Commentary Magazine


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A Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing

Anti-Americanism is rife in the Middle East and in Europe, and even in the land of our mother tongue, Great Britain, it has grown remarkably intense. Why?

Undoubtedly, the Bush administration must get some of the blame; it has pursued policies that are unpopular among Middle Easterners and Europeans. But there are other sources, too, like Americans who go abroad to peddle the intoxicating—and toxic—elixir.

The latest entry in this import-export business is Naomi Wolf, not long ago an adviser to Vice President Al Gore. In the pages of the Guardian, she has published an essay under the title Fascist America, in 10 Easy Steps. Though lengthy, it is worth summarizing in a few words.

Wolf tries to show that our freedoms and the checks and balances that restrain our government are being “systematically dismantled.” Beneath our noses, she writes, “George Bush and his administration are using time-tested tactics to close down an open society.”

Their first action in this campaign was to use the attacks of September 11 to create an image of “a terrifying threat—hydra-like, secretive, [and] evil.” What the U.S. has done with al Qaeda, she says, is a time-tested technique, one that, “like Hitler’s invocation of a Communist threat to the nation’s security, [can] be based on actual events.” An instance of this is the way the Nazis used the “Reichstag fire of February 1933” to gain “passage of the Enabling Act, which replaced constitutional law with an open-ended state of emergency.”

Never mind that the Reichstag fire was set by the Nazis themselves. Wolf continues on in this vein, drawing comparisons between the U.S. government and the Nazis with abandon. A few juxtapositions of America to the Soviet Gulag are also tossed in. Concentration camps like Guantanamo, she says, “tend to metastasize,” starting small and growing uncontrollably large. Indeed, the procedures set up by the Pentagon to try terrorists are things that tend to crop up “early on in a fascist shift;” it is not an accident that both “Mussolini and Stalin set up such tribunals.”

Of course, all this is Wolf’s fantasy, and like any satisfying fantasy it has, along with its obvious villains, a set of heroes. In our dire situation, Wolf informs readers of the Guardian, “only a handful of patriots are trying to hold back the tide of tyranny for the rest of us.”

Along with herself, Wolf names the ACLU and other left-wing advocacy groups. These saviors need to be joined by decent Europeans to reverse America’s drift into fascism. If action does not come in time, we will all discover “what a U.S. unrestrained by real democracy at home can mean for the rest of the world.”

How many readers of the Guardian and other Europeans actually believe any of this drivel is hard to say, but some fraction must. Presumably the editors who published it regard it as meritorious. But should Americans accept such insults with equanimity? What choice do we have, except to point out that Naomi Wolf’s case demonstrates once again that the pursuit of writerly fame is a tough business and often requires one to say the most outlandish things? Even so, it would be difficult to imagine anything more reprehensible than Wolf’s latest foray. Her journey from The Beauty Myth to Promiscuities to The Porn Myth to Fascist America, in 10 Easy Steps has been a long way down, and it did not exactly begin in a high place.