Naomi Wolf wrote an essay about the ten steps a corrupt government takes to create a fascist state, and provides examples of what the Bush administration is doing to fulfill the requirements of each step. Some of Wolf's examples are quite a stretch, but others are spot on.
1 Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
2 Create a gulag
3 Develop a thug caste
4 Set up an internal surveillance system
5 Harass citizens' groups
6 Engage in arbitrary detention and release
7 Target key individuals
8 Control the press
9 Dissent equals treason
10 Suspend the rule of law
It is a mistake to think that early in a fascist shift you see the profile of barbed wire against the sky. In the early days, things look normal on the surface; peasants were celebrating harvest festivals in Calabria in 1922; people were shopping and going to the movies in Berlin in 1931. Early on, as WH Auden put it, the horror is always elsewhere – while someone is being tortured, children are skating, ships are sailing: "dogs go on with their doggy life … How everything turns away/ Quite leisurely from the disaster."
As Americans turn away quite leisurely, keeping tuned to internet shopping and American Idol, the foundations of democracy are being fatally corroded. Something has changed profoundly that weakens us unprecedentedly: our democratic traditions, independent judiciary and free press do their work today in a context in which we are "at war" in a "long war" – a war without end, on a battlefield described as the globe, in a context that gives the president – without US citizens realising it yet – the power over US citizens of freedom or long solitary incarceration, on his say-so alone.
Link (Thanks, Rachel!)