Thursday, April 26, 2007

Ten Steps to Fascism (it can happen here)

Every fascist state has taken at least these ten steps:

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

Because Americans like me were born in freedom, we have a hard time even considering that it is possible for us to become as unfree --domestically-- as many other nations. Because we no longer learn much about our rights or our system of government --the task of being aware of the constitution has been outsourced from citizens' ownership to being the domain of professionals such as lawyers and professors-- we scarcely recognise the checks and balances that the founders put in place, even as they are being systematically dismantled. Because we don't learn much about European history, the setting up of a department of "homeland" security --remember who else was keen on the word "homeland"-- didn't raise the alarm bells it might have.

.... It is a mistake to think that early in a fascist shift you see the profile of barbed wire against the sky. In the early days, things look normal on the surface; peasants were celebrating harvest festivals in Calabria in 1922; people were shopping and going to the movies in Berlin in 1931. Early on, as WH Auden put it, the horror is always elsewhere --while someone is being tortured, children are skating, ships are sailing: "dogs go on with their doggy life ... How everything turns away/ Quite leisurely from the disaster."

... We need to look at history and face the "what ifs". For if we keep going down this road, the "end of America" could come for each of us in a different way, at a different moment; each of us might have a different moment when we feel forced to look back and think: that is how it was before --and this is the way it is now.

"The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands ... is the definition of tyranny," wrote James Madison. We still have the choice to stop going down this road; we can stand our ground and fight for our nation, and take up the banner the founders asked us to carry.

****************--Naomi Wolf, writing in The Guardian (U.K.)

Read it here.

Read the whole thing.

Read it again.


janinsanfran said...

I think that, in addition to the steps on the road Wolf enumerates, the really vital message is what you highlight: most of us, most of the time, have to act as if our lives and surroundings are normal and we convince ourselves this is so. I have just been reading an account of the Rwandan genocide by the commander of the UN Mission who knew perfectly well what was going to happen but couldn't get anyone relevant to break paradigm. Very depressing. And Rwandans knew and just acted "normally."

Additionally, Wolf remarks "With the gutting of traditional checks and balances, we are no less endangered by a President Hillary than by a President Giuliani - because any executive will be tempted to enforce his or her will through edict rather than the arduous, uncertain process of democratic negotiation and compromise." This is very tough for a new and wonderful generation of policos created by revulsion at Bush to understand. Let's hope more and more of them get it quickly.

janinsanfran said...

One more thing -- go read this at Glenn Greenwald. He's one of the earliest and strongest views left for the rule of law and no pollyanna. But I do sense a sort of a shift. Got to nurture it.... :-)

Jane R said...

Thanks much, Jan. I'm going to go read the Greenwald piece. I just discovered, via a referral on another blog, his very recent piece on (which I don't read regularly, good thing I have you monitoring all that :-)) on Bill Moyers's important new series.

More soon on this same station... Just wanted to post a quick thank you and response. Can't tell you how much I appreciate your blog. And your comments here.