Friday, September 12, 2008

Naomi Klein responds to critics

/ a mob of straw men /

A while ago I ran across a criticism of Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine" by Jonathan Chait, editor at the New Republic, and not an impressive prognosticator, titled Dead Left. Had one not read the book, it could possibly sway somebody into believing that it was some sort of debunking of Klein's positions regarding disaster capitalism and neoliberalism (an excerpt of the book can be found here). Reading the criticism however after having actually read the book, you're left to fume about the hordes of wild straw men that Chait has let loose, the implicit ad hominems and the disingenuousness displayed. Simply put Chait either skimmed through the book, or he was consciously distorting Klein's positions.

I was fairly sure that Klein would respond to this and as mentioned in the Opinion Mill that this would produce "a debate in which she defends The Shock Doctrine against Chait’s schlock snarking... [making] mincemeat out of him." Well she responded and she did make mincemeat out of him - and the Cato Institute which published a briefing paper with what seems as an equally unconvincing attack against Klein.

In Naomi Klein's response, she tears down among other claims, the single argument against the book that I though had merit: the assertion that she doesn't mention Milton Friedman's opposition to the Iraq war, despite attributing to him the political ancestry of the ideas that leas to the Shock treatment of Iraq. Yes, it wasn't an essential part of the argument, surely, but it should have been mentioned. Well I was wrong. Although Friedman was against the war in 2006 (taking his word for it: "As it happens, I was opposed to going into Iraq from the beginning. I think it was a mistake, for the simple reason that I do not believe the United States of America ought to be involved in aggression"), Klein points to an interview with the Nobel Laureate in the German magazine Focus in April, 2003 (original German, English translation), where Friedman sounds pretty much the cheerleader for Bush's invasion, and mixes cynicism with quite astonishingly poor predictions about the near future (and not only about Iraq) - a magnificent display of assertive non-wisdom, really.

Anyway, I yearn for the day when anyone meaningfully left of center will be attacked for things he or she said and wrote, rather than for the reviewer's misunderstanding of it (there must be some valid criticism of Chomsky somewhere, by people who have actually read him and are to his right - right? So far I haven't found any). It has been pointed out that among the serious, you can't even agree pretty much with Naomi Klein, without first denouncing her in some way.