Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

On Monday, I went to see Canadian writer Naomi Klein, most famous for her ground-breaking, consciousness-raiding book No Logo, read from her most recent book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Her reading at the Old Market in Brighton. It was the first of her UK tour, and as events in this town go, there was little if no publicity for the night. Despite this, the auditorium was packed out, largely with intellectual types. I saw Colin Chalmers, Director of Community Base, in the bar when I went to get my free glass of wine. He theorised that there was a serious divide in Brighton between the people who participated in social activism (such as ourselves) and those who merely read about it. Tonight was a case in point -- Colin was much more active in local activists groups than I was and for a lot longer so he was definitely able to give his expert opinion that NONE of the wine-swilling crowd were the participatory type. "Oh, look, that's why," Colin said, pointing at the book display table. "It's been organised by City Books. No wonder. All these people read books." My friend Derek Parkinson, journalist for e-democracy company Headstar turned up just before it was time to go in, and as the auditorium was full, we made due with sitting way in the back. I had time to go say hi to Oli and Berkan (from old Runtime Collective/now-Magpie days), as well as well as Berkan's girlfriend Asa, who were sitting up front. A second later I suddenly noticed Naomi Klein emerge from the stage door, looking very sleek in her stylish bob and designer black jacket. Not really what I was expecting. The talk started with a short film made by Alfonso Cuarón, director of "Children of Men", and Naomi Klein, and directed by Jonás Cuarón, which was based on the book. You can watch this film on You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kieyjfZDUIc Most of the evening was spent with Noami giving a talk about the concepts and theories fleshed out in her book, which looks at at how governments around the world use real or imagined crises to distract the public in order to slip pass legislation and permissions that are most favourable to big business. She particularly highlights the role of conservative think tanks, which she says are wholly unaccountable, in keeping the necessary ideas on standby for government when such occasions occur. Some examples she names include New Orleans floods, the Thai tsunami and the Falklands War. She further went on to say that these "shock and awe" tactics are by no means new. As the event got to a late start, there was not a lot of time for questions from members of the audience, and those asked were of a particular poor standard. However, one of the last comments made was that Naomi seemed to be tarnishing Western capitalism as the architect of such tactics -- the member of the public pointed out that these tactics were widely used in totalitarian states. Very good point. Afterwards, I went with Oli and Berkan and Asa for food and drinks at the Sanctuary Cafe round the corner, where we continued talking about the talk, arguing think tanks, big business and anti-intellectualism. It was a good night. Look out for a very bright yellow book. Tell me if you find anything new.

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