The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

A review

by Dan Canuckistan

Naomi Klein’s THE SHOCK DOCTRINE interweaves three key narratives to illustrate the crisis of our times: rapacious capitalism and its accompanying social, economic and ecological devastation.

The first narrative concerns CIA mind-control and brainwashing experiments conducted on Canadian mental patients at the Allan Memorial Institute, an adjunct to McGill University in Montreal. From 1957 to 1964, Dr. Ewen Cameron, a prominent Scottish-born psychiatrist, inflicted all manner of physical and mental torture on his patients- hallucinogenic drugs, extreme electroshock therapy, isolation, blaring music, and so forth- with the object of completely
breaking down the individual’s personality and making them susceptible to new “inputs”.  Decades later, echoes of Cameron’s work could be seen in the techniques employed at such infamous US-run torture centers as Bagram, Abu Ghraib and Gitmo.

The second narrative involves the so-called ‘revolution in military affairs’ ushered in by US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. This revolution was basically a two-pronged development: ’Shock & Awe’ (blitzkrieg-on-crack) campaigns carried out by small, mobile armies with heavy aerial bombardment and the privatization of many military functions, especially in logistics but also certain direct combat duties.

The third narrative- one could call it the master narrative- documents the long march of neo-liberal, laissez-faire hyper-capitalism through the First, Second and Third Worlds, impacting countries as diverse as Chile, Poland, South Africa, Iraq and Canada. Intellectually spearheaded by American economist Milton Friedman and a fanatical clique of disciple-students known as the “Chicago Boys” (named after Friedman’s economics department at the University of Chicago), this
especially predatory form of capitalism traps and then impels national economies to adopt a three-fold neo-liberal “cure”: privatization, deep cuts to government social safety nets and the surrender of national sovereignty through unrestricted “free trade”.

These unfortunate nations were trapped by various man-made crises (fiscal takedown, military invasion, covert action) or natural disasters- either directly induced or masterfully exploited- by Friedmanite cultists who have wormed their way deeply into powerful international institutions like the IMF and the World Bank.

Critics have loudly denounced Naomi Klein, accusing her of being a paranoid “conspiracy theorist” for melding three incongruent narratives into one coherent whole. But her research is flawless and she proves in documented example after documented example how Cameron’s Torture-Legacy, Rumsfeld’s Revolution in Military Affairs and Freidman’s Market Fanaticism have operated in tandem to
subjugate many of the world’s nations in order to bring about Francis Fukuyama’sutopian vision of an “End of History and the Last Man”. The “Last Man” being, of course, the neo-liberal-neocon, happily spreading free-market, US-style liberal democracy and McDonald’s franchises to the less “enlightened” parts of the world… consigning everyone else, in effect, to the big dustbin of history.  Thankfully, that hasn’t panned out and Fukuyama has distanced himself from his
own thesis.

An interesting side issue exposed in Shock Doctrine is the role played by international ‘human rights’ groups in tidying up and providing cover for the neo-liberal agenda. Klein is especially courageous here because outfits such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are darlings of the liberal crowd she circulates in.

One aspect that I wish Klein would have covered more deeply is Dr. Cameron’s early history and influences, especially his pathological hatred of Germans and his promotion of widespread Orwellian social engineering in that country following the Nazi defeat, including a program that could only be described as eugenics to breed out future aggression by the German people. But since Klein covers so much territory in this book- successfully pulling together what should be a hopelessly unwieldy topic- she should be forgiven this one minor
shortcoming.

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