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We Are Seeing the Shock Doctrine in Effect After Hurricanes Harvey & Irma

By Naomi Klein

Posted September 19, 2017



AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. Increasing climate chaos has driven a number of celebrities to warn of the dangers of global warming. Tuesday night’s "Hand in Hand" hurricane relief telethon kicked off with a message from Stevie Wonder, who called out climate deniers ahead of a rendition of the classic song "Stand By Me."

STEVIE WONDER: As we should begin to love and value our planet, and anyone who believes that there is no such thing as global warming must be blind or unintelligent.

AMY GOODMAN: The music legend Beyoncé also called out the effects of climate change during the "Hand in Hand: A Benefit for Hurricane Relief" telethon.

BEYONCÉ: The effects of climate change are playing out around the world every day. Just this past week, we’ve seen devastation from the monsoon in India, an 8.1 earthquake in Mexico and multiple catastrophic hurricanes. Irma alone has left a trail of death and destruction from the Caribbean to Florida to Southern United States. We have to be prepared for what comes next. So, tonight, we come together in a collective effort to raise our voices, to help our communities, to lift our spirits and heal.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Beyoncé. And we’re spending the hour with Naomi Klein, author of the new book No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. The book just became a finalist for a National Book Award, or Naomi did. So you have Beyoncé, Naomi. You’ve got Stevie Wonder weighing in. But you have the networks, not—I’m not even talking about Fox—MSNBC and CNN hardly mentioning the word "climate change" when it comes to these horrific events, when they are spending 24 hours a day on these—this climate chaos. One of your latest pieces, "Season of Smoke: In a Summer of Wildfires and Hurricanes, My Son Asks 'Why Is Everything Going Wrong?'" well, CNN and and MSNBC aren’t letting him know. But what about not only what President Trump is saying, but this lack of coverage of this issue, and also the lack of coverage of the connections between this terrible—these hurricanes, past and the coming ones, with the fires, the storms, the droughts, and what’s happening in the rest of the world, which make the number of deaths in this country pale by comparison—1,300 in South Asia now from floods?

NAOMI KLEIN: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm, and Nigeria. And I think this really is the moment to explain the connections between these events, because what climate scientists have been warning us about for decades is that a warmer world is an extreme world. It’s a world of extremes that is sort of ricocheting between too much and not enough, right? Too much precipitation, these extreme precipitation events, not just rain, but also snow—you know, if you remember these bizarre storms in Boston, where you’ll have these winters with very little snow, but then you’ll have these massive snow dumps—and then not enough, not enough water, and those conditions creating the perfect conditions for wildfires to burn out of control, right? But fire is a normal part of the forest cycle, but what we are seeing is above and beyond that, which is why we’re seeing record-breaking fires, largest fire ever recorded within the limits of the city of Los Angeles, for instance, a plume of smoke that a couple of weeks ago reached from the Pacific to the Atlantic, the entire continent covered in this plume of smoke, which didn’t receive that much coverage, because it happened as Irma was bearing down on Florida.

So, this is the extreme world—we’re catching a glimpse of it—that we’ve been warned about. And we hear this phrase, "the new normal." And it’s a little bit misleading, because I don’t think there is a normal. You know, it’s precisely the unpredictability that we have to understand. And I think what a warmer world means is that there are, you know, fewer and fewer breaks between the extreme events.

AMY GOODMAN: So you have the Houston mayor, Sylvester Turner, announcing that he’s appointed the former Shell Oil Company chairman and president, Marvin Odum, to the new position of chief recovery officer for Houston. Turner said in a statement, "With all the resources we have in Houston for ingenuity, problem-solving and public-private partnership, it’s a natural step for me to reach outside City Hall to a business leader eager to assist us with our recovery from unprecedented flooding. ... Marvin E. Odum is the right person for the job, in light all of his accomplishments in dealing through the energy industry with governments far and wide; with business adversity such as the huge hit that Hurricane Katrina put on the oil and gas sector." So, this goes to your book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. When a disaster strikes, how is it dealt with, and what is it used as an opportunity for?

NAOMI KLEIN: Right. I mean, look, we need to respond to crises like this. They’re messages. They’re messages telling us that something is broken with the system. You know, these are not just natural disasters. These are disasters that have become unnatural, that have become unnaturally catastrophic, because of the impacts of climate change, but also because of the impacts of deregulation, because of inequality, of racial injustice.

And the oil industry is at the dead center of this. If we look at the way in which a storm turns from a disaster to a catastrophe, like Harvey, we see the impacts locally with the intersection of the floodwaters, with a deregulated oil and gas industry and petrochemical industry creating this toxic soup, as you’ve reported on extensively, Amy, right? And then you also have just the strength of the storm being stronger because of the global impacts of this industry and other industries, as well. So, the oil and gas industry is intensifying the impacts of the storm locally, on the—because of what the industry is doing in a city like Houston, and then globally, because of the cumulative impacts of burning all of those fossil fuels.

And then, who is in charge of the reconstruction but a former president of Shell Oil, one of the oil majors that we now know—we can trace—you know, we know how much of global emissions, more or less, come from that handful of fossil fuel majors. They should be in the dock, and not in charge. And here, I’m talking about Exxon and Shell and BP, and the core company, and, of course, the coal industry, that have so intensified this disaster. So it really is a world upside down, where the people most responsible, who should, at the very least, be paying the bill for this disaster, instead are calling the shots and planning how the public’s money, which is really needed, should—in a sane world, it would be going towards paying for a transition to 100 percent renewable energy as quickly as technology allows, which is, in fact, very, very quickly, to be designed in a fair way, in a just way, which would mean that the people who have gotten the worst deal, whose communities have been poisoned by this industry, who have borne the toxic burden, would be first in line to own and control their own renewable energy, to get the jobs, you know, making sure that the workers who lose their job in this industry are retrained and ready to work in the clean energy economy. Well, do we really think that Shell is going to shepherd a process like that? Of course not. So we need a huge amount of pushback in this moment.

AMY GOODMAN: Some have suggested the hurricane should be named after these companies.

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, I like that idea. Or we could just call them "Rex."

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to Bryan Parras. He took us on a "toxic tour" of Houston just after Hurricane Harvey devastated us, a toxic tour led by a person who works for the Sierra Club and works in what they call the fenceline communities—not front-line, but they share the fences with, oh, like in Baytown, with companies like ExxonMobil. This is the environmental justice organizer Bryan Parras.

BRYAN PARRAS: We’re on our way to Baytown. Baytown is home to Exxon, you know, a very, very old plant. It’s the second-largest refinery Exxon has. And it was inundated with water during the storm. It may still be. I haven’t been there yet. But they had some massive flares that were documented by USA Today, and burning these chemicals that we were just talking about, you know, during their shutdown process.

AMY GOODMAN: And did the EPA give them waivers to burn all this out or all these companies to release toxins?

BRYAN PARRAS: Yeah. So, normally, in a regular situation, you know, they would be limited in how long they could flare. In this case, the EPA gave them a waiver so that there were no penalties for exceeding those time limits.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re looking at a sign that says "Kinder Morgan. Warning! Gas pipeline crossing."

BRYAN PARRAS: And just, you know, 20 feet behind it is someone’s home. You know, someone lives right here.

AMY GOODMAN: So that’s Bryan Parras of Sierra Club and t.e.j.a.s., an environmental group, taking us through Texas, a "toxic tour" of Houston and the Houston Ship Channel. And this is as Hurricane Irma was gaining steam and just about to pummel the Caribbean before heading to Florida. Donald Trump used Hurricane Irma as an excuse to push for tax cuts to the rich. This is Donald Trump speaking last week in the midst of these hurricanes.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: To create prosperity at home, we’ll be discussing our plan for dramatic tax cuts and tax reform. And I think now, with what’s happened with the hurricane, I’m going to ask for a speed-up.

AMY GOODMAN: "A speed-up" on tax cuts. Naomi Klein?

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, and he’s reiterated this since then. But what’s remarkable about that moment was that Irma had not even made landfall yet. You know, I have, over the years, documented some pretty egregious cases of political leaders responding in the immediate aftermath of some kind of catastrophe, some kind of major shock, and pushing through a pro-corporate agenda that actually makes the problem worse, that caused the crisis. The classic example of this is Katrina, where in the immediate aftermath of this catastrophe created by the collision of heavy weather, of the kind we are seeing more of on a warmer planet, slamming into a weak and neglected public sphere, that can’t manage an evacuation, that abandoned people in New Orleans for five days on their rooftops, in the Superdome. And then the response is, "Well, let’s get rid of the public sphere altogether," right? So, what I documented around Katrina was a period of people taking a few days before they said, "Well, let’s demolish the public housing. You know, let’s not reopen the schools"—maybe 10 days, maybe two weeks, Amy. But Trump, surely, beat that record by calling for—by using a hurricane that had yet to make landfall in the continental United States to say, "Well, this is why we need to speed up my tax cuts." I think Bill McKibben put it well. He said, you know, "In a sane world, you would be calling for carbon cuts, not tax cuts."

But it’s really—it’s, once again, a world upside down, right? In a moment like this, where governments are about to be handed a multibillion-dollar cleanup bill and reconstruction bill, and have already been handed that because of Harvey, surely you need more money, you know, from corporations. And let’s remember that his tax plan would give the biggest tax cut to corporations that they have had in many decades. He wants to—we’ll see what ends up happening through the negotiations, but his original goal was to cut corporate taxes down to 15 percent, right? So he’s bankrupting the government. How do you pay for the impacts of climate change? So it’s exactly the wrong approach.

But, you know, what I argued in the piece you mentioned earlier is that it was really revealing, not just around the shock doctrine, but why the crisis of climate change is such a profound threat to the ideological right, to the people who have been advancing this radical vision of the world that Joseph Stiglitz has called market fundamentalism, which has at its centerpiece privatization, deregulation, tax cuts, offset through massive cuts to social spending, all of it locked in through these corporate-friendly trade deals and alongside, accompanied by mass incarceration and a fencing-in of people who are disposed of by this economic model, right? That’s the neoliberal agenda. And it clashes fundamentally with what we need to do in the face of the climate crisis, because of course you need to tax corporations and the wealthy to pay for a pretty heavy bill that we are getting, and we’re catching a glimpse of this. Of course you need to regulate corporations so that they don’t keep polluting and making the problem worse.

So, the reason why people like Trump deny climate change is not because they have found flaws in the science. It’s because if the science is true—and it is true—then their entire ideological project, which is an extremely profitable project, as we know, for the wealthy, falls to pieces, because we need to regulate. We need to tax the rich. You know, we need to build the public sphere. More importantly, we need to transform it to change where we get our energy, how we move ourselves around. We need to reinvent our cities. And there is no way that that political-economic project survives real climate action. That’s why they deny climate change. Let’s not worry about what they actually think about the science. It’s not about the science. It’s about the consequences, the political and economic consequences, of the science.

AMY GOODMAN: When we come back from break, we want to talk about—well, the kinds of things you put forward, many would think the Democratic Party would be putting those forward as an alternative, where the Democratic Party is right now. I want to ask you about healthcare. Bernie Sanders has introduced a bill for single-payer healthcare in the United States, Medicare for all. Hillary Clinton is now coming out and speaking, as she’s attacked Bernie Sanders—also, of course, attacked Donald Trump, as well. And we want to talk about other issues. In fact, this is the anniversary—this weekend was the anniversary also of Occupy Wall Street here in New York. This is Democracy Now! Our guest for the hour is Naomi Klein. She has just been named a finalist for the National Book Award for her latest book, No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. Stay with us.

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No Is Not Enough: Naomi Klein on Bernie's Medicare-for-All Bill & Future of Democratic Party


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. Our guest for the hour, Naomi Klein. Last week, Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a bill that would provide universal healthcare by expanding Medicare to include every American. Sanders introduced the bill flanked by doctors, nurses and some of the bill’s—and this is what’s new from his previous bills—some of the bill’s 15 Democratic co-sponsors.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Today, we begin the debate, vital to the future of our economy, as to why it is that in the United States we spend almost twice as much per capita on healthcare as any other nation on Earth, and yet we have 28 million people without any health insurance and even more who are underinsured, with high deductibles and copayments.

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, that is Bernie Sanders. We’re with Naomi Klein, who comes from the country of Canada. Naomi, your response, not only to what he’s done there—and it is fascinating, what happened. Two weeks before his announcement, he had no co-sponsors, as usual for each time he introduced this bill. What might be most telling is that the people who jumped on board were people who might be running for president in the next election, and so they saw this as a winner. Talk about this very different vision of what could be offered in America.

NAOMI KLEIN: Right. I mean, I think it’s an incredibly encouraging development that Sanders has led in this way and that so many people see the writing on the wall, right? Because I think this posture of just resisting Trump, just being anti-Trump, this posture of "no"—right?—which is why I called the book No Is Not Enough, is catastrophic politically, morally, ecologically, because it is not enough to just get to where we were before Trump, because where we were before Trump is what produced Trump. And it is the landscape that supercharged the fascist right. And it is also the landscape that failed to energize progressives in the last electoral cycle, because there was not enough of an offer, not enough of an answer to the kind of fake populism that Trump was peddling. And so, you know, this is not new for Sanders. He has been talking about Medicare for all for a very long time. But it is new to have figures like Cory Booker, with his ties to the insurance industry, looking around and going, "This is what’s actually needed to succeed in this political landscape."

And I think we need to expand that, from Medicare for all, clean energy for all, 100 percent renewable energy for the 100 percent, which we’re talking about more and more within the climate movement. And I think we see people pushing that envelope, you know, young people covered by DACA saying, "Well, we’re not satisfied with just defending DACA. We don’t want to be pitted against our parents. We want status for all." So, you know, that political ambition is increasing. So it isn’t just about holding the line, protecting where things were before Trump, but actually getting somewhere else. And I think what we need in the coming months is connecting the dots between all of these issues to really build a people’s platform, so we see—and I think we’re starting to see the outlines of that, which is very exciting. Yeah, I am from Canada, and I enjoy Medicare for all.


NAOMI KLEIN: I was—yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —isn’t it why you really grew up there, why your parents—your parents were Americans, left because of the Vietnam War. Your dad was a doctor.

NAOMI KLEIN: But stayed for the healthcare, yeah. No, it’s absolutely true. And, in fact, we moved back to the United States briefly when I was a child, and my father didn’t want to work in the American healthcare system, didn’t want to work in a system where you had to be rich to get sick, and was part of that process of building up this system, which is under attack in Canada, which is not perfect, but remains a model. And there’s a great deal of misinformation about the Canadian system within the United States, and it’s spread very deliberately. You know, it’s a system that needs better funding, that needs more protection, but at its core, you know, it’s incredibly simple. I was glad to see Danielle Martin standing with Bernie Sanders, who is one of the great defenders—a doctor—of the public healthcare system in Canada, making the argument that what we need to do is fund it better. We need to expand it, actually, in Canada. But this is fundamentally—you know, I’ve had catastrophic illness in my family, and it’s an amazing thing to have somebody in your family be in hospital for two years and get a bill for $25, you know, for what cable television cost or something like that.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Hillary Clinton speaking on CBS with Lesley Stahl after the release of her book, What Happened, her take on the 2016 presidential election.

HILLARY CLINTON: I’ve been a Democrat for decades. I have supported Democrats. I’ve worked for Democrats. Bernie’s not a Democrat. And that’s not a slam. That’s what he says himself. And I think a lot of what he churned up in the primary campaign was very hurtful in the general election against me. And I see him doing the same thing. I see him, you know, with his supporters. He doesn’t disown the things they say about, you know, some of my favorite Democrats, people like Kamala Harris, who is out there speaking up and speaking out, and she’s being attacked from the left. Enough!

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Hillary Clinton. On Meet the Press on Sunday, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders responded to Clinton’s criticism.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I worked as hard as I could after endorsing Hillary Clinton. I went all over this country. And I would remind people—you know, people say, "Well, not everybody who voted for Bernie ended up voting for Hillary." No kidding. That’s what happens in politics. If my memory is correct, in 2008, something like 24 percent of the people who voted for Hillary Clinton in the primaries ended up voting for John McCain. That’s the nature of politics. Most people, you know, are not rigidly Democrats or Republicans; they vote where they want. I worked as hard as I could to see that Hillary Clinton would be elected president.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, this isn’t just between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. This goes to the direction of the Democratic Party, which is what’s really important here. And you were just about to go into what needs to happen, and this is the sixth anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, when thousands streamed into Zuccotti Park, not far from our studios here in New York, talking about the 99 percent and the 1 percent. So, talk about what you see happening. I mean, on the one hand, 15 co-sponsors—he’ll probably get more. You had Elizabeth Warren. You had Kamala Harris, the first, the new African-American senator from California, and many others, Leahy, as well—not considered the closest friend of Bernie Sanders—signing up.

NAOMI KLEIN: And look, it’s certainly interesting timing that Hillary Clinton is out there sort of like reprosecuting, finger pointing about the campaign, while Bernie is out there trying to solve the underlying problem. And, you know, we know that that bill is not going to pass now, but if it becomes the centerpiece of the next presidential campaign, that could be very, very significant. And so, I don’t—personally, I don’t think Bernie has ever looked better. I think that the comparison is very clear there. And he is taking the party exactly where it needs to go.

AMY GOODMAN: So, in terms of people organizing, we have a whole other issue, which actually has direct connections, because when you look at the people hardest hit, for example, when it comes to climate change, again, it is not all equal. While many homes of the rich and poor got destroyed, who gets to rebuild, who gets the advantages, who gets the incentives is a whole other issue, and who lives next to these toxic chemical plants that might be further deregulated.


AMY GOODMAN: But the issue of white supremacy, which is also a key issue right now, after the attack in Charlottesville, the tiki torch-bearing men, hundreds of them, young men, not wearing white hoods, because maybe they felt safer now. They didn’t have to cover their identity. And it goes right up to Jemele Hill, who is the ESPN anchor, who just tweeted out the words "President Trump is a white supremacist," and the White House now is saying that she should be fired, that anyone who calls the president a white supremacist. At the same time, in just the last week, he has doubled down on talking about everyone being at fault in Charlottesville.

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, yeah. No, and it’s not just people being pressured to be fired, but getting death threats, when they make statements like that. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, a wonderful writer, author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, been on this show, you know, a Princeton professor, when she said the same thing, faced a flurry of death threats and had to cancel public events because of it.

So, you know, he is signaling—Trump is signaling. He is flirting. He has created space. And frankly, it’s going to get worse. And it’s going to get worse because his economic populist arguments are something he’s unable to deliver on. He was never serious about that. And this is—you know, we saw this well before he entered office, when here he was campaigning against Goldman Sachs, attacking Hillary and Ted Cruz for their ties to Goldman Sachs, then appointing five former Goldman Sachs executives. You know, he has staged a corporate coup. The way he’s renegotiating trade deals is to make things worse for workers and better for corporations. So all of these grand promises about bringing the jobs back, about protecting Social Security, protecting healthcare, he’s lied about all of it, right? And he won with this very toxic cocktail of racism, yes, of white supremacy, of xenophobia, mixing it in with speaking to that economic disempowerment and the reality of having been discarded in the age of globalization. He won’t deliver on the economic side, and it will become more important for him to deliver on the racism. So we’re going to see more of it.

AMY GOODMAN: So, the question is: How are people responding? After the white supremacist march in Charlottesville, where he talked about "very fine people," 40,000 people descended in Boston—


AMY GOODMAN: —on what was supposed to be a white supremacist rally, and they hunkered down in a gazebo in the middle of Boston Common. The whole movement around statues and monuments is actually much bigger than statues and monuments. It’s monumental how people around the country are saying, "What do we celebrate, and what do we condemn?" Talk about that grassroots organizing, in this last minute.

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, and the other thing that I think has been very confusing to watch was there is this moment where Trump blames both sides, and everybody is horrified by this, and then, in the weeks that follow, there is this relentless attack on antifa from the same liberals who were horrified by that statement, where they are creating this clear equivalency, for some reason expending massive amounts of energy painting antifa as the enemy, who are the people who are standing up to the fascists, as Trump refers to them, "the other side"—a very revealing statement.

So, you know, and also, I mean, even last night’s moment at the Emmys, which we haven’t discussed, Amy, I mean, I think, signaling that this is all some big joke that everybody is in on, you know, it’s not a question of whether it was funny or not, or whether people laughed or not. What that was signaling—

AMY GOODMAN: Sean Spicer.

NAOMI KLEIN: That Sean Spicer moment—was just this sort of elite party that everybody is in on, except you. You know?

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to leave it there. Folks could also go to our Facebook page. You’ll see our Facebook Live discussion with Naomi. Naomi Klein, author of No is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need.

This article was first published by Democracy Now! -


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