The End of America – Possible, Says Naomi Wolf

Don Hazen has an interview with Naomi Wolf on AlterNet regarding her new book, The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot.  In it, she warns that history may indeed repeat itself.

When discussing the Bush Administration, it’s easy to glibly toss around names like “Hitler” and “Mussolini”, and throw in a word like “fascism”, but Wolf raises some alarming concerns about the future of our democracy.

What exactly was going on when Hitler and Mussolini were coming to power?  Are there any comparisons with what is happening in America today, and has been for the past several years?

Wolf does not see much hope for a transparency in the next Presidential election:

We would be naive given the historical patterns to have hope that there’s going to be a transparent, accountable election in 2008. There are various ways the blueprint indicates how events are much more likely to play out. Historically, the months leading up to the national election are likely to be unstable.

What classically happens is either there will be a period of provocation, and we have a history of this in the United States — agitators who are dressed as or act like activist voter registration workers, anti-war marchers … but who engage in actual violence, torch property, assault police officers. And that scares people. People are much less likely to vote for change when they’re scared, and it gives them the excuse to crack down.

In addition, I’m concerned about the 2007 Defense Authorization Act, which makes it much easier for the president to declare martial law.

What are the plans for 2008?  Lower gas prices, and heightened terrorist threat alerts?  Martial Law in the United States?

Is Facebook violating the law?

Interesting question arising in the state of New York.  A new add-on to Facebook allows users to send ads to other users with pictures attached.  The legal question is, are these so-called “Social Ads” illegal, or violations of privacy?

That seems like a funny question to ask on a Social Networking site, but it is worthy of consideration.  Facebook users do agree to certain terms and conditions.  However, does that translate to a loss of all privacy?  And what if the user is a minor?

The New York Times quotes William McGeveran, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, who quotes the law in a blog post:

One who appropriates to his own use or benefit the name or likeness of another is subject to liability to the other for an invasion of his privacy.

The NYTimes post says Chris Kelly, chief privacy officer for Facebook, called and said McGeveran’s interpretation is too broad.  But McGeveran writes:

I don’t see how broad general consent to share one’s information translates into the specific written consent necessary for advertisers to use one’s name (and often picture) under this law. And the introduction of Facebook’s sales pitch about the program to advertisers leaves little doubt that individual users’ identities will be appropriated for the benefit of Facebook and advertisers alike.

I have a suspicion that Facebook will win this bout in the short term, but there will be a backlash as people begin to realize how precious privacy is.  Some Facebook users put much personal information online.  How long until we realize we’ve given up too much?

And rest assured that Facebook users are taking notice.  One user already created a group to protest: “Facebook’s Social Ads Are Illegal.”

At this writing, the group had one member.

Everyone else was probably busy updating their status.