September 21, 2007


Why Can't the U.S. Have the Debate about Naomi Klein's Book That Europe Has? (Jan Frel, 9/21/07, AlterNet)

Frel: It's often times the case that books that make powerful and damning claims with complete accuracy still don't break into public debate or hit the audience that ought to confront them. Isn't there something else that prevents radical interpretations of society and economics and buried history from reaching public debate?

Klein: I think that's true -- it's certainly true in this country. I wasn't talking about the problem my book would have getting into the mainstream, it's more about the debates around it. My books do get into the mainstream -- outside the US. That doesn't mean they aren't contested, but in Canada for example, The Shock Doctrine is already at #3 on Amazon. [Currently at #43 in the U.S.]

Another book I did, No Logo was a mainstream book, in most of the countries where it was published, except for the US. In the U.S. it never was. The context I talked about the need for support for my arguments is in cases where my book is being debated and argued. So in the U.S., I totally agree that having solid footnotes are no guarantee that you can start a mainstream debate. I don't have any confidence that this book will be in the mainstream debate in the United States.

Frel: A lot of what you're taking on in The Shock Doctrine, is a concept that is fused in deep into a big part of the American psyche -- that "the free market" and "free enterprise," which we don't typically debate or condemn in the mainstream but are to blame for a lot of the things the public does discern as problems, like our health care system. But how do you get people to see that they are being screwed by their own dominant economic beliefs?

Klein: It's actually not that hard. The hard part is getting past the media wall.

Frel: At your U.S. book launch on Monday you talked about getting past the "intellectual police lines" that prevent discussion.

Klein: That's a different kind of situation. In Britain, it's a mainstream book, being debated on the BBC, the Times of London, the Guardian and so on. It's being dismissed in part -- part of the discussion is an attempt to dismiss it. When I was talking about "intellectual police lines" it was in reference to the kinds of questions I was getting from mainstream journalists in Europe and in Canada. But in the U.S., I would say that's not this is not really the issue -- it's whether you get access at all.

Frel: Do you think that it's because in the States, there isn't really any debate about alternatives to our economic system in any form? In Europe, where your book has already been released, there is at least the residue of a public debate that is willing to debate fundamental questions on economic systems and the social contract.

Klein: In most parts of the world, it's easier to even identify the radical policies of capitalism as contested territory, as something to debate. Whereas in the United States, these policies are the air we breathe; they are invisible almost because they are so hegemonic. For example, when I talk about privatization in Canada, people understand what that means -- it's about the drive to privatize our health care system and our education system, and there is a very clear grasp in the public mind about what the public sphere actually is. People understand there that this is something to defend against -- that there is something to privatize, while in the U.S., the agenda to privatize has succeeded so fully that these ideas seem more abstract because the idea of the public sphere is almost abstract.

When I'm talking about these ideas in France or the U.K., people know what "public" is. There are large parts of their life that exist within a non-market space.

At the point where you're sitting around complaining about the media conspiracy that keeps Americans from paying attention to intellectuals the way pre-Sarkozy France did, you're more or less a Monty Python skit.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 21, 2007 7:55 AM

We'd probably pay more attention to intellectuals if they did something besides tell us to shut up and give them all our money.

Posted by: Brandon at September 21, 2007 10:41 AM

What a strange man. Is he really so blind about the implications of his comment "There are large parts of [European] life that exist within a non-market space" on his whining? Because the US media is a free market, they have to cover things that people actually care about, which means they certainly aren't going to talk about his silly book.

Posted by: b at September 21, 2007 12:23 PM

What is to discuss about when all other systems were proven failures? I bet the Chinese will laugh at him too.

Btw, if the socialist health care system is so good, shouldn't the Canadian MP either stay home or go to Cuba for his cancer treatments?

Posted by: ic at September 21, 2007 1:35 PM

b and ic:

They're both Canadian, which may cause some confusion, but both Naomi Klein and Belinda Stronach are actually females.

Or is today Eric/Julia day on BroJudd, and no one told me?

Posted by: Jorge Curioso at September 21, 2007 2:25 PM

These people might as well be playing "Dungeons & Dragons". It's like they're taking part in some sort of fantasy / role playing "alternate" reality, in the part as spurned truth-telling heroes.

Silly mooks.

Posted by: Twn at September 21, 2007 2:48 PM

the free market" and "free enterprise," which [...] are to blame for a lot of the things the public does discern as problems, like our health care system.

Oh right, because we all know our health care system has no state or federal laws or regulations encumbering it, how there's no professional cartel like the AMA, how malpractice torts are purely examples of the "free market," etc. etc.

Posted by: PapayaSF at September 21, 2007 4:13 PM