Friday, December 05, 2008

Nothing's Shocking

The recent economic crisis in the U.S. has Naomi Klein doing a victory lap with her Shock Doctrine thesis. There's a nice long article in the New Yorker on Klein, her husband Avi Lewis, and their families. It's a good read and provides some interesting context to the development of Klein's ideas and attitudes. She's the 30s era revolutionary and anti-capitalist with the Gen-X sense of irony, skepticism, and hostility toward dirty hippies.

I'm down with the revolution and all, but I can't help wonder what sort of rarified sense of despair it takes for folks on the left to have a discussion like this about the election of Barack Obama:
“I’ve been at rallies and seen him speak, and I feel that feeling that one feels,” Lewis says. “It is thrilling. And it’s churlish not to allow yourself to be thrilled. We crave inspiration, and it’s a bleak life to always be dissecting things. But the main feeling that Obama creates in me is fear, because I see people fooling themselves. If you actually look at his policies, what they reflect is the triumph of the right-wing political paradigm since Reagan, and I think he could set things back dramatically, because for young people who are getting engaged in politics for the first time, for them to be disillusioned is very, very damaging.” Because Klein doesn’t expect much from any politician, she doesn’t spend time wishing Obama were more progressive. “I don’t want to appear too cynical, but when I first saw the ‘Yes We Can’ rock video that Will.I.Am made, my first response was ‘Wow, finally a politician is making ads that are as good as Nike’s,’ ” she says. “The ‘Yes We Can’ slogan means whatever you want it to mean. It’s very ‘Just Do It.’ When you hear it, you catch yourself thinking, Yeah! We’re gonna end torture and shut down Guantánamo and get out of Iraq! And then you think, Wait a minute, is he really saying that? He’s not really saying that, is he? He’s saying we’re going to send more troops to Afghanistan. He’s telling regular people what they want to hear, and then in the back rooms he’s making deals and signing on to the status quo. But if people don’t like where Obama is they should move the center.” To this end, Klein has been taking every opportunity to call for the nationalization of the oil companies. “It’s the job of the left to move the center,” she says. “Get out there and say some crazy stuff! And then, suddenly, it’ll seem more reasonable for politicians to take riskier positions.”
With a critique as superificial and cynical as that, she might as well work for Fox News. It's the same old worn out Chomsky, Nader line of left-wing dead end thought that argues that all politicians are the same, that you can't work within the system to reform it, while ignoring the transformational aspects of Obama's campaign and proposals. It's disappointing but not all that shocking.