Naomi Klein is one of the most astute observers and analysts of the American political scene. She is the author of the book Shock Doctrine and has just released a new book No Is Not Enough that discusses how the newly energized protest movement can be more effective. I was glad to see that The Intercept has snapped her up as a columnist. In her recent piece she warns us that the circus-like atmosphere surrounding the Trump administration should not distract us from the fact that he will use any major event on the global scene to ram through his substantive actions.
Large-scale shocks are frequently harnessed to ram through despised pro-corporate and anti-democratic policies that would never have been feasible in normal times. It’s a phenomenon I have previously called the “Shock Doctrine,” and we have seen it happen again and again over the decades, from Chile in the aftermath of Augusto Pinochet’s coup to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
As Milton Friedman wrote long ago, “Only a crisis — actual or perceived — produces 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 develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.” Survivalists stockpile canned goods and water in preparation for major disasters; these guys stockpile spectacularly anti-democratic ideas.
Now, as many have observed, the pattern is repeating under Trump. On the campaign trail, he did not tell his adoring crowds that he would cut funds for meals-on-wheels, or admit that he was going to try to take health insurance away from millions of Americans, or that he planned to grant every item on Goldman Sachs’ wish list. He said the very opposite.
Since taking office, however, Donald Trump has never allowed the atmosphere of chaos and crisis to let up. Some of the chaos, like the Russia investigations, has been foisted upon him or is simply the result of incompetence, but much appears to be deliberately created. Either way, while we are distracted by (and addicted to) the Trump Show, clicking on and gasping at marital hand-slaps and mysterious orbs, the quiet, methodical work of redistributing wealth upward proceeds apace.
She says that the global transnational elites do not give a damn about global problems because they have their protective cocoons. She looks at what might be unleashed on us in the wake of various ‘shocks’ in the following areas: terror, war, economics, and the weather, and says that we are heading towards a global separation of Green Zones, where the wealthy love comfortably, and Red Zones for the rest of us.
The dramatic rise in right-wing nationalism, anti-Black racism, Islamophobia, and straight-up white supremacy over the past decade cannot be pried apart from these larger geopolitical and ecological trends. The only way to justify such barbaric forms of exclusion is to double down on theories of racial hierarchy that tell a story about how the people being locked out of the global Green Zone deserve their fate, whether it’s Trump casting Mexicans as rapists and “bad hombres,” and Syrian refugees as closet terrorists, or prominent Conservative Canadian politician Kellie Leitch proposing that immigrants be screened for “Canadian values,” or successive Australian prime ministers justifying those sinister island detention camps as a “humanitarian” alternative to death at sea.
This is what global destabilization looks like in societies that have never redressed their foundational crimes — countries that have insisted slavery and indigenous land theft were just glitches in otherwise proud histories. After all, there is little more Green Zone/Red Zone than the economy of the slave plantation — of cotillions in the master’s house steps away from torture in the fields, all of it taking place on the violently stolen indigenous land on which North America’s wealth was built. And now the same theories of racial hierarchy that justified those violent thefts in the name of building the industrial age are surging to the surface as the system of wealth and comfort they constructed starts to unravel on multiple fronts simultaneously.
In a radio interview today on the program On Point, she says that we are witnessing the culmination of years of the bipartisan selling of the country to the corporate sector and the oligarchs. What distinguishes Trump from his predecessors is the sheer shamelessness, where they are not even bothering to hide the takeover of democracy and discusses what the resistance needs to do to take him down hard.