Tuesday, November 04, 2008

My apologies to Naomi Wolf

A few weeks ago, I didn’t have much good to say here about Naomi Wolf’s new Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries. I called the book “a mixed and largely uninspired bag of left-centrist polemic against the usual suspects (Bush, Cheney, et al.), battle cry rhetoric, and sketchy advice on writing press releases, arranging town hall meetings, launching blogs, petitioning our masters and, of course, getting out the vote (especially after we dump that pesky ol’ Electoral College).” And of Wolf herself, I wrote that she’s “neither an out-of-the-box thinker nor particularly radical.”

Now I’m regretting that review. Not because I don’t stand by my assessment of the book, but because I was way too hard on Naomi Wolf, whose humility, insight, and integrity really shine in her podcast interview last week on “The Lew Rockwell Show.” This podcast is absolutely riveting. Wolf spends as much time asking Lew questions as he does questioning her. It’s a real give-and-take, a sharing of common ground that, I suspect, surprised Wolf. And it certainly seems to have delighted Lew, who in the course of 51 minutes opens Wolf’s “progressive” eyes to the realities of the State, the Federal Reserve, government schools, and so much more. More than once in the discussion, Wolf’s conventional left-center beliefs are obviously shaken and she confesses, “You’re so right. I’d never made that connection before.”

This extraordinary podcast is something you’ll want to download right here and copy onto CDs for your “progressive” friends and family. It’s a revelation. And I’ll look forward to seeing how some of Naomi Wolf’s “light bulb” moments during this interview are reflected in her future interviews and writings.

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At 11:27 PM, Blogger Joel Schlosberg said...

I'm really glad to hear you've come around. When you put up your original post, I meant to write you, but never got around to it. Of course that was before the Rockwell podcast, but she had spoken at a Ron Paul rally, where she could hardly have been more enthusiastic -- see her appearance here and here, which I first heard about via Jeremy Weiland. Just try to imagine Naomi Klein doing that!

I do agree that Give Me Liberty is kinda lame, from what I've seen flipping through it (and I might read a little more, but I don't think I'll read the whole thing, and I'm surprised that you had the patience to do so). And yes, the "people should have to vote" stuff was particularly bad. The thing is that most populist or green type stuff tends to mix in statist stuff about civic participation and reforming the political process on the one hand with decentralization and enhancement of civil society outside the state on the other, but in the case of Give Me Liberty there wasn't a lot of the latter. (It also doesn't help that the title was the same as Rose Wilder Lane's book.)

From what I see it's entirely possible that Wolf may eventually let libertarian ideas drop in her books. Remember that there's a lot of risk involved for leftists to do so: for instance when Carl Oglesby put in such references in Containment and Change, he knew he was taking a big chance with alienating leftists, and in fact that was one of the causes of him getting expelled from SDS.

At 12:05 PM, Blogger Mike said...


Thanks for this. I've always liked and respected Wolf and its good to see her taking the same journey I did a few years ago.

I'll be putting this up for my progressive friends to listen to and understand.

At 12:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard that podcast too, and was astounded at her questions.

I never paid much (any) attention to Naomi Wolf before she started getting press for the book recently. Saw some videos of her lectures, decided she was a lightweight whose heart might be in the right place. Then I heard that podcast, and was struck by two things: 1) It takes a lot of humility to ask such basic questions in front of such an audience, and I admire that. 2) How did somebody who's that ignorant on that many basic questions, get so many freakin' books published in the first place?


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