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The End of America (2008)

7.4
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The End of America details the ten steps a country takes when it slides toward fascism. It's not a "lefty"tot tome, rather a historical look at trends in once-functioning democracies from ... See full summary »

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David Antoon ...
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James Cullen ...
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Amy Goodman ...
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Maria LaHood ...
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The End of America details the ten steps a country takes when it slides toward fascism. It's not a "lefty"tot tome, rather a historical look at trends in once-functioning democracies from modern history that are being repeated in our country today. It gives any reader (or viewer of the lecture) a much-needed history lesson and constitutional refresher. Most importantly, it puts the recent gradual loss of civil liberties in the U.S. in a historical context. The average American might not be alarmed at AT&T selling our private information to the Bush administration, but when this action is seen as part of a larger series of erosions and events, a pattern emerges with unfortunate consequences that become disturbingly clear. Written by Production

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3 December 2008 (USA)  »

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Naomi Wolf: [Ten key steps to close down an open society: a dictator's blueprint] 1. Invoke an internal and external threat 2. Secret prisons where torture takes place 3. Develop a paramilitary force 4. Surveil ordinary citizens 5. Infiltrate citizens' groups 6. Detain and release ordinary citizens 7. Target key individuals 8. Restrict the press 9. Recast criticism as espionage and dissent as treason 10. Subvert the rule of law
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User Reviews

Doesn't do a good job of reaching out to a wider audience but is still engaging food for thought
26 July 2009 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

I am a regular traveller to the US and love it a great deal as a place to be, but one thing about it that often strikes me is how polarised and segregated it can be along racial and political lines – the UK is pretty bad in the same way but is brilliant by comparison. Reading the reviews of this film shows more of the same – reviews are either 10* or 1* reviews and the actual text reveal a similar approach. I'm not looking to criticise other amateur reviewers but this does smack of reviewers coming to the film with their minds already made up. This is a real shame but it is not to be a surprise. Primarily any film that gives a platform to Wolf is hardly going to appeal to the right, or even the right-leaning viewer. On top of that a film that seems to be about the comparison of Bush with Hitler is one that is going to quickly polarise even viewers who may only "lean" one way or the other because, when you call a world leader Hitler, there is not a lot of room for standing on the fence.

Of course this is not what the film is doing but those instinctively in disagreement with it will be unable to get passed this and the film doesn't quite manage to deliver the "lessons from history" without making it sound like a direct comparison. This is a real shame because there is nothing wrong with looking towards the mistakes of the past in trying to do things differently now. Wolf delivers ten things that "closing societies" have in common and uses these ten things as discussion points to look at the impingements on personal freedom that were done during the Bush era. These ten aspects are 1) Invoke internal and external threat; 2) Secret prisons where torture takes place; 3) Develop a paramilitary force; 4) Surveillance on ordinary citizens; 5) infiltrate citizens' groups; 6) detain and release citizens; 7) target key individuals; 8) Restrict the press; 9) recast criticism as espionage and treason; 10) subvert the rule of law.

On all of these Wolf presents an interesting and rather chilling look at the modern political landscape. She discusses in each step how the Bush administration have done more or less what other "closing societies" have done. Does she ever say that the US was heading towards a dictatorship with Bush on the road to becoming a modern Hitler? No, she doesn't but, to be fair, given that the suggestion is unavoidable by virtue of the structure of her presentation she could have done a bit more to stress that she is not saying that but rather just using history as a way of learning. Had she done this better perhaps the film wouldn't feel like it is only preaching to the choir.

While she makes good parallels even the choir will acknowledge that some of her points are a real stretch though. For ever clear point about the utilisation of fear and threats, there is a weaker one like the targeting of key people. This point made me laugh because of the links she makes – talking about the Dixie Chicks seems trivial compared to historical "targeting". Likewise some of her other points appear to be reaching as well, the "restrict the press" point produced my favourite line where she talks about the Cheney "threat" on the editor of the NY Times – she says "what immediately comes to mind" is the trial of a Russian journalist by Stalin. Really? That "immediately" comes to mind does it!? Although Wolf doesn't always justify the links to history, her presentation still does do a good job of presenting a general erosion of civil liberties. I would say I agreed with her on all of them but all of her points are food for thought and I cannot really relate to those viewers who can watch this and simply dismiss it 100% out of hand and don't see anything worth thinking about.

The End of America is overly leftist and doesn't work hard enough to take the political tension out of the discussion but it is still a very interesting film that does serve as food for thought. OK some of the historical parallels don't really work that well but the points raised about the modern situation are engaging and chilling. Not good enough to draw in a wider audience and convince those that go into the film pitched against it but still an engaging film whether you accept it all or not.


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