There is something a bit creepy about Naomi Klein. It is not necessarily Klein herself. She may, for all I know, be a kind and good person. And she’s not bad on the eye, either. Rather it is her meticulously crafted image as the sexier, cooler edge of the new Left that invites suspicion. The author of No Logo seems to possess an uncanny knack for promoting her own brand.
She is obviously comfortable straddling the twin beasts of postmodern socialism and her own celebrity — and the Hollywood glamorati lurve her for it. The Nation notably boasts about her more than its other columnists (Please note here the magazine’s sickening – and Kleinesque — recent ad slogan: “Nobody owns the nation. That’s why so many somebodies read it.” What could more perfectly sum up the death of principled Leftism?)
Today, the wires are abuzz with the news that Klein has “disowned” a new documentary adaptation of her book, The Shock Doctrine, by asking to be removed from the credits of the film after serious differences emerged between her and British director Michael Winterbottom.
The precise reasons for the disagreement remain unclear. And Klein has generously wished the film success. But there was never any doubt as to whom the guardians of trendy opinion were going to support in any book vs film debate. The ever-disingenuous Independent hack Johann Hari has a sycophantic fit in his column today, entitled: “This is an idiot’s version of her masterpiece.” (How about that “her” in a headline? As if readers should all know that any mention of a masterpiece must refer to the work of Ladyship, Baroness Klein.)
Klein’s account of this “disaster capitalism” is written with a perfectly distilled anger, channelled through hard fact. So what happened to the film? Winterbottom serves up a cold porridge of archive footage and soundbites that have some vague link to the book, without the connecting spine of Klein’s explanations. It is as though an idiot has explained the book to another idiot, who then made a film.
Slurp. Slurp. Pass the sick bag.
Then again, maybe it is stupid of me to write about this. I haven’t seen the film, or even read all of The Shock Doctrine. I tried to do the latter, but found it boring.
It’s not, I might add, that Klein’s ideas don’t have merit. Her attempt to debunk the neo-liberal myth that “since the fall of Soviet tyranny, free elections and free markets have skipped hand in hand together towards the shimmering sunset of history” is worthwhile and evidently right. But she is clearly not, as her admirers would have it, the first person to say so. Better writers and thinkers on the Right and Left have been arguing and proving exactly the same point for the last twenty years. But then, maybe nobody has Klein’s gift for self-promotion. And is that, maybe, what The Shock Doctrine is really all about: Naomi Klein, the swankily dressed queen of anti-capitalism?