Naomi Klein in The Guardian:
Shock. It’s a word that has come up again and again since Donald Trump was elected in November 2016 – to describe the poll-defying election results, to describe the emotional state of many people watching his ascent to power, and to describe his blitzkrieg approach to policymaking. A “shock to the system” is precisely how his adviser Kellyanne Conway has repeatedly described the new era. For almost two decades now, I’ve been studying large-scale shocks to societies: how they happen, how they are exploited by politicians and corporations, and how they are even deliberately deepened in order to gain advantage over a disoriented population. I have also reported on the flipside of this process: how societies that come together around an understanding of a shared crisis can change the world for the better. Watching Donald Trump’s rise, I’ve had a strange feeling. It’s not just that he’s applying shock politics to the most powerful and heavily armed nation on earth; it’s more than that. In books, documentary films and investigative reporting, I have documented a range of trends: the rise of superbrands, the expanding power of private wealth over the political system, the global imposition of neoliberalism, often using racism and fear of the “other” as a potent tool, the damaging impacts of corporate free trade, and the deep hold that climate change denial has taken on the right side of the political spectrum. And as I began to research Trump, he started to seem to me like Frankenstein’s monster, sewn together out of the body parts of all of these and many other dangerous trends.
Ten years ago, I published The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, an investigation that spanned four decades of history, from Chile after Augusto Pinochet’s coup to Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, from Baghdad under the US “Shock and Awe” attack to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The term “shock doctrine” describes the quite brutal tactic of systematically using the public’s disorientation following a collective shock – wars, coups, terrorist attacks, market crashes or natural disasters – to push through radical pro-corporate measures, often called “shock therapy”. Though Trump breaks the mould in some ways, his shock tactics do follow a script, one familiar from other countries that have had rapid changes imposed under the cover of crisis. During Trump’s first week in office, when he was signing that tsunami of executive orders and people were just reeling, madly trying to keep up, I found myself thinking about the human rights advocate Halina Bortnowska’s description of Poland’s experience when the US imposed economic shock therapy on her country in the midst of communism’s collapse. She described the velocity of change her country was going through as “the difference between dog years and human years” and she observed that “you start witnessing these semi-psychotic reactions. You can no longer expect people to act in their own best interests when they’re so disoriented they don’t know – or no longer care – what those interests are.”