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The Fascism Blueprint

Is it hyperbole to title a book The End of America? Those of you who read the Huffington Post may have seen excerpts there from the introduction of my new book of that title that is now out by Chelsea Green; the book argues that there are ten classic steps dictators or would-be dictators always take when they wish to close down an open society or crush a movement toward democracy — and that each of these ten steps have been taken systematically in the US in the past six years. I argue in the book that, based on the models from history that show such clear, shocking parallels to the situation in the US today, we are much further along in this process than most of us realize — and that the time for understanding and action is now.

The chapters show how recognizable these ten steps are. Whether the despot is operating in Italy in the '20s, Germany in the '30s, East Germany in the '50s, Czechoslovakia in the '60s, Chile in 1973 or China in the '80s, each of them reproduces 'the blueprint' to engineer a closed society. Would-be despots always:

• Invoke an internal and external threat (it can often be a hyped version — as in the cases of Stalin and Pinochet — of a real threat);

• Establish secret prisons outside the rule of law where torture takes place — they often also create military tribunals;

• Establish a paramilitary force — many of you are familiar with the rise of Blackwater, a powerful mercenary army that is now operating in US cities;

• Train a surveillance apparatus at ordinary citizens — you know now that your emails, phone calls and bank records are open to scrutiny by the state;

• Arbitrarily detain and release citizens — you may be familiar with the growth of the TSA watch list, and the fact that increasingly, American administration critics are being singled out for scrutiny or worse (see also today's paper about a blameless music teacher from Mills College who was seized and intimidated by the TSA before being told she could not reenter the United States where she had been living for years);

• Infiltrate and harass citizens' groups — the ACLU has many lawsuits underway exposing the extent of the infiltration of your local peace or environmental group;

• Target key individuals — civil society leaders begin to experience job setbacks, personal smears, retaliation of increasingly serious kinds as they stand up to the administration;

• Target the press — I describe many suspicious cases of violence against non-embedded working journalists in Iraq, as well as more familiar domestic threats against reporters such as warnings that they will be prosecuted under the Espionage Act — a law that, when it was last used widely, sent a generation of activists, editors and journalists to prison, where some were beaten, for crimes such as criticizing the war (it was at that time the Great War they were imprisoned for speaking against);

• Recast criticism as 'espionage' and dissent as 'treason' — there is a major push right now to criminalize certain kinds of speaking out against the administration; it is disturbingly familiar to students of history to see language such as 'treason' resurface when politicians such as Mrs. Clinton criticize the war, and to hear drumbeats on the right to prosecute such people as Bill Keller, the executive editor of the New York Times, for treason — the penalty for treason is execution. (The publisher of Isvestia was actually prosecuted for treason in the Third Moscow show trial — and in fact executed);

• Make it easier to declare a state of emergency and martial law — the 2007 Defense Authorization Act gives the President the power to declare a state of emergency on essentially his say-so alone — and send in the National Guard to enforce emergency rule — over the objections of governors of the various states.

We are at the point right now at which one arrest — an editor prosecuted successfully under the Espionage Act, or an activist identified by the President as an 'enemy combatant' — can close down our democracy precipitously. This is not an overstatement.

What is clear from looking at the examples of what I call the 'fascist shift' in other times and places is that once there is a certain point of pressure reached in terms of multiple assaults on a democracy, we have to understand that democracy can no longer heal democracy and a point arrives quickly at which there can be no turning back. We are close to that point. By the way, our nation's founders understood this innate fragility of democracy much better than we do; they set up our checks and balances as they did precisely because they had come from or their parents had fled repressive regimes; they knew beyond a doubt that a despot could arise in America to oppress Americans; and they realized without question that it is human nature to abuse power if power is unchecked. We need to reclaim their urgent sense of how difficult it is to sustain a democracy and how easy it is to close one down if we are to take action — to lead a democracy movement here in America — in time to essentially save our nation. There is no less than that at stake.

The historical record shows that these turning points are sudden once certain elements have been put into place. This morning I read in the New York Times about Nalini Ghuman, an assistant professor at Mills College in Oakland, California, who was taken to a room by the TSA, intimidated and told that if she moved she would be accused of trying to assault the agent questioning her. Having studied 'the blueprint' for The End of America, this saddened but did not shock me; it is simply part of the set of steps. Classically, when despots try to close down an open society, they begin their arrests or detentions with 'others' — those considered alien, hostile, beyond the pale — then move their harassment closer and closer to the kinds of people that you and I begin to identify with. What I am warning Americans about with great urgency and a sense of personal anxiety as these examples, that began in trickles as I began to write, start to cascade, is that it takes ONE such arrest of someone we identify with — an editor, a journalist, a member of the political opposition — to silence dissent. This blog I am writing now is part of the 'before' in a closing America; but if tomorrow I read in the Washington Post that a newspaper editor was called an 'enemy combatant' and was being held in solitary confinement — a power the White House argues the President may exert on his say-so alone — I would not be writing in this way, because I am not that brave. Democratic modern societies do not close down in a coup or a 'night of the long knives'; they close down in a network of assaults on laws and individuals like the ones I am describing. After such an arrest, newspapers would continue to publish, TV would continue to blare, we would still have internet shopping and NFL games; what we would not have is the condition of liberty. And once such a 'tipping point' moment is reached, the other such moments that we can expect — if we do not stand up in time and recognize ‘the blueprint' to orient us in our resistance — will come thick and fast, as we are beginning to witness now even before such an arrest has taken place.

Know the blueprint; understand it. Nothing less than freedom depends on you.

÷ ÷ ÷

Naomi Wolf is the author of The Beauty Myth, an international bestseller; Promiscuities: The Secret Struggle for Womanhood; Misconceptions; and The Treehouse: Eccentric Wisdom from my Father on How to Live, Love and See. Her most recent books are The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot and its sequel, Give Me Liberty. She lives with her family in New York City.

Books mentioned in this post

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Naomi Wolf is the author of Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries

13 Responses to "The Fascism Blueprint"

    JB September 17th, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    Forgive the obvious question, but if this thesis were true, wouldn't there have been a bit of a problem in publishing this book? I doubt that Ms Wolf requires an armed guard or a security detail to protect her from the nascent Republican Gestapo. In fact, I'm sure she enjoys her freedom, fame, and money quite well.

    Steve September 19th, 2007 at 11:01 pm

    JB, do you remember Habius Corpus? You know, that tedious little tid bit of un-alienable rights we used to have? That pillar of law that ensures the people that they will be informed of what charges have been brought against them and be able to face their accusers in a court of law. The Keystone that allows the whole judicial system to function.
    If you remember, thats good because all it is, is a memory now. Just one of YOUR rights, snuffed out by the hand of this administration.
    I am sure Ms. Wolf does enjoy her success. She should be paid for her time and research, and if everyone that reads her book actually learns some truths about current affairs, then I submit that she wasn't paid enough.
    If this troubles you, then don't pay for books. Do what everyone else, and most obviously Ms. Wolf can do, but you apparently can not... research it yourself. The facts that haven't been shredded or otherwise illegally kept from oversight are out there, you just have to come out of the cave to see them in the light.
    As far as her needing to retain a security detail for protection...
    Under the current administration, doing so could give the impression of conspiracy, building an armed force in protest and preperation of retaliation, and could label one as an enemy combatant. Then again, a teenage girl putting up a website that states she does not agree with Bush is enough to bring, as you say the Gestapo, to the door.

    JB September 20th, 2007 at 8:53 pm

    Silly stuff Steve. One thing that I do actually understand is that someday when all of these horribly fascist future crises have failed to come to pass, people like you and Ms Wolf will proudly take the credit for saving us all. It's a clever little game you play, but it is a false and fraudulent one.

    Kris September 21st, 2007 at 9:42 pm

    The point I believe you are missing is that democracy requires participation. This means that sometimes people have to point out that there is a potential for certain things to happen, no matter how unplesent they are. It is not about credit, but it is about the fact that there are problems and certain things need to be addressed.

    Federalist September 24th, 2007 at 6:57 am

    Naomi, your arguments would be easier to believe if they weren't so partisan. For example, why did you exclude from your "blueprint" the classic step towards fascism cited by conservatives: Disarming the citizenry? Because, I imagine, you are in favor of gun control, and the Bush administration has actually taken steps to roll back gun control?

    Ad Absurdum September 24th, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    The violation of her request for a summons to Habeas Corpus is something that the government has not seen fit to explain.

    The government usually would explain their actions in some way--they can even just say "we're at war, sorry but we can't tell you."

    That would be more acceptable than their current course of action--they haven't said anything to her for over 13 months. (according to the Washington post article given above).

    They didn't even say "we're at war, it's a secret." Even uncorrupted democracies can do that, it's not an immediate sign of corruption. This is only news to me because they said nothing.

    Josh October 2nd, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    Excellent, Naomi! Thank you! I saw you on Colbert, and you were super there, too. I really appreciate your revelation that this is a blueprint, not just a historical tendency. People need to realize that the Monarchists in the Bush Administration really do have a step-by-step plan. I'm also happy to see that you got the number right: not 9, not 11 -- exactly 10. Your insistence on a particular number demonstrates your credibility and your understanding of complex concepts in the study of history, concepts such as necessary causality and sufficient causality.

    The comparison with Stalin and Pinochet is apt, particularly given Bush's clear intention to use the military to stay in power after his term is up. (I'm risking a lot by saying this, but it needs to be said: not a few White House staffers have bandied about the word "King" in recent weeks. In private meetings of course.)

    The secret prisons point is also quite good. I mean, if only people would realize that the real reason for these prisons is to hide away U.S. dissidents, not to imprison foreign terrorism suspects. Everyone knows that Bush's secret plan is to start using his CIA prisons for Democratic Senators who filibuster his judicial nominees. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Bush has already faked the deaths of some activist judges and actually sent them to the torturers.

    All Americans should join you in your demand that only guilty people ever be detained by authorities. You know, Naomi, If reasonable people like you were in charge, they would make sure that no one is ever arrested until the person is found guilty of a crime. Show me a state that arrests mere suspects, and I'll show you a totalitarian regime.

    Good work, Naomi, for calling down the people who want to execute the editorial staff of the NYT. Reasonable people are afraid to say it, but America has held the line on the execution thing, and I doubt you'll find a single instance of a person convicted of treason who didn't get the Electric Chair as a consequence.

    I'm glad you highlight all the suspicious deaths of non-compliant journalists. Sometimes the crazies on the Right try to do this kind of thing to demonize leaders like Bill Clinton. As a consequence, a lot of people have been turned off by that sort of argument and don't realize that there's an important place in political discourse for insinuation of malfeasance, even when there's no proof. This is particularly the case with the Bush administration, because there's good evidence that liquidation of enemies is an old tactic of Bush from his Yale days.

    I wish I had time to help corroborate all your points. But then again, you don't need any help making your arguments sound credible. Let me conclude by commending your book to America and reminding good citizens that, the more improbable the claims, the more likely they are true!

    Chase Lazenby December 9th, 2007 at 6:27 pm

    It's always people like these that complain on and on about how they're being stripped of their rights and cheated by whatever administration they have a gripe against at that particular time. Here's a reality check, sweetheart: because of the efforts of guys like me under the direction of the administration you can't complain enough about, no one has been able to fly an airliner into your place of business in quite a few years; you worry about your "comfort zone" and your pretty picket fence; leave the heavy lifting to us.

    eugene March 12th, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    Some people seem to believe that there are no lions on the streets os New York because of the signposts that say they are not allowed. The comment by Chase is in that league. I t needs to be pointed out that success in thwarting further attackes has been through good, standard policing, which is not in question in Ms Wolf's book. There are always those in society who prefer blinkers to clear vision, denial to facing difficult circumstances, who fear the govt more than they value democracy. The patriot in America should be a supporter and pursuer of a democracy, which involves a lot more than flag waving, strutting your muscle and getting the other guy - it's much more scary to realise the enemy is within the land and that enemy is not necessarily the one the govt says it is. Ms Wolf has shown a lot of guts, more I suspect than the braggarts, in saying what she has in a country in which there are far more Palookas than thinkers.

    Janet September 21st, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    Thanks for the inspiration. I learned quite a bit from your book, The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot

    Political Poetry

    A saboteur in American clothes
    Pitching a traitors dream grandiose
    Codes in mercenary’s clothes
    Blackwater budgeted hurricanes foes

    ACLU cries out for action
    American Freedom!!!
    A coming attraction???

    The Military Commissions Act
    Here is a fact
    McCain was a yea
    Obama a nay

    Good ‘Old Ron Paul wasn’t dropping the ball
    Whose party saw it written on the wall?
    Was it a Bi-partisan plot after all?

    Espionage cannot be brought
    When our senate the constitution they drop

    Triple Canopy profits top
    When housing, energy, healthcare and food flop

    Ruffian Rules instead of schools
    Packing up profits while still in office
    A child left behind won’t be treated kind

    While big business takes lease
    Being bailed out….. and released
    While disturbing our peace
    Our pockets they fleece

    BUSH will flee with our freedom
    With fleece for his kingdom
    Doubt it?
    Just read about it

    Alex October 9th, 2008 at 8:44 am

    You rock Naomi, the world needs more people like you who are aware of what liberties are and how easily they can be compromised.

    Mr. Mxyzptlk October 11th, 2008 at 6:58 am

    Actually, Federalist is incorrect, the government is taking guns away from citizens just like him. He can go to and read about it.

    Steve September 26th, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    It was the political left that ended America long ago. They are just now re-juggling the data to obscure the crime. They use proclamations such as the above merely to end reasonable discussion. A good example is the re-defining of the word 'fascist' itself, which originally meant 'national socialism'. Now it is used as a pejorative for any crime against the socialist ideal as determined by the left. The Left are the true Fascists - read Liberal Fascism, LA Times editor Jonah Goldberg

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