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Creeping Fascism

King George II and the man whose Declaration of Independence stands in his way.

Feminist author Naomi Wolf has written an article for the British newspaper The Guardian that lays out a 10-step program for turning a free society into a dictatorship, and shows how President Bush has led the United States a good distance down that road. She draws from the history of Mussolini’s Italy, Stalin’s Russia, Nazi Germany, Pinochet’s Argentina and modern-day China to show how a nation can be led inexorably toward fascism. Here are some of the indicators she cites:

  • “Create a terrifying threat—hydra-like, secretive, evil”
  • “Military tribunals that deny prisoners due process”
  • “Send groups of scary young men out to terrorise citizens”
  • “Secret police who spy on ordinary people”
  • “A stream of false information that is so relentless that it is increasingly hard to sort out truth from untruth”
  • Keep a list of suspect individuals and target them for harrassment
  • “Some high-profile arrests…then everything goes quiet”

In some cases I feel that she exaggerates the situation, and in some cases I wonder why she’s waited five years to write about things that have been obvious for some time. Now that Congress is in the hands of the opposing party and investigations are underway, the danger is still there, but there is less reason to feel isolated, alone. The last elections proved that a majority of the American people are finally awake. People like Tom Engelhardt were writing years ago what Naomi Wolf is writing now, and back then they were voices in the wilderness. Today, there are Senators who speak almost as clearly.

That’s not to say I disagree with Ms. Wolf. Sadly, the picture she paints is all too clear, even if some of the details fall short. What worries me now is the steady progress we’ve made on our road toward fascism. Even if the Democrats capture the White House and hold the Congress in 2008, as seems likely, will they have the courage to change course? Is popular outrage and awareness strong enough to force them to do it? Or will they fall into the usual traps of power, in which complacency and ambition trump reform?

People were already complaining about the erosion of our rights under President Clinton, but last year Congress authorized the president to hold American citizens as “enemy combatants” for as long as he likes, on his sole authority, and no one even blinked! There is a lot of undoing to be done, if the balance is to be restored and power limited in the way Thomas Jefferson envisioned—by the right of the people to rise up in revolt. Does the next generation of politicians have the courage? Do they see the need? That’s where I have doubts.

“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands…is the definition of tyranny.” Keep this in mind, my friends in the Arab world. This is the quote with which Ms. Wolf ends her article. It was said by James Madison, an architect of the U.S. Constitution and our fourth president. I think it describes pretty well the situation in which you find yourselves, and are struggling to overcome. It also describes the crisis that threatens the United States like a dark cloud on the horizon. How ironic if you were to gain your freedoms as we surrender our own. In that case, learn your lessons well! In the next generation you will need to show us the way.


Comment from leblase
Time: May 1, 2007, 12:49

The authoritarian trend made obvious by the Bush Administration is in pure logic with what the Founding Fathers had in mind: freedom for business was their first goal. In order to achieve this predominance, all sorts of crimes against the people, American or not have been ordered.
I suggest to go back to “A people’s history of the United States” published first in 1980 by Howard Zinn, then in 1995,1998,1999, etc by HarperCollins.
To be found in French under the title “Une histoire populaire des Etats-Unis” chez Agone.

Comment from eatbees
Time: May 1, 2007, 14:23

@leblase—If you put it that way, I think that all wealthy democracies are guilty of the same hypocrisy. Democracy as we know it usually offers the choice between two members of the elite (Ségo or Sarko, Hillary or McCain, Blair or the Tories) both of whom are prepared to put the nation’s economic interests before all else. Anyone else is disqualified by a vetting process much like Iran’s Guardian Council, in which the elites choose candidates from among their own.

Worse is the unabashed totalitarianism our nations practice outside our borders. It’s convenient, isn’t it, that the economic interests of the G8 extend worldwide, while voting is limited to those who benefit most. Is it an accident that the borders are easy to cross from Europe to Morocco, while people drown in the ocean coming the other way?

Global democracy is an issue I hope to come back to, because we are living in an era where it is no longer a utopian luxury, but the only way forward for human survival. I believe that many Americans would want this, but they are distracted by their political class, which is what I am trying to get to in this post. I think the same is true for other wealthy nations who have the luxury of addressing the world’s complications from a position of privilege.

A few days ago, a friend wrote to me about a man named Mohamed Talbi who wrote a book in French that states, in my friend’s words, “that democracy, that came from Greece, was the liberty between the high-level-people, while there were slaves which did not take part of that, and the author questions if that’s the democracy the modern world is seeking, and if not, it should then be renamed, and that Islam or arabs already had the Choura concept to manage their affairs.”

In other words, Choura, which translates as consensus, might serve as a better model than the one we are using. Imagine if the Islamic model, properly understood, has the potential to be more democratic and inclusive than the Western one! Maybe that’s why our elites want to scare us away from it? This adds a whole new level to the spell-casting they are busy with, with their “clash of civilizations.”

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