When small steps are not enough
What: Naomi Klein
When: 7 pm Thu., Jun. 22
Where: The Neptune Theatre, 1303 Northeast 45th St., Seattle
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Rarely have man and the moment collided so ferociously than in the presidency of Donald J. Trump. And few writers have the framework to understand the collision and the shockwaves to follow more than Naomi Klein. The acclaimed journalist, activist and bestselling author has spent two decades studying political shocks and well-branded bullies.
Watching Donald Trump’s rise, she admits in her latest book, she’s had a strange feeling she’s covered this topic before. Klein laid out the pattern in an earlier book, The Shock Doctrine, which traced the rise of disaster capitalism, the rapid-fire corporate reengineering of societies reeling from shock and the collapse of the public sector once designed to cushion against shocks, whether geo-political, environmental or financial. In Trump, those patterns are brought into vivid focus.
“It’s not just that he’s applying shock politics to the most powerful and heavily armed nation on earth,” Klein explains in the introduction to her new book, No Is Not Enough. “It’s more than that. In books, documentary films, and investigative reporting, I have documented a range of trends: the rise of the Superbrands; the expanding power of wealth over the political system, the global imposition of neoliberalism, often using racism and fear of the ‘other’ as a potent tool; the damaging impacts of corporate free trade; and the deep hold that climate change denial has on the right side of the political spectrum. And as I began to research Trump, he started to seem to me to be like Frankenstein’s monster, sewn together out of the body parts of all those and many other dangerous trends.”
The election of Donald Trump, Klein argues, is a dangerous escalation in a world of cascading crises. Trump’s vision—a radical deregulation of the U.S. economy in the interest of corporations, an all-out war on “radical Islamic terrorism,” and sweeping aside climate science to unleash a domestic fossil fuel frenzy—will generate wave after wave of crises and shocks, to the economy, to national security, to the environment.
In the book, Klein explains that Trump, extreme as he is, is not an aberration but a logical extension of the worst and most dangerous trends of the past half-century. In exposing the malignant forces behind Trump’s rise, she puts forward a bold vision for a mass movement to counter rising militarism, nationalism and corporatism in the United States and around the world.
“Though Trump breaks the mold in some ways,” Klein notes, his shock tactics do follow a script, one familiar to other countries that have had rapid changes imposed under the cover of a crisis.
During Trump’s first week in office, when he was signing that tsunami of executive orders and people were just reeling, madly trying to keep up, she confesses, the velocity of change meant “you can no longer expect people to act in their own interests when they’re so disoriented they don’t know—or no longer care—what those interests are.”
“The goal,” Klein writes, “is an all-out war in the public sphere and the public interest, whether in the form of antipollution regulations or programs for the hungry. In their place will be unfettered power and freedom for corporations. It’s a program so defiantly unjust and so manifestly corrupt that it can only be pulled off with the assistance of divide-and-conquer racial and sexual politics, as well as a nonstop spectacle of media distractions. And of course,” she continues, “it is being backed by a massive increase in war spending, a dramatic escalation of military conflicts on multiple fronts, from Syria to North Korea, alongside presidential musings about how ‘torture works.’”
No Is Not Enough is a greatest hits compilation for Klein, which grinds Trump’s presidency (and the larger phenomenon around it) through the author’s models of corporate branding, shock, disaster capitalism, culture jamming, and other tactics she’s catalogued before. And she confesses that, unlike those earlier works that were meticulously researched and years in the making, her latest book fairly flew white-hot into production. All the pieces were already assembled.
“The book’s argument, in a nutshell, is that Trump, extreme as he is, is less an aberration that a logical conclusion—a pastiche of pretty much the worst trends of the past half century,” she writes. “Trump is the product of powerful systems of thought that rank human life based on religion, gender, sexuality, physical appearance, and physical ability—and that have systematically used race as a weapon to advance brutal economic polices. He is also the personification of the merger of humans and corporations—a one-man megabrand, whose wife and children are spin-off brands”—that wages war on everything public and commonly held.
Yet, for all its dire accuracy in diagnosing a cancer, Klein’s book is also surprisingly hopeful—suggesting that too rapid a succession of shocks, too incompetently launched, could actually trigger of tsunami of backpressure as citizens and movements unite in defense.
“Trump and his gang are betting that this all-at-once strategy will overwhelm their adversaries, sending them scrambling in all directions and ultimately causing them to give up out of sheer exhaustion or a sense of futility.
“This blitzkrieg strategy, though it has often worked in the past, is actually quite high-risk,” she notes. “The danger of starting fights on so many fronts is that if it doesn’t succeed in demoralizing opponents, it could very well unite them.
“We can evolve and grow up in a crisis, and set aside all kinds of bullshit—fast.”
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