Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Going too far: Bush does not equal Hitler

Feminist Naomi Wolf has a provocative article in The Guardian, "Fascist America, in 10 easy steps", where she compares George Bush to the likes of Hitler. She raises interesting points, but gets a bit extreme.

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.

Yes, America and many other countries are facing civil liberty restrictions in the name of fighting terrorism. However it is hard to compare these restrictions to the ones faced by those under Nazi rule. (Of course anyone well-known claiming to be speaking for a set group of people (e.g. women, Muslims, gays, etc.) is often extreme extreme.) There are, in fact, parallels between the Bush administration and Nazi Germany, just as there are parallels between other like topics. Bush is an unpopular leader; Hitler is a (now) unpopular leader. Both Nazi Germany and Bush's America paint a picture of evil in a war against a broad group — albeit the 'war' of the Nazis was not at all justified in any way (i.e. the "Final Solution"). Wolf's list contains items (or 'steps') as broad as "7. Target key individuals".

It is a joke to call America 'fascist', just as it's ridiculous to come up with claims of "Islamofacism". It is likely Wolf wanted to get attention by choosing an extreme-sounding stance and provocative premise — activists, writers, bloggers, and all sorts of other people speaking out do it all the time. She is right to point out we should learn from history to see where we have gone wrong and how we can do better, but by automatically labeling Bush a dictator, she dilutes and discredits a large part of her argument.

I can go out and protest against Bush if I want to; I can criticize him freely too. There is no way one could do such actions if they were under the rule of despots like Hitler or Pinochet. Last time I checked Americans can vote and exercise tools of democracy too. While I will not dispute the fact civil liberties are being treaded on in a number of countries — including the US — Wolf and like-minded commentators go too far in their claim of American authoritarianism.

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Robert said...

"Not as bad as" is not much of a rejoinder.

Read the article a bit more closely. She doesn't call Bush Hitler. She compares the situation in this country to the steps other previously free peoples went through to reach the endpoint of tyranny. As she says, we're not there yet, but it's clear that such an endpoint for us is no longer the impossibility we, until recently, thought it to be.

clearthought said...

Thanks for pointing that out Robert.

I understand, but even Wolf's implication that America is a 'fascist' state is damaging to the positions of people who are worried about the situation of American civil liberties — a group that includes me.

I think Wolf's article is intriguing, and if she wished for it to be so provocative, she got what she wished for.