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Naomi Wolf Thinks the Tea Parties Help Fight Fascism -- Is She Onto Something or in Fantasy Land?

Naomi Wolf, author of 'End of America,' talks about why she has become an improbable Tea Party darling, and if progressives can learn from the conservative activists.

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NW: There is no question that the right-wing idea machine saw how that message was resonating in the run-up to the last election. A YouTube video of a speech I gave went viral and got 850,000 hits. I’m not saying that is the only thing that caused this, but there is no question that the Republican and the right wing are quick to co-opt the strategic language that's resonating on the other side and turn it against itself.

JS: How is your comparison of Obama to Hitler any different from someone at a Tea Party holding up a placard of Obama with a Hitler mustache?

NW: Those signs are offensive. If only the Holocaust was just about imposing health care on my people. Obama has done things like Hitler did. Let me be very careful here. The National Socialists rounded people up and held them without trial, signed legislation that gave torture impunity, and spied on their citizens, just as Obama has. It isn’t a question of what has been done that Hitler did. It’s what does every dictator do, on the left or the right, that is being done here and now. The real fight isn’t left or right but between forces of democracy across the spectrum and the forces of tyranny.

JS: People criticize Beck’s use of that kind of language as incendiary and hyperbolic. Why is your use any different?

NW: Every time I use those analogies, I am doing it with a concrete footnoted historical context. When people like Glenn Beck throw around the word Nazi without taking that kind of care, they are engaging in demagoguery. There’s an important difference.

JS: What about your warnings about concentration camps and martial law? How do they compare to conspiratorial fears about FEMA concentration camps?

NW: With the FEMA rumor, I have heard some suggestive first-person accounts that some good reporters should follow up on. But until I see two well-documented sources of it, I can’t speak to it at all.

JS: Well, more generally, you talk about the possibility of concentration camps and martial law.

NW: I think we have gone very far down that road. I met Muslim immigrants in Brooklyn who were swept up in 9-11 raids, held in abusive conditions, beaten, denied rights. That’s how things started in Germany. Guantanamo was modeled after what Stalin developed for the Gulag. Why are we engaged in psychological denial that it’s not a concentration camp? In terms of martial law, my god. Since the book came out they deployed a brigade in the U.S. and suspended the Posse Comitatus Act. There is no question that it’s something to take seriously. People have a histrionic view of what martial law will look like.

I’m not worried that tomorrow there will be a battalion outside your Greenwich Village apartment. I’m worried about things like the McCain Liberman bill that would define enemy belligerents so loosely it would include Americans, which is just like Stalin and Hitler and Mussolini. If Obama tries people with military tribunals, setting that precedent, that is what a military state does. That is what martial law looks like. From a constitutional point of view Bush passing through the Patriot Act is no worse than Obama renewing it.

Justine Sharrock is a former Mother Jones staffer. Her book Tortured: How Our Cowardly Leaders Abused Prisoners, American Soldiers, and Everything We're Fighting For, will be out in June. For more of her stories, click here .