property, assault police officers. And that scares people. People are much less likely to vote for change when they’re scared, and it gives them the excuse to crack down.
In addition, I’m concerned about the 2007 Defense Authorization Act, which makes it much easier for the president to declare martial law.
DH: Are you saying that they keep on adding coercive laws for no apparent reason?
NW: Yes. Why amend the law so systematically? Why do you need to make martial law easier? Another thing historical blueprints underscore is the hyped threat; intelligence will be spun or exaggerated, and sometimes there are faked documents like Plan Z with Pinochet in Chile.
DH: Plan Z?
NW:Yes, Plan Z. Pinochet, when he was overthrowing the Democratic government of Chile, told Chilean citizens that there was going to be a terrible terrorist attack, with armed insurgents. Now there were real insurgents, there was a real threat, but then he produces what he called Plan Z, which were fake papers claiming that these terrorists were going to assassinate all these military leaders at once.
And this petrified Chileans so much that they didn’t stand up to fight for their democracy. So it’s common to take a real threat and hype it. And close to an election it’s very common to invoke a hype threat and scare people so much that they will not want to have a transparent election.
Americans have this very wrong idea about what a closed society looks like. Many despots make it a point to try to hold the elections, but they’re corrupted elections. Corrupted elections take place all over the world in closed societies. Ninety-nine percent of Austrians voted yes for the annexation by Germany, because the SA were standing outside the voting booths, intimidating the voters and people counting the vote. So you can mess with the process.
One current warning sign is the e-mails that the White House is not yielding about the attorney general scandal. The emails are likely to show that there were plans afoot to purge all of the attorneys at once, like overnight. And then to let the country deal with the shock.
Now that’s something that Goebbels did in 1933 in April, overnight. He fired everyone, focusing on lawyers and judges who were not a supporter of the regime. So you can still have elections … in an outcome like that. If that had happened, if the bloggers and others actually hadn’t helped to identify the U.S. attorney scandal, and they had been successful and fired them all, our election situation would be different.
Basically we’d still have an election, but it is possible the outcome would be predetermined because it’s the U.S. attorneys that monitor what voting rights groups do, what is legal and who can decide the outcome of elections.
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