The End of America

Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot

Naomi Wolf

Buy the Book Here (paperback)

Wolf’s website

Here you shall find some excerpts from Wolf’s book wherein she argues that the United States is undergoing a fascist shift, one that should concern patriotic citizens.

In reading this text, I invariably found myself writing comments onto Post-it notes and attaching said Post-it notes on select pages.  Included below are not only excerpts from Ms. Wolf’s book, found in white, but likewise my own personal comments, found in pale yellow.



Two Types of Opposition to Democracy (p. xii)

There are two types of opponents to democracy.  On the one hand, you have those who want to consolidate power and privilege at the expense of Liberty and natural rights.  On the other, you have people who fear that democracy grants too much power in the hands of the privileged few, people who want to see power fully devolved to the people.  This latter group understands democracy to only devolve power to, at best, majority factions, never to the people themselves, never to each individual, whose natural rights should reign supreme.  I am of this latter group.

Introduction: Ten Steps

The American System Has Failed to Protect the Liberty of Americans or to Restrain the Growth of Big, Oppressive Government (p. 3)

It has not protected our freedom.  One could argue that we are freer than those who lived in feudal Europe or under Oriental despotism—and I’d agree with such an argument.  But “more free” does not equal “free.”  The fact remains that the Constitution has failed to protect Liberty; even in the very beginning of our republic, our freedoms were being infringed upon by the likes of the Federalists.  Moreover, there are many of us who hold that the Philadelphia Convention, and Hamilton in particular, betrayed the revolution.

With that said, I agree with the author that these laws need to be repealed.

No Guarantee that America is Different (p. 11)

There is no guarantee that America is different [from other countries that devolved into dictatorship] if Americans fail to take up the patriot’s task.

Fascist Shift (p. 14)

The fascist shift does not progress like a diagonal line rising steadily across a chart.  Rather, it progresses in a buildup of many acts assaulting democracy simultaneously, which then form a critical mass—what writer Malcolm Gladwell would call a “tipping point.”  The pressure from this set of assaults suddenly pushes the nation into a new and degraded reality.  The turning points can be mapped as vertical lines—the point at which prisoners lost the right to habeas corpus, for instance, is one—which then plateau into the nation’s new normal.  The nation acclimates; then this process begins again at that greater level of suppression.

1. The Founders and the Fragility of Democracy

Fascism (p. 21)

Fascism is a word whose definition political scientists (and even fascists themselves) do not entirely agree.  Though Mussolini coined this term (from the duel rods, or fasces, carried by officials in ancient Rome), some Nazis did not see the Italians as being tough enough to qualify as true fascists.  Umberto Eco wrote of latter-day “Ur-Fascists” and other critics have described “neo-Fascists” or “subfascists” when they refer to more recent violent dictatorships that use state terror and other kinds of control to subordinate the population and crush democratic impulses—notably in Latin America.  The Columbia Encyclopedia defines fascism as a “philosophy of government that glorifies the state and nation and assigns to the state control over every aspect of natural life.  …  Its essentially vague and emotional nature facilitates the development of unique national varieties, whose leaders often deny indignantly that they are fascists at all.”

Public Tolerance of Fascism (pp. 22–23)

State terror directed against the individual is the difference between a fairly stable American authoritarianism and the fascist shift I am writing to you about.  Theorists such as Arendt and Zbigniew Brzezinski saw top-down terror to be at the heart of both Nazi and Soviet regimes.  They argue that it was the overwhelming power of the secret police agencies such as the Gestapo and the KGB that led to the fear that blanketed these societies.  More recent historians focus on how populations in fascist or totalitarian systems adapt to fear through complicity:  In this view, when a minority of citizens is terrorized and persecuted, a majority live out fairly normal lives by stifling dissent within themselves and going along quietly with the state’s acts of violent repression.  The authors of an oral history of Nazi Germany point out that, though it may sound shocking, fascist regimes can be “quite popular” for the people who are not being terrorized.

Both perspectives are relevant here:  Top-down edicts generate fear, but when citizens turn a blind eye to state-sanctioned atrocities committed against others, so long as they believe themselves to be safe, a fascist reality has fertile ground in which to take root.

The Founders Wanted Us to Think Critically of Power (p. 25)

We tend to think of American democracy as being somehow eternal, ever-renewable, and capable of withstanding all assaults.  But the Founders would have thought we were dangerously naïve, not to mention lazy, in thinking of democracy in this way.  This view—which we see as patriotic—is the very opposite of the view that they held.  They would not have considered our attitude patriotic—or even American:  The Founders thought, in contrast, that it was tyranny that was eternal, ever-renewable, and capable of withstanding all assaults, whereas democracy was difficult, personally exacting, and vanishingly fragile.  The Founders did not see Americans as being special in any way:  They saw America—that is, the process of liberty—as special.

In fact, the men who risked hanging to found our nation, and the women who risked their own lives to support this experiment in freedom and who did what they could to advance it, were terrified of exactly what we call dictatorship.  They called it “tyranny” or “despotism.”  It was the spectre at their backs—and they all knew it—as Americans debated the Constitution and argued about the shape of the Bill of Rights.

2. Invoke an External and Internal Threat

3. Establish Secret Prisons

4. Develop a Paramilitary Force

5. Surveil Ordinary Citizens

6. Infiltrate Citizens’ Groups

7. Arbitrarily Detain and Release Citizens

8. Target Key Individuals

9. Restrict the Press

10. Cast Criticism as “Espionage” and Dissent as “Treason”

11. Subvert the Rule of Law

Conclusion: The Patriot’s Task