By Jack Jodell, June 12, 2011
NAOMI KLEIN (1970- ) is a brilliant progressive author and activist who has been very busy in the fields of publishing and videography. She comes from a Jewish family well-versed in left-wing politics: her paternal grandparents were originally communists who turned against the Soviet Union once the Soviets entered into alliance with the Nazis as a result of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact; her mother and father were originally U.S. citizens who settled in Toronto in 1967 in protest against the Vietnam War; and her grandfather, an animator for Walt Disney Studios in the 1940s, was fired by them for agitation in 1942. Today, her physician father is a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility, and her brother is director of the British Columbia office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. One might think that having a pedigree like this would have ensured that Ms. Klein would become a leading progressive voice, but actually, she was slow to respond to the call. In her teenage years, in fact, she fully embraced consumerism, hanging out in shopping malls and rejecting politics completely. She found it “very oppressive to have a very public feminist mother.” For her mom, Bonnie Sherr Klein, was a very outspoken filmaker and activist. But at 17, Naomi was faced with her mother having sufferied a very severely disabling stroke. The event opened her eyes and she delayed entrance into the University of Toronto for one year as she helped her father and brother take care of Bonnie. The stroke had left her mother a quadraplegic on a ventilator for breathing, and useful rehabilitation would not come for three more long years. Her mother’s misfortune, plus an occurrence outside her home, the Ecole Poytechnique Massacre of 1989, completely turned Naomi’s life around and stopped her from “being such a brat.”
Also known as the Montreal Massacre, this senseless Mini-14 rifle murder of 14 different female students at a Quebec university by a disaffected 25 year old male claiming to be “fighting feminism” shocked all of Canada, and Naomi in particular. She started writing in her school newspaper and eventually became its editor-in-chief. Klein dropped out of the university in her third year to become a writer for the Toronto Globe and Mail as well as for This Magazine, the Canadian equivalent of our own progressive magazine, The Nation. Meanwhile, this spate of senseless murders led the sensible Canadians to enact stricter gun control laws, something that was successfully avoided here due to constant conservative Republican and paranoid NRA pressure (even after the shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords in Arizona last January). Over the years, though, Naomi Klein has refused to be silenced and has continued to pen many thoughtful contributions for a wide variety of publications, as well as several of her own books. In 2005, she was even ranked 11th in the top world’s intellectuals by Prospect Magazine.
In 2000, her internationally best-selling book No Logo was published. It became the cause-celebre of those opposed to globalization in that it attacked the propensity of huge multinational corporations to greatly exploit the laborers in poor countries for huge profits. It brutally and deservedly savaged the Nike Corporation for its role in such matters, causing them to issue a point-by-point rebuttal. Talk about speaking truth to power – Naomi Klein certainly accomplished that! In 2002, Klein published Fences and Windows, a collection of her many articles and speeches written on behalf of the anti-globalization movement. Proceeds from this work have gone directly to benefit activist groups in this area. In 2004, in an article for Harper’s Magazine, she wrote quite correctly that the Bush administration had no plan for post-invasion Iraq other than to allow it to be pillaged and plundered by free-market types. That same year, she and her husband Avi Lewis released a magnificent documentary film on Argentina’s workers and the Argentine economy, called No Take. It showed how then-Argentine Preseident Carlos Menem, a Bush-clone free-market type if there ever was one, worked to privatize and ruin the Argentine economy, in conjunction with the International Monetary Fund. One by one, once-prosperous state factories closed, only to be confiscated and occupied, and then eventually RUN, by the workers themselves! It became a classic case of a true workers cooperative, rather than one run by the state as previous Russian, Chinese, and Cuban Communist ones had been. Naturally, all the private pro-corporate industrialists raised complete holy hell about it, but amazingly enough, the Argentinian Supreme Court sided with the workers, and when election time came up, Menem was defeated and was prevented from privatizing and ruining any more of the Argentine economy. The story was quite revealing and I found it to be a remarkably fresh democumentary which I was lucky enough to view recently on LINK TV. It chronichled an event which received scant, if any, attention on our corporatist mainstream media here, and was an excellent example of the type of work Naomi Klein is best noted for.
In 2007, Klein released her most recent and important book to date: The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. It argues that the free market economic policies of Milton Friedman were adopted in Pinochet’s Chile, Yeltsin’s Russia, and the privitization of the New Orleans Public Schools immediately after Hurricane Katrina, all with undesirable effect. Each was implemented immediately following periods of great shock, upheaval, and confusion, and they enabled forces of self-centered intent to attain and maintain control against the real wishes of the majority of people. It argues that the privatization of the Iraqi economy was forced on them under the Coalition Provisional Authority, having been pushed through on an unwitting populace dazed from the war and civil unrest around them, and in a complete departure from prior Iraqi tradition. All for the benefit od corrupt, putside capitalists who could then make greater profits for themselves. Klein identifies these acts and others as examples of the way greedy capitalists employ their “shock doctrine” to push through unpopular “reforms” at the expense of the people they are supposed to be helping.Joseph Stiglitz has said of the book, “it is an ambitious look at the economic history of the past 50 years and the rise of free market fundamentalism around the world.” The New Yorker calls Klein “The most visible and influential figure on the American left – what Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky were thirty years ago.” That Naomi Klein should come under attack from the far right for her works should surprise nobody: these attacks merely confirm the authenticity and reliability of her fine work.
Much of Klein’s outstanding work can be seen in video snippets all over YouTube. If you get a chance, take a good look. You will discover, to your delight, a very strong and articulate progressive voice who definitely knows the score! She will provide you with the hope and the desire to battle the far right for yet another day, and for many days to come thereafter!.