Tuesday, April 24, 2007

How To Close Down A Democracy

Naomi Wolf, writing in The Guardian, has a real chiller for American patriots. I think she's pushing it on a few of them, but her overall point is perfectly valid. It's not W himself that's the danger, it's the systematic erosion of democracy that has occurred under his watch. His "legacy" could be much more damaging even than endless war with the Islamic world. Sauce for the goose; Republicans should fear a system where Hilary can declare herself F├╝hrer every bit as much as Democrats should fear Emperor Giuliani.

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.


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