GEORGE NEGUS: Naomi, thanks for joining us. I'm wondering whether at the moment you're feeling just a little schizoid, because your book has been hailed on the one hand as the most valuable political book of the year, yet others have canned you and the book as righteous paranoia and the rantings of a wild extremist or even an unhinged leftie.
NAOMI WOLF, AUTHOR, “THE END OF AMERICA”: Right, well, I pretty much haven't heard the latter criticism for most of the reception of the book here in the United States. Here in the United States there has been pretty much a mainstream media blackout about the book. I haven't had a single print review. It's been much discussed on the Internet and on radio, interestingly, so what I have heard is that people in the United States don't see this as paranoia at all, by and large. People in the US across the political spectrum understand that we really are in a very fragile situation if the erosion of our checks and balances and the systemic assault on the rule of law continues.
GEORGE NEGUS: 'The End of America', that's one hell of a title, if I could say. Is that an attention-getter or are you seriously suggesting that we're looking at the end of the United States as we know it?
NAOMI WOLF: Well, of course I'm serious. If what you're saying is do I mean the land mass or the nation state is going to disappear, of course not. If by America we mean, for instance, the system of checks and balances that the founders put in place, it's gone already, because I don't know if you have been following this in Australia, but Congress just passed a law and the President is not supposed to be a dictator in the US and the President told Congress, "I'm just going to ignore three key aspects of this law that you passed."
GEORGE NEGUS: But somebody said, Naomi Wolf, whose work we have admired for so long, on this occasion, why shouldn't we just write her off as a serial sensationalist, a notoriety seeker who's trying to scare the hell out of people because she needs another bestseller. Cynical as that.
NAOMI WOLF: Yeah, they're welcome to say whatever they like. I'm not making a rhetorical argument, I'm simply saying this is what you see would-be dictators have done since the end of the '20s in Europe this is the blueprint that would-be dictators the 10 steps would-be dictators on the left to right always follow you know, you invoke a terrifying internal and external threat, you create secret prisons, you start to torture people, you create a surveillance apparatus, right through the list.
GEORGE NEGUS: Naomi, let us say for the sake of our discussion that you're right. Let's assume you are right. Your concerns about the erosion of freedom have been raised by others, probably not as sensationally as you have, but raised.
NAOMI WOLF: Excuse me, it's not sensational. Yeah.
GEORGE NEGUS: Well, to some people it would be, I guess is the point.
NAOMI WOLF: OK.
GEORGE NEGUS: But to take our discussion to the next level, let's assume that you're right. So what do we do about it? Are we talking about armed rebellion, are we talking about taking to the streets, a citizens' revolt, a bloggers' revolt or what?
NAOMI WOLF: Right, well, what we've done is what the founders called on us to do. The founders counted on each of us, not a political class or a pundit class to be the guardians of liberty. I co-founded with a number of other activists an organisation called the American Freedom Campaign, which is exactly what history shows is necessary at a time like this. It is driving a grassroots democracy movement in the US. We've now got 5 million members in partner organisations and we're also driving a legislative agenda through Congress from restore habeas corpus, to end torture, end warrentless wire-tapping, protect journalists from being prosecuted under the Espionage Act, and we're also driving..
GEORGE NEGUS: But you say that time is running out. I'm wondering if it hasn't run out already, because the book is obviously predicated on the actions of the Bush Government and its reaction to September 11, but you also write off a change in government in Washington. You don't really believe that Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama could make any difference, it seems.
NAOMI WOLF: Respectfully, I have to say you're really distorting what I said. What I said is that the founders knew that changing parties, as long as you release the constraints on the checks and balances that they put a place, is going to corrupt any leader, any leader, history shows, who has absolute power, the power to intimidate the opposition, to lock people up for three years in a navy brig, which the President has said now any United States president has the right to do for three years without being able to contact lawyers or see their families. It doesn't matter if a Democrat or a Republican is in office. If they inherit these powers it's dangerous. History shows that. And I'd be delighted if a responsible executive was elected who restored the checks and balances and the restraints that the founders put in place.
GEORGE NEGUS: Well, if that's the case, who would you like to see in the White House?
NAOMI WOLF: Personally I have become an Obama supporter, because I think he's really harnessing this grassroots energy, this awakening that Americans are having that, you know, everything they love about their country really is at stake and that it's time to take back the country and stand up for liberty. But I really want to stress that the historical blueprint shows that the months leading up to an election in a closing society can be very dangerous.
GEORGE NEGUS: What I would like to ask about is the reaction from your supporters. I mean, given the success of 'The Beauty Myth', wouldn't your audience find it strange that Naomi Wolf, of all people, is not supporting Hillary Clinton?
NAOMI WOLF: You know, they can say whatever they like. I mean, like every American, you know, I'm watching this election, I'm watching the candidates present their case and there's a long time between now and November, but what I'm really worried about is having a transparent election, an accountable election, for whoever the frontrunner is. I think there are great risks and threats right now to the prospect of a full, free election, unless the American people rise up and insist, for instance as they did in California, on accountability, getting rid of the Diebold machines, the corrupted, electronic machines.
GEORGE NEGUS: Naomi, I have to admit I'm still a bit confused about how this "rising up" that you call it is done. I mean, what you mean by rising up?
NAOMI WOLF: By rising up in terms of the election, there are many groups that are becoming very powerful right now that are focused on scrutinising the vote and throwing out the voting machines that are corrupted, that have been corrupted by major donors to the Republicans, for example. So that's the kind of citizen activism, scrutiny of the election, attention, you know, calling representatives' attention to the election process. And also awareness on the part of Americans that in a closing society things like the purging of the US attorneys, which the White House has deleted 10,000 e-mails so that Congress can't scrutinise that potential scandal, that's the kind of thing in a closing society every despot does. Goebbels purged the attorneys and lawyers in April of 1933 so that they could continue to have elections, to have a judiciary, but they knew that the outcome was always going to be in their favour. Despots are always doing that, Putin's doing that, in Pakistan they tried to do that.
GEORGE NEGUS: Did you really feel it was necessary to liken the current American leadership on either side to people like Mussolini and Stalin and Hitler?
NAOMI WOLF: I'm not saying rhetorically Bush is like Mussolini, Bush is like Hitler. If you look at the early years of how Mussolini came to power in a pluralistic, representative democracy, how Hitler came to power in a pluralistic, representative parliamentary democracy, they used certain tactics systematically to subvert the rule of law and to dismantle the constitution. And what I'm doing is laying those tactics side-by-side with very similar tactics that we're seeing right now and asking readers to draw their own conclusions about whether there's cause for concern..
GEORGE NEGUS: But you say you cannot get reviewed in America, your book's not getting reviewed. You feel as though you're blacklisted and targeted. Do you think people are saying, "She has got a point here, but maybe she has gone too far"?
NAOMI WOLF: Well, not in my own country, I have to say. It seems like a very faraway conversation in a way.
GEORGE NEGUS: But no reviews, nobody wants to review the book, from what you're saying.
NAOMI WOLF: No reviews whatsoever, that is right.
GEORGE NEGUS: Why is that?
NAOMI WOLF: I'll get to that in a minute, but wherever I go I am speaking to packed audiences that I have never spoken to before of people across the political spectrum who are aware, as Americans, that there are very disturbing things happening. And frankly, since it is my own country that has to restore democracy and the rule of law, I really do not care if critics, you know, far away who aren't experiencing these threats, these dangers, think that there is a rhetorical problem. Again, people who have read the book don't there's a rhetorical problem.
GEORGE NEGUS: I say, I don't think raising these points of conjecture are suggesting that we don't think you should be listened to.
NAOMI WOLF: Well, let me stress, yeah, thank you, let me stress that the call of warning I'm making is not just about the US, it's international. And the international community doesn't want an America unconstrained by the rule of law at home. It does not serve anyone.
GEORGE NEGUS: Whatever else, you've certainly got everyone's attention. Good to talk to you.
NAOMI WOLF: You too. Thank you.