Klein’s ‘Shock Doctrine’ a hit

Journalist/filmmaker Naomi Klein doesn’t expect many warm welcomes while touring the North Atlantic to promote her latest book entitled The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. However, the reception here in her hometown of Montreal was much warmer than she anticipated as she received a standing ovation at Concordia last Wednesday.

Journalist/filmmaker Naomi Klein doesn’t expect many warm welcomes while touring the North Atlantic to promote her latest book entitled The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. However, the reception here in her hometown of Montreal was much warmer than she anticipated as she received a standing ovation at Concordia last Wednesday.
Klein has been both vilified and revered for her previous books, No Logo and Fences and Borders. Her latest takes a particularly hard stance on Milton Freidman, the influential author of Capitalism and Freedom and former personal advisor to the likes of Augusto Pinochet, Ronald Reagan, Boris Yeltsin and Donald Rumsfeld. To protect herself she has included 70 pages of footnotes and had three lawyers fact check the book in its entirety.
Klein began her speech by defining the term ‘shock doctrine’ by quoting Freidman who in 1982 wrote, “Only a crisis, actual or perceived, can incite real change. When that crisis occurs the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That I believe is our basic function, to get the ideas ready for when the seemingly impossible becomes inevitable.”
She points to Chile after the 1973 military coup as the first laboratory for Friedman’s ideas. In Pinochet’s regime Klein discovered three distinct forms of shock treatment: the shock of a military coup, an economic crisis and the shock of mass torture. It was precisely during this state of shock that Freidman advised Pinochet to employ what Klein calls ‘rapid-fire capitalist makeover.’ Public spending on health care and education were slashed and free-trade was imposed virtually over night.
The thesis of her book is therefore, taking “another look at the past 35 years of corporate ascendancy around the world and looking at how this fundamentalist, capitalist ideology has come about through shock and crisis, time and time again,” said Klein.
Strangely enough, this doctrine is rooted in the MK-ULTRA electroshock experiments conducted at McGill University under Dr. Ewan Cameron in the 1950s. Cameron’s experiments had the stated objective of creating a blank-slate in an individual’s mind during which the patient would regress into a childlike state, allowing for a “re-birth under Cameron’s tutelage”. These experiments attracted the attention of the CIA who funded Cameron and encouraged him to go even further with his research, which was eventually codified in the 1963 CIA interrogation manual.
“[The manual] talks about the need to regress the victim, to bring them into a state of shock,” said Klein, “It is then that a window of opportunity opens up. In that window is when the prisoner is most likely to confide in the interrogator that which they would not have otherwise.”
Klein related the information in this manual to the invasion of Iraq, which she describes as “a military strategy that was designed to put an entire population into a state of shock and awe.”
According to Klein, after the initial invasion former Director of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance Paul Bremmer put forward a plan for the most “radical course of economic shock treatment ever attempted.” Bremmer then “tore up Iraq’s economic infrastructure and created a kind of wish-list for foreign investors.”
“Then we see the third shock of torture in Iraq which is not about getting information. It is a form of mass communication, a way to control an unruly country,” said Klein.
This is precisely what Klein means when she talks about ‘disaster capitalism.’ She first encountered this term while visiting the tsunami-ravaged country of Sri Lanka in 2004.
Prior to the tsunami there had been attempts to privatize many Sri Lankan companies and to deregulate the Sri Lankan economy. Eight months prior to the tsunami the Sri Lankan people had resisted these measures by voting out the government trying to impose these policies.
Four days after the tsunami hit, a water privatization bill was put forward. “This was a moment when the dead weren’t buried yet and there was no possibility of people participating in a debate that was so crucial to their future. It was precisely in that window of opportunity that these policies were put through,” said Klein.
Two weeks after hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the Heritage Foundation hosted a meeting during which they came up with a list of 33 market solutions. These included: creating a free-trade/tax-free enterprise zone, lifting labour regulations on worker’s wages and drilling in the natural wildlife reserves.
“They have the ideas ready, there is a pre-existing agenda that is waiting on the crisis,” said Klein.
Klein is not a conspiracy theorist however, she merely believes that politicians “understand that their actions are creating a very disaster-prone world, whether it is blow-backs from their wars, a refusal to take serious action on climate change, allowing the public infrastructure to erode or creating ‘casino capitalism’ that will create economic crashes around the world,” said Klein, “I think it’s because they know they can’t really lose when they hit.”
“We now have leaders who rather than helping people get oriented in these moments of collective vertigo, they deliberately deepen them,” said Klein.
One thing the CIA interrogation manuals are explicit about is the need to keep prisoners isolated from one another. “Once the prisoners talk to each other the interrogators can still hurt their prisoners, but what they can’t do is get them into that regressed state where they become childlike and dependent,” said Klein.
That is precisely why Klein wrote this book. “When we understand what is happening to us we get tough and shock resistant.”

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