Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist, syndicated columnist and author of the New York Times and #1 international bestseller, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. In 2008 it won the Canadian Booksellers Association’s Libris Award for Non-Fiction Book of the Year and is longlisted for the inaugural 2009 Warwick Prize for Writing (UK). The six minute companion film, created by Alfonso Cuaron, director of Children of Men, was an Official Selection of the 2007 Venice Biennale and Toronto International Film Festivals and was a viral phenomenon, downloaded over a million times.
Her first book No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies was also an international bestseller, translated into over 28 languages with more than a million copies in print. A collection of her work, Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate was published in 2002.
Naomi Klein writes a regular column for The Nation and The Guardian that is syndicated internationally by The New York Times Syndicate. In 2004, her reporting from Iraq for Harper’s Magazine won the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. Also in 2004, she co-produced The Take with director Avi Lewis, a feature documentary about Argentina’s occupied factories. The film was an Official Selection of the Venice Biennale and won the Best Documentary Jury Prize at the American Film Institute’s Film Festival in Los Angeles. She is a former Miliband Fellow at the London School of Economics and holds an honorary Doctor of Civil Laws from the University of King’s College, Nova Scotia.
Naomi Klein: I think it’s a basic principle of journalism to follow the money. And we have conflict of interest rules precisely because people are human. And when you can benefit personally, economically from policies that you are advancing, then those policies are called into question and the questions are raised. So that’s why we have this legal architecture to prevent obvious conflicts of interest. And the Bush administration . . . Key figures in the Bush administration have just shown enormous defiance in the face of those rules, and twisted the White House lawyers in knots trying to rationalize them holding onto these stocks. But to me it’s a broader question about the economy . . . what I call the “disaster capitalism complex”. And the fact that I don’t believe . . . Well I think that there’s a particular way of thinking that comes with being in the business of disaster; being . . . You know and I’m not talking about just any old economic holdings, right? I’m talking about those particular economic holdings that increase, or whose fortunes increase when things go bad, right? So oil and gas. You know bad things happen, the price of oil goes up. This we know, right, whether it’s a hurricane. Whether it’s a war. Whether it’s a fear of a war. Whether it’s Chavez and Ahmadinejad hugging. Whatever it is bad, the price of oil goes up, right? And the same is true for defense stocks. The same is true of Homeland Security stocks. The same is true of drug companies that are in the business of pandemics. So this is how I’m defining broadly the disaster capitalism complex, which is bigger than the military industrial complex. The reason why Eisenhower warned . . . gave that famous warning in his last presidential address about the danger of the military industrial complex is precisely because this is an industry that has an economic incentive for war and instability. So I think that there is something really significant that we need to talk about in that the Bush administration – the people who have been running the government in Washington, but also the occupation of Iraq – are card carrying members of the disaster capitalism complex. You know I realize . . . I don’t think it sounds conspiratorial. I think it sound obvious, right? I’m in fact embarrassed to be pointing this out because it’s such an obvious point. But it amazes me that people don’t talk about it all the time; that Dick Cheney was in the business of privatizing the U.S. military before he went into office; that Donald Rumsfeld was in the business of profiting from pandemics before he went into office; that Bush was in the oil and gas business before he went . . . came into office; that his father was connected to the Carlyle Group, which is a major weapons dealer; that Paul Bremer, the chief envoy in Iraq who laid the economic framework for the occupation, that one month after September 11th he launched a Homeland Security company to advise other corporations on how they could protect themselves in this new era; that Rudy Giuliani did the same thing three months later. So these are all people who see profit directly from terrorism, natural disasters, and pandemics. What is their economic incentive to get us off this disastrous course? I mean we need political leaders who think disasters are bad. You know, I mean that to me is a good starting premise. Recorded on: 11/29/07