Saturday, December 08, 2007

Katrina, 9/11 and disaster capitalism | Salon Books:

The movie, which caused a stir at the Venice Film Festival, dramatizes the arguments of the book: that disasters -- unnatural ones like military coups (Pinochet's Chile) and war (Iraq) as well as natural ones (the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina) -- allow governments and multinationals to take advantage of citizen shock and swiftly impose corporate-friendly policies. The result: a wealthier elite and more-beleaguered middle and lower classes. Sri Lankan fishing villages become luxury resorts; public schools along the Gulf Coast become corporate-run "charter" schools.

Unafraid of controversy, Klein goes one step further in her new book than most progressive economists. She contends that in the aftermath of these various disasters, not only democracy but also human rights fall by the wayside -- all in the name of freedom and the free market. Klein compares economic shock therapy to the horrific experiments conducted on psychiatric patients in the mid-'50s by a CIA-sponsored Canadian doctor, in which patients were subjected to drugs, electroconvulsive therapy and sensory deprivation in an effort to replace their problem behaviors with a more compliant personality. If a personality can be remade, so, too, a nation. The film, with its stark images of ECT, excerpts from CIA torture manuals, footage of Nobel economist and shock-doctrine promoter Milton Friedman glad-handing Pinochet, Thatcher and Reagan, and images of natural disasters (the Asian tsunami, 9/11) makes her message visceral: Be informed, be shock-resistant.

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