UPDATE 06. April 2021: Texas Governor Bans Vaccine Passports with Executive Order. "I have issued an Executive Order that prohibits government-mandated vaccine passports in Texas", stated Texas Governor Greg Abbott. - BUT: Abbott Signs Weak Executive Order That Doesn’t Stop Businesses from Requiring Vaccine Passports
UPDATE 02. April 2021: Florida’s governor bans agencies and businesses from requiring ‘vaccine passports.’
UPDATE 30. March 2021: ‘Huge privacy implications’: Florida Gov. DeSantis vows to ban ‘vaccine passports’ as Biden admin joins forces with Big Tech
UPDATE 01. April 2021: Last Warning: WHY VACCINE PASSPORTS EQUAL SLAVERY FOREVER
UPDATE 05. March 2021: Naomi Wolf: We’ve Reached ‘Step Ten’ of the 10 Steps to Fascism
What are the Ten Steps to Fascism? How Did We Get Here?
|Dr. Naomi Wolf|
I’m updating The End of America and the Ten Steps to Fascism to let you know how we got to be at Step Ten: Suspend the Rule of Law.
The playbook of fascism, I must stress, is nonpartisan, and President Trump did not invent what we are living through now. He merely built upon it. The Ten Steps of Fascism were around long before he was. But turning the Covid-19 pandemic into an opportunity for authoritarianism isn’t just an idea, it’s happening as I laid out in part 1 of this series here.
During the administration of President Obama, I (and several others) warned that Democrats were taking the authoritarian structures built up by George W. Bush, and adding news levels of oppression on the foundation already laid. President Obama was the one who took the unprecedented step of droning to death an American citizen, Anwar Al-Awlaki and his teenage son It was Obama who promised to close Guantanamo as part of his campaign agenda, then built it up a mere six months later, an expansion that I witnessed as a journalist; Obama, again, whose lawyers argued for the right to imprison journalist Chris Hedges without charge or trial, under the 2012 NDAA, a shocking piece of legislation that allows the President to detain anyone indefinitely without due process. It was he who presided over the violent, co-ordinated 2011 crackdown by DHS against the Occupy Wall Street movement, which could have been a dress rehearsal for today’s even more escalated violence against protesters.
The war on whistleblowers intensified under President Obama’s Department of Justice: He subpoenaed reporters such as James Risen. He advanced the prosecution of Chelsea Manning. President Obama went after more people under the Espionage Act than had any previous President, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Examples of his push to build up further the structures of fascism he inherited, could go on and on.
But since he was a telegenic President with an uplifting rhetorical style, not to mention the otherwise inspiring fact that he was our first President of color, these abuses of democratic processes went disregarded by the left and by most mainstream media.
The problem with Fascistic processes and institutions being built up, though, is that then they are there for the next President, the one you don’t like, to use and to abuse. And here we are.
Step Ten of the Ten Steps of Fascism
Obviously, we are in an endgame, a catastrophic slide to lasting authoritarianism, as I documented here.
We have very little time before we reach a point of no return.
As I’ve often pointed out, democracies don’t close arithmetically but geometrically – that is, there is a slow slide during which citizens can indeed turn events in another direction, using democracy itself; but then, in the playbook of fascism, there will be a sudden coordinated shock, after which no return is possible; history shows it’s extraordinarily difficult for a nation or people to retrieve a collapsed democratic civil society that recently had a rule of law. Even then, bloodshed, arrests, suppression and anguish are the future, often for years or generations.
So in the interest of avoiding that at all costs, I am saying what the playbook holds so that we might avoid that desperate future still. I’ll also explain how the very real COVID crisis is being used to move things rapidly along.
Obviously President Trump is familiar with fascism’s playbook and has moved briskly to execute it in three years. He’s not, as the left likes to state, a terrible President. He is a terrible President in a democratic context; he is fantastically effective at turning a democracy into a tyranny and has moved with tremendous skill, speed and strategy to put in place all the elements of a totalitarian society. (I use the terms “fascist” and “totalitarian” interchangeably to stress how much the authoritarian execution of right and left, are identical in techniques and outcomes, though they differ in symbolism).
At the same time as President Trump is moving swiftly through the fascist’s traditional playbook, the left is also seeking authoritarian control, if less efficiently, in mirroring ways.
The Ten Steps to Fascism in the moment of now
President Trump did not have to “Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy,” Step One, as we go down each of the ten steps to Fascism.
When he took office, ISIS was the real and terrifying threat that also was invoked to justify the erasure of our liberties. But since March 2020, the COVID pandemic has served in that useful role for both left and right and, you may notice, has thoroughly eclipsed ISIS fears.
Neither Trump nor Biden needs to create secret violent prisons (Step Two), as Guantanamo is still open; but Trump has turned ICE into a steward of prisons without accountability which even members of Congress cannot enter, and has made a spectacle of separating families, losing children, and leaving people to sleep on hard floors with aluminum blankets – none of which would pass International Red Cross inspection. Bill Moyers noted that agents of Custom and Border Patrol, wearing military uniforms, were deployed violently to constrain protest in Portland and Chicago: ‘Trump is turning the officers of the executive branch into the president’s private army.”
This militarization of domestic police forces and the brutality of incarceration – which started with George W Bush but also escalated under Barack Obama – means that the violent arrest and unaccountable prison experience has come home to our shores.
Step Three involves the use of militias. President Trump has spoken positively of violence and tweeted others’ threats of “civil war.” Indeed at a 2017 rally in Charlottesville, VA, a white nationalist killed a woman and injured 35 other people. President Trump spoke of “very fine people, on both sides.”
Mehdi Hassan of The Intercept lists some of his invitations to violence: “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of ‘em, would you? Seriously. [Crowd cheers.]”
“I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell you.”
“Maybe he should’ve been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting, what he was doing.”
“Try not to hurt ’em. If you do, I’ll defend you in court. Don’t worry about it.”
After armed neofascist groups stormed state capitals to protest the lockdown — “the anti-government militia group Oath Keepers openly threatened any police officers who enforce stay-at-home orders, or try and prevent anti-lockdown rallies” – the President praised as “responsible people” and “very good people.”
Hassan warns: “is this a preview of what’s going to happen in November? Are these right-wing militias — these domestic terrorists — with their guns, and their masks, and their combat gear, and with the encouragement not just of Alex Jones-types on Infowars or Judge Jeanines on Fox News, but also with the encouragement of the man in the White House, will they take to the streets to dispute the presidential election results? Will they riot on behalf of a defeated Trump?”
The left-wing Antifa movement is also extraordinarily violent for an American protest movement, so these violent militias, replete with confirmed infiltrators and provocateurs, exist now on both “sides” of the political divide. But this bilateral violence is also good for would-be tyrants. In a closing society, instability and provocation are both useful to autocrats: these create an excuse for the declaration of a state of emergency and consequent suspension of the rule of law.
Step Four of the ten steps to fascism is to set up an internal surveillance system. The COVID pandemic allows for this with “track and trace”, a development we will address in the second essay.
Step Five, “infiltrate and harass citizens’ groups,” really isn’t necessary any longer, as people gathering in groups can’t be effective now in any long term way. The COVID lockdown has basically suspended citizens’ groups. People can wear masks briefly to gather and protest, but the ban on gatherings of groups of more than six, or more than ten, depending on where you are, pretty much takes care of any effective confidential citizen activism.
Step six is: Engage in arbitrary detention and release. In Portland, “[p]ersonal accounts and multiple videos posted online show the officers driving up to people, detaining individuals with no explanation about why they are being arrested, and driving off.”
Step seven is to target key individuals. Again this step is no longer as necessary, as COVID restrictions really keep new leaders from arising to move populations and keep new ideas from activating groups in any sustained way. But established influencers on the left of center in the UK and the US have been targeted by Cambridge Analytica-type reputational attacks from the right for about a decade. These are multifaceted and include calls to workplaces, legal actions, bots and troll farm attacks and other reputational assaults. Climate scientist Michael Mann describes such rightwing harassment in The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, and Jane Mayer describes it in her book Dirty Money.
The Trump administration goes further, though, and targets individuals in its own government: it targets those who serve in government oversight bodies:
President Trump targets citizens who challenge him: he singled out a Twitter employee who dared to fact-check a tweet of his: He targets individual reports: he used Twitter to imply that TV host Joe Scarborough had murdered a Congressional aide in 2001, which is false.
Fear of retribution for speech chills leadership and dissent in a closing society. But COVID-19 lockdown intensifies this weakening of democracy because new ideas and leaders are constrained from reaching audiences by being dependent on digital algorithms. If the “lockdown” lasts indefinitely, and existing leaders are attacked and undermined, the people will have no one to whom to turn when the final would-be shock, takes place.
Step Eight is to control the press. Pres. Trump has called the press an “enemy of the people” – notably, a Stalinist term, used against Nikolai Bukharin in the 1938 show trial that led to his execution.
President Trump, as we know, assails news outlets as “Fake News” and attains control by such distortions of fact that the press cannot do its traditional job effectively at all, as readers can no longer tell truth from fiction; this is a methodology used by Soviet and now Russian propagandists as well to invalidate the news media.
Step Nine casts criticism as “espionage” and dissent as “treason.” President Trump has charged “a dozen people and entities of treason,” according to The Washington Post, though a total of 30 people has been charged with that capital crime in all of American history. He stated that the Democrats pursuing impeachment hearing should be charged with “treason” and arrested.
Step Ten is: Subvert the rule of law, and replace it with martial or military law.
We are here. This is the last step, the endgame of every bid for authoritarian power. I will tell you in this series of essays, just what we can expect for the next two months and ten days, and after that.
And I will explain how the COVID-19 pandemic hastens this closing of democracy, and helps the autocrats.
Socialist dictators have learned from one another over time and developed a blueprint for closing down an open society.
The 10 essential steps the state must implement to take total control are:
1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy.
2. Create secret prisons where torture takes place.
3. Develop a thug caste or paramilitary force not answerable to citizens.
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. Treat all political dissidents as traitors.
10. Suspend the rule of law.
How many of these have happened or is happening in America right now?
In her book, The End of America, American author and political consultant Naomi Wolf, outlines the general parallels you see above, as well as many chilling details of comparison of what occurred in the despotic takeover of societies and what is happening to America right now.
The full length documentary film based on her book is a must-see for all Americans.
BREAKING: Abbott Signs Weak Executive Order That Doesn’t Stop Businesses from Requiring Vaccine Passports
By Jack Hadfield - 06. April 2021
Nursing homes and elder care facilities are also exempt from the order
Texas Governor Greg Abbott seemingly “banned” vaccine passports with an executive order today, yet private businesses can still require whatever documentation they choose.
Governor Abbott announced the executive order on Tuesday, noting that 13 million doses of the COVID vaccine have already been given in Texas, claiming that a “return to normalcy” was permitted via taking the vaccine. Abbott noted that the vaccines are meant to be “voluntary, and never forced,” and that “government should not require any Texan to show proof of vaccination and require private health information just to go about their daily lives.”
“We will continue to vaccinate more Texans and protect public health, and we will do so without treading on Texans’s personal freedoms,” Abbott said in a video released along with the executive order.
Early media reports claimed that Abbott has therefore “banned” vaccine passports, but this couldn’t be further from the case. Last week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis actually banned vaccine passports, whereby Florida government agencies are prevented from issuing passports, and “businesses in Florida are prohibited from requiring patrons or customers to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or post-transmission recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or service from the business,” with businesses being made to comply with this order.
In contrast, Abbott’s order merely prevents government-mandated vaccine passports, with the vast majority of private businesses remaining unaffected. Only private businesses that received government money are prevented from requiring vaccine passports, meaning it would be almost impossible for the average citizen to know if a business that requires a vaccine passport is in compliance with the executive order or not. Nursing homes and elder care facilities are exempt regardless of their public or private status.
National File reported that the Biden administration’s plan for vaccine passports will also be conducted almost primarily through the private sector. In short, the government and doctors will give private health information to a private company, acting as a third party, who will then allow this information to be shared via an app or printed out slip of paper. It is also therefore unclear whether such a vaccine passport program would be affected by Abbott’s order.
Abbott has come under fire from conservatives recently for various decisions, including falsely labelling free speech social media platform Gab as “anti-semitic,” and allowing Chinese Communists to profit from his green energy policies.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order Tuesday morning banning the creation or use of a “vaccine passport.” It prohibits state agencies or political subdivisions in Texas from creating a “vaccine passport” or conditioning services on a person’s COVID-19 vaccination status.
“Everyday, Texans are returning to normal life as more people get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. But, as I’ve said all along, these vaccines are always voluntary and never forced,” Governor Abbott said in a video announcing the order. “Government should not require any Texan to show proof of vaccination and reveal private health information just to go about their daily lives.”
“That is why I have issued an Executive Order that prohibits government-mandated vaccine passports in Texas,” the Texas governor continued. “We will continue to vaccinate more Texans and protect public health — and we will do so without treading on Texans’ personal freedoms.”
Abbott stressed the importance of vaccines in reducing the spread of COVID-19 and the reduction of serious illness resulting in hospitalizations and fatalities.
The Lone Star State is on pace to have administered more than 13 million vaccine doses by the end of this week, the governor explained.
“We will continue to vaccinate more Texans and protect public health,” Abbott concluded, “and we will do so without treading on Texans’ personal freedoms.”
In addition to impacting state agencies and local governments, the executive order also applies to any public or private entity that is receiving or will receive public funds through any means from requiring the presentation of vaccination status from consumers before rendering services.
Nursing homes, state-supported living centers, assisted living facilities, and long-term care facilities are allowed to continue requiring documentation of vaccination status.
Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior news contributor for the Breitbart Texas-Border team. He is an original member of the Breitbart Texas team. Price is a regular panelist on Fox 26 Houston’s What’s Your Point? Sunday-morning talk show. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX and Face
Florida’s governor bans agencies and businesses from requiring ‘vaccine passports.’
Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, issued an executive order on Friday prohibiting businesses from requiring patrons or customers to show vaccine documentation, or risk losing grants or contracts funded by the state. It was not immediately clear how the order applied to state and local government agencies.
Requiring proof of vaccination, the order says, would “reduce individual freedom” and “harm patient privacy,” as well as “create two classes of citizens based on vaccination.”
There has been much discussion about vaccine passports, a way to show proof that someone has been vaccinated against the coronavirus, though the passports raise daunting political, ethical and privilege questions. The Biden administration has made clear that it will neither issue nor require the passports, but Republicans have seized on the issue as an example of government overreach.
Mr. DeSantis is seizing on this theme, as the Biden administration tries to set standards for the many private companies that are developing apps and other means of digital verification of coronavirus vaccination. One of Mr. Biden’s executive orders aimed at curbing the virus crisis called for government agencies to “assess the feasibility of linking Covid-19 vaccination to International Certificates of Vaccination or Prophylaxis” and creating electronic versions of them. A wide range of businesses, especially cruise lines and airlines, are eager to have a way for their customers to show proof of vaccination, especially as the number of new virus cases rises across the country.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday that about 101.8 million people — nearly one-third of the total U.S. population — had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. As of Friday, an average of nearly three million shots a day were being administered, according to data reported by the C.D.C.
“It’s completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply be able to participate in normal society,” Mr. DeSantis said at a news conference on Monday.
Some other Republican governors have also come out against the passport concept. Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska issued a statement Wednesday saying that the state would not participate in any vaccine passport program, and Gov. Mike Parson of Missouri told reporters Thursday that he would not require vaccine passports in the state but was also not opposed to private companies adopting them.
The C.D.C. has issued guidance for fully vaccinated people that allows for the resumption of some activities in private settings. And on Friday, the agency said fully vaccinated Americans can travel “at low risk to themselves,” though federal health officials have urged people not to travel at all, unless they absolutely must.
In New York, however, the state recently introduced a digital tool to allow people to easily show that they have either tested negative for the coronavirus or have been vaccinated in order to gain entry into some events and venues.
Walmart, last month, joined an international effort to provide standardized digital vaccination credentials to people. The company joins a push already backed by major health centers and tech companies including Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce, Cerner, Epic Systems, the Mitre Corporation and the Mayo Clinic.
Some colleges and universities have also begun setting vaccine requirements for the next school year. Cornell University issued a statement on Friday saying that vaccinations would be required for in-person attendance in the fall, and Rutgers University in New Jersey said last week that all students would need to be fully vaccinated to be allowed to return to campus in the fall, baring religious or medical reasons.
Mr. DeSantis’s order is likely to draw legal challenges, raising questions about the impact of two Supreme Court decisions. InJacobson v. Massachusetts, the high court in 1905 upheld the authority of states to enforce compulsory vaccination laws. That ruling for more than a century has let public schools require proof of vaccinations of its students, with some exceptions for religious objections.
In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who had refused to create a wedding cake for a gay couple on narrow grounds, and other courts have struggled with how to balance state laws barring discrimination against constitutional rights like free speech and the free exercise of religion. It is not clear that Florida businesses could invoke a constitutional right to refuse to comply with the new measure.
Some venues and events in Florida had already made plans to require vaccinations. The Miami Heat basketball team said it would give prime seating to vaccinated fans. The South Beach Wine & Food Festival said it would require proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test to attend. Nova Southeastern Universitysaid it would mandate vaccinations for all faculty and staff members as of Aug. 1 to participate in on-campus learning.
It was not immediately clear on Friday what those businesses would do in response to the governor’s order.
Patricia Mazzei is the Miami bureau chief, covering Florida and Puerto Rico. Before joining The Times, she was the political writer for The Miami Herald. She was born and raised in Venezuela, and is bilingual in Spanish. @PatriciaMazzei • Facebook
Sheryl Gay Stolberg is a Washington Correspondent covering health policy. In more than two decades at The Times, she has also covered the White House, Congress and national politics. Previously, at The Los Angeles Times, she shared in two Pulitzer Prizes won by that newspaper’s Metro staff. @SherylNYT
Eileen Sullivan joined The Times in 2017 and covers news about the White House and Capitol Hill. Previously, she spent a decade at The Associated Press, where she and three other A.P. reporters won a Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for their work revealing the New York Police Department's Muslim spying programs. @esullivannyt
‘Huge privacy implications’: Florida Gov. DeSantis vows to ban ‘vaccine passports’ as Biden admin joins forces with Big Tech
By RT - 30. March 2021
New York's 'Excelsior Pass,' the first vaccine passport launched in the US, is seen in a promotional photo. © New York Governor's office / handout
Governor Ron DeSantis said he will take executive action to ban ‘vaccine passports’ across Florida, blasting the concept as invasive and unnecessary as the White House takes a bigger role in organizing private-sector Covid passes.
“It’s completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply participate in normal society,” the governor said during a Monday press briefing, adding “You’re going to do this and what, give all this information to some big corporation?”
You want the fox to guard the hen house? I mean give me a break. I think this is something that has huge privacy implications. It is not necessary to do.
While DeSantis argued it is important to continue Florida’s vaccine rollout, especially for the elderly and other vulnerable groups, he said “at the same time, we are not going to have you provide proof of this just to be able to live your life normally. I’m going to be taking some action in an executive function, emergency function, here shortly.”
In addition to the executive order, the governor said he would also ask state lawmakers to craft legislation to permanently ban all vaccine passport schemes, but provided few details.
Earlier on Monday, New York became the first state in the US to launch its own coronavirus passport program, dubbed the Excelsior Pass. Users will be given a unique code linked to their medical records, which can be displayed through a smartphone app or a paper print-out in order to gain entry to certain businesses or event venues. The passes will reportedly not reveal detailed medical history, but only whether the user has been vaccinated or the last time they were tested for the virus.
While New York has not mandated the use of the passes themselves, the state does require large venues to prove that attendees tested negative within 72 hours of an event. Governor Andrew Cuomo has argued the tech, developed by IBM, will smooth out that process and move New York “one step closer to reaching a new normal.”
The debut of the Excelsior Pass follows reports that the White House is stepping up its involvement in a number of private initiatives for similar passports. Asked about federal participation in those projects on Monday, senior White House Covid-19 adviser Andy Slavitt downplayed the administration’s role, saying it is not the government’s place “to create a passport, nor a place to hold the data of citizens.”
“We view this as something that the private sector is doing and will do,” he said, adding that the administration will merely oversee the initiatives to ensure they follow certain “guidelines,” such as “equitable access” and the “privacy of information.” He predicted the passports will reach “all parts of society.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki echoed Slavitt’s comments later on Monday, saying the passports will be “driven by the private sector” and that the government would focus on “guidelines that can be used as a basis.”
“There are a couple key principles that we are working from. One is that there will be no centralized, universal federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential,” Psaki added.
However, while both officials stressed that the passports will remain fully within the private sector, a recent report in the Washington Post suggested the federal government is more involved than Slavitt or Psaki let on. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for example, is set to not only “help advise” on the passport rollout, but will also “play a role in determining which organizations will credential and issue the certificates,” according to the Post.
Biden’s Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology recently argued that proof of vaccination “may be a critical driver for restoring baseline population health and promoting safe return to social, commercial, and leisure activities,” according to presentation slides obtained by the Post. The agency went on to warn that a “chaotic and ineffective vaccine credential approach” could hamper the federal pandemic response and “undermine public trust,”suggesting the administration is taking a keen interest in the vaccine passes.
At an event earlier this month, the national coordinator for health IT, Micky Tripathi, raised concerns that the passports could make people feel “like they can’t participate in the return of their day-to-day activities,” suggesting they be “accessible to everyone so no one is left behind.”
Similar worries have been voiced by a number of Republican lawmakers, such as Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, who told Fox News that vaccine credentials “would be a complete government overstep,” adding “individuals in America have a personal responsibility for their health.”
Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert dismissed the passport idea as “unconstitutional. Period,” while freshman North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn took his criticism much further, saying “proposals like these smack of 1940s Nazi Germany.”
“We must make every effort to keep America from becoming a ‘show me your papers’ society,”Cawthorn told Fox.
Other GOP skeptics accused Democrats of hypocrisy, pointing to widespread opposition in the party to voter ID laws and stricter measures at the border with Mexico.
“Considering that Democrats want to require vaccine IDs for people to conduct their basic daily activities, they now have zero grounds to object to voter ID laws,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise told Fox.
Rep. Jim Jordan, ranking member in the House Judiciary Committee, said the Biden administration will support the vaccine pass initiative, yet at the same time “doesn’t seem to care about passports when it comes to illegal migrants crossing the southern border.”
As the private sector presses ahead on a patchwork of coronavirus passport plans – at least 17 of which are already underway in the US, according to the Post – some governments have mulled producing official passes. Israel and Denmark launched their own programs last month, while Japan and China followed suit more recently. The European Union is also developing a vaccine passport, with many member states eager to revive travel and tourism after a year of financially ruinous shutdowns, though bloc officials don’t expect the program to be ready until summer.
WHY VACCINE PASSPORTS EQUAL SLAVERY FOREVER
By NAOMI WOLF - 01. April 2021
"I've been warning everyone since 2008 that we could slip into a Fascist reality and the vaccine passports really are the last step. And as someone said today it's the hill worth dying on, or the last fight we have to fight because once the vaccine passports are accepted, there is no more resistance, there is no more choice"
"The vaccine passport platform is the same platform as a social credit system."
Make sure to watch and share this video!
Naomi Wolf: We’ve Reached ‘Step Ten’ of the 10 Steps to Fascism
05. March 2021
In her 2008 book, “End of America,” Naomi Wolf outlined the 10 steps those in power use to close down democracies. Sadly, she writes today, as governments use the pandemic to justify the suppression of civil rights, America is now in the throes of “Step Ten.”
In 2008, I wrote a book, “The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot.” In it I warned, based on my study of closing democracies in 20th century history, that America needed to beware of an all-too-possible slide into totalitarianism.
I warned that would-be tyrants, whether they are on the left or the right, always use a map to close down democracies, and that they always take the same ten steps.
Whether they “Invoke an External and Internal Threat” or “Develop a Paramilitary Force” or “Restrict the Press” or the final step, “Subvert the Rule of Law, these steps are always recognizable — and they always work to crush democracies and establish tyrannies. At the time that I wrote the book, the “global threat” of terrorism was the specter that powers invoked in order to attack our freedoms.
The book was widely read and discussed, both at the time of its publication and over the last 12 years. Periodically over the last decade, people would ask me when and if we had reached “Step Ten.”
We — my brave publisher, Chelsea Green, and I — are releasing videos of me reading the first and last chapters (see videos below) of “The End of America” now, in 2021, for free. And I am calling the sequel to this book, which I am now writing, “Step Ten” — because as of March of last year, we have indeed, I am so sad to say, arrived at and begun to inhabit “Step Ten” of the 10 steps to fascism.
Though in 2008, I did not explicitly foresee that a medical pandemic would be the vehicle for moving the entire globe into “Step Ten,” I have at various points warned of the dangers of medical crises as vehicles that tyranny can exploit to justify suppressions of civil rights.
Today, a much-hyped medical crisis has taken on the role of being used as a pretext to strip us all of core freedoms, that fears of terrorism did not, despite 20 years of effort, ultimately achieve.
In 2015, I was widely mocked in mainstream news outlets for warning about the hysteria that accompanied Ebola reporting, and I cautioned then that infectious diseases could be used as a justification for ushering in the suppression of liberties, always under the guise of emergency measures.
In 2020, I showed in my book, “Outrages: Sex, Censorship and the Criminalization of Love,” how infectious disease epidemics, such as cholera and typhus, had been exploited in the 19th century by the British state in order to crush freedoms and invade people’s privacy. I wrote about how the first anti-vaccination movementsarose among British parents in the Victorian period.
That book was initially cancelled, and its message of warning continues to be assailed. But that book, too, was prescient: In early March of 2020, of course, a global pandemic was announced — COVID-19.
In the immediate wake of the announcement and narrativization of that pandemic, most of the elements of a locked-in, 360-degree totalitarianism have been put into place in most of the countries of the West, including in what had been robust democracies. It all happened very quickly and comprehensively.
In the U.S. we now have:
- Emergency measures in many states, which suspend due process of law. This is the hallmark of a police state. COVID-19 is invoked as the reason for the introduction of emergency law — but there is no endpoint for lifting these emergency laws.
- The closures of schools, which break the social contract with the next generation.
- Bills being passed for “vaccine passports,” which bypass the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution by allowing the government and Big Techcompanies to intrude on medical privacy, and to create a comprehensive digital surveillance state. (Indeed, the fact that tech stocks rose by 27% each quarter of the pandemic shows one driver of this war against the human: Every minute human beings spend in a classroom, at the pub or restaurant or in a church or synagogue, is time that tech companies lose money by being unable to harvest that data. COVID-19 policies driven by “COVID-19 Response” — actually, by Big Tech companies — ensure that humans are not allowed to connect except via digital platforms. The reason is profit as well as social control).
- Forced closures of businesses. By intervening directly in the economy and allowing certain businesses to flourish (Amazon, Walmart, Target) at the expense of small businesses, Main Street shops, restaurants and sole proprietor businesses in general, the State has merged government and corporations in a way that is characteristic of Italian fascism and modern Chinese communism.
- Restrictions on assembly. Some states such as California are fining people for seeing their friends in their homes, and making it unlawful for kids to have playdates with their friends. Massachusetts restricted gatherings of more than 10 people at a time, forcing synagogues and churches to stay closed, in spite of a Supreme Court ruling against states forcing churches to close. Parks and playgrounds and beaches have been closed. In countries such as Britain, people are fined for leaving their homes for more than an hour’s exercise a day.
- Forced face coverings. In Massachusetts, people are fined if they are not wearing masks outdoors — even children as young as 5 are forced to do so by law. Again, this mandate has not been undergirded by peer-reviewed studies showing medical necessity. And there is no endpoint proffered for these extraordinary violations of personal freedom.
- Suppression of free speech. Big Tech companies are censoring critics of COVID-19 policy and vaccine policy, as well as censoring views that are on the right hand of the political spectrum. Incitement, a word that has a long history in the 20th century for closing down free speech, has been weaponized by the left to shut down First Amendment freedoms of expression. In other forms of censorship and management of speech and public debate, tycoons such as Bill Gates have been funding major news outlets, with millions of dollars directed to “COVID-19 education.” As a result, dissenting voices are marginalized and shamed, or even threatened with legal action or job losses.
- Science being hijacked in the interests of “biofascism.” By heavily funding scientific commentators such as Dr. Fauci in the United States, Imperial College and SAGE in the U.K. and Dr. Christian Drosten in Germany, a dominant set of policies and pronouncements about COVID-19 that benefit a small group of bad actors — notably tech and pharmaceutical interests, acting in concert with governments — have built an army of secured, credentialled supporters. But when other scientists or institutions seek debate or transparency, they are threatened with job loss or are reputationally attacked, as in the case of Dr. Simon Goddeke of the Netherlands, who was told to keep quiet by his university when he challenge the flawed COVID-19 PCR test protocols.
- Data being hijacked to serve the interests of this biofascism. This manipulation of truth, which I foreshadowed in “The End of America,” is typical of the Soviet censors. COVID-19 platforms such as the COVID Tracking Projectand Johns Hopkins University, funded by technocrats such as Michael Bloomberg, serve unverifiable COVID-19 data that directly affect the stock markets. Again, while this un-American merger of corporate interests and public policy is reminiscent of Italian fascism, the twist provided by digital data presentation and its relationship to the stock market is very much of the 21st century.
- Attacks on religious minorities. The orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn and Christian churches in California have been singled out for punishment if they do not follow COVID-19 rules — a targeting of religion that is characteristic of communist policies on the left, especially in China.
- Policies that weaken bonds between human beings and weaken the family being introduced and policed. This is the most serious development of all.
The new biofascism, very much driven by Big Tech leaders, is a war against human beings and the qualities that make us human.
Masks break human beings’ ability to bond face to face and enjoy human contact, smiles and jokes. Masks turn down the effectiveness of human “technology,” essentially, by making it hard for us to “read” each other and to pick up social cues.
Forbidding assembly keeps us from forming human alliances against these monstrous interests. Forbidding human assembly also prevents new cultures, new heroes and new business models from arising. We are all stuck with the Rolodex and the ideas we had in March of 2019.
Forcing kids to distance at school and wear masks ensures a generation of Americans who don’t know how to form human alliances, and who don’t trust their own human instincts. Those are counterrevolutionary training techniques.
Driving all learning onto (already prepared) distance-learning platforms ensures that kids do not know how to behave in human space, space not mediated by technology.
Many COVID-19 policies seem designed to ensure that humans will have no “analog” space or “analog” culture left — no way to feel comfortable simply gathering in a room, touching one another as friends or allies, or joining together.
Lastly, driving all human interaction onto Zoom (which is a window for the Communist China Party, as China owns the platform) is not only a way to harvest all of our tech, business secrets and IP, it is a way to ensure that intimacy and connection in the future will be done online and that human face-to-face contact will be killed off.
Why is this? Why develop policies that punish, encumber and restrict human contact in analog (un-surveilled, unmediated) spaces?
Because human contact is the great revolutionary force when it comes to human freedom and resistance to this form of comprehensive biofascism — the biofascism represented by the New Normal — the medico-fascist “Step Ten.”
Now let me recap from the year 2008, and read you my intro to “The End of America”, as well as the warning at the close of that book. Its message has never, sadly, been more timely. This time, the threats to freedom that were then justified by terrorism, have re-clothed themselves in the trappings of a medical pandemic.
But this time we do not just face a war on freedom. This time we face a war on human beings, and on all that makes us human.
Watch Naomi Wolf read the introduction to “The End of America”
Watch Chapter 1
Watch Chapter 11
Fascist America in 10 easy steps
From Hitler to Pinochet and beyond, history shows there are certain steps that any would-be dictator must take to destroy constitutional freedoms. And, argues Naomi Wolf, George Bush and his administration seem to be taking them all
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 recognise 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 realise.
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.
1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
After we were hit on September 11 2001, we were in a state of national shock. Less than six weeks later, on October 26 2001, the USA Patriot Act was passed by a Congress that had little chance to debate it; many said that they scarcely had time to read it. We were told we were now on a "war footing"; we were in a "global war" against a "global caliphate" intending to "wipe out civilisation". There have been other times of crisis in which the US accepted limits on civil liberties, such as during the civil war, when Lincoln declared martial law, and the second world war, when thousands of Japanese-American citizens were interned. But this situation, as Bruce Fein of the American Freedom Agenda notes, is unprecedented: all our other wars had an endpoint, so the pendulum was able to swing back toward freedom; this war is defined as open-ended in time and without national boundaries in space - the globe itself is the battlefield. "This time," Fein says, "there will be no defined end."
Creating a terrifying threat - hydra-like, secretive, evil - is an old trick. It can, like Hitler's invocation of a communist threat to the nation's security, be based on actual events (one Wisconsin academic has faced calls for his dismissal because he noted, among other things, that the alleged communist arson, the Reichstag fire of February 1933, was swiftly followed in Nazi Germany by passage of the Enabling Act, which replaced constitutional law with an open-ended state of emergency). Or the terrifying threat can be based, like the National Socialist evocation of the "global conspiracy of world Jewry", on myth.
It is not that global Islamist terrorism is not a severe danger; of course it is. I am arguing rather that the language used to convey the nature of the threat is different in a country such as Spain - which has also suffered violent terrorist attacks - than it is in America. Spanish citizens know that they face a grave security threat; what we as American citizens believe is that we are potentially threatened with the end of civilisation as we know it. Of course, this makes us more willing to accept restrictions on our freedoms.
2. Create a gulag
Once you have got everyone scared, the next step is to create a prison system outside the rule of law (as Bush put it, he wanted the American detention centre at Guantánamo Bay to be situated in legal "outer space") - where torture takes place.
At first, the people who are sent there are seen by citizens as outsiders: troublemakers, spies, "enemies of the people" or "criminals". Initially, citizens tend to support the secret prison system; it makes them feel safer and they do not identify with the prisoners. But soon enough, civil society leaders - opposition members, labour activists, clergy and journalists - are arrested and sent there as well.
This process took place in fascist shifts or anti-democracy crackdowns ranging from Italy and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s to the Latin American coups of the 1970s and beyond. It is standard practice for closing down an open society or crushing a pro-democracy uprising.
With its jails in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, of course, Guantánamo in Cuba, where detainees are abused, and kept indefinitely without trial and without access to the due process of the law, America certainly has its gulag now. Bush and his allies in Congress recently announced they would issue no information about the secret CIA "black site" prisons throughout the world, which are used to incarcerate people who have been seized off the street.
Gulags in history tend to metastasise, becoming ever larger and more secretive, ever more deadly and formalised. We know from first-hand accounts, photographs, videos and government documents that people, innocent and guilty, have been tortured in the US-run prisons we are aware of and those we can't investigate adequately.
But Americans still assume this system and detainee abuses involve only scary brown people with whom they don't generally identify. It was brave of the conservative pundit William Safire to quote the anti-Nazi pastor Martin Niemöller, who had been seized as a political prisoner: "First they came for the Jews." Most Americans don't understand yet that the destruction of the rule of law at Guantánamo set a dangerous precedent for them, too.
By the way, the establishment of military tribunals that deny prisoners due process tends to come early on in a fascist shift. Mussolini and Stalin set up such tribunals. On April 24 1934, the Nazis, too, set up the People's Court, which also bypassed the judicial system: prisoners were held indefinitely, often in isolation, and tortured, without being charged with offences, and were subjected to show trials. Eventually, the Special Courts became a parallel system that put pressure on the regular courts to abandon the rule of law in favour of Nazi ideology when making decisions.
3. Develop a thug caste
When leaders who seek what I call a "fascist shift" want to close down an open society, they send paramilitary groups of scary young men out to terrorise citizens. The Blackshirts roamed the Italian countryside beating up communists; the Brownshirts staged violent rallies throughout Germany. This paramilitary force is especially important in a democracy: you need citizens to fear thug violence and so you need thugs who are free from prosecution.
The years following 9/11 have proved a bonanza for America's security contractors, with the Bush administration outsourcing areas of work that traditionally fell to the US military. In the process, contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been issued for security work by mercenaries at home and abroad. In Iraq, some of these contract operatives have been accused of involvement in torturing prisoners, harassing journalists and firing on Iraqi civilians. Under Order 17, issued to regulate contractors in Iraq by the one-time US administrator in Baghdad, Paul Bremer, these contractors are immune from prosecution
Yes, but that is in Iraq, you could argue; however, after Hurricane Katrina, the Department of Homeland Security hired and deployed hundreds of armed private security guards in New Orleans. The investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill interviewed one unnamed guard who reported having fired on unarmed civilians in the city. It was a natural disaster that underlay that episode - but the administration's endless war on terror means ongoing scope for what are in effect privately contracted armies to take on crisis and emergency management at home in US cities.
Thugs in America? Groups of angry young Republican men, dressed in identical shirts and trousers, menaced poll workers counting the votes in Florida in 2000. If you are reading history, you can imagine that there can be a need for "public order" on the next election day. Say there are protests, or a threat, on the day of an election; history would not rule out the presence of a private security firm at a polling station "to restore public order".
4. Set up an internal surveillance system
In Mussolini's Italy, in Nazi Germany, in communist East Germany, in communist China - in every closed society - secret police spy on ordinary people and encourage neighbours to spy on neighbours. The Stasi needed to keep only a minority of East Germans under surveillance to convince a majority that they themselves were being watched.
In 2005 and 2006, when James Risen and Eric Lichtblau wrote in the New York Times about a secret state programme to wiretap citizens' phones, read their emails and follow international financial transactions, it became clear to ordinary Americans that they, too, could be under state scrutiny.
In closed societies, this surveillance is cast as being about "national security"; the true function is to keep citizens docile and inhibit their activism and dissent.
5. Harass citizens' groups
The fifth thing you do is related to step four - you infiltrate and harass citizens' groups. It can be trivial: a church in Pasadena, whose minister preached that Jesus was in favour of peace, found itself being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, while churches that got Republicans out to vote, which is equally illegal under US tax law, have been left alone.
Other harassment is more serious: the American Civil Liberties Union reports that thousands of ordinary American anti-war, environmental and other groups have been infiltrated by agents: a secret Pentagon database includes more than four dozen peaceful anti-war meetings, rallies or marches by American citizens in its category of 1,500 "suspicious incidents". The equally secret Counterintelligence Field Activity (Cifa) agency of the Department of Defense has been gathering information about domestic organisations engaged in peaceful political activities: Cifa is supposed to track "potential terrorist threats" as it watches ordinary US citizen activists. A little-noticed new law has redefined activism such as animal rights protests as "terrorism". So the definition of "terrorist" slowly expands to include the opposition.
6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
This scares people. It is a kind of cat-and-mouse game. Nicholas D Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, the investigative reporters who wrote China Wakes: the Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power, describe pro-democracy activists in China, such as Wei Jingsheng, being arrested and released many times. In a closing or closed society there is a "list" of dissidents and opposition leaders: you are targeted in this way once you are on the list, and it is hard to get off the list.
In 2004, America's Transportation Security Administration confirmed that it had a list of passengers who were targeted for security searches or worse if they tried to fly. People who have found themselves on the list? Two middle-aged women peace activists in San Francisco; liberal Senator Edward Kennedy; a member of Venezuela's government - after Venezuela's president had criticised Bush; and thousands of ordinary US citizens.
Professor Walter F Murphy is emeritus of Princeton University; he is one of the foremost constitutional scholars in the nation and author of the classic Constitutional Democracy. Murphy is also a decorated former marine, and he is not even especially politically liberal. But on March 1 this year, he was denied a boarding pass at Newark, "because I was on the Terrorist Watch list".
"Have you been in any peace marches? We ban a lot of people from flying because of that," asked the airline employee.
"I explained," said Murphy, "that I had not so marched but had, in September 2006, given a lecture at Princeton, televised and put on the web, highly critical of George Bush for his many violations of the constitution."
"That'll do it," the man said.
Anti-war marcher? Potential terrorist. Support the constitution? Potential terrorist. History shows that the categories of "enemy of the people" tend to expand ever deeper into civil life.
James Yee, a US citizen, was the Muslim chaplain at Guantánamo who was accused of mishandling classified documents. He was harassed by the US military before the charges against him were dropped. Yee has been detained and released several times. He is still of interest.
Brandon Mayfield, a US citizen and lawyer in Oregon, was mistakenly identified as a possible terrorist. His house was secretly broken into and his computer seized. Though he is innocent of the accusation against him, he is still on the list.
It is a standard practice of fascist societies that once you are on the list, you can't get off.
7. Target key individuals
Threaten civil servants, artists and academics with job loss if they don't toe the line. Mussolini went after the rectors of state universities who did not conform to the fascist line; so did Joseph Goebbels, who purged academics who were not pro-Nazi; so did Chile's Augusto Pinochet; so does the Chinese communist Politburo in punishing pro-democracy students and professors.
Academe is a tinderbox of activism, so those seeking a fascist shift punish academics and students with professional loss if they do not "coordinate", in Goebbels' term, ideologically. Since civil servants are the sector of society most vulnerable to being fired by a given regime, they are also a group that fascists typically "coordinate" early on: the Reich Law for the Re-establishment of a Professional Civil Service was passed on April 7 1933.
Bush supporters in state legislatures in several states put pressure on regents at state universities to penalise or fire academics who have been critical of the administration. As for civil servants, the Bush administration has derailed the career of one military lawyer who spoke up for fair trials for detainees, while an administration official publicly intimidated the law firms that represent detainees pro bono by threatening to call for their major corporate clients to boycott them.
Elsewhere, a CIA contract worker who said in a closed blog that "waterboarding is torture" was stripped of the security clearance she needed in order to do her job.
Most recently, the administration purged eight US attorneys for what looks like insufficient political loyalty. When Goebbels purged the civil service in April 1933, attorneys were "coordinated" too, a step that eased the way of the increasingly brutal laws to follow.
8. Control the press
Italy in the 1920s, Germany in the 30s, East Germany in the 50s, Czechoslovakia in the 60s, the Latin American dictatorships in the 70s, China in the 80s and 90s - all dictatorships and would-be dictators target newspapers and journalists. They threaten and harass them in more open societies that they are seeking to close, and they arrest them and worse in societies that have been closed already.
The Committee to Protect Journalists says arrests of US journalists are at an all-time high: Josh Wolf (no relation), a blogger in San Francisco, has been put in jail for a year for refusing to turn over video of an anti-war demonstration; Homeland Security brought a criminal complaint against reporter Greg Palast, claiming he threatened "critical infrastructure" when he and a TV producer were filming victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. Palast had written a bestseller critical of the Bush administration.
Other reporters and writers have been punished in other ways. Joseph C Wilson accused Bush, in a New York Times op-ed, of leading the country to war on the basis of a false charge that Saddam Hussein had acquired yellowcake uranium in Niger. His wife, Valerie Plame, was outed as a CIA spy - a form of retaliation that ended her career.
Prosecution and job loss are nothing, though, compared with how the US is treating journalists seeking to cover the conflict in Iraq in an unbiased way. The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented multiple accounts of the US military in Iraq firing upon or threatening to fire upon unembedded (meaning independent) reporters and camera operators from organisations ranging from al-Jazeera to the BBC. While westerners may question the accounts by al-Jazeera, they should pay attention to the accounts of reporters such as the BBC's Kate Adie. In some cases reporters have been wounded or killed, including ITN's Terry Lloyd in 2003. Both CBS and the Associated Press in Iraq had staff members seized by the US military and taken to violent prisons; the news organisations were unable to see the evidence against their staffers.
Over time in closing societies, real news is supplanted by fake news and false documents. Pinochet showed Chilean citizens falsified documents to back up his claim that terrorists had been about to attack the nation. The yellowcake charge, too, was based on forged papers.
You won't have a shutdown of news in modern America - it is not possible. But you can have, as Frank Rich and Sidney Blumenthal have pointed out, a steady stream of lies polluting the news well. What you already have is a White House directing a stream of false information that is so relentless that it is increasingly hard to sort out truth from untruth. In a fascist system, it's not the lies that count but the muddying. When citizens can't tell real news from fake, they give up their demands for accountability bit by bit.
9. Dissent equals treason
Cast dissent as "treason" and criticism as "espionage'. Every closing society does this, just as it elaborates laws that increasingly criminalise certain kinds of speech and expand the definition of "spy" and "traitor". When Bill Keller, the publisher of the New York Times, ran the Lichtblau/Risen stories, Bush called the Times' leaking of classified information "disgraceful", while Republicans in Congress called for Keller to be charged with treason, and rightwing commentators and news outlets kept up the "treason" drumbeat. Some commentators, as Conason noted, reminded readers smugly that one penalty for violating the Espionage Act is execution.
Conason is right to note how serious a threat that attack represented. It is also important to recall that the 1938 Moscow show trial accused the editor of Izvestia, Nikolai Bukharin, of treason; Bukharin was, in fact, executed. And it is important to remind Americans that when the 1917 Espionage Act was last widely invoked, during the infamous 1919 Palmer Raids, leftist activists were arrested without warrants in sweeping roundups, kept in jail for up to five months, and "beaten, starved, suffocated, tortured and threatened with death", according to the historian Myra MacPherson. After that, dissent was muted in America for a decade.
In Stalin's Soviet Union, dissidents were "enemies of the people". National Socialists called those who supported Weimar democracy "November traitors".
And here is where the circle closes: most Americans do not realise that since September of last year - when Congress wrongly, foolishly, passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 - the president has the power to call any US citizen an "enemy combatant". He has the power to define what "enemy combatant" means. The president can also delegate to anyone he chooses in the executive branch the right to define "enemy combatant" any way he or she wants and then seize Americans accordingly.
Even if you or I are American citizens, even if we turn out to be completely innocent of what he has accused us of doing, he has the power to have us seized as we are changing planes at Newark tomorrow, or have us taken with a knock on the door; ship you or me to a navy brig; and keep you or me in isolation, possibly for months, while awaiting trial. (Prolonged isolation, as psychiatrists know, triggers psychosis in otherwise mentally healthy prisoners. That is why Stalin's gulag had an isolation cell, like Guantánamo's, in every satellite prison. Camp 6, the newest, most brutal facility at Guantánamo, is all isolation cells.)
We US citizens will get a trial eventually - for now. But legal rights activists at the Center for Constitutional Rights say that the Bush administration is trying increasingly aggressively to find ways to get around giving even US citizens fair trials. "Enemy combatant" is a status offence - it is not even something you have to have done. "We have absolutely moved over into a preventive detention model - you look like you could do something bad, you might do something bad, so we're going to hold you," says a spokeswoman of the CCR.
Most Americans surely do not get this yet. No wonder: it is hard to believe, even though it is true. In every closing society, at a certain point there are some high-profile arrests - usually of opposition leaders, clergy and journalists. Then everything goes quiet. After those arrests, there are still newspapers, courts, TV and radio, and the facades of a civil society. There just isn't real dissent. There just isn't freedom. If you look at history, just before those arrests is where we are now.
10. Suspend the rule of law
The John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 gave the president new powers over the national guard. This means that in a national emergency - which the president now has enhanced powers to declare - he can send Michigan's militia to enforce a state of emergency that he has declared in Oregon, over the objections of the state's governor and its citizens.
Even as Americans were focused on Britney Spears's meltdown and the question of who fathered Anna Nicole's baby, the New York Times editorialised about this shift: "A disturbing recent phenomenon in Washington is that laws that strike to the heart of American democracy have been passed in the dead of night ... Beyond actual insurrection, the president may now use military troops as a domestic police force in response to a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, terrorist attack or any 'other condition'."
Critics see this as a clear violation of the Posse Comitatus Act - which was meant to restrain the federal government from using the military for domestic law enforcement. The Democratic senator Patrick Leahy says the bill encourages a president to declare federal martial law. It also violates the very reason the founders set up our system of government as they did: having seen citizens bullied by a monarch's soldiers, the founders were terrified of exactly this kind of concentration of militias' power over American people in the hands of an oppressive executive or faction.
Of course, the United States is not vulnerable to the violent, total closing-down of the system that followed Mussolini's march on Rome or Hitler's roundup of political prisoners. Our democratic habits are too resilient, and our military and judiciary too independent, for any kind of scenario like that.
Rather, as other critics are noting, our experiment in democracy could be closed down by a process of erosion.
It is a mistake to think that early in a fascist shift you see the profile of barbed wire against the sky. In the early days, things look normal on the surface; peasants were celebrating harvest festivals in Calabria in 1922; people were shopping and going to the movies in Berlin in 1931. Early on, as WH Auden put it, the horror is always elsewhere - while someone is being tortured, children are skating, ships are sailing: "dogs go on with their doggy life ... How everything turns away/ Quite leisurely from the disaster."
As Americans turn away quite leisurely, keeping tuned to internet shopping and American Idol, the foundations of democracy are being fatally corroded. Something has changed profoundly that weakens us unprecedentedly: our democratic traditions, independent judiciary and free press do their work today in a context in which we are "at war" in a "long war" - a war without end, on a battlefield described as the globe, in a context that gives the president - without US citizens realising it yet - the power over US citizens of freedom or long solitary incarceration, on his say-so alone.
That means a hollowness has been expanding under the foundation of all these still- free-looking institutions - and this foundation can give way under certain kinds of pressure. To prevent such an outcome, we have to think about the "what ifs".
What if, in a year and a half, there is another attack - say, God forbid, a dirty bomb? The executive can declare a state of emergency. History shows that any leader, of any party, will be tempted to maintain emergency powers after the crisis has passed. With the gutting of traditional checks and balances, we are no less endangered by a President Hillary than by a President Giuliani - because any executive will be tempted to enforce his or her will through edict rather than the arduous, uncertain process of democratic negotiation and compromise.
What if the publisher of a major US newspaper were charged with treason or espionage, as a rightwing effort seemed to threaten Keller with last year? What if he or she got 10 years in jail? What would the newspapers look like the next day? Judging from history, they would not cease publishing; but they would suddenly be very polite.
Right now, only a handful of patriots are trying to hold back the tide of tyranny for the rest of us - staff at the Center for Constitutional Rights, who faced death threats for representing the detainees yet persisted all the way to the Supreme Court; activists at the American Civil Liberties Union; and prominent conservatives trying to roll back the corrosive new laws, under the banner of a new group called the American Freedom Agenda. This small, disparate collection of people needs everybody's help, including that of Europeans and others internationally who are willing to put pressure on the administration because they can see what a US unrestrained by real democracy at home can mean for the rest of the world.
We need to look at history and face the "what ifs". For if we keep going down this road, the "end of America" could come for each of us in a different way, at a different moment; each of us might have a different moment when we feel forced to look back and think: that is how it was before - and this is the way it is now.
"The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands ... is the definition of tyranny," wrote James Madison. We still have the choice to stop going down this road; we can stand our ground and fight for our nation, and take up the banner the founders asked us to carry.
· Naomi Wolf's The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot will be published by Chelsea Green in September.