The casual assumption that state-funded broadcasting in America would be devoted to adoration of the head of state would be exactly wrong, at least during Republican presidencies. Instead, on Monday, National Public Radio’s program Day to Day (co-produced with the liberal website Slate) awarded five minutes to leftist author Naomi Wolf and her thesis that the Bush administration is orchestrating "the end of America," and President Bush is comparable to Adolf Hitler. The headline was very frank on the NPR web site: "Naomi Wolf Likens Bush to Hitler."
If a conservative compared President Clinton to a communist dictator, there is no chance that NPR would devote a serious five-minute interview to his "Clinton hater" thesis – and they should not. But NPR tilts so far to the left that extreme cartooning of the Bush presidency, comparing it to mass-murdering dictatorships, is presented as a harsh, but respectable subject of debate. A few minutes into the unspooling of this crackpot thesis, anchor Alex Cohen (a female) made an attempt to challenge Wolf that maybe she was overstating things a bit:
COHEN: There’s never a line in this book that says George W. Bush is just like Hitler or Mussolini or Stalin, but there’s enough that after a while, there definitely seems to be the air of some comparisons happening there. Isn’t that a bit extreme to compare our president to these historical figures?
WOLF: Well, again, I stick very rigorously to the evidence. You had the Nazis unloaded coffins at night. We saw coffins being unloaded at night. They talked about enhanced interrogation, meaning torture. Karl Rove talked about enhanced interrogation, meaning torture. They said, you know, we’ve got to invade Czechoslovakia, because it’s a staging ground for terrorists. We said we had to invade Iraq, a country we’re not at war with, because they’re torturing their ethnic minorities, it’s a staging ground for terrorists, and they hate our freedoms. I don’t need to draw an analogy. The analogies are there.
COHEN: But in a sense, aren’t you to a certain degree fighting fear with fear? You’re making analogies here to Stalin and Hitler. Isn’t that a bit fear-inspiring as well?
WOLF: We should be afraid. Look at Pakistan. It was pushing toward major democratic reform, and overnight, they rounded up the lawyers, they subverted the constitution, they fired the justices, and now, it’s done! So there are any number of ways that very quickly, under the circumstances we have now, the president could close down our open society. And I would say that he already has substantially closed down our open society. But quite apart from that, history shows that when millions of people rise up in a democracy movement to restore the rule of law, there’s very little than can stand in their way, so we need a democracy movement in America.
Day to Day did follow up with two minutes interviewing Josef Joffe, editor and publisher of Die Zeit in Berlin. He came on to reject Wolf’s premise, that comparing the Patriot Act to the rule of Hitler is "almost obscene," and that with Guantanamo, "anyone comparing it to the Gulag or the concentration camps doesn’t know what he or she is talking about." But it’s sad that this Ted Rall fantasy is the selected "center" of the yea-or-nay political debate.
Although NPR never advertised it, Wolf is perhaps best remembered as the Al Gore adviser who was paid $15,000 a month to tell him to wear earth tones. So she’s keeping up a long record of public silliness with this book. Wolf’s career as a national media darling goes back to 1991, and her first book compared the cosmetics industry "cult" to medieval torturers (scroll to end), as we explained back then:
"Beauty is a conspiracy of pain forced upon women," began Time reporter Emily Mitchell's March 4 review of The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. "In the boardroom and in the bedroom, women are entrapped by a cult that is the equivalent of the iron maiden, a medieval torture instrument that impaled its captives on iron spikes." Time not only gave a whole page to the book, but failed to include one sentence of criticism. Mitchell explained: "The beauty myth of Wolf's title is reinforced, she argues, by a global industry worth billions that could be far better used for social purposes; for example, the money spent on cosmetics each year could finance 2,000 women's health clinics or pay for three times the amount of day care offered by the U.S. government."
Perhaps Time's $2.50 cover price could be better spent feeding children in Bangladesh.