Shock Doctrine author Naomi Klein coming to Ithaca
By Qina Liu
While the chaos theory says “something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world,” award-winning Canadian journalist Naomi Klein subscribes to a different ideology, one where “only a crisis—actual or perceived—produces real changes.”
Those words by famed economist Milton Friedman fuel her 589-page book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Taking the reader through the course of history, Klein paints case study over case study, proving the evils of unrestricted capitalism and the free market.
While Klein argues that policy-makers incorporate the use of shock to push through unpopular economic principals including public sphere elimination, corporation liberation and skeletal social spending, one begins to understand a frightening Orwellian reality.
Julia Cicale, a sophomore integrated marketing and communication major who recently read Klein’s book, said she was appalled to find out that the war in Iraq could have taken place in seven to eight different countries, but the Bush administration picked to stage the war in Iraq because it would be profitable and believable. According to Klein, the motivation for the Iraq War was more driven by profit for a few powerful corporations than by legitimate reasons.
“You can pick what country you want to go to war with without a real reason?” Cicale said. “That’s not okay.”
Meanwhile, freshman journalism major Kyla Pigoni questioned what it meant to be a democracy in a capitalistic society after reading Klein’s book.
“How can you say that we’re in a democratic nation when privilege goes to the top buyer?” Pigoni said. “What we think is a democracy is more about who can pay the most money. It seems that capitalism is almost endangering democracy.”
With capitalism compromising basic democratic principals, Klein’s book explains why President Bush was able to push through the Patriot Act after 9/11, why New Orleans was able to establish charter schools after Hurricane Katrina and why tsunami survivors were displaced from their respective homes after the 2004 tsunamis. Klein’s analysis of the doctrine also explains why the government continues to outsource military jobs to private companies like Halliburton and Blackwater and why no evacuation was planned for Katrina victims. Meanwhile, tourists pay to see the destruction left in the 7th and 9th Wards following the hurricane.
Cicale strongly responded to the section in which Klein comments on how the Sri Lankan government used the tsunamis as an excuse to kick fishermen out of their homes and commercialize the affected area.
“I can’t believe people will do that just because of a natural disaster,” Cicale said. “I mean, these people have lost everything, and you’re not even going to let them get it back for themselves.”
Similarly, Pigoni remembered reading about how after the tsunamis in Sri Lanka, Buddhist monks were used as tourist attractions.
“It’s just surprising and eye-opening to see how hard and how ruthlessly we try to spread democracy,” Pigoni said. “Saying that you want to take something as sacred as Buddhist monks and turning them into puppets, that’s just disrespectful.”
Perhaps National Book Critics Circle President John Freeman describes Klein’s book best in a Oct. 7, 2007, review for The Washington Post: “When a free market isn’t really free.”
Sponsored by the Park Center for Independent Media, Klein will be presenting her ideas about The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism at 7 p.m. on April 7 in Emerson Suites.
Faculty members hope her talk will inspire intellectual debate.
“Naomi Klein is an exceptionally gifted writer and an exceptionally gifted researcher,” television and radio Professor Jack Powers said. “She presents an argument and she gives us evidence in such a compelling way that it’s very impressive, but with that being said, I think it’s also important to examine other viewpoints.”
Still, while Klein’s ideas are controversial, some students agree with Klein’s “shock doctrine” and are looking forward to her visit.
“‘It seems sensational. It seems like it couldn’t have been real, but I buy into what she says,” Cicale said.
Qina Liu is a freshman journalism major. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org