Sunday, October 14, 2007

Randi Rhodes Interviews Naomi Klein -- "Not just the craziness of the Bush gang ... the logical culmination of a 25 year war on the state ..."

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

Randi Rhodes Interviews Naomi Klein -- "Not just the craziness of the Bush gang ... the logical culmination of a 25 year war on the state ..."

The economic security of our people is being betrayed. The wealth of our nation is being looted. Our character and traditions are being re-engineered. The framework of our republic itself -- i.e., the US Constitution, and in particular, the Bill of Rights -- is being systematically dismantled.

All before our very eyes.

And unless the process of betrayal, looting, re-engineering and dismantling is reversed, the democratic institutions and social fabric on which the nation stands will soon be no more than a façade; and then at some point, that façade will be written over, and the USA will be gone in all but name (if even that).

Of course, many of us are stomping up and down, sounding the alarm, offering up a fierce resistance. But many others are simply wandering around the malls, or sitting in front of their big screen TVs, in a state of shock -- induced shock.

How and why so many of our fellow citizens were put into this state of shock, and what it foretells about our future, is one of the most urgent issues that confronts us. And it was recently the topic of a mind-expanding dialogue between Air America talk radio show host Randi Rhodes and award-winning journalist, author and film-maker Naomi Klein.

The battle for the air waves is one of the most vital aspects of the struggle to reverse this process. And in that battle, Randi Rhodes is one of our greatest weapons.

Randi is a tough-talking, laser-witted and courageous woman. She has so much talent that it sometimes gets in her way. She will move you to tears one day and infuriate you the next.

But if one dark day, thought and speech become crimes, and the lights begin to go out, one by one, and there is only one microphone left on one radio frequency, I hope it is Randi's voice that gets broadcast. Because she will tell you what you need to know, she will lay it out in language that all of you can understand, and she will say it loud enough to be heard from sea to shining sea.

Naomi Klein is a gifted journalist, syndicated columnist and author of the international bestseller No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies. She writes a regular column for the Nation and the Guardian that is syndicated internationally by the New York Times Syndicate. A collection of her work, Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate was published in 2002.

Her latest book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism is one of the two most important books you could read this year -- the other is by another Naomi, i.e., Naomi Wolf's The End of America: A Letter to a Young Patriot. (Buy them both from Buzzflash!)

Here is my transcription Randi's 10-11-07 interview with Naomi. But you can hear the whole of the interview via podcast, if you become an Air American premium member, which I urge you to do anyway.

-- Richard Power

Randi Rhodes: Naomi Klein is one of the more brilliant minds we have roaming around the Earth with us, and we are lucky to have her. She is an investigative reporter who is not only roaming around the world with her eyes wide open and her brain operating at full speed, but she is also a brilliant analyst of the things she sees and puts the whole thing together, and makes it accessible. ... I should tell you who told me to read [Shock Doctrine], Tim Robbins. We friends. He was on the show the other day, and we went out for cocktails after ... Let's start at the top -- what is the Shock Doctrine?

Naomi Klein: The Shock Doctrine is a philosophy of Power. It holds that the best time to ram through a radical, free-market country makeover, or city makeover, is not during normal, non-apocalyptic reality, when people might actually participate in the discussion and have different points of view, and protect their public school system, or protect their national oil companies, like in Iraq, but in the aftermath of some other shock, some other disaster. And this is what I call Disaster Capitalism. So the Shock Doctrine is the theory behind it. The thing that I most excited about in the book is that I have so many people at very high levels of decision-making at the Federal Reserve Bank, at the IMS and the US Treasury, and real top-level free market economists like Milton Friedman, admitting that they can only push through their agenda in the aftermath of some kind of a crisis. This is really a challenge to the story we have heard so relentlessly that over the last few decades which is that free markets and free people go hand in hand.

Randi Rhodes: You started the essay in Harper's and the book by quoting Milton Friedman: "Only a crisis actually or perceived produces real change. When that crisis occurs the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around." ... Yesterday, I had John Dean on the show, and he said a lot of people ask him about 9/11 and how everything seemed to get rolling after 9/11, and he said look, I am not saying anyone caused 9/11, but they did have these plans in the drawer, and they did write PNAC ... saying all this change can only happen if we have a crisis, like "another Pearl Harbor" ... Lo and behold, this massive shock to the nation occurred, and here we are going down the privatization road to the tune of Blackwater in New Orleans ... Coincidence? You talk about the Milton Friedman vision. And Grover Norquist too. Remember his comment? 'We'll shrink government so that you can drown it in a bath tub.' Can you put this in context for us? For example, the privatization of this war in Iraq. This is the most privatized war we have ever seen. ... What is the purpose of all of this?

Naomi Klein: Even though it is tempting to see this as just the craziness of the Bush gang, this is not a new phenomena, it is the logical culmination of a twenty-five year war on the state, that was kicked off by Reagan. Milton Friedman was Reagan's guru, and Reagan carried Milton Friedman's manifesto, Capitalism and Freedom, under his arm on the campaign trail. Milton Friedman didn't believe their was any role for the government except enforcing contracts and policing borders. Interestingly, one of his disciples, one of the people who studied with him and was taken under his wing, was Donald Rumsfeld. ... So the context we have to see this in is that over the past twenty-five years, [there has been] this ideological campaign, and it is not just ideological, it is also profitable -- you can't talk about this campaign without looking at the deep connection with the multinational corporations that fund the think tanks and that benefit from the policies. These are very profitable ideas. So for the past few decades, what the trends has been is to lop off the limbs of the state and feed them to corporations. You privatize water, you privatize electricity, you privatize roads, and pretty much all that is left of the state is the so-called "core services," e.g., the military, disaster response ... Those things that we think of as so essentially apart of what the state provides that it is really hard to imagine a state without these functions. Well, the Bush administration came into power to finish the job, i.e., to devour the core. So yes, they are more extreme, but they are just taking this all to its logical conclusion. Even Bush himself is the logical conclusion of it, if you have a movement that sees no role for the state, that doesn't think governing is important, that everything can be contracted out, then you might as well have this figurehead at the top, because basically his job is to turn the government into an ATM machine, where contractors just take public money out and pay it back with campaign contributions.

Randi Rhodes: That's the part that really disturbs me. This is all being funded with tax dollars. But the tax dollars, instead of going for infrastructure ... We see bridges crumbling. My street exploded. That actually happened right around the corner from my house -- the pipe that burst in the middle of New York City ... Some people say, 'Well, government sucks so what's wrong with privatizing the infrastructure?' Does that means that the Haves will get police services and fire fighters and get their infrastructure rebuilt, but the Have Nots, the lesser neighborhoods, won't get anything.

Naomi Klein: That's sort of a mini-version of disaster capitalism, what happened in New York when the subways flooded, immediately the New York Sun runs an editorial headlined "Sell the Subways." Their solution to the fact that infrastructure has been allowed to fail, which is itself part of the ideological campaign, so it becomes a self-fulfilling, self-reinforcing cycle -- you starve out the public sphere, you push through your tax cuts, you don't invest, you give the money to cronies, instead of investing and having something worthy of protection, and then when it fails, as it predictably will, and as it will more and more, as this weak and frail infrastructure collides with increasingly heavy weather, because of climate change (which is also the result of this quest for short-term growth and this inability to think and fix things, and this refusal to govern); then you have more and more disasters and each new disaster is used to push the agenda further, so yeah, sell the subways because they are flooding, and the New York Sun actually says different lines can be run by different companies, and the ones that invest more in pumps will be able to charge more, and the ones that don't will basically drown. ... It is an absolute Have and Have Not system; and it is an attack on the very idea of universality, the idea that there are certain services that are so important to actually being a country that everyone has a right to have access to them.

Randi Rhodes: I want to talk about whether the corporate media has an interest in promoting not just crisis after crisis, but in a way that actually shills for private intervention, and whether or not the media is part of this effort to constrict freedom, and why you have to constrict freedom in order for this Disaster Capitalism and this Shock Doctrine to continue to go forward to the detriment of the Middle Class, the Lower Middle Class, and, of course, the Have Nots. ... In the book, you said that you went to the Green Zone, and when you came back to go to New Orleans, you realized that the Green Zone was the future, that you were looking at the future. Now, the media is silent about anything that is going on in the Green Zone, we are just barely getting some information that the embassy is not opening on time because of cost over-runs ... Why is the media kow-towing to this whole free market, Milton Friedman, Francis Fukiyama neo-conservatism?

Naomi Klein: [sighs audibly] Well, there are a lot of complicated reasons, but one of the things I am really struck by as I try to talk about this book in the United States, and in the media ... The people -- no problem, they get it right away, but when you go through the media, the problem with talking about the Shock Doctrine and Disaster Capitalism is that it exposes some pretty malevolent intentions. This is immoral, what I am describing. It isn't just a bungling, it isn't just a series of mistakes. There is a plan. When I say the Green Zone is the future, I mean a world in which some people's lives are worth so much and other people's lives are worth nothing. Iraqis hate Blackwater because they drives through the streets of Baghdad protecting the "principles," and the "principles" are the Westerners, and anyone who gets in their way gets shot, that's what happened with this massacre ... So one of the reasons why I think it is hard to talk about it in the media ... I recently did an interview with Franklin Foer, the editor of the New Republic on C-Span, I was so struck by how angry he was about how at least the Bush architects can have their good intentions, he really was offended by this idea that there really are financial interests, and that our role as journalists is to follow the money, and ask who benefits, this is Job #1 for journalists, we are supposed to do this, but when you do it, you get accused of being a conspiracy theorist, and you get accused of some how not recognizing the noble intentions of Dick Cheney, and I just don't get it.

Randi Rhodes: This is the culmination of a thirty-five year campaign of radical privatization and deregulation ... Reagan began it, and Bush is finishing it, and it is not going to have a happy ending ... Naomi, one of the things that stuns me is the choosing of the title, Shock Doctrine. ... I saw and loved the film that was made about your book ... Talk about the old CIA interrogation manuals that you found.

Naomi Klein: The film is on our web site, and it was made by Alfonso Cuaron who made Children of Men and the third Harry Potter movie, and he read the book, and like many Latin Americans, he knows that the history of this rise of the radical strain of free market economics was not the peaceful fairy tale that we have been hearing, the one about how it swept the globe on wings of freedom, with Reagan and Thatcher, and then the Berlin Wall fell, and everybody wanted Reaganomics with their Big Macs, and that it was this non-violent, popular consensus, this is what we are told again and again. And when I came back from Iraq, I wanted to understand shock better, I had reported about how the "Shock and Awe" of the invasion had been harnessed to push through economic shock therapy, and when that didn't work out, and Iraqis rebelled, and they weren't in the words of Richard Armitage easily marshaled from Point A to Point B -- which was the original plan, that they would just be so shocked and awed that they would do whatever Paul Bremer wanted them to do -- but it didn't turn out that way, and the Iraqis rebelled ... and as that happened, a third shock descended on Iraq, and that was the shock of torture. ... I started reading declassified CIA interrogation manuals, I felt like I needed to understand the psychology of shock because I had just come back from this country that had faced this triple shock ... I read this manual ... Declassified in the late '90s ... about you put a prisoner into a state of shock, it describes all of the states of disorientation that you have to go through, and finally when the prisoner no longer knows who or where they are, a window of opportunity opens, and in that window of opportunity they become child-like and begin to think their interrogator is their father figure, and it is at that moment they give up the information that the interrogator wants ... When I read that, I just kept thinking about 9/11 and Giuliani, and people thinking he was their long lost daddy, and that what the manual was describing as taking place one on one in an interrogation chamber can also take place in a whole society, when something so huge happens that we lose our narrative, our story, we do not know where we are in time and space, then the window does open up when we become child-like, especially if we have leaders who really intensify that feeling, and tell you just to go shopping, and not to connect with your communities, and tell you not to try to understand these events, because to try to understand them is to justify them, and this is what the Bush administration did, and what Giuliani did, and it made us incredibly vulnerable to these new stories they told us, the "war on terror," the "war against evil," the "axis of evil," the "clash of civilizations" -- because we needed a story, and the natural way to get that story would be to understand where this event fit in to history, and where they came from, and people had that impulse, people wanted to do it, but that was described as being traitorous and being aligned with the terrorists.

Randi Rhodes: But the beautiful part is that shock is temporary and it wears off and people start reorient themselves, hence freedom has to be curtailed, the media can't really report, because the antidote to shock, as the CIA found, was when people start to get information about where they are, and who is holding them, and how the world is working around them, then they are not in shock anymore. Shock, sort of wears off. Anyone who has ever lost someone close to them know, I used to call it God's anesthesia, you're in shock at first, when someone close to you dies, amd I always said, 'this allows you to plan the funeral,' but then the shock wears off and you are connected again with your mortal feelings, that's when you go through the rest of the process, and the same is true of induced shock, it is temporary, and it wears off, and if you want it to wear off faster, the way to do it, the antidote is INFORMATION, reorienting yourself in the world, finding out again what your place is, that's why I think the media is such a witting accomplice.

Naomi Klein: You are so right.

Randi Rhodes: And when you look at the ownership of the media: GE owns NBC, MSNBC, CNBC ... You see that they are all interconnected, and that they might have some business in front of this free market Congress that they don't want disturbed, therefore, they are party to the refusal to give us the information we need to get ourselves out of shock. ...

For the Words of Power Progressive Talk Radio Archive, click here.

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