Saturday, 17 June 2017

Brexit: and the new shock politics

There have been 'shocks' in Devon following the 'Brexit general election':
Devon MP blames Brexit for Tory collapse | Devon Live
Totnes MP Dr Sarah Wollaston criticises Tory 'inner circle' for negative campaign | Devon Live
Conservatives hold North Devon seat in close battle with Liberal Democrats - Full report | Devon Live
Result has 'shattered the way politics is run in the UK' says Devon MP | Devon Live

With some 'shocks' here in East Devon still reverberating: 
Hugo Swire retains East Devon after challenge from independent Claire Wright - Full report | Devon Live
East Devon responds after MP Hugo Swire's complaints of 'vile' abuse of him on Twitter | Devon Live
East Devon MP Hugo Swire says 'vile' Claire Wright fans libelled him on Twitter - video | Devon Live

Looking at the earlier vote on Brexit a year ago, we have this comment from Rob Hopkins of the Transition Movement:

Brexit is one of those shocks Naomi Klein refers to in 'The Shock Doctrine': unless we're careful it will be used by nefarious characters for nefarious ends, but that's not a given.

Futures Forum: Brexit: ProgrExit and the Transition Town movement

Other commentators were making the point back in July last year:
Disaster capitalism: the shocking doctrine Tories can’t wait to unleash | Howard Hotson | Opinion | The Guardian
The Shock Doctrine, Post-Brexit and Where the UK Goes Now

And in January this year:
Is Brexit the latest stage of the Shock Doctrine? – Not Without Us
Wake up Britain! A far right coup is under way! - The Ecologist

Naomi Klein is in the UK promoting her latest book:
Full Interview: Naomi Klein on "No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump's Shock Politics" | Democracy Now!
A shocking state of affairs – how crises are exploited by politicians and corporations | Books | The Guardian
Naomi Klein: ‘Trump is an idiot, but don’t underestimate how good he is at that’ | Books | The Guardian

And she comments on the latest vote - on Brexit and the 'shock doctrine':
A shocking state of affairs – how crises are exploited by politicians and corporations | Books | The Guardian

Naomi Klein: Theresa May lost her majority because she pushed the shock doctrine too far

Naomi Klein is one of the most influential political writers in the world (Photo: Cole Bennetts/Getty Images)

Rob Hastings Thursday June 15th 2017

What did Theresa May’s decision to call a snap general election have in common with the aftermath of the Sri Lankan tsunami and the invasion of Iraq? If you’ve read the work of one bestselling political author, Naomi Klein, you’ll probably know the answer: they’re all examples of the “shock doctrine” at work.

When sudden, unexpected events cause widespread anxiety, they provide distractions for power grabs and create the perfect conditions for extreme policies to be rushed through while people are still coming to terms with what has happened and before opposition has mobilised. Ideally, if you’re a populist ideologue, your Machiavellian actions will themselves cause even more disorientation for you to exploit.

These tactics can be scarily effective, as Klein documented in her 2007 book The Shock Doctrine. The Canadian journalist – one of the most influential left-wing writers in the world ever since her debut, No Logo, became a key text for the anti-globalisation zeitgeist nearly two decades ago – pointed to many disturbing examples. They included Sri Lanka’s government choosing profit over justice by selling beach front land to hotel developers once the huts of local fishermen had been washed away, and George W Bush using the fear of another 9/11 to oust Saddam Hussein.

(In contrast, Barack Obama’s former White House chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel was famously said “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste” – but Obama’s presidency has since been criticised for not using the fallout of the 2008 financial crisis to implement stronger reforms of Wall Street. When liberals had their chance to use the shock doctrine for themselves, many would say they missed out.)

The Shock Doctrine – a short film by Naomi Klein and Children of Men director Alfonso Cuaron:


Naomi Klein: The Shock Doctrine - YouTube

Theresa May’s botched used of the shock doctrine

When May tried to take advantage of the continuing political chaos unleashed by the Brexit vote by making her poll announcement in April, it came just in time for inclusion in Klein’s new book, No is Not Enough.

Two months ago, it looked like a Conservative landslide would serve as another instance of the doctrine’s efficacy, “before the public has a chance to rebel against new austerity measures that are the antithesis of how Brexit was originally sold to voters”. Instead, the general election result last week has provided the perfect illustration of Klein’s concern in her latest work: how to fight back. After all, her new volume is subtitled Defeating the New Shock Politics.

The book is primarily a rallying cry for people to unite against the policies of Donald Trump at all levels, explaining how this can work. But with Corbynistas and Labour moderates alike now seeing their chance to avert a hard Brexit while chipping away at May’s tarnished authority, the book could also provide inspiration in the UK. Some have said her work oversimplifies complex topics, but others laud it as some of the finest non-fiction around.

No is Not Enough has been summed up in a Washington Post review as “a bit of a told-you-so. And here’s the thing: She really did tell us.” Indeed, Trump is the apotheosis of Klein’s critique of corporate power encroaching on the political world – “the figurehead of an empire built on his personal brand” which has “already benefited from its merger with the US presidency”.

Why did it fail in the 2017 general election?

Speaking to i from her home in Toronto where she followed the election results via texts from British friends and listening to BBC Radio 4 online, Klein admits she is not an expert in the minutiae of British politics – but she has been following events keenly.

“Theresa May tried to exploit fear and shock in several ways in the campaign,” says the 47-year-old. “The decision to call an unnecessary election, an election she said she would not call, was trying to take advantage of people’s post-Brexit fears. She positioned herself very explicitly as the ‘strong and stable’ leader in this moment of uncertainty – which is really classic shock doctrine tactics.”

So why did it backfire? In part, Klein believes, it was because May pushed things too far. “She compounded it by responding in further opportunistic ways that emphasised fear,” she says – particularly when the Prime Minister suggested ripping up human rights laws and imposing more surveillance on communications, in the wake of the Manchester and London terror attacks.

“The UK was already resistant to these tactics,” she says. “It has more of a collective memory of staying united and finding one’s best self in the midst of crisis, because of World War II.” A cynical Brit might say it’s simply because we don’t like being told what to think and dislike arrogance. But Klein’s theory of a “historical memory” arming society with an instinctive aversion to all-powerful leaders is an interesting one...

‘No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics’ by Naomi Klein (Allen Lane, £12.99)

Naomi Klein: Theresa May pushed the shock doctrine too far and lost - inews.co,uk

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