In a pretty devastating take down of the Guardian’s fire breathing feminist Naomi Wolf, Mark Nuckols at The Atlantic accuses Wolf of political alarmism and extreme dishonesty when claiming America is transitioning into a fascist dictatorships in her book The End of America.
Here is Nuckols on Wolf’s ludicrous comparison between the US government and the Nazi Party:
In 2001, both houses of the Congress passed the Patriot Act by wide margins. According to Wolf, “After September 11, 2001, we Americans learned in dramatic new ways that we were facing a terrifying external threat …. By October 2001, the USA PATRIOT Act — that in the end, when it became law, topped 400 pages — rushed through Congress. Lawmakers passed it overwhelmingly — though many said they had scarcely read it. Some remarked that it would have been unpatriotic to resist passing the law.”
Wolf compares this to the passage in 1933 by the Reichstag of the Enabling Act, which gave Adolf Hitler sweeping powers to rule entirely by executive decree, effectively giving all state power to a one-party dictatorship. The act was proposed by the Nazis in the immediate aftermath of the destruction of the Reichstag building by arson. And Wolf has this to say about the circumstances in which the Enabling Act was passed: “Appalled at the terrorist threat, and not wanting to be seen as unpatriotic, there was little debate: lawmakers of all parties passed the Enabling Act by a wide majority: 441 to 94.”
You only have to be a vague student of history to know that this comparison is ridiculous – while the Patriot Act was an appalling piece of legislation, the Enabling Act in Germany in 1933 was passed through extreme violence and murder and gave Hitler complete power over Germany. Writes Nuckols:
Wolf omits significant details that render this comparison obscene. By the time the act was passed, the Communist Party had already been banned, the moderate-right Center Party had been cowed into submission, and only the 94 deputies of the center-left Social Democratic Party dared cast their votes against the legislation.
The vote took place in the Kroll Opera House in an atmosphere heavy with violence and intimidation. Evans quotes one deputy: “Young lads with the swastika on their chests… made us run the gauntlet, and shouted insults at us like ‘Centrist pig,’ ‘Marxist sow.’ In the Kroll Opera it was swarming with armed SA and SS.” Otto Wels, the leader of the Social Democrats, gave the last opposition speech to be given in the Reichstag for twelve years. He concluded with the words, “Freedom and life can be taken from us, but not honor.”
“Wels was not exaggerating,” Evans writes. “Several prominent Social Democrats had already been killed by the Nazis, and he himself was carrying a cyanide capsule in his waist pocket as he spoke, ready to swallow should he be arrested and tortured by the brownshirts after delivering his speech.”
There are many valid points Wolf makes in her writing – there is much to be alarmed about when it comes to the ever increasing surveillance measures taken by the state, warrantless wiretapping and the signing of the National Defense Authorization Act etc etc. But this needs to be taken in perspective, and comparing the US government to the Nazi regime and Stalin’s politburo is not only unhelpful but factually absurd. Wolf and her ideological bedfellows Jane Hamsher and Glenn Greenwald are not stupid, and not always wrong. But their incessant screeching takes away from anything relevant they might be adding to the debate, making their political beliefs about them rather than the topic itself. Concludes Nuckols:
In her various books, articles, and public speeches, Wolf has repeatedly demonstrated a blatant disregard for the historical record and consistently mutilated the truth with selective and ultimately deceptive use of her sources. All of this might have little real-world import when she writes about her orgasms or her weight problems. But when she distorts facts to advance her political agenda, she dishonors the victims of history and poisons present-day public discourse about issues of vital importance to a free society.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.