"We need to understand that a war has been declared on us and on our freedoms," said author Naomi Wolf. "It’s not an exaggeration – it’s an emergency."
To meet that emergency, Wolf urges citizens to band together for more direct democracy – a call she’ll take to the University of North Carolina Wilmington on Monday night.
Wolf, famed as the author of The Beauty Myth, will open UNCW’s Leadership Lecture Series with a 7 p.m. address Monday in Kenan Auditorium. Its title, "End of America: A Citizen’s Call to Action," is a variant on her 2007 book The End of America, in which she maintained the nation is undergoing a fascist takeover.
Comparing coups from the Nazis’ rise to power in Germany to the Pinochet regime in Chile, Wolf identified key 10 steps in the fall of democracy. Among these: the invoking of a terrifying external threat, the creation of secret prisons, a rise in domestic surveillance, the harassment of citizens’ groups, a crackdown on the press and the treating of dissent as treason.
"Unfortunately, these predictions have come true even more quickly than I imagined," Wolf said in a telephone interview last week.
She cited the mass arrests of hundreds of protesters outside the Republican National Convention earlier this month.
"We had police officers using batons on citizens like the police in North Korea," she said. "We had police firing tear gas and rubber bullets at peaceful protests. We’re one step away from a police state."
Wolf, who had been an unofficial adviser to the Clinton re-election campaign in 1996 and a paid consultant to Al Gore in 2000, said both parties and the media seem obsessed with "trivialities, non-issue issues, bread and circuses," rather than serious policy. "This is typical of a closing society," she said.
To regain control of the political process, Wolf urged individuals to become "democratic commandos." She spells out her proposals in her new book, Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries, to be released Tuesday by Simon & Schuster.
Among her suggestions: Amending the Constitution to permit national referendums on major issues, such as whether to keep military forces in Iraq.
Twenty-four states, dozens of countries and the European Union permit laws to be passed by referendum. "Abraham Lincoln wanted a national referendum on slavery," Wolf added.
Wolf would also like to see more direct democracy in the form of local and regional "town hall" debates on major issues.
Tickets to Wolf’s talk are $9 from the Kenan box office.
Ben Steelman: 343-2208