Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Naomi Wolf Interview

I could sit and listen to her talk anytime:

Tuesday, September 25, 2007 Naomi Wolf's Call to Patriots -- Are We Reaching the End of Democracy?

Naomi Wolf's Call to Patriots -- Today's Echoes of Goebbels, and the Fragility of Liberty


Democracies take nurturing. They're easy to pull down. The Founders understood that. It's a very dangerous time.

-- Naomi Wolf, Author, The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot

* * *

We owe a great debt to Naomi Wolf, who cut her teeth in writing about a new generation of Feminist thinking, for writing this wake up call to America.

In interviewing Wolf, we could hear one of her children in the background. And in many ways, young people were on her mind when she penned "The End of America," because she is profoundly concerned that they may lose the gift of democracy and live under a dictatorship.

After conversing with Wolf, we saw her on "The Colbert Report" and marveled at how she shifted so effortlessly into expertly handling the ironic parries of Colbert. But her message was the same as it was with us, in a dialogue that proceeded in a much more somber tone: we are on the verge of crossing the threshold into tyranny.

Wolf structures her book into identifying 10 usurpations of democracy that are underway. When combined with the other assaults on our Constitutional checks and balances, we agree with Wolf that we are on the precipice of seeing this great experiment in Constitutional democracy disappear as our Bill of Rights is steadily eroded.

Careful to document her thesis with parallels to the rise of fascism in other times, Wolf speaks with a sincere and highly credible sense of urgency. She lays out the roadmap to authoritarian rule -- and we are being driven down that road without most Americans even realizing it.

What she asks of us is simple: to awaken to the danger before it is too late, if it isn't already.

* * *

BuzzFlash: Naomi, you've written The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot and A Citizen's Call to Action. Why did you specifically address this to young people?

Naomi Wolf: I know an actual, real young patriot named Chris Le. He is a 28-year-old activist. As I describe in the Introduction to the book, two things were happening at once in my life. A mentor of mine, who is the daughter of Holocaust survivors, kept saying to me: You've got to read the histories, you've got to read the histories, you've got to read the histories. There are echoes. I kept thinking, that's crazy, but she was so adamant that she basically sat me down and made me read the histories of her parents' experience, basically. I then went on and read about six other classic cases of societies closing down democracies or democratic uprisings being crushed. Then I understood why she was so insistent that I study and write about this.

At about the same time, I went to the wedding of this young patriot, Chris Le, who is typical of the best of his generation in that he's idealistic, he's committed, he wants a better America. He's extremely worried about the themes I write about in the book.

But like most young people, he wasn't given a tutorial in what democracy is in a very clear way. He was certainly not given a tutorial in mid-twentieth century history of the closing down of democracies. When I was at their wedding, and I realized these horrible scary storm clouds were brewing, and these signs were so clear, that there were threats from the past that we need to remind people of in the future in a very clear, accessible way, I decided the best thing that I could do for him and his wife and other people who may not be scholars was to write this kind of primer in a super-clear accessible way that reminds us all about how democracies are crushed. It basically shows that there's a blueprint for doing it, and the blueprint was developed early in the last century, but the tyrants all over the world replicate it.

The Founders totally believed and foresaw that an American despot or tyrant could oppress the American people, and that the greatest threat was not a foreign power. The book is meant as a very immediate reminder and guide to what freedom is, and how our system was set up to protect us in a very personal way. We've become so accustomed to our democracy that we really don't understand how easy it is to close down a democracy, once certain checks and balances are dismantled, and certain pieces are set in motion.

BuzzFlash: You have outlined ten steps to dismantling a democracy, which the Founders of our country also recognized as threats. How did you come to pick those ten?

Naomi Wolf: Basically they leapt out as a pattern in the reading I was doing. I read about these different times of crisis, specifically the Twenties in Italy, the Thirties in Germany, the Fifties in East Germany, 1968 in Czechoslovakia, 1973 in the coup in Chile, and the late Eighties/early Nineties which saw the crushing in China of the pro-democracy movement.

What jumps up when you read those histories is that essentially, the practice of crushing an open society was essentially invented by Mussolini. It was then developed and elaborated on by the other great tyrants of the twentieth century, and then they studied each other. Hitler studied Stalin. Both of them studied Mussolini. Subsequently, the other dictators all over the world go back and look at what works.

The School for the Americas, basically teach it -- this blueprint was passed on to any number of would-be Latin American dictators and military leaders. Tyrants all over the world take the same ten steps. And it really is like a blueprint.

I start the book saying, in Thailand this coup took a week. This is what they did -- boom, boom, boom. It's like they had a shopping list, and, really, they did, because, by now, people who want to crush a democracy know what to do. The people who live in a democracy don't know what these ten steps are. Otherwise, we would absolutely be thronging the streets right now. We might realize that we're in a state of crisis rather than just shopping online and watching "America's Top Model."

But how did those ten steps arrive on my list? Various writers on fascism try to identify what the key steps are. Hannah Arendt, Umberto Eco, and Robert O. Paxton have all written about the elements of the totalitarian or fascist mind. All the writers look at different things, and they don't all correspond to my list, although Eco's list had some of the same elements. It just seemed very clear to me from my reading that you see these ten things again and again and again, such that you know what's going to happen. It's so predictable; it's so well-established.

Here's one. Categorically, in every closing society, someone who wants to crush democracy will establish a military tribunal system which parallels or is outside of the established judiciary. Once you create a prison system outside of the rule of law -- I call it a secret prison system, unaccountable, not transparent, where people get disappeared, where people get tortured -- can you name a society that did that that did not eventually have fascist rule?

As I was writing the book, someone sent me documentation of the expansion of the definition of terrorists to apply to activists. It was so clear that the definition of terrorist in every fascist shift expands to include more and more, to reach closer to the heart of civil society. You start to see the expansion of the term traitor, treason, espionage. Look at the censure by the Senate of an ad -- the notion that criticism is unpatriotic and bordering on treason. Stalin and Goebbels both developed that tactic. You start to see the broader and broader use of accusations of treason and espionage, like the calls we heard after the SWIFT banking story broke to try citizens under the 1917 Espionage Act -- an Act which, most Americans do not realize, was used at the end of the teens in this country to round up and arrest thousands of people like you and me; some were beaten in prison. Eugene Debs got a ten-year sentence under the Espionage Act for a speech about the First Amendment. The White House led a drumbeat of voices calling for the trial of New York Times executive editor Bill Keller for "treason" when he published the SWIFT banking stories. The penalty for treason in this country can be execution.

Sure enough, if you go back to history, you find that Nikolai Bukharin, the publisher of Izvestia, was tried in the third Moscow show trial and was in fact executed for treason. So these things are like part of a game plan, part of a blueprint. And there are so many parallels I found, which I point out in the book, that it is very hard to avoid the hypothesis that someone brilliant in this administration studied history and is replaying elements, language, and tactics from violently closing societies that worked in the past.

I really saw the same tendencies happening again and again in the reading I did about how open societies dismantled parliamentary democracies and constitutions, and how they were crushing pro-democracy uprisings.

I really saw the same tendencies happening again and again in the reading I did about how open societies dismantled parliamentary democracies and constitutions, and how they were crushing pro-democracy uprisings.

BuzzFlash: Hannah Arendt wrote about the "banality of evil," and the reality is that sometimes we find ourselves in a situation where we simply can't see what is happening to us. One analogy to what is happening to our Constitution being dismantled and the encroachment upon our civil liberties is the idea of a frog being boiled in water. The frog doesn't realize, until it's too late, that the temperature just keeps rising.

To the average person, is it just too much to comprehend, too much to think about, it's not what we're concentrating on, so in the end we're the frogs being boiled? We're busy entertaining ourselves, or working, or being with our families, or going out and having a drink. It's only people like yourself, or people who really follow this, who are aware that we're being boiled.

Naomi Wolf: This is the desperately urgent question, and you're right to ask it. Let me address it on three levels.

First, I deliberately wrote the book in the most accessible possible way, really based on Tom Paine's prose style. The pamphleteers of the Revolution were really deliberately trying to write in a way that ordinary people -- farmers, small shopkeepers, people without an elaborate higher education, people who are not aristocrats -- could understand. It was urgent that the ordinary colonist or the ordinary American got it -- the kind of threat that was posed by George III -- what it meant to have blanket warrants, what liberty meant, what the arguments for liberty were. You know, before Common Sense, most people in the Colonies were not persuaded that they needed a revolution. The American experiment at the time pushed human beings further out into a completely untested model of government. So his very transparent, accessible prose style let people realize for themselves, or think through for themselves, that they deserved liberty and that they needed to act on behalf of liberty.

You and I are in the same position -- and everyone on the Internet. We have to switch our model of leadership and return it to the Revolutionary American model of citizen leaders. The Congress is not going to save us. The mainstream media is not going to save us. The pundits are not going to save us. The U.N. is not going to save us. The European Union is not going to save us. There is not a force on earth that can save us, except for our own talking to each other, clearly and urgently, to explain and convey the nature of this threat, and then for us to take radical action NOW. So that's why I wrote it this way.

Our strategy has to be that thousands, and we hope soon millions, of other citizens who are persuaded by the argument will speak to each other and then mobilize in a hurry to confront these abuses. It depends on citizens acting as journalists, citizens acting as advocates, citizens acting as leaders and revolutionaries to mobilize one another. So that's A.

There are scenes in the books I cite that are exactly the same as the scene that played out in the University of Florida last week when the kid was tasered for asking a question and everyone sat still as he was dragged out. That scene was described by Count Kessler, by Victor Klemperer, in memoirs of Germany form 1931-1933. And people then were saying what we are saying: surely this can't get worse; people will come to their senses.

Historians such as Richard Evans point out that, at that point, if the people of Germany has arisen and confronted the abusers of parliamentary process and of the Constitution, the horrors could have been averted. By the way, I am not looking at Germany to make an analogy of any kind about outcomes. I am Jewish and do not take that issue lightly. What I am doing, and I think we honor the victims of the Holocaust by doing so, is looking at how there are threads that recur in the early years of a fascist shift, and lessons we have to learn in time. What we really have to realize is that in a modern democracy, the shift to a closed society doesn't happen overnight.

And it doesn't happen even in a clear line on a graph that's left to right diagonally. It happens in what Malcolm Gladwell would call tipping points. You can chart it, and there may be pressure, pressure, multiple assaults, and, then, a key event that would be like a vertical line on that chart. And then you're looking at another reality.

The really important thing to understand, which is why I walk the reader so carefully through the way democracies really curve down, is democracies can reach a point of no return. And it's sudden when that happens. And it's disorienting. There's a point at which democracy can no longer heal democracy. People have got to understand that. People need to realize that the day we made it legal, essentially, for the state to torture people, that was one of those vertical lines on the chart. We're now in a place where it is legal, the White House has claimed, to knock on your door or my door, and say: You are an enemy combatant. Come with us. Then there is what Jose Padilla went through, in three years of solitary confinement -- making it difficult to see a lawyer, making it difficult to see his family.

I'm not saying he's a good guy. But I'm saying the White House is taking the position that the President -- and any future president -- can say: You, Naomi, you, peruser of BuzzFlash -- you're an enemy combatant. And the President gets to decide what that means. The President gets to decide to hold you. The first time that someone is called an enemy combatant that you and I identify with -- that's going to be another one of these vertical lines, after which you are not going to be having this conversation, because I'm not that brave. The tasering of this student was another vertical line, because, believe me, if they are tasering voting groups in Florida in a disputed 2008 election, dissent will close down pretty quickly. People are just not that brave when they start to get physically hurt.

And that's how society is closed down. Suddenly, there's news of someone getting arrested. Or someone being taken. Someone getting a ten-year sentence under the Espionage Act for publishing something in the Wall Street Journal.

And the next day, there are still newspapers. There's still online shopping. There are still so many aspects of normal society. But what there isn't is freedom, because people are scared. And that's why we need to wake up now, because, believe it or not, the President has the power to do that. The President -- any president, President Thompson, President Giuliani, President Obama -- any president now has the power to make it easier to declare martial law and to declare a state of emergency. The president gets to decide what that is. That is not what the Founders envisioned.

People who are fighting overseas for democracy understand better than we do that we are witnessing the clasic danger signs. They know how dangerous it is to have a leader relegate for himself or herself the power to do that -- to seize people and to militarize civil society. Or to declare a state of public emergency or to make it easier to define a threat to public order. Those are classic signposts that other democracy activists around the world recognize as flashing warning lights.

The third point is simply that you're absolutely right about our psychology. We've been so blessed and so spoiled, in a way, by over 200 years of strong democracy, even taking into account the serious moments like the McCarthy era, that we expect the pendulum will always swing back, because the checks and balances have always been in place. I've explained in the book why this is different now -- why the pendulum isn't as free as it used to be, why we can't rely on it, a point Bruce Fein of the American Freedom Agenda made first.

The trouble is that we're so used to a democratic mindset and we're so reliant on freedom, that we, A, don't recognize the dangers, and B, we don't realize what it takes to resist them. When I talk about these threats, people tend to answer before they've thought it through, or before they've read the book, with the correctives of democracy. Well, the ACLU will sue them. Or we'll just vote the guys out. "Vote the bums out." After you've read the book, you'll realize that you cannot rely on democracy to heal democracy, as you could if our democracy was strong, and checks and balances were in place.

So it is a radical shift in consciousness that we need right now, and we don't have time. We need to understand right now that this is a crisis. It's not business as usual. We can't leave it to other people, to Congress, to activists, or until the next election, because we are much further along than people realize.

BuzzFlash: Your book does a tremendous job of putting together the ten different threats running in parallel and intertwined courses. The power of the ten together leads to a tipping point, as you've called it, which, at some point becomes the point of no return. That type of concurrence is described in the book They Thought They Were Free by an American Jew who, after World War II, went back to Nazi Germany to find out how it happened. The Germans thought they were free until they weren't any longer.

In the mainstream news, and certainly in a lot of the political discourse, the Republicans in general, and Bush, are portrayed as the patriots, the champions of freedom, the ones who are the "strict constructionists" in terms of the Constitution, and so forth. You and I would argue that, in reality, what is happening under the current administration is a radical assault on our Constitution, on our freedoms, on the vision of Founding Fathers. The radicals are the people in the government who are trying to change the very foundation of the country. But they wrap themselves in the wrapping paper -- disguise themselves as the champions of the Constitution.

How do you break through to the American public? The mainstream press doesn't seem to be able to even begin to penetrate the dissonance and the contradiction in the narrative as the administration presents it.

Naomi Wolf: I try to avoid theorizing in the book, and instead just let the reader decide for him or herself what inferences may be drawn about this White House. But it's very hard to avoid a hypothesis that the White House has studied twentieth century history in some detail. When despots are trying to close down an open society, and Orwell pointed this out, they call something the opposite of what it is. Goebbels, for one, was a master of saying something the opposite of what it was. If you read Mein Kampf, and look at Hitler's speeches, he is continually invoking democracy and freedom, democracy and freedom, the rule of law. I'm upholding the rule of law; he actually said he was simplifying democracy. Indeed, it was the prior administration that had opened the door to him, and they weren't even national socialists, but they weakened the constitution so badly that it left the field wide open for him to do what he wanted to do.

I have a section in the book about how lies in a fascist shift serve a different purpose than they do in a democracy. In a democracy, people lie to deceive. In a fascist shift, lies serve to disorient. Lies in the service of a fascist shift make it hard for citizens to trust their own judgment about what's real and what's not. Once citizens don't know what's real and what's not real, they are profoundly disempowered. The Bush administration seems to have learned that lesson, and they regularly name things the opposite. And there's a long historical precedent for making people feel that there is no such thing as truth.

There's another tipping point in closing down a democracy when the leaders no longer are accountable for disclosing the truth. Why is the mainstream media not more rigorous?

I think has to do with, first, corporate ownership. There are just some issues you really can't pursue. Recently someone pitched a renewal of a famous program that taught children about democracy, and checks and balances, to a major network. They basically said we don't want to do anything to rock the boat. Even librarians are affected. I've been offering to give librarians copies of the Constitution to distribute, and they say, we can't do that because that'll be too controversial. I'm not kidding. The Constitution's become too controversial.

So the networks have some profound vested interests, which I track in the book, that would be served by a dismantling of the Constitution in this country, and by an ongoing war on terror that never ends. These are powerful industries, and millions of dollars are at stake. And they have lobbyists. They contribute to political campaigns, and it's not negligible.

The second reason, I think, is, it's hard for the mainstream media, even when they're privately owned, to say certain things for psychological reasons. There's a mindset that it's taboo to say in America that an American president might try to bring down democracy. There are a lot of taboos. You're not allowed to look at the history of Germany. That's a social taboo. You're not allowed to suggest in a mainstream context that an American president might have radically oppressive motives, just like dictators all over the world. It's like this collective wish to believe our leaders are always benign, our system will always endure, even if we don't do anything to protect it. We are always safe. We are always the exception. There's a kind of regressive, almost infantile fantasizing that Daddy could never actually be abusive-- it is this magical thinking -- and there's a lot of it.

BuzzFlash: One thing we've talked about a lot on BuzzFlash, is that the Bush administration, and in particular, Cheney, lie with such abandon and brazenness. But you're absolutely right that a key feature of seizing power is to put so much lying out there you kind of just give up trying to figure out what the truth is. But also, the brazenness is a factor. Americans are largely still a common-sense sort of culture. Just put your cards down on the table. Cheney is still saying that Saddam was connected to 9/11 in some way. The lies are so big that they defy common sense. So you're thinking, no one would lie that openly and brazenly. That just doesn't make any sense.

Naomi Wolf: Yes.

BuzzFlash: You may even start to think there's something there, because no one would be so audacious, having been disproven on so many occasions, as to continue to say the same thing. So you question your own sense of truth. And you don't want to accuse your leaders, in a democracy. You would almost be reflecting upon yourself if you're accusing your leaders of intentionally and chronically and daily misleading you. It's almost like accepting that democracy is so flawed that we have to do something about it. And who wants to take that on?

Naomi Wolf: You're right that all these threads are well-documented. In the book you see how they fit together. That's exactly what I try to do.

My readers say that basically the book acts as kind of a key, so that now, when they see the aspects of each of these threads, whether it's a new development in detainee abuse, or whether it's a new development of surveillance, the FISA story, or you hear that assets of critics of the war are going to be seized, it makes a different kind of sense to them than it did before. That's good, even if it is very scary at first, because people really do need to listen differently and watch differently now.

We have a mindset, which is that democracy is the resilient rule. Historically it is fragile exception. Democracies take nurturing. They're easy to pull down. The Founders understood that. It's a very dangerous time.

In Italy, in the early 1920s, people just couldn't believe it. And in Germany, from 1931-1933, they just couldn't believe it. You read the memoirs, and people were saying, surely, no one's going to go for this. Surely, this can't last. Surely, no one will put up with these thugs marching in the streets like this. Surely, we will all come to our senses.
The trouble is, this mindset is very, very dangerous when it's a different game being played. There is this scene in which Mussolini is marching on Rome, and the members of Parliament are still trying to negotiate with him -- offering him various cabinet positions. They think it's still a democracy, and he just waits for them to get it.

As I say at the end of the book, I feel like there's very little time left for us to act. I'm very worried about the upcoming elections, and here's why. One of the things very few people followed up on is that there's a strong indication that when they fired the US attorneys, they were considering purging all of the US Attorneys -- all of them, all at once. That's essentially what Goebbels did in 1933 with the civil service. The White House has fought any disclosure of the e-mails about the US Attorneys purge, or would-be purge. It's a classic move in a takeover to purge the civil service, and especially the lawyers and the judges, and replace them with your own cronies -- that's a standard, recognized tactic.

BuzzFlash: TPM Café and Josh Marshall were in the lead on "Prosecutor-gate," as it's called.

Naomi Wolf: Right. So had the U.S. attorneys all been purged, basically, the game would be over right now. The U.S. attorneys have the power to harass opposition groups, to bring charges against people who are organizing voters. At the end of the book, I ask readers to look at the record of what the administration's been willing to do vis-a-vis abuse after abuse after abuse, the systematic dismantling of our democracy and our checks and balances, and ask if it is reasonable to assume we will have fair, transparent elections. Given all these violations of these sacred tenets of democracy, do you really think that George Bush is going to say, fourteen months from now, that the great pageant of democracy -- a fair election -- must proceed without intervention or corruption? That the people have spoken, the people's will be done? Is that really common sense?

BuzzFlash: We at BuzzFlash have editorialized and pointed out that it's naïve, at this late date in their eight-year administration, to still allow them to take advantage of every possibility to seize more power. Why would they want that if they assume there's a possibility that a Democrat will come in on January 20, 2009? They're seizing the power for a Democrat? That doesn't make any sense.

Naomi Wolf: I'm really glad that you're raising that and editorializing on it. So many decisions of this administration are strategic and not tactical. That's why I worry about people like Mitt Romney saying that he wants to expand Guantanamo and sort of eternalize Guantanamo to make it a permanent part of the landscape, or Giuliani -- who seems clearly to have been anointed to carry this process forward -- to say he wants to strip prisoners of even more rights. The building of Guantanamo does not look like a short-term decision. It seems that many of the absolutely systematic changes that this administration is intent on, are strategic rather than tactical decisions. They seem like long-term rather than short-term decisions.

BuzzFlash: They don't make sense to fight terror. But they do make sense if they're for the purpose of seizing power.

Naomi Wolf: That's exactly right. This is another important thing to put across in terms of getting people out of this bubble of innocence, and into fighting anger, and sort of revolutionary ardor. I really believe this issue is a conservative issue, and it's a liberal issue. It transcends party politics. You know, there are as many patriots on the right as on the left. Many are appalled at what's been done in the name of conservatism. Why would they be aggregating power?

BuzzFlash: Right. At this late date.

Naomi Wolf: There's a kind of hypnosis that invoking the war on terror, invoking 9/11 in the mass media, creates. That's why Congress has been so cowed. Off the record, they say to us that they can't be more aggressive because they're afraid of being seen as soft on terror. They can't be more aggressive about liberty, and protecting liberty, and preventing these power grabs, because they don't want to be seen as soft on terror. That's why it's so important for people to understand that, historically, it is an absolute constant for a would-be tyrant to invoke a terrorist threat -- often, a real terrorist threat.

The national socialists continually invoked Bolshevik terrorism and violence. And there was Bolshevik terrorism and Bolshevik violence. There were communist terrorists. By the same token, Pinochet eased his way in by telling Chilean citizens about insurgents who were going to engage in this spectacular act of terrorism, a mass assassination, and he showed citizens the purported weapons caches on television. He used fake documents to hype a real threat, which again is quite common in history -- like the fake documents the White House relied on to lie to us about the yellowcake threat.

It's absolutely standard for would-be dictators to invoke a terrorist threat, and it can be a real terrorist threat. What they'll do is they'll hype it, or manipulate the information. Or heighten the fear level. The reason is it enables them to subdue people.

I feel like it's actually liberating for readers to read about how this has been used in other countries. First, it lets them snap out of that kind of frightened feeling of, oh, my God, the terrorists have struck from al Qaeda. The terrorist threat from al Qaeda changes everything. We must give up our liberties in order to be safe. It's just not true. There are historical precedents for it not being true.

I also note that Spain and England, which are countries that suffered very serious terrorist attacks, by the same terrorists that threaten us, responded very differently. They responded with transparent trials. Their trials of the accused terrorists are on the Internet. They responded by upholding their values of democracy and openness and freedom. And in England, Gordon Brown says terrorism is a crime, not a cause. Israel has nothing like the red, yellow, orange alert that we do, and they fight terrorists every day.

BuzzFlash: Some conservatives have gotten away with a tremendous framing success in using the word conservative. But as you pointed out, if you're really a conservative about the Constitution, you support civil liberties. You support the checks and balances in our government. You support an independent judiciary. That's a true conservative position.

What we have from the Bush administration is a radical position that's an assault on the conservative position. And for the Bush administration, and Cheney and his aides like Addington, to be called conservative, is an insult to conservatism. That's number one.

Number two, in relation to your point that they initially floated the idea about firing all the U.S. prosecutors, there was a precedent in the German Nazi judicial system. Basically, in addition to the parallel military system, the Third Reich instituted a civil judicial system. If someone was charged with a violation against the state, and they were a German citizen, they went through this judicial system. It was all rigged in the sense that you only served on the judicial courts, just as the Bush administration was trying to do, if you had been vetted, and you were a follower of the right, and you would basically go along with the recommendations of the prosecutors installed by the state. But they gave the appearance to the citizens that would say: Well, this person has been executed because the court found them guilty.

Naomi Wolf: Exactly.

BuzzFlash: So it wasn't just that the military coopted the judicial system. They had a parallel judicial system. But they did have a civil judicial system too which the Third Reich was able to say, well, justice has been accomplished. This person has been tried and they had been determined to have violated laws of the state and that execution is warranted. So it wasn't just that the army took and executed the German citizens. They went through a rigged judicial system, just as the Bush administration was trying to do with the U.S. prosecutors, and which they try to do by appointing judges who are not qualified to be judges. Their only qualification is loyalty to the party.

Naomi Wolf: Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Michael Ratner, who represented Guantanamo detainees before the Supreme Court, is really eloquent about the legal analogies between what happened in Germany and what's happening now. And Harper's recently made some of the same points. What you're talking about is a process that the National Socialists perfected, called coordination. That's why looking at Germany is so necessary now -- because they coordinated every aspect of civil society. And when you've got people who understand that their tenure depends on following the party line, you do get a rigged system.

What's happening with the military -- JAG -- lawyers is also important. These are lawyers, so their job is to uphold the rule of law and do good jobs representing their clients. And again and again, these brave, decent, honorable men and women, probably many of them Republicans, have suffered career setbacks or worse simply trying to do their jobs as lawyers, and not sell out their clients, and not hand over their clients to a rigged system.

And you're right to point out people really don't understand what fascism looks like. They think it looks kind of like goose-stepping military and barbed wire everywhere. It doesn't look like that. I give examples of closed societies in the book, and after a society is closed, there will often still be a judiciary. There will be journalism. There will be radio. There will even be television. There will be universities and students. Many aspects of the institutions of civil society continue. What happens, though, is everybody knows how far you can go before you lose your job, or how far you can go before getting arrested. And it's actually very important for some dictators to maintain a facade of the rule of law, to maintain a facade of elections, and to maintain a facade of a working civil society system, because it gives the regime legitimacy. You saw that in Italy and in Germany. You see it throughout Latin America