NAOMI KLEIN: Shock.
MEGYN KELLY: Shocking.
STEPHEN COLBERT: I don’t think I could sit down right now.
ALISYN CAMEROTA: You mean—
WILLIE GEIST: Historic, astounding, shocking.
NAOMI KLEIN: It’s a word that’s come up a lot since November, for obvious reasons.
KELLYANNE CONWAY: He’s going to inject a shock to the system.
NAOMI KLEIN: Now, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about shock. Ten years ago, I published The Shock Doctrine, an investigation that spanned four decades, from Pinochet’s U.S.-backed coup in 1970s Chile to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. I noticed a brutal and recurring tactic by right-wing governments. After a shocking event—a war, a coup, a terrorist attack, market crash or natural disaster—exploit the public’s disorientation, suspend democracy, push through radical policies that enrich the 1 percent at the expense of the poor and middle class.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This is a repeal and a replace of Obamacare.
GARY COHN: We’re going to cut taxes and simplify the tax code.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord.
NAOMI KLEIN: Now, some people have said that’s exactly what Trump has been trying to do. Is it true? Well, sort of. But in all likelihood, the worst is yet to come, and we better be ready. The administration is creating chaos, daily.
JUJU CHANG: Breaking news: Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has resigned tonight.
ANDERSON COOPER: All of a sudden, the White House is concerned about James Comey’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s email?
CBS NEWS ANCHOR: A Senate committee will question President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner about his meeting with officials from a Russian bank.
NAOMI KLEIN: Now, of course many of the scandals are the result of the president’s ignorance and blunders, not some nefarious strategy. But there’s also no doubt that some savvy people around Trump are using the daily shocks as cover to advance wildly pro-corporate policies that bear little resemblance to what Trump pledged on the campaign trail.
DONALD TRUMP: Save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
MSNBC ANCHOR: The White House released its budget for 2018, and among the $4 trillion in cuts it proposes are billions upon billions of dollars slashed from both Medicaid and Social Security.
NAOMI KLEIN: And the worst part, this is likely just the warm-up. We need to focus on what this administration will do when it has a major external shock to exploit. Maybe it will be an economic crash like 2008, maybe a natural disaster like Sandy, or maybe it will be a horrific terrorist event like Manchester or Paris in 2015. Any one such crisis could redraw the political map overnight. And it could give Trump and his crew free rein to ram through their most extreme ideas.
But here is one thing I’ve learned over two decades of reporting from dozens of crises around the world: These tactics can be resisted. And, for your convenience, I’ve tried to boil it down to a five-step plan.
Step one: Know what’s coming. What would happen if a horror like the one in Manchester took place on U.S. soil? Based on Trump’s obvious fondness for authoritarianism, we can expect him to impose some sort of state of exception or emergency where the usual rules of democracy no longer apply. Protests and strikes that block roads and airports, like the ones that sprung up to resist the Muslim travel ban, would likely be declared a threat to national security. Protest organizers would be targeted under anti-terror legislation, with surveillance, arrests and imprisonment. With public signs of dissent suppressed, the truly toxic to-do list would quickly bubble up: bring in the feds to pacify the streets, muzzle investigative journalism—you know he’s itching to.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You weren’t called. Sit down!
NAOMI KLEIN: The courts, who Trump would inevitably blame for the attacks, might well lose their courage. And the most lethal shock we need to prepare for: a push for a full-blown foreign war. And, no, it won’t matter if the target has no connection to the attacks used to justify it.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: What did Iraq have to do with what?
REPORTER: The attack on the World Trade Center.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Nothing.
NAOMI KLEIN: Preparing for all this is crucial. If we know what to expect, we won’t be that shocked. We’ll just be pissed.
And that’s important for step two: Get out of your home and defy the bans. When governments tell people to stay in their homes or show their patriotism by going shopping, they inevitably claim it’s for public safety, that protests and rallies could become targets for more attacks. What we know from other countries is that there is only one way to respond.
EURONEWS ANCHOR: Hundreds of Tunisians have been defying the curfew in the capital, Tunis.
NAOMI KLEIN: Disobey en masse. That’s what happened in Argentina in 2001. With the country in economic free fall, the president at the time declared a state of siege, giving himself the power to suspend the constitution.
FERNANDO DE LA RÚA: [translated] I declared a state of siege across the entire country.
NAOMI KLEIN: He told the public to stay in their houses. Here’s what they did instead.
NAOMI KLEIN: The president resigned that night. And eventually new elections were held.
Three years later, in Madrid, a horrifying series of coordinated attacks on trains killed more than 200 people. The prime minister, José María Aznar, falsely pointed the finger at Basque separatists and also used the attacks to justify his decision to send troops to Iraq. His rhetoric was classic shock doctrine: division, war, fear—Daddy will protect you. This is how Spaniards responded.
PROTESTERS: [translated] Resignation! Resignation!
NAOMI KLEIN: They voted out Aznar a few days later. Many people said they did it because he reminded them of Franco, Spain’s former dictator.
Which brings us to step three: Know your history. Throughout U.S. history, national crises have been used to suspend constitutional protections and attack basic rights. After the Civil War, with the nation in crisis, the promise of 40 acres and a mule to freed slaves was promptly betrayed. In the midst of the pain and panic of the Great Depression, as many as 2 million people of Mexican descent were expelled from the United States. After the Pearl Harbor attacks, around 120,000 Japanese Americans were jailed in internment camps. If an attack on U.S. soil were perpetrated by people who were not white and Christian, we can be pretty damn sure that racists would have a field day. And the good folks of Manchester recently showed us how to respond to that.
PROTESTER: The people of Manchester don’t stand with your xenophobia and racism!
NAOMI KLEIN: Something else we know from history, step four: Always follow the money. While everyone is focused on security and civil liberties, Trump’s Cabinet of billionaires will try to quietly push through even more extreme measures to enrich themselves and their class, like dismantling Social Security or auctioning off major pieces of government for profit.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Today we’re proposing to take American air travel into the future.
NAOMI KLEIN: It’s in those moments when fear and chaos are sucking up all the oxygen when we most have to ask: Whose interests are being served by the chaos? What is being slipped through while we’re distracted? Who’s getting richer, and who’s getting even poorer?
WENDELL PIERCE: When the floodwaters were still rising in New Orleans, one of the first official acts that the governor did was to fire all the teachers. What’s happening is a raid of the money set aside for public education to be given to private companies. It wasn’t by happenstance. It was by design. You saw the political manipulations and taking advantage of the crisis.
NAOMI KLEIN: But if we learn from this history, we could actually make history, with step five: Advance a bold counterplan. At their best, all the previous steps can only slow down attempts to exploit crisis. If we actually want to defeat this tactic, opponents of the shock doctrine need to move quickly to put forward a credible alternate plan. It needs to get at the root of why these sorts of crises are hitting us with ever greater frequency. And that means we have to talk about militarism, climate change and deregulated markets. More than that, we need to advance and fight for different models, ones grounded in racial, economic and gender justice, ones that hold out the credible promise of a tangibly better and fairer life in the here and now and a safer planet for all of us in the long term. Defensive actions alone won’t cut it. There has to be a different vision, and it needs to be bold. Saying no to the shock doctrine is vitally important. But when the [bleep] hits the fan, no is not enough.
Nullius in verba
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