Naomi Wolf: Ten steps to closing down an open society

11 12 2007

Lately I’ve been listening to the offerings at the Canadian left-wing blog Paulitics: Paul’s Socialist Podcast. The latest episode features feminist author Naomi Wolf offering a distillation of her latest book, The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, in which she draws parallels between historical instances of fascism–especially in Europe in the early twentieth century–and proto-fascist tendencies in contemporary America under the Bush Administration. She notes, for example, that the term “sleeper cell” originated in Stalinist Russia as a propaganda term denoting so-called “capitalist terrorists” disguised as good Soviet citizens and hiding among the general population. She also talks about the Bush Administration’s use of the the “no-fly list” against Bush critics, such as Princeton law professor Walter F. Murphy, and even Wolf herself.

Wolf tracks authoritarian trends in Bush America against a ten-step “blueprint,” which she argues was crafted by Mussolini and adopted by leftist and rightist totalitarian regimes throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. She expands upon these steps in this article, but here’s what you need to do in order to close down an open society:

  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

Do you agree with the comparisons Wolf is making between the drift towards fascism in the twentieth century, and America under Bush (or, for that matter, Australia under Howard)? If so, do you think the results of recent elections in the US and Australia (2006 and 2007 respectively) hint at a trend away from proto-fascism in these countries?

More resources:

Alternet interviews Wolf on her new book.

Excerpt from the book dealing with the “no-fly list”

Wolf on The Colbert Report

Interview on Radio4all:



9 responses

11 12 2007

I agree Big Time.

12 12 2007
Sammy Jankis

I would agree with the comparison. Incidents of the 10 steps above are certainly not hard to find in the US and Oz, and of course it’s all been defended as “necessary for your safety”. Just look at the demonization of immigrants under Howard. These people were just itching to bust out of Baxter and rend our happy little society limb from limb as far as Howard’s aspirationals were concerned. Only in Howard’s Australia could the arrival in Australian waters of a leaky boat bearing a few hundred foreigners be considered a major security issue.

I think though, with the results of the election here and record levels of dissatisfaction with Bush in the US, there is a trend away from proto-fascism. It seems you can only keep a nation pumped full of fear for a certain amount of time, and the dismal failure of the US’s middle-east adventures has got people questioning the MO of Bush/Howard-like governments when it comes to terrorism.

12 12 2007
Sammy Jankis

Just as an aside…

Maybe an 11th point could be added: Flag Worship.

There’s been a fair bit of effort to have flag burning made a criminal offense in the US and in Australia. John Howard couldn’t bring himself to criticise the use of the flag by Cronulla Rioters: “I could never criticise someone for being proud of the Australian flag” (or words to that effect).
This kind of uber-nationalism is fairly typical of fascism if you ask me.

13 12 2007
The Happy Revolutionary

These governments have been right-wing and authoritarian, and have trampled plenty of individuals and groups along the way.
I don’t think either Govt meets any accepted definition of fascism, however much they have drifted away from the principals of liberal democracy.
In Australia, we do have genuinely proto-fascist groups, and you can find many of them on the blogosphere. I would guess that Pauline Hanson is their most gentrified representative.

15 12 2007

I agree, the ten steps are evident in the US and here in Oz as well. I particularly found the step ‘develop a thug caste’ quite real.

18 12 2007
18 12 2007
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9 06 2011
U.S.-Canada Perimeter Security and an Integrated North American Command « GODZILLA GOVERNMENT

[…] HUGE red flag which points to more of a heavily surveilled checkpoint society.  It is a bad omen; hailing the close to a free and open […]

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