By Naomi Wolf
April 24, 2007
Last autumn, there was a military coup in Thailand. The leaders of the coup took a number of steps, rather systematically, as if they had a shopping list. In a sense, they did. Within a matter of days, democracy had been closed down: the coup leaders declared martial law, sent armed soldiers into residential areas, took over radio and TV stations, issued restrictions on the press, tightened some limits on travel, and took certain activists into custody.
They were not figuring these things out as they went along. If you look at history, you can see that there is essentially a blueprint for turning an open society into a dictatorship. That blueprint has been used again and again in more and less bloody, more and less terrifying ways. But it is always effective. It is very difficult and arduous to create and sustain a democracy – but history shows that closing one down is much simpler. You simply have to be willing to take the 10 steps.
As difficult as this is to contemplate, 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.
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 recognize 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 my argument that, beneath our very noses, George Bush and his administration are using time-tested tactics to close down an open society. It is time for us to be willing to think the unthinkable – as the author and political journalist Joe Conason, has put it, that it can happen here. And that we are further along than we realize.
Conason eloquently warned of the danger of American authoritarianism. I am arguing that we need also to look at the lessons of European and other kinds of fascism to understand the potential seriousness of the events we see unfolding in the US.
The ten steps:
- Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy.
- Create secret prisons where torture takes place.
- Develop a thug caste or paramilitary force not answerable to citizens.
- Set up an internal surveillance system.
- Harass citizens’ groups.
- Engage in arbitrary detention and release.
- Target key individuals.
- Control the press.
- Declare all dissent to be treason.
- Suspend the rule of law.
Talk by Naomi Wolf – The End of America
“Finally, Action! Ron Paul Introduces Bill to Defend Constitution!” by Naomi Wolf, October 18, 2007.
“The Ominous Parallels” by Leonard Peikoff.
“Road to Serfdom in Cartoons” Look Magazine, Reproduced from a booklet published by General Motors in the “Thought Starter” series (no. 118).
Alan Watt: Revolutions, Flashmobs and Brain Chips.