Disaster Capitalism
August 17, 2008 5:35 AM   Subscribe

"Like the dotcom bubble, the disaster bubble is inflating in an ad-hoc and chaotic fashion." Journalist Naomi Klein discusses how corporations and governments are working together more closely than ever, using the mandate of catastrophe — whether natural or man-made — to further concentrate power in fewer hands, with less oversight: from illegal sales of American police technology to China to avert hypothetical tragedies during the Beijing Olympics, to the privatization of water supplies in post-tsunami Sri Lanka.
posted by Blazecock Pileon (50 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Doug Henwood made a pretty essential left critique of what you might call the "Klein Thesis".
posted by stammer at 6:04 AM on August 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


This is the shadowy cartel behind DoomFilter. Just so you know.
posted by jfuller at 6:48 AM on August 17, 2008


Who is this "Naomi Klein"?
posted by rhymer at 7:06 AM on August 17, 2008


Another good critique of Naomi Klein.
posted by proj at 7:16 AM on August 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


Previously.
posted by zabuni at 7:35 AM on August 17, 2008


there's no disputing her account of the Bush administration's intentions behind the war in Iraq was wholly and damningly accurate article for Harpers way back in September 2004. She was the first to suggest that the chaos that ensued post invasion was all part of a greater plan to replace all the local business in Iraq with Bush pioneer run multinationals. By all accounts these businesses have bilked billions of dollars from the US Treasury in the process, no doubt to the absolute delight of Grover Norquist. So was this all just a coincidence or is Naomi Klein on to something?
posted by any major dude at 7:45 AM on August 17, 2008 [6 favorites]


The purpose of the invasion of Iraq was not to replace local business with multi-national corporations. This is just a natural consequence of the military-industrial complex.

Neoconservatives sincerely believed they were going to bring democracy to Iraq by invading it. This was abetted and exploited by corporations like Haliburton, And because it was led by ideologues and not the realpolitiks, it failed miserably. The free marketers, like Friedman, and the paleoconseratives, never thought the war was a good idea in the first place, and spent many an article in the past few years saying "I told you so" over and over.
posted by zabuni at 8:01 AM on August 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


This seems more like the observance of the natural tendency of selfish, greedy people to be opportunistic and go for the quick buck by any means necessary.

I see it everywhere, all the time. In my local city council when one of the other members gets a DUI ("Vote for me, I'll bring respect back to the office of council member!"), I've seen it in college officials that had a ridiculous pet project on the backburner for 20 years and used the Virgina Tech shootings to push it on everyone, and I've seen it in history books talking about oil men 150 years ago demanding the right to explore areas of the US that became some of the first national parks we still have today.
posted by mathowie at 8:17 AM on August 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


Review by Stephen Holmes in the London Review of Books on The Shock Doctrine
posted by lukemeister at 8:25 AM on August 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


You're missing the point guys. Those debates we had were over the 2007 hardback edition of "The Shock Doctrine."

There's now a brand-spanking new 2008 paperback, priced at a very reasonable $9.60.

Yes, you heard me right! Not $11.60! Not $10.60! For just nine dollars and sixty cents you can learn all there is to know about the sinister impact of modern capitalism!

Contact your sales representative now!
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:32 AM on August 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


The free marketers, like Friedman...never thought the war was a good idea in the first place, and spent many an article in the past few years saying "I told you so" over and over.

I assumed you're talking about Thomas Friedman.
posted by one_bean at 8:50 AM on August 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thanks for that Henwood critique, stammer. Just about everything I've read from Doug has been spot-on.

zabuni: Neoconservatives sincerely believed they were going to bring democracy to Iraq by invading it. This was abetted and exploited by corporations like Haliburton

The two - neocons and corporations like Haliburton - were not separate groups back in 2002. The figures of Cheney and Rumsfeld bridge those two groups perfectly, and they were the two most prominent architects of the rushed plan to invade.

Separating out "sincere neocons" from the "exploitative corporations" that abetted them is not only overly simplistic, but also gives a free pass to the most avaricious of the neocons. Let's not do that.
posted by mediareport at 8:58 AM on August 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


I assumed you're talking about Thomas Friedman.

I can't speak for zabuni, but it sure does trouble me that when someone hears of a "free marketer" named "Friedman," the "Thomas Friedman" bell rings. Because it shouldn't, and your "point" is irrelevant.
posted by Kwantsar at 9:28 AM on August 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Because it shouldn't

Fair point, but it's an easy mistake to make, since Thomas "The World is Flat" Friedman isn't exactly fighting for socialism on the barricades:

David Sirota of the San Francisco Chronicle described Friedman as the "high priest" of free trade fundamentalism, in an article arguing for stronger trade barriers for the USA. The article quotes him as saying "I wrote a column supporting CAFTA. I didn't even know what was in it. I just knew two words: free trade."
posted by lukemeister at 9:35 AM on August 17, 2008


. The free marketers, like Friedman, and the paleoconseratives, never thought the war was a good idea in the first place, and spent many an article in the past few years saying "I told you so" over and over.

Man, those conservatives who were against the war after the fact need to be given a long walk off a short peir.
posted by Artw at 10:05 AM on August 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thomas Friedman is fundamentally a clown and a courtier. The history of Chile shows that Milton Friedman was an evil mastermind of the current world order, such as it is.

Friedman defended his relationship with Pinochet by saying that if Allende had been allowed to remain in office Chileans would have suffered "the elimination of thousands and perhaps mass starvation . . . torture and unjust imprisonment."
posted by geos at 10:24 AM on August 17, 2008


How about the conservatives who were against the war before the fact? There are a few of those. Not many, though. And one of them is Pat Buchanan, so you can take that for what it's worth.
posted by chimaera at 10:27 AM on August 17, 2008


Man, those conservatives who were against the war after the fact need to be given a long walk off a short peir.

This is a very strange thing to say. We typically (and rightly, I think) condemn people who refuse to change their position after it's been proven wrong.

In any event, I don't think Friedman ever supported the war, and no, I don't mean Thomas.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 10:27 AM on August 17, 2008


1) having changed your mind about the war after the fact doesn't mean that you have not done so in the name of political expediency, just as you supported the war before the fact in the name of political expediency.

2) rejecting the war at any time doesn't mean you're doing so for the right reasons or that you're right about anything else.
posted by klanawa at 10:41 AM on August 17, 2008


This is why I laugh at liberals. It's not sufficient merely to support sound policies--no, you have to do it with a pure heart. How are you guys different than the Christians, again?
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 10:48 AM on August 17, 2008


Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America,
Why is it strange that motivations matter? It's the difference between being sorry you did something, and being sorry that you got caught. Similarly, changing your mind because you realize you were wrong is different from appearing to change your mind because it will put you in a better position. We want actual change, not false appearances until you can make the exact same mistake next time because you have learned nothing.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:13 AM on August 17, 2008 [12 favorites]


The history of Chile shows that Milton Friedman was an evil mastermind of the current world order, such as it is.

People try to tar Friedman with the Pinochet brush all the time, and as someone (admittedly sympathetic to Friedman) who has read a good deal on the subject, I just don't see it.. Can you refute anything here?
posted by Kwantsar at 11:14 AM on August 17, 2008


This is a very strange thing to say. We typically (and rightly, I think) condemn people who refuse to change their position after it's been proven wrong.

Exceot a lot of these "true" conservative types will tell you they were against it all along. They just failed to say anything about it whatsoever.
posted by Artw at 11:23 AM on August 17, 2008


This is why I laugh at liberals. It's not sufficient merely to support sound policies--no, you have to do it with a pure heart. How are you guys different than the Christians, again?

Did you see the faith forum that Obama and McCain participated in last night? Yes, a Christian forum, but the purpose was to find the motivations behind the candidates' policies, and it was no doubt a conservative venue. You can try to separate the Christian from the conservative, but then you'll lose your base, so that will never happen.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:35 AM on August 17, 2008


It's the difference between being sorry you did something, and being sorry that you got caught. Similarly, changing your mind because you realize you were wrong is different from appearing to change your mind because it will put you in a better position.

It's extremely difficult to determine whether a particular accusation of insincerity or inauthenticity is actually correct, though, so such accusations can be made with little risk of being proven wrong. Basically, they're cheap, easy partisan shots. I laugh, because it's a pointless exercise.

This seems like a typical liberal line of argument, though. First, point out that something would be wonderful if true (e.g., being easily able to divine people's true motivations), then roundly condemn anyone who suggests it's not actually so easy--not on the grounds that they're wrong, but on the grounds that they hate all things wonderful.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 11:47 AM on August 17, 2008


This seems like a typical liberal line of argument, though. First, point out that something would be wonderful if true (e.g., being easily able to divine people's true motivations), then roundly condemn anyone who suggests it's not actually so easy--not on the grounds that they're wrong, but on the grounds that they hate all things wonderful.

Is this strawman day for you?
posted by SeizeTheDay at 12:02 PM on August 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's extremely difficult to determine whether a particular accusation of insincerity or inauthenticity is actually correct, though, so such accusations can be made with little risk of being proven wrong.

True, and for that reason, these accusations have to be treated cautiously. It doesn't, however, preclude the possibility that sometimes real distinctions can be drawn, and evidence of intentions presented.

This seems like a typical liberal line of argument, though.

What makes you think this type of argument is particularly unique to "liberals?"
posted by namespan at 12:03 PM on August 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why is it shocking that we would hope people who proffer sound policies to support them on the basis of being sound, rather than profitable? Given that as laymen participating in a democracy, we trust these experts to provide policy, it is essential that those experts advocate policy based on its actual efficacy, and not how profitable it may be to their individual interests. In cases such as the Iraq war, where charades of freedom and liberation are presented to disguise what is basically a robbery of enormous scale, those who campaigned for the intervention are not only responsible, but criminally so.
posted by mek at 12:23 PM on August 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Here's the Cato review of The Shock Doctrine, to go along with stammer, proj, and lukemeister's links.
posted by noahpoah at 12:43 PM on August 17, 2008


You forgot the "batshitinsane" tag.
posted by Class Goat at 1:06 PM on August 17, 2008


The purpose of the invasion of Iraq was not to replace local business with multi-national corporations. This is just a natural consequence of the military-industrial complex.

*sad horn*
posted by stinkycheese at 1:21 PM on August 17, 2008


It's extremely difficult to determine whether a particular accusation of insincerity or inauthenticity is actually correct, though, so such accusations can be made with little risk of being proven wrong.

It's not "extremely difficult", really. If someone who once supported the war now says they no longer support the war, they usually say why they've had this change of heart. These reasons can be paired with their words, actions, or voting records in related areas. We're not talking crystal balls here. Just basic observation.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:31 PM on August 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Only crisis -actual or perceived- produces real change." Milton Friedman.

Stimulating post. Thanks Blazecock. There always seems so much to learn about the world.

I'm really enjoying Naomi Klein's writing. She articulates many things I'd almost been able to think about but hadn't organized in my thoughts.

The concept of using shock as a bait and switch distraction tactic used by corrupt politicians was wonderfully portrayed in that great dark comedy-reality, Wag the Dog. A painfully funny movie.

Reading this negative review of her book, I wondered if one of the points she is making is the inherently antisocial nature of the corporation?

One of the many things she discusses is the impact of trauma on people in bonding them to others in political situations. Patrick Carnes talks about trauma bonding when it comes to abusive domestic relationships. A similar concept. Carnes on the microcosmic level and Klein on the macrocosmic level.

In your illegal sales of American police technology link I was pleased to read the article is by both Naomi Klein and Christian Parenti. Christian's father's is Michael Parenti and I've admired his writing for a while now. Nice to read more from Christian Parenti's website.
posted by nickyskye at 1:40 PM on August 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


Thanks for reading the links, nicky.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:11 PM on August 17, 2008


Another good critique of Naomi Klein.

invoking The New "Attaq Iraq Hells YEAH" Republic's authority in all matters related to Iraq is a bit like invoking Herbert Hoover's authority whenever discussing FDR's shortcomings -- a bit fucking rich, not to mention shameless. TNR's only relevant as an example of a magazine that managed to be more or less wrong on everything of consequence in the last eight years -- and was duly run into the ground by its now ex-owner (heck of a job, Marty!).

Neoconservatives sincerely believed they were going to bring democracy to Iraq by invading it

is this a joke? "sincerely"? I mean, cooking intelligence, making shit up and creating false evidence out of thin air still make one sincere, in your fantasy world?

Basically, they're cheap, easy partisan shots.

well, GWB and his daddy and now McCain have built careers on nothing more than "cheap, easy partisan shots". racist partisan cheap shots, as well. so don't get all worked up now that the occasional librul takes one cheap shot.

speaking of cheap shots, for our resident Friedman/Pinochet apologists: to argue that Friedman actually didn't rip out any political prisoner's fingernails or didn't beat pregnant prisoner's bellies with billy clubs the way Pinochet's thugs did is a bit irrelevant -- it's a bit like arguing (Godwin, yes Godwin! OMG Godwin) that since Hitler didn't actually travel over to the camps to personally kill Jews with his own hands, the Holocaust is not really his responsibility. Friedman and his boys -- and this is undeniable -- aided and abetted and made a shitload of money for a guy whose interrogators trained dogs to rape women prisoners (in the case that syphilitic guards were not available for the job).

let me repeat this: they trained dogs to rape women prisoners. I'm sure that since those same dogs must have eaten dog food and Friedman's policies helped Chile's economy, then Friedman deserves credit as a friend of pets, too.

if it were up to Friedman, Pinochet would be still there in power (well, if Pinochet were still alive). talk about being "fifth columns" of murderers, Jesus Christ. and to try to build some post-facto credibility for the Friedman-as-antiwar fiction is just that, fiction -- funnily enough poor Milton started to express loudly his big doubts three years after the invasion. that's not even "Monday Morning Quarterback", that's a joke.

nobody of any consequence on the right (except, admittedly, a few cranks) said a word because only lefty traitors who hated America were against the war back then -- America wanted her revenge for 9/11 and by fucking God she was going to get it -- trying to pretend everybody was kind of against the war is shameful (just Google the kind of shit poor Howard Dean, a rare consistent anti-war candidate four years ago, had to take from everybody -- including a lot of his fellow Democrats). so, sorry, Friedman tried to back the truck up when it had already crashed, killed thousands of Americans (no one cares about the Iraqi body count) and blown a trillion dollars (well, funneled it) into the pockets of more than a few of Friedman's many corporate masters). so, no, nice try, but it doesn't work, sorry.


This is why I laugh at liberals.

if you had any idea about what liberals do to your food before it's brought to your table, you'd know that you're not the one enjoying the last laugh, sadly, Steve.
posted by matteo at 5:12 PM on August 17, 2008 [14 favorites]


That Henwood review is marvelous; thanks for the link.
posted by Slothrup at 5:31 PM on August 17, 2008


Yes, because the New Republic supported the Iraq invasion, everything that has ever been written in its pages since is completely invalid and without merit. Good argument!
posted by proj at 6:34 PM on August 17, 2008


Yes, because the New Republic supported the Iraq invasion, everything that has ever been written in its pages since, THAT CONTRADICTS THEIR ORIGINAL STANCE, is completely invalid and without merit.

yup
posted by nudar at 7:32 PM on August 17, 2008


Neoconservatives sincerely believed they were going to bring democracy to Iraq by invading it.

I recall the argument for war had a lot more to do with something called "weapons of mass destruction". But revise away, neocons were pure of heart, right? Sic'im Dr. Elvis!
posted by telstar at 9:22 PM on August 17, 2008


C'mon, telstar, be fair: the rationale for invading Iraq wasn't all about WMDs - there was also Saddam's BFF, Osama bin Laden. Or has the liberal media gotten to you, too?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:38 PM on August 17, 2008


In just a few years, the homeland security industry, which barely existed before 9/11, has exploded to a size that is now significantly larger than either Hollywood or the music business

What is striking about the whole "disaster capitalism" method is that through pure probability it will produce good ideas and occasional success. Throw trillions of dollars at a problem and something will happen. Hollywood proves that. But instead of wasting the producer's money and the aspiring artists' time, BushCo is flushing my money down the toilet hoping to make one good video before he retires. Maybe he should call Lucas or Spielberg.
posted by Parallax.Error at 11:50 PM on August 17, 2008


Neocons are ditchwater drinking nun-fucking scum douchebag flag-waving assholes who got people that I knew killed. They can go fuck themselves, and nothing they or anyone else says is going to change that or bring them back. Tough shit if you have a problem with that. You made the fucking mistake: at least own it or have the decency to slink away in shame and shut your goddamned mouth. Don't try and sell me on yet another fucking pointless war, you fucking idiot.

I have a nephew who's just out of basic in the Army now. The idea of some worthless piece of shit clamoring for him to go and fucking die for their bullshit pipedream literally turns my stomach. If you think it's such a hot idea, here are your two options:


1. Enlist.

2. Shut the fuck up.


There is no 3.
posted by trondant at 11:55 PM on August 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


Telstar: Did anyone really believe that WMD stuff? Like, that some dictator in the ME having some poison gas was enough to get the US off its arse and risk the popularity of the govt of the day? Load of toss from the start. Even if there were warehouses full of nerve gas shells, and the beginnings of a nuke program, that still wouldn't have been reason enough. See South Africa, NK, Pakistan...

There was always going to be a real reason behind that.

The fact that the WMD's turned out to be complete vapour was about the least surprising thing about the whole farce.
posted by pompomtom at 6:25 AM on August 18, 2008


I've been on the fence about reading The Shock Doctrine for some time. It's not that I don't think it's thesis (as much as I've heard and read about it) isn't sound; it's that I first read about those ideas in a science fiction book. Am I that naive? Apparently.
posted by wobh at 7:43 AM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


The argument that the neocons were motivated by thoughts of bringing democracy to Iraq is preposterous on the face of it. There are hundreds of nations without democracy, many of which were quite a bit worse for their citizenry than Saddam was. Saddam was, no argument, a bad person and a vile dictator, but he was not, and is not, particularly unique or worse than the average dictator.

Which brings us to the question: why were they so interested in bringing democracy to Iraq, as opposed to, say, Uzbekistan? Or Saudi Arabia? Or Sudan? Or Bosnia?

The answer, of course, is that they don't care one whit about democracy [1], but they do care quite a bit about oil, and getting massive oil profits for their friends, and of course massive war windfalls for their friends. They could have gotten the last regardless of the foe, but since Iraq was the biggest piece of unsecured oil it was the only target they ever expressed any interest in at all.

wobh Yeah, the whole disaster management part of Bush's presidency looks frighteningly like the approach taken by the Podmasters.

[1] And, I'd argue that Joe Neocon is generally quite anti-democratic.
posted by sotonohito at 8:03 AM on August 18, 2008


Well, no-one can quite sufficiently explain why they're not basically just fascists, so yes.
posted by Artw at 8:29 AM on August 18, 2008


Financial Times interview with Naomi Klein. It was my starting and stopping point, mostly because I don't a lot of time these days.
posted by IndigoJones at 9:54 AM on August 18, 2008


Did anyone really believe that WMD stuff? Like, that some dictator in the ME having some poison gas was enough to get the US off its arse and risk the popularity of the govt of the day? Load of toss from the start.

Yes, it was. But unfortunately, as late as 2006, half of Americans believed Saddam had WMDs, which was actually up from 36% in 2005.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:26 PM on August 18, 2008


Did anyone really believe that WMD stuff?

Dick Morris: War critics will suffer Feb 2003.
posted by telstar at 1:50 AM on August 19, 2008


That Jonathan Chait New Republican article just has me steaming and it's a microcosm of how journalism has become opinion based propaganda. This passage makes me sick.

The other piece of data that Klein cites to support her charge that Bush administration officials profit from the disasters that they cause is Vice President Cheney's holdings in Halliburton. "When he leaves office in 2009 and is able to cash in his Halliburton holdings," she charges, "Cheney will have the opportunity to profit extravagantly from the stunning improvement in Halliburton's fortunes." This is a spectacular accusation--that the driving force behind the Iraq war stands to gain millions of dollars from it. You might wonder why John Kerry did not make this an issue in 2004, or why liberal pundits have not crusaded against Cheney's blatant self-dealing. The answer, of course, is that it is completely untrue. Cheney has signed a legally binding agreement to donate to charity any increase in his Halliburton stock. (Honest-- you can look this up on factcheck.org.)


As far as Jonathan Chait is concerned the fact that Dick Cheney has entered a legally binding agreement to donate all of his Halliburton profits TO A CHARITY OF HIS CHOOSING, is all Jonathan Chait needs to put the rest that Cheney has absolved his conflict of interest. This is a man who has lied and broken the law on numerous occasions but Jonathan Chait is convinced that he will act honorably in this one instance. Does Jonathan Chait explore the chances that Dick Cheney might donate those profits to some right wing front organization like the AEI? They are technically a charity Jonathan. You'd think a responsible journalist would contact Dick Cheney's office and press him to name the charity where those profits will go right now instead of some future date when he is out of the public spotlight. No, Chait has no interest in that because it would weaken his argument that Naomi Klein is full of shit. You see, Jonathan Chait had an agenda in this piece - to destroy Naomi Klein, not discover the truth. If you don't take sides before you start your research you have no place working in today's American "journalism"
posted by any major dude at 6:18 AM on August 19, 2008


« Older George Carlins early career is often overlooked, t...  |  Who is Alexander Grothendieck?... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments