Host: Brian Lamb
November 20, 2008
12:00 p.m. EST
BRIAN LAMB, C-SPAN: Naomi Klein, if you don’t mind I’m going to just read a couple of paragraphs from your Wikipedia site and have you comment on it.
NAOMI KLEIN, AUTHOR: OK.
LAMB: Naomi Klein, born May 8, 1970, Montreal, Quebec, is a Canadian journalist, author and activist known for her political analysis and criticism of corporate globalization. Do you like that lead?
KLEIN: I think that’s fair enough. Yes. Sure. I don’t call it globalization myself.
LAMB: What do you call it?
KLEIN: Well, I think I’m a critic of corporate power, whether locally or globally. And the term globalization I’ve never found all that helpful. But it’s good that they put the corporate ahead of it. So it isn’t just being against the world.
LAMB: As you know, this is written by people we don’t know
and comes together a crowd. Have you ever looked it?
KLEIN: No. I don’t know how this I have this allergy.
LAMB: OK. Let me keep reading.
LAMB: Naomi Klein was brought up in a Jewish family with a history of left-wing activism. Her parents moved to Montreal, Canada from the USA in 1967 as war resistors to the Vietnam War. Her mother, a documentary filmmaker, Bonnie Sherr Klein
KLEIN: Sherr Klein.
Sherr, is best known for her anti-pornography film Not a Love Story.
KLEIN: That’s true.
LAMB: Her father, Michael Klein, is a physician and a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Her brother, Seth Klein, is director of the British Columbia office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Let’s just go back over that.
KLEIN: Yes, I come from a family of troublemakers. It’s true.
LAMB: Well, tell the story about how your parents where did they come from in the States?
KLEIN: My father was born in Newark, New Jersey, and my mother was born in Philadelphia. They both went to Stanford for grad school and met there. And my grandparents my father’s parents were also were also activists. My grandfather was actually a union organizer at Walt Disney. He was an animator. He used to draw Donald Duck for Walt Disney. He was in charge of Donald Duck continuity, which was to make sure that Donald Duck always appeared the same in every cartoon. He worked on Fantasia. He worked on some fantastic Disney films.
But in the 1940s, he was one of he was one of several union organizers, and they staged the first animators strike. And he got fired and blacklisted. And because of his history of blacklisting in the family, when my father was drafted to go to Vietnam, he didn’t want to go. He had a he was a pacifist, and continues to be a pacifist. But he also didn’t want to go through the process of proving his political credentials because of the history of the House on American Activities and the political resonance in his own family of having been the son of a blacklisted artist.
So he just he preferred to leave and came to Canada. And that’s why I’m Canadian. I was born a few years later.
LAMB: Your mother, were they married here?
KLEIN: They were married in New Jersey. Yes.
LAMB: And then they moved together?
KLEIN: And then they moved together. I have an older brother.
LAMB: Where did they move to?
KLEIN: To Montreal.
LAMB: And are they still there?
KLEIN: No. They are now in Vancouver for the weather. But they moved to Montreal many American many American young people in this time moved to Canada. It was something of a brain drain. Our universities are filled with war resistors from the Vietnam era.
My father got a job teaching at McGill, teaching medicine at McGill. My mother worked at the National Film Board of Canada. And in fact, we moved back to the United States when I was a baby and lived there until I was five in Rochester, New York. And this was you know after it had become safe for war resistors to return to the United States.
And my father worked in a health clinic in the States and my mother worked at a cable access channel. And they both decided that they actually preferred it in Canada where my father could work in the public healthcare system. We have a single payer national healthcare program and my father preferred that.
And my mother was working for the National Film Board, which is a public institution that allowed her to make the kind of political films that she wanted to make. So they left left the U.S. because of the war in Vietnam but they stayed in Canada because really because of the social programs.
LAMB: Did when did you - do you remember when you first learned this story and it sunk in?
KLEIN: I feel like I always knew the story about healthcare. I was five when we moved back. And it was explained to me in fairly simple terms that we were moving back to Canada because in Canada you didn’t have to be rich to get sick. And this was explained to me you know as a kid that and I did understand it that it was really unfair, that my father felt it was really unfair that people were denied access to medicine because they didn’t have money to pay. And as a doctor, he preferred to work in a system where money didn’t have anything to do with the quality of healthcare that you received.
I feel like I I feel like I’ve always known that. It’s always been a part of my of my Canadian identity. My Canadian identity has always been really tied to these things that made I mean, I have an identity as a Canadian and as an American. I have dual citizenship.
We it was only our little nuclear family that moved to Canada. My grandparents on both sides were in the United States. All of my cousins were still in the United States. So we were always going back and forth over the border.
But I was always aware of the things that made Canada different. And you know it had to do with our foreign policy, the fact that Canada wasn’t involved in Vietnam, didn’t send troops to Vietnam, that we had a prime minister, Pierre Trudeau at the time, who declared that Canada would be a haven for people who were resisting the war, and the fact that we did have different values when it came to healthcare and how to treat people who were sick.
So it was really formative for me, these choices my parents made.
LAMB: How did you get dual citizenship? And are they do they have dual citizenship?
KLEIN: Yes. You auto both my parents are American. They didn’t lose their citizenship when they moved to Canada. Carter pardoned the war resistors. And if your parents are both American, you’re American no matter where you are born. So I have but I was born in Canada. So because I was born in Canada, I automatically have Canadian citizenship and because both my parents are American, I also have American citizenship.
LAMB: Go back to what you said about your grandfather being blacklisted. Who blacklisted him?
KLEIN: Well, you know these were the times. Walt Disney himself testified against the strike organizers before the House on Un-American Activities. And you know the blacklist was unofficial. But what happened is he just couldn’t get work as an artist. He couldn’t get work as an artist so he painted signs. He worked in the shipyards. But he wasn’t able to work in the profession that he loved and which he possessed enormous talent, which was as an animator.
It was always interesting to me that despite the fact that his you know career was really ruined by Walt Disney and he wasn’t the only one, he still loved films and he used to delight us as kids drawing you know perfect caricatures of all the Disney characters. And you know we watched the films that he helped animate with great pride.
So we always had sort of made a distinction between the fact that the films could be wonderful even if the corporate politics of the company were not so wonderful.
And I think that really helped inform how I wrote about pop culture and how I wrote No Logo, which was I think a lot of people who certainly in my parents generation who write about pop culture and mass culture tend to throw it all out you know throwing out the you know anyone who wants to go to the mall you know just has terrible values and it’s junk. There wasn’t there was this sort of disdain for pop culture.
And for me I felt like it was possible to critique the corporate power but still maintain an appreciation of why we’re drawn to this culture.
LAMB: Let me keep reading. Some of it will be redundant. Her paternal grandparents were Communists who began to turn against the Soviet Union after the Molotov Ribbentrop Pact and had abandoned communism by 1956. In 1942, her grandfather, Phil Klein, an animator at Disney, was fired as an agitator after the Disney animators’ strike and went to work at a shipyard instead.
Klein’s father grew up surrounded by ideas of social justice and racial equality but found it, quote, difficult and frightening to be the child of Communists, unquote, a so-called red diaper baby.
All that true?
KLEIN: Yes. That’s pretty much true. I don’t know the exact years off hand. I would always double check Wikipedia but
LAMB: Would you well, I know, but did you talk to him, your father, about this, you know the frightened about the
KLEIN: Well, that’s what I was saying earlier about you know what really why he came to Canada, that this feeling that the state was watching and this fear of you know I think he’s in order to be a conscientious objector, you have to prove your credentials.
And I think that for having been the child of a blacklisted man, it was just too close to have for him to think about proving his familial credentials as a leftist, as a pacifist, and the idea of turning on his family, giving the state information that they would use against people he loved. So he just preferred to leave.
LAMB: I hear the Canadian accent, against.
KLEIN: Oh yes.
LAMB: Things like that.
LAMB: Are you aware of that?
KLEIN: I know most people tell me I have a very, very neutral accent. Yes.
LAMB: Anyway, this won’t go on forever but I want to read a couple more paragraphs. Klein’s husband, Avi Lewis, comes from a similar leftist background. He is a TV journalist and a documentary filmmaker. His parents are the writer and activist Michele Landsberg, and politician and diplomat Stephen Lewis, son of David Lewis, one of the founders of the Canadian New Democratic Party, son in turn of Moishe Lewis, born Losz, a Jewish labor activist of the Bund who left Eastern Europe for Canada in 1921.
How are we doing?
KLEIN: Well, this is feeling a little bit like the House Un-American Activities.
LAMB: Is it all right?
KLEIN: Am I going to get in trouble?
LAMB: No. The reason I’m doing this not at all. The reason I’m doing this is this is your Wikipedia site which you know when they
KLEIN: People don’t really have control over their Wikipedia sites.
LAMB: I know. But what are you thinking so far? Is this good or bad?
KLEIN: Well, I think the sort of obsession with my family history is a little bit bizarre. You know it’s not an area that I’ve written on. You know I write about politics and culture. I’m not an autobiographical writer.
So it’s sort of interesting to me that this is the most seen as the most interesting thing or the most relevant thing about me. You know I think it would be if I were a memoirist. You know I might write one of those one day but it’s not been what I have done with my life.
But you know
LAMB: We’re going to get to that, but I got a paragraph about you here and this is one I want to ask about. Klein spent her teenage years as a mall rat, obsessed with designer logos. As a child and teenager she found it, quote, very oppressive to have a very public feminist mother, unquote, and she rejected politics, instead embracing, quote, full-on consumerism, unquote.
KLEIN: Yes. That was what passed as rebellion in my family in the 1980s. We used to joke that I was like Mallory on Family ties. I don’t know if you remember that show but it was these two sort of aging hippy parents who produced this mall rat daughter and of course a Wall Street-watching son.
So we were sort of reenacting that in our family home a little bit in the 80s. It was the 80s after all.
LAMB: What about a very public feminist mother? Did that bother you at the time?
LAMB: And how was she public?
well she was a filmmaker. And she made films about the women’s movement. She was part of this a studio called Studio D that was part of the National Film Board of Canada. It was the first women’s film studio.
And you know I actually I had been very much influenced by my mother and her ideas about media and culture because Studio D was this was this film center that saw itself as sort of the film arm of the women’s movement, right? And the women’s movement was in high gear. This was the early 70s. And the film world was extremely male dominated. So they made the argument that they needed a special studio to nurture and mentor young women filmmakers.
But the films they made were sort of films that were consciousness-raising films. They were films that were meant that were sort of watched in living rooms and people would watch them and it would change their lives. And they would see and this was the second-wave feminism. This was happening with books. It was happening with films.
But yes, I learned a lot from growing up around that and seeing how books and films can be part of movements, and should be part of movements. Any powerful movement has culture deeply embedded in it.
So you know I think that was an important counter balance for me getting sort of more traditional journalism training. You know my mother told me when I got my first real journalism job at the Globe and Mail, which is you know a fairly conservative newspaper in Canada. That’s where I interned and got my first job. She told me that when people say that they lack objectivity it means I object to your activity.
And she always felt that you could be fair. You could tell both sides of the story, but that the most honest thing that you could do was admit that you have a point of view and that a passion for the subject fuels your work.
But yes, I guess the and you’re in grade six having a mother who was really out there on some controversial subjects like pornography was you know not ideal from the perspective of a you know of a pre-teen. But there were wonderful things about it as well.
LAMB: Why did she feel so strongly about pornography?
KLEIN: You’d have to ask her. Yes.
LAMB: Did she ever tell you?
KLEIN: You know I was so young when she made the film. She made the film she made lots of films you know. It wasn’t a lifelong obsession. You know she would you know like a lot of filmmakers, you know she would become obsessed with a subject for a couple of years and move on.
She certainly had had a has had a consistent commitment to human rights in her work. But pornography was just one you know one interest of hers. And it was just that it was a very sensational topic. It was the height of the anti-porn movement and so she got really attacked for this film.
But no, it’s not really a conversation that I’ve had with her.
LAMB: This goes on to get into her mother had a stroke and became severely disabled when you were 17. When you were preparing to go to the University of Toronto, Naomi, along with her father and brother, took care of Bonnie I assume that’s your mother’s name
through the period in the hospital and at home making educational sacrifices to do so. That year off stopped her, quote, from being such a brat, unquote. How is your mother today?
KLEIN: She’s good. She’s good. She made a pretty remarkable recovery. She had two devastating strokes. It turned out that she had a brain tumor.
LAMB: At what age was she?
KLEIN: She was 46. And she yes, she was very, very young to be having these types of debilitating strokes. The second stroke she lost all movement, including breath. She was on a respirator. She was absolutely immobilized for months.
And it turned out that it wasn’t a normal stroke, that actually she had a brain tumor in her brain stem that she had had her whole life that she didn’t know about. It was like literally a bomb in the brain. And it was made up of blood vessels. And when she reached you know 46, they burst. So you can live your whole life and not know that you have this sort of time bomb.
So they were able to operate on it at an excellent hospital at the University of Ontario Western Ontario. She was airlifted from Montreal. They did this lifesaving surgery.
And she’s made a remarkable recovery. She walks with two canes. She has a tricycle that she bikes on. And she made a film about disability in the arts recently, her first film since the strokes. So she’s doing great.
LAMB: What did you do about your education? Did you ever get it?
KLEIN: Yes. I went to school. I just took a year off school, yes, and took care of my mom.
LAMB: Did you get a degree from
KLEIN: Then I went to the University of Toronto.
LAMB: And your degree is in what?
KLEIN: I studied philosophy and literature, but I actually left when I got offered this job at the Globe and Mail. It was an election I went as a summer intern, and I had a couple of credits left. And then there was an election campaign, pretty sort of hot election campaign, and they asked me to stay on. And I never actually made it back to school. So yes.
LAMB: So your career this book right here, No Logo, it says in the Wikipedia piece it has sold a million copies.
KLEIN: Yes. At least.
KLEIN: Well, I think a lot of it was the moment when it came out. It came out 10 years ago. And the book tracks the increasing power of corporations. And it was a time when corporations were changing. It was the embracing of this idea of branding over the production of goods.
And this is something you know after I left the Globe and Mail I started writing a column for another newspaper, a weekly column. And I was sort of the token youth columnist. I got a column at like something silly like age 23 or something like that.
And so I was I was that was my beat you know young people. And so I was looking at all kinds of different things, the kind of jobs young people were getting, the kind of culture we were consuming, the issues that we cared about and obviously gross generalizations. The whole idea of being a youth spokesperson is vaguely absurd.
But you know it was a great platform to explore different subjects. And there were these themes that were emerging. In my columns one of them was the increasing casualization of work, the fact that my generation of workers out of university were not getting offered jobs. We were getting offered contracts. And this was a real change from the previous generation you know something that’s so obvious now but 10 years ago really wasn’t a shift. It really was a phenomenon.
And we were there was also just amazing voraciousness in the world of marketing, amazing aggressiveness. So spaces that had previously been totally off limits to corporations were being infiltrated. So you know at the high school level there was a company called Channel One which was getting televisions into classrooms with advertisements in them, which was just you know creating a huge scandal.
So I was covering that and the first of the fast food outlets on university campuses, on public university campuses, more and more corporate sponsored research on university campuses because public funding was collapsing. In Canada there’s no there are no private universities. Everything’s public. But it was becoming increasingly sort of public in name only because corporations were making these in-roads.
So I decided to make
LAMB: Let me stop you there are no private universities in Canada?
KLEIN: No. We have a public no. There are some private post-secondary education institutions like colleges, but not at the university level. Yes.
LAMB: Go ahead. I didn’t mean to interrupt.
KLEIN: That’s all right. And so I decided to write No Logo when I started to read about this management phenomenon of telling corporations that they should sell off their factories and invest in their image, in their brands. And it seemed to make sense that these two trends that I had been following at once, the fact that increasingly corporations were less interested in the world of work, that they were outsourcing and subcontracting everything that they could and creating what was being called at the time hollow corporations, companies like Nike that you know didn’t own a single factory but yet were this you know this shoe and athletic giant but were incredibly aggressive in their marketing.
So what I discovered was that this increasingly aggressive marketing and this increasingly casual work that was being offered were actually two sides of the same coin. So that’s when I wrote No Logo. And it was the first book to really bring these trends together.
But it also I also was arguing that because corporations are making less of a commitment to young people as employers, young people are less loyal to corporations. You may be loyal to a brand as a consumer but that’s different than the kind of loyalty that our parents’ generation had to the companies that were offering them employment for life. Ours was a much more fickle loyalty. And it could really turn on a dime.
So what in the last half of the book I target the rise of anti-corporate activism of young people increasingly going after companies like Nike for using sweat shops in the developing world, things like that, or a company like Shell for their environmental record in Nigeria. And talking about how branding was being used against these was being boomeranged back on these corporations.
So as I was writing this it took me about four years to write it you know I would tell people I’m writing a book about the rise of anti-corporate activism. People would say what anti-corporate activism? This was the 90s. This was the boom years. This was the .com bubble. You know most people didn’t have a you know a bad thing to say about corporations. Everything seemed to be going really well with the free market economy.
But the book was at the printer in November of 1999, exactly 10 years ago. And when a World Trade Organization meeting was held in Seattle. And Seattle was flooded with tens of thousands of activists many of them young - who were talking about many of these issues, of the environmental record of the oil companies, of the labor records of companies like Nike.
And it really took the mainstream media completely by surprise. And so the book’s success was really about the fact that it came along at this moment when this movement came along and came to sudden consciousness. And the book got to become part of that movement.
LAMB: If I figure right, you were probably about 25 years old when you started writing it
KLEIN: Twenty-six, yes. Around there. Yes.
LAMB: Did it cross your mind that’s awfully young to do something like that or were just was this falling on a very active period? I mean, were you always an activist?
KLEIN: No. And certainly not in high school. In university I got involved in campus politics a little bit, but mostly I was involved in campus journalism. I was the editor of my university newspaper at the University of Toronto, which is you know full-time job actually because the newspaper came out three times a week and it was a very, very large campus.
So I was you know I cared a lot about issues but it wasn’t like I was out there with a picket sign. I never was one for rallies or marches or chanting. But I felt and I guess coming from you know what my mother showed me that writing, that journalism, was part of any movement. And that’s what you know I think on university campuses a lot of people feel that way. A lot of campus journalism is very activist, very opinionated.
LAMB: Can you vote both in Canada and the United States?
KLEIN: I can if I want to, yes.
LAMB: Have you voted in the United States?
KLEIN: No. I haven’t.
KLEIN: No, because I don’t live in the United States. And I only ever travel on my Canadian passport. I don’t actually have my an American passport. So if I move to the U.S. and I wanted to you know if I lived here then I would activate all that and certainly vote in elections.
LAMB: If I understand it right, I have in my hand the new forward to your book, No Logo, coming out again in paperback.
KLEIN: Yes. Yes, it’s coming out, a 10th anniversary edition with a new forward.
LAMB: All right. I’m going to read you some of what you wrote.
LAMB: The problem is that as with many other lifestyle brands before him, his actions do not come close to living up to the hopes he has raised. Barack Obama.
KLEIN: Yes. And you know this is what I track in the book is how the ambition of the super brands of the 1990s, of companies like Starbucks and Nike and Apple, where they really they equated their brands with these sort of transcendent ideas and revolutionary imagery ended up making them very, very vulnerable to their consumers demanding more of them, right?
You know these you know when a company like Apple uses Ghandi in an ad which they did in the 1990s or Nike sort of uses feminism you know women’s empowerment or you know anti-racism in their marketing, it’s usually because somebody in their at their advertising firm has done a lot of research and found that this is the message that’s going to be most resonant with their target market. Young people are very, very focused on diversity, and this will resonate with them.
But they weren’t prepared for being held accountable, really accountable for these ideas where suddenly their consumers are going you know if you believe in women’s empowerment, why are you know 16-year-old girls in Indonesia making your sneakers for paltry wages. Why aren’t you paying them a living wage? Why aren’t you paying them a fair wage?
And it was interesting. You know it’s it really that kind of activism forced a lot of reform on these companies. But I argue in the introduction that the most significant development in the world of branding is the application of this theory of the hollow corporation and all of these ideas about of messaging being totally absorbed into the world of politics.
And you know Barack Obama is certainly the zenith of this. His campaign used absolutely every tool in the branding arsenal to tremendous effect. There were some interesting similarities, actually, between some of his campaign imagery and marketing and Nike’s campaigns.
But now I think we are at a time where a lot of people who believed in him are feeling this gap between the emotions that his campaign raised. And I say emotions because it isn’t wasn’t exactly promises in a lot of cases. And this is what made his campaign more like lifestyle marketing than a traditional political campaign.
He very studiously stayed away from really, really clear promises on a lot of topics and more did what all great marketers do which is create a very broad canvas and create associations with transformation, even with revolution, without actually taking that extra step of saying I am going to do this. This is exactly how I’m going to change the world but inviting people to project what they wanted onto this very, very broad canvas.
So people sort of had the feeling that he promised more than he actually did. And that’s where the feelings of betrayal come in now where I think you know his opponents are you know extremely mobilized, as we know, extremely angry.
But his supporters are pretty tentative right now because he and I think he’s got a branding problem. I think he’s got the same problem that Nike had in the 1990s. He raised hopes and hasn’t lived up to them. I don’t think it’s too late for him to do that but I really think he has failed to do that so far.
LAMB: Did you ever think during the campaign that you heard something you wanted to hear from him? And did you believe it?
KLEIN: Absolutely. I mean, I was conscious of it but because I’ve studied marketing so closely you know I was aware that I was projecting that I was I was aware that I was witnessing very, very effective marketing. And you know I knew I did a fair bit of research about what his actual policies were. And I knew that there was a gap between the sort of euphoric hopes that he was that he was raising and what he was actually promising.
So it isn’t as simple as broken promises. That’s I think what’s also demobilizing his base. You know a lot of people felt that Obama represented peace. You know he made them feel peace, like they were part of an anti-war movement, right? You know they were sick of Bush’s wars and it was a very idealistic spirit of the campaign.
But if you actually look at his policies, what he said, well, he did say he was going to escalate in Afghanistan and he did say he was you know going to draw down in Iraq but not pull out completely.
So his base is in an awkward position because they can’t say you broke your promise because actually he did not promise to end the war in Iraq or Afghanistan. And I think people just don’t know how to respond to this particular type of a campaign, which is so much more like the world of marketing than it is politics.
LAMB: If we followed you around on a day-to-day basis, what would you be doing?
KLEIN: Mostly writing, so it wouldn’t be terrifically interesting just to hang out with me and my computer.
LAMB: Well, I guess I should ask it differently. I read that you’re always in front of audiences, traveling a lot, you and your husband separate worlds and all that.
KLEIN: Well, when my last book came out, when The Shock Doctrine came out, it you know things went pretty crazy for me. And the book came out simultaneously in a lot of different countries so I was on the road pretty steadily for almost two years.
But I put a lot of research into my books. And I’ve only written two books. I did a collection, but there was seven years passed between No Logo and The Shock Doctrine. So you know I see it in cycles. I think you know I actually really go into hibernation when I’m writing. And in fact, when I wrote The Shock Doctrine, I left my home in Toronto and went and lived in a very a remote part of British Columbia in the wilderness, no distractions.
LAMB: Did you take your husband with you?
KLEIN: My husband came with me. He had to go back and forth a fair bit because he was hosting TV shows in his spare time. But you know, I did a lot of field research for The Shock Doctrine. I went to Iraq. I was in Sri Lanka after the tsunami and New Orleans after the flood. But when it came down to actually writing, I just totally holed up.
So I’m kind of entering one of those phases now. I’m not I’m doing a lot less public speaking. I’m saying no to a lot. And this is a bit of a rare week for me. I’m kind of coming out of hibernation and doing a little bit of a little bit of public, public stuff. But I’m actually I’m in research mode.
LAMB: Where did you meet Avi Lewis?
KLEIN: Actually I knew his family. You mentioned his mother. His mother’s a wonderful journalist and somebody I respected a great deal. And I you know it’s not that big a country. So I knew her and I met Avi through his mother. Yes.
LAMB: Speaking of different country, when you’re in Canada, do you feel differently than you do when you’re in the United States? I mean, when you interact with people is there a different attitude among the Canadians than there is among the Americans about country and patriotism and wars and all that?
KLEIN: I think it depends so much where I am in the United States. To be honest with you, I don’t feel a huge difference between the blue parts of the United States and Canada. I think the countries are coming a little bit more and more together.
And but no, I feel pretty comfortable in that, in going back and forth certainly from New York to Toronto or
LAMB: Who’s the most angry with your writing?
KLEIN: Well, Milton Friedman fans were pretty angry with The Shock Doctrine because the book is pretty tough on Milton Friedman. And I would say I think that they’re probably still the people who are most annoyed with certainly my books.
LAMB: Why did you pick on Milton Freidman?
KLEIN: Well, The Shock Doctrine tells an alternative history of how we ended up with the kind of market economy that we have. And that’s been globalized around the world. And it’s a pretty fundamentalist version of market economics that you know pretty much everything should be privatized, a mania for deregulation. We’ve seen the results on Wall Street.
So The Shock Doctrine tells a story of how we got here. And Milton Friedman played a pretty important role in that story mainly because he was the movement’s prime popularizer, not because his ideas were so original. He was certainly he was part of the Chicago school tradition.
But he took that tradition to the masses. He was the one with the column in Newsweek. He was the one who did the 10-part series on PBS. He had that incredible talent for writing for popular taking economics and bringing it to a popular audience. So he played a very, very important role. He was a political advisor to many governments.
But the real the focus of the book is much less on him personally than on the University of Chicago and the particular role that the University of Chicago played internationally because the University of Chicago had a very aggressive program of attracting international students, particularly students from Latin America.
And this was actually had nothing to do with Milton Friedman. It wasn’t his idea to do this. It was actually a decision that came out of the state department. There was a lot of concern in the 1950s that Latin America was moving to the left. It certainly was, and moved further and further to the left in the 60s and 70s.
And this idea was cooked up between the head of the University of Chicago economics department and the head of the Chile program for what became USAID that they would bring sponsor groups of Chilean students to study at the University of Chicago economics department precisely because it was so conservative.
And in fact, in this time in the 1950s it was seen as very really outside the mainstream of American economic discourse because you know the United States was still in the grips of Keynesianism. Harvard, Yale - all the ivy leagues were really Keynesian had Keynesian economics department.
The University of Chicago was different. And they had this program to bring eventually hundreds of Latin American students to study under Friedman and his colleagues. And that had a tremendous impact on the politics of Latin America because when there were a series of military coups in the 70s, there was a there were teams of economists that were ready to work with those military governments who didn’t have any expertise in economics. So they formed a kind of alliance or a partnership with the military and these University of Chicago trained economists.
LAMB: How did you research the Chilean connection?
KLEIN: Oh, a huge amount of research there. But it came this research actually came out of the fact that I had lived in Argentina for almost two years. I went there at the end of 2001 and my husband and I made a film called The Take about the economic crisis that hit Argentina at the end of 2001.
And this history you know is very strong in Argentina. So I learned about it from what happened in Argentina during the military coup. And from there I learned about Chile.
LAMB: Can you give a simple definition of the difference between or define each one of them. A Friedman follower believes this and a Keynes follower believes this.
KLEIN: Well, Keynesian a Keynesian economist believes in a mixed economy and definitely believes in a market economy for you know all kinds of things, obviously for consumer goods. But a Keynesian economist sees a strong role for government regulation. Many Keynesian economists would see whole areas of the economy that shouldn’t be subject to the market, maybe healthcare.
I mean, there isn’t the thing about Keynesian economics is that it isn’t a rule book. And this is what makes it different that Friedman’s philosophy. You know you read ”Capitalism and Freedom”, which is his sort of manifesto. It is a set of rules. It’s a set of policy prescriptions. This should be privatized. That should be privatized.
So you know it’s a little bit like apples and oranges to compare, I believe, because you don’t have like Keynesian disciples in that way. There are some rules, like if you are in an economic downturn, if you’re in an economic recession, you should spend your way out of it, counter cyclical investments. That’s you know sort of the clearest Keynesian rule whereas the Friedman philosophy and the track record was in the midst of economic crisis and this was done in country after country they imposed austerity measures. So there was contraction in the midst of an economic downturn and often just with devastating human results.
LAMB: If you go well, if you just watch this network for the last couple years throughout this financial crisis, you can you know people are pointing at each other saying you did it, you did it. But when it comes to this whole business of regulation, you’ve got people saying that we’ve always had the laws in order to regulate. But they just weren’t applied. And now people
KLEIN: I don’t think that’s true. I mean, I think in the 19 in the 1990s there was a series of decisions that were made that deregulated the financial sector, that allowed banks to take on levels of debt that were illegal beforehand. So you could have a situation like Bear Stearns where they had a ratio of 33 to 1 of debt to assets.
That was the result of a deregulation decision. There was an extensive debate that we now know over whether or not to regulate derivatives. There were people like Brooksley Born who wanted to regulate. And then there was a push back from Alan Greenspan, from Larry Summers, who said no, we don’t want to regulate derivatives.
So the idea that there were rules but they weren’t applied you know in this case, there was a concerted lobby not to have regulations over this part of the economy. And an argument was made that it could be self-regulating, and that was the fundamental flaw that Alan Greenspan has since admitted to. And then of course there was the decision to do away with Glass-Steagall, which was the depression era law that prevented commercial banks from also being investment banks. So that was a deregulation decision.
So I don’t I mean there certainly are cases of there being laws on the books that are not enforced. But I think if we look at the really key factors that led to this particular economic crisis where you had highly integrated financial institutions that were allowed to grow too big to fail, that were allowed to carry huge levels of debt, and a sector that was entirely outside the reach of regulators, that was not a case of the rules being on the books and not being enforced. That was a case of a vision of deregulation that was enforced.
LAMB: In your introduction, the new introduction to No Logo, you’re talking about President Obama. ”He will slam the unacceptable greed of banking executives even as he hands the reigns of the economy to consummate Wall Street insiders.”
KLEIN: Well, I mean what I’m describing here about the key pieces of deregulation that created the context for this crisis, they were all Clinton era decisions. They were all when Larry Summers or Bob Rubin was in charge of the U.S. Treasury.
So the fact that Larry Summers is now the most influential economist in Washington to me is very, very troubling. Obama really won this election promising to take on the ideology of deregulation, giving more and more to the people at the top and waiting for it to trickle down to the bottom.
You know I always remember that Sarah Palin and John McCain were ahead of Obama after the Republic Convention. They got their bump. The Democratic Convention had been actually pretty disappointed. They barely got a bump out of it. And we were all looking pretty seriously at a future of a McCain/Palin ticket winning.
And then Lehman collapsed. There was a two-week period from when Sarah Palin was introduced to the world on August 30 to when Lehman collapsed on September 14. And after Lehman collapsed, Obama found his voice. And he started talking about how this financial crisis was not the result of just one or two you know bad apples but was the result of an ideology of deregulation that had gripped the United States for eight years. And that’s where that’s where he wasn’t telling the truth because it wasn’t just the Bush years.
And I think a lot of you know Democrats and you know talking a little bit about maybe what gives me a little bit of a difference a different perspective because I’m you know I don’t live in the U.S. I’m much less partisan. I’m not you know I’m not driven by you know a desire for Democrats to win elections. That’s not you know what drives my writing.
And you know I saw just an incredible amount of intellectual dishonesty from liberals and progressives during that election campaign where we knew damn well that the key pieces of legislation that created the context for the economic crisis had been enacted during the Clinton years. But we knew that this was you know a better political message to claim that the ideology was Bush policy, was just the last eight years.
The problem with intellectual dishonesty is that it comes back to bite you because if you are lying to yourselves and everyone else during the election campaign then what’s to prevent a Larry Summers from coming back and being given you know the keys to the treasury once again?
LAMB: What grade would you give media in this country on this very issue?
KLEIN: What grade? Well you know I guess I would say you know much improved but a little late because I think that the the problem with the U.S. economy is that it’s been in this cycle of bubbles and busts. And during the bubbles, during the boom times, the media in this country has been an active participant in building that hype. I mean bubbles are all about hype, right? And this is where I think that holding the media accountable is absolutely crucial.
You know Jon Stewart was criticized for going after you know Jim Cramer, you know why pick on him. But of course pick on him because bubbles are inflated with hot air, right? So who’s filling the hot air but the press? I mean, this is the job of hype. And somebody like Jim Cramer was you know a hot air machine. So it’s particularly relevant in analyzing the politics of how you create a bubble to hold the media accountable.
Now, in retrospect, there’s been some absolutely incredible investigative reporting by business press.
LAMB: Name something, somebody.
KLEIN: Oh, well The New York Times investigative team has been absolutely incredible. Why am I forgetting her name?
KLEIN: Gretchen Morgenstein. I mean, she has done
has done I think some of the best reporting. And you know the piece that I think really changed history was her finding out about the battle over the regulating derivatives and introducing us to Brooksley Born who you know was the whistle blower in the 90s and making the argument for why we had to regulate this industry and the push back that she got from Rubin and Summers and Greenspan.
That kind of but it’s retroactive. You know we needed that reporting at the time. This is you know it’s kind of forensic reporting.
But I do think now that there’s some really good work being done in investigating the bailout. I think Huffington Post is doing some really great stuff. Sam Stein is doing terrific research on lobbyists. One of the things I think is really important that’s going on now is there’s an outing of lobbyists, that lobbyists love to work in the dark and to remain anonymous.
And that is something I think now that we know that the banks are lobbying against much needed reforms using taxpayer dollars, it’s really made them fair game. And the lobbyists are being you know dragged out of the shadows. We saw protests outside the American Bankers Association meeting in Chicago. I think that’s really important because you know these are major power players that really enjoy not facing scrutiny. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is also facing some really unwanted scrutiny.
And to be honest with you, this is one of the reasons why I wanted to re-release No Logo you know on this anniversary. It’s not just because it happens to be 10 years. It’s because you know the mood is it is a bit of a no logo moment. I mean, it is that sort of same anger at the takeover of public space and public institutions that I was tracking in the book you know is back you know really with a vengeance. And it seemed this it seemed like the time was right.
LAMB: The other book you mentioned, The Shock Doctrine.
LAMB: What year did this come out?
KLEIN: It came out in 2007.
LAMB: Just two years ago.
KLEIN: Yes. Yes.
LAMB: Give us a capsule. What does this do? And I know you started off in the book talking to a woman that has severe had severe mental problems.
KLEIN: Well she yes.
LAMB: For a reason. You might, just tell that story as a kind of a metaphor for the book.
KLEIN: Well, the book just the book is about different kinds of shock. That’s why it’s called The Shock Doctrine. But it’s about the political uses of shock. And it came out of reporting I did in Iraq for Harper’s Magazine in 2004. I did a piece for Harper’s called Baghdad Year Zero: Pillaging Iraq in Pursuit of a Neocon Utopia. And that piece was looking at how the shock and awe attack on Iraq was deliberately exploited by the Bush team that came in in the aftermath of the invasion, the civilian team of CPA, to push through what economists call economic shock therapy, which is rapid fire transformation push to a free market system. We know it from the Russian contacts you know the transformation very, very quickly from a closed communist market to overnight sort of a free market in the case of Russia a sort of oligarchic, arguably, mafia capitalism.
Joseph Stiglitz said that what Paul Bremer tried to do in the immediate aftermath of the shock and awe invasion was an even more extreme version of shock therapy than was practiced in the former Soviet Union.
And then I happened to be in Iraq also when the first torture scandals broke, when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke. And I was trying to and I ended the Harper’s piece with this, trying to understand what these different forms of shock meant, the shock and awe attack followed by the economic shock therapy. And now suddenly these non-metaphorical shocks being in the news, the shocks on bodies, the use of torture.
So I started reading the declassified CIA manuals about how to interrogate what they call resistant sources, people that don’t want to talk to you. And the manuals talk all about the need to put a prisoner into a state of shock, that when the prisoner goes into a state of shock, when they’re totally disoriented then they become pliant. They regress and they go into a child-like state and then they’re much more likely to cooperate with their interrogator.
And when I read that, I thought that in some way it was a description of what I had witnessed in Iraq, that the idea was that the strategy, the war strategy, was that Iraq would be and this is a quote, actually, in the book from Richard Armitage, Colin Powell’s under secretary of state he said the idea was that Iraqis would be so shocked and so awed that they would be easily marshaled from point A to point B. And point B in the vision of the Bush Administration as executed by Paul Bremer was that Iraq would be this perfect free market model economy.
And you know if we cast our minds back to 2003, remember the first summer of Iraq under U.S. occupation, it was all about the economic reforms. Paul Bremer was passing laws. You know there seemed to be a new one every day that allowed foreign investors to come in on 100 percent of Iraq’s assets. He announced the privatization of 200 of Iraq’s state-owned companies. Iraq actually became Donald Rumsfeld said it had some of the most enlightened tax policies in the world.
Now this was all done shock therapy style. There was no Iraqi government. They didn’t have to negotiate. They did it very quickly. So I thought that I was seeing on in a sense that they did on a mass scale what happens to individuals in the interrogation chamber that they’re put into a state of shock and then they’re bent to the will of their interrogator.
And here this was a country that was put into a state of shock, and they attempted to bend it to the will of their occupiers. And it didn’t work. It backfired. So that’s why I start the book with the story of a woman who underwent extreme electroshock treatment as part of these horrible CIA experiments in the 1950s as part of the MK-ULTRA program.
LAMB: Do you and your family I don’t want to put words in your mouth but I’ll just ask it this way and you react to it ever sit around and say the Americans are getting what they deserve?
KLEIN: Well, we never talk that way because remember, my parents consider themselves American as well as Canadian. They are. And they do maintain their dual citizenship. They vote and all that. So they would you know they wouldn’t say that.
LAMB: But do Canadians that you talk to feel this way?
KLEIN: No. I mean do you mean in terms of the financial crisis?
LAMB: As they look down on this country and the Iraq War and all the things that you talk about, what’s their attitude?
KLEIN: You know I think there’s so much good will in the world about this country and you know if you you look at how much people want to believe in American redemption, look at the excitement around the world in the face of Obama’s election, I think you know there’s very little evidence that people really wish Americans ill.
In fact, there’s tremendous evidence that despite many disappointments, there’s a tremendous well of good will and hope. And certainly that’s true of Canada. There was Obama mania hit Canada pretty hard, and remains.
LAMB: What’s your take on the Obama Administration bringing these Guantanamo-based prisoners to this town, New York City, having them tried here in a federal court and then saying also it doesn’t matter whether they’re guilty or not guilty, they’re not going anywhere. In other words, if they are found not guilty, they’re not getting out.
KLEIN: Well, first of all I do support the decision that they be tried in the United States. I think Americans need to regain their faith in their justice system without exceptions. This idea that you can have these extra judicial pockets where you can send people you know for unlimited amounts of time is utterly untenable, legally and morally. It has to end.
And you know obviously it’s a painful process politically. And it’s painful to bring the system back into lawfulness. And it should you know to me I think Guantanamo should never have been opened in the first place. And I think it is very it’s a very, very good sign that Obama is doing this.
But yes, the last part of it to say you know the results don’t matter you know is undermining that message. And you know I think it’s kind of a typical it’s a typical Obama compromise, actually, where he really undercuts himself by trying to sort of split the difference and ending up in a position that is hard to defend.
I mean, the thing about if there’s anything that we can learn from the response, the incredible response to Obama from people like Glenn Beck and now what we’re hearing from Sarah Palin on her book tour, it’s that no matter how modest his reforms are, the attacks are going to be as if they are the most radical reforms ever attempted.
So here we have him being called a socialist, a fascist, being compared to Hitler. They really haven’t left themselves anywhere to go. Like after you’ve compared to Obama to Hitler, where do you go after that?
So to me the message seems to be that they may as well stay true to their beliefs. They may as well introduce some thorough reforms rather than these half measures and endless compromises because then they’re going to have people that will really, really go to the wall and defend them.
They keep making this mistake. They did it with healthcare. They have a healthcare plan where their supporters don’t know whether or not they should support it. They really don’t know whether the public option is strong enough. And of course many of Obama supporters would support single payer.
You know the same thing that’s going to happen with the energy bill where you know every serious environmental group in this country looks at both versions of this bill and says the emission cuts are nowhere near what the science demands. The science is very, very clear. So you know the you can’t really and you can’t really compromise or debate with the science.
So you end up with the you know the full-on attack from the right, but your supporters are left hanging because they don’t actually have something to rally behind. And I think it’s bad politics.
LAMB: Another book soon from you?
KLEIN: Well, I’ve begun the long process, let’s just say.
LAMB: What is the area? What are you doing this time?
KLEIN: It has to do with it has to do with debt. That’s all I can say right now. But it’s much more exciting than that.
LAMB: What year do you hope to publish it?
KLEIN: I’d say it’s two years away, so.
LAMB: Are you on a per capita basis more in demand in Canada or in the United States to hear your message?
KLEIN: Definitely in the United States more than anywhere else, which has really changed with No Logo. No Logo was a bestseller around the world but not in the United States. In the United States it was more of a it was you know kind of a hit on university campuses but it wasn’t a bestseller whereas in you know Canada it was you know number one bestseller, Italy, United Kingdom.
With The Shock Doctrine, The Shock Doctrine has sold better in the United States than anywhere else. And I think it’s you know it’s the political moment in this country.
LAMB: Our guest is a dual citizen in the United States and in Canada. And she is the author of No Logo and The Shock Doctrine. And we’re out of time, and we thank you for joining us.
KLEIN: Thank you. It was fun.