Web Exclusive: Naomi Klein on How to Resist Trump's Shock Politics
Part 2 of our interview with Naomi Klein about her book, "No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need."
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. And we’re joined by Naomi Klein, who’s just written the book No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. Accompanying the book, Intercept just made a video, which we’re going to play an excerpt for you now.
NAOMI KLEIN: Shock.
MEGYN KELLY: Shocking.
STEPHEN COLBERT: I don’t think I could sit down right now.
ALISYN CAMEROTA: You mean—
WILLIE GEIST: Historic, astounding, shocking.
NAOMI KLEIN: It’s a word that’s come up a lot since November, for obvious reasons.
KELLYANNE CONWAY: He’s going to inject a shock to the system.
NAOMI KLEIN: Now, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about shock. Ten years ago, I published The Shock Doctrine, an investigation that spanned four decades, from Pinochet’s U.S.-backed coup in 1970s Chile to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. I noticed a brutal and recurring tactic by right-wing governments. After a shocking event—a war, a coup, a terrorist attack, market crash or natural disaster—exploit the public’s disorientation, suspend democracy, push through radical policies that enrich the 1 percent at the expense of the poor and middle class.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This is a repeal and a replace of Obamacare.
GARY COHN: We’re going to cut taxes and simplify the tax code.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord.
NAOMI KLEIN: Now, some people have said that’s exactly what Trump has been trying to do. Is it true? Well, sort of. But in all likelihood, the worst is yet to come, and we better be ready. The administration is creating chaos, daily.
JUJU CHANG: Breaking news: Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has resigned tonight.
ANDERSON COOPER: All of a sudden, the White House is concerned about James Comey’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s email?
CBS NEWS ANCHOR: A Senate committee will question President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner about his meeting with officials from a Russian bank.
NAOMI KLEIN: Now, of course many of the scandals are the result of the president’s ignorance and blunders, not some nefarious strategy. But there’s also no doubt that some savvy people around Trump are using the daily shocks as cover to advance wildly pro-corporate policies that bear little resemblance to what Trump pledged on the campaign trail.
DONALD TRUMP: Save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
MSNBC ANCHOR: The White House released its budget for 2018, and among the $4 trillion in cuts it proposes are billions upon billions of dollars slashed from both Medicaid and Social Security.
NAOMI KLEIN: And the worst part, this is likely just the warm-up. We need to focus on what this administration will do when it has a major external shock to exploit. Maybe it will be an economic crash like 2008, maybe a natural disaster like Sandy, or maybe it will be a horrific terrorist event like Manchester or Paris in 2015. Any one such crisis could redraw the political map overnight. And it could give Trump and his crew free rein to ram through their most extreme ideas.
But here is one thing I’ve learned over two decades of reporting from dozens of crises around the world: These tactics can be resisted. And, for your convenience, I’ve tried to boil it down to a five-step plan.
Step one: Know what’s coming. What would happen if a horror like the one in Manchester took place on U.S. soil? Based on Trump’s obvious fondness for authoritarianism, we can expect him to impose some sort of state of exception or emergency where the usual rules of democracy no longer apply. Protests and strikes that block roads and airports, like the ones that sprung up to resist the Muslim travel ban, would likely be declared a threat to national security. Protest organizers would be targeted under anti-terror legislation, with surveillance, arrests and imprisonment. With public signs of dissent suppressed, the truly toxic to-do list would quickly bubble up: bring in the feds to pacify the streets, muzzle investigative journalism—you know he’s itching to.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You weren’t called. Sit down!
NAOMI KLEIN: The courts, who Trump would inevitably blame for the attacks, might well lose their courage. And the most lethal shock we need to prepare for: a push for a full-blown foreign war. And, no, it won’t matter if the target has no connection to the attacks used to justify it.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: What did Iraq have to do with what?
REPORTER: The attack on the World Trade Center.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Nothing.
NAOMI KLEIN: Preparing for all this is crucial. If we know what to expect, we won’t be that shocked. We’ll just be pissed.
And that’s important for step two: Get out of your home and defy the bans. When governments tell people to stay in their homes or show their patriotism by going shopping, they inevitably claim it’s for public safety, that protests and rallies could become targets for more attacks. What we know from other countries is that there is only one way to respond.
EURONEWS ANCHOR: Hundreds of Tunisians have been defying the curfew in the capital, Tunis.
NAOMI KLEIN: Disobey en masse. That’s what happened in Argentina in 2001. With the country in economic free fall, the president at the time declared a state of siege, giving himself the power to suspend the constitution.
FERNANDO DE LA RÃšA: [translated] I declared a state of siege across the entire country.
NAOMI KLEIN: He told the public to stay in their houses. Here’s what they did instead.
NAOMI KLEIN: The president resigned that night. And eventually new elections were held.
Three years later, in Madrid, a horrifying series of coordinated attacks on trains killed more than 200 people. The prime minister, JosÃ© MarÃa Aznar, falsely pointed the finger at Basque separatists and also used the attacks to justify his decision to send troops to Iraq. His rhetoric was classic shock doctrine: division, war, fear—Daddy will protect you. This is how Spaniards responded.
PROTESTERS: [translated] Resignation! Resignation!
NAOMI KLEIN: They voted out Aznar a few days later. Many people said they did it because he reminded them of Franco, Spain’s former dictator.
Which brings us to step three: Know your history. Throughout U.S. history, national crises have been used to suspend constitutional protections and attack basic rights. After the Civil War, with the nation in crisis, the promise of 40 acres and a mule to freed slaves was promptly betrayed. In the midst of the pain and panic of the Great Depression, as many as 2 million people of Mexican descent were expelled from the United States. After the Pearl Harbor attacks, around 120,000 Japanese Americans were jailed in internment camps. If an attack on U.S. soil were perpetrated by people who were not white and Christian, we can be pretty damn sure that racists would have a field day. And the good folks of Manchester recently showed us how to respond to that.
PROTESTER: The people of Manchester don’t stand with your xenophobia and racism!
NAOMI KLEIN: Something else we know from history, step four: Always follow the money. While everyone is focused on security and civil liberties, Trump’s Cabinet of billionaires will try to quietly push through even more extreme measures to enrich themselves and their class, like dismantling Social Security or auctioning off major pieces of government for profit.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Today we’re proposing to take American air travel into the future.
NAOMI KLEIN: It’s in those moments when fear and chaos are sucking up all the oxygen when we most have to ask: Whose interests are being served by the chaos? What is being slipped through while we’re distracted? Who’s getting richer, and who’s getting even poorer?
WENDELL PIERCE: When the floodwaters were still rising in New Orleans, one of the first official acts that the governor did was to fire all the teachers. What’s happening is a raid of the money set aside for public education to be given to private companies. It wasn’t by happenstance. It was by design. You saw the political manipulations and taking advantage of the crisis.
NAOMI KLEIN: But if we learn from this history, we could actually make history, with step five: Advance a bold counterplan. At their best, all the previous steps can only slow down attempts to exploit crisis. If we actually want to defeat this tactic, opponents of the shock doctrine need to move quickly to put forward a credible alternate plan. It needs to get at the root of why these sorts of crises are hitting us with ever greater frequency. And that means we have to talk about militarism, climate change and deregulated markets. More than that, we need to advance and fight for different models, ones grounded in racial, economic and gender justice, ones that hold out the credible promise of a tangibly better and fairer life in the here and now and a safer planet for all of us in the long term.
AMY GOODMAN: That video, produced by The Intercept. Their senior correspondent, Naomi Klein, author of the new book, released this week, No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. Yes, a shock. You’re a specialist in analyzing what happens next, Naomi.
NAOMI KLEIN: Right. And, you know, the reason why I wrote this book very quickly, for me—you know, it usually takes me five years to write a book; I did this in less than five months—is because I really wanted it to come out before any kind of major crisis hits the United States. I mean, lots of people out there see Trump himself as a crisis, and, you know, I would tend to agree, but what really has me scared is what this configuration of characters in the Trump administration—Pence, Bannon, Betsy DeVos, Steve Mnuchin, all these Goldman Sachs alum who are in the Cabinet—how they would respond to a large-scale crisis that they themselves are not creating. I mean, the chaos is chaos they’re generating themselves, either deliberately or out of incompetence and avarice, but what happens if there’s a 2008-like financial crisis? What happens, you know, heaven forbid, if there is a Manchester-like attack in the United States?
The actions of this administration make these types of shocks more likely, not less, right? They’re deregulating the banks, creating the conditions for another crash. They are antagonizing the world, particularly the Muslim world. You know, ISIS apparently called Trump’s Muslim travel ban a "blessed ban," because it was so good for recruitment. They are—you know, they are making climate disasters more likely with everything they’re doing to deregulate industry, deregulate for polluters. You know, there’s a lag time between that and when the climate shocks hit, but the truth is, we’ve already warmed the planet enough that no U.S. president can get through a year, let alone a term, without some sort of major climate-related disaster.
So, how does this group of—this Cabinet of disaster capitalists, is what I call them, Amy, because there is such a track record of taking advantage of crisis, whether we’re looking at the Goldman Sachs—former Goldman Sachs executives and the way they profited from the subprime mortgage crisis to increase their own personal wealth, whether it’s Mike Pence and the central role he played when New Orleans was still underwater to come up with a corporate wish list to push through. So, you know, as disastrous as Trump’s policies have been so far, there’s actually long, toxic to-do lists, things that people around Trump and Trump himself have been—have very openly said they would like to do, but they have actually not been able either to get through without a crisis or they haven’t even tried, right? Think about Trump’s threats to bring back torture. Think about his threats to bring the feds into Chicago. Think about his threats not just to have a Muslim travel ban from specific countries, but not to let Muslims into the country, period.
So I think we do need to prepare for this. And what I tried to do with this video is create a little toolkit of, you know, what I have seen work in other countries, because I have been reporting on shocks and large-scale disasters and how societies respond now for a couple of decades, and I’ve seen some amazing acts of resistance, you know?
AMY GOODMAN: And talk about those. We saw some images of them here.
NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah. So, one of the things I think we could really count on Trump to do, particularly if there is any kind of terrorism-related shock—and let’s be clear: There have been terrorism events, white supremacist terrorism, in the United States during the Trump era, but of course he doesn’t treat those as a crisis. So, an event that they decided was a large-scale crisis, we already know from the way Trump responded to the London Bridge attacks—he immediately said, "This is why we need to bring back my travel ban." After the Manchester attacks, he immediately said, "This is about immigrants flooding across our borders." In fact, the person responsible for those attacks was born in the U.K. It doesn’t matter. You know, we know this from 9/11, that the way—these crises are used as opportunities to push through policies that actually have very little to do with getting at root causes, and, in many cases, exacerbate—most notably, the invasion of Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11, but it was just that sheer opportunism.
So, you know, what I’ve seen is, I think, in all likelihood, they would declare a state of emergency, some sort of state of exception, where they’re able to ban protests, like the protests we saw, the very inspiring protests in the face of the Muslim travel ban. They would say, "No, you can’t block a road. You can’t block an airport. This is—you could be a target of terrorism yourself. Stay in your homes."
So, you know, I give a few examples, like Argentina in 2001, when, as the president was declaring a state of siege and telling people to stay in their homes, people described not being able to hear him because the sound from the streets was so loud, the roar of pots and pans, and neighbors flooding out of their homes and going to the Plaza de Mayo and refusing this state of siege, was—that they drowned him out. They literally couldn’t hear him. So other people left their houses. And, you know, in that moment, that’s the moment to resist. You know, that is the moment to just not accept it. And it’s really a question of strength in numbers, because if it is only the kind of hardcore activists that are out on the streets, it’s really easy to crush small protests. It’s harder to do it when it is hundreds of thousands of people. So I wanted to share some of these stories of societies that have just said, "We will not let you do it." Right?
I was in France, as were you, Amy, a week after the horrific terrorist attacks in 2015. We were there for the Paris climate summit. A week before, 200 people had been killed in Paris in coordinated attacks. The French government, under FranÃ§ois Hollande, a Socialist government—Socialist in name only, but, you know, a left government—declared a state of emergency and banned political gatherings of more than five people. You know, if that can happen in France under a Socialist government, in a country with a very deep history of disruptive strikes, what do we expect Trump and Bannon and Pence to do at the earliest opportunity? So, I think it’s important to strategize.
It’s important to know the history in the United States. You know, in all these countries, the examples I give—Argentina, why did they flood out of their houses? You ask people. They said, "It reminded us of the beginning of the dictatorship in 1976. That’s how it started. They told us that we weren’t safe and that it was going to be a temporary state of emergency. And it ended up turning into a dictatorship." So they saw the early signs, and they said, "No, not again. Nunca mÃ¡s." Right? You know, we talked to Americans about this. They say, "Well, we don’t have that history." Really? What about the Japanese internment, you know? What about, as you’ve written, Amy, what about what happened to Mexican—Mexican Americans in the United States during the Great Depression and during that crisis and the mass deportations? There is this history in many communities, and those communities keep that history alive. You know, during Hurricane Katrina, so many African Americans talked about the history of how crises had been used to further oppress black people in this country. But these stories are offloaded into those communities, who hold them and keep that history alive. It isn’t nationally metabolized, right? And so we have to share these stories. And I do think there is a memory now of what happened after September 11th and the rights that were lost and the ways in which people’s grief was exploited by men in power who said, "Trust me." Don’t make that mistake again.
AMY GOODMAN: What about the connection to war? I mean, you have what happened in Manchester, the horror there. You have the continued deaths in Yemen, the U.S.-backed Saudi bombing. Now the U.S. has expanded both in Somalia and in the Philippines with U.S. forces.
NAOMI KLEIN: Mm-hmm, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: You have this horrific attack that took place in Kabul, where over 150 Afghans died. It hardly got any attention. But the rage that must be brewing at the grassroots when they don’t get any media attention from the West?
NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, right, right. You know, people are being erased, you know, and this is a very, very old story. No, they’re already expanding the battlefields, escalating on multiple, multiple fronts. And, you know, this is the most dangerous, most lethal way that shocking events are exploited, people’s fear exploited.
And, you know, let’s remember that this administration will have various motivations for changing the subject away from their domestic scandals. And Trump has never gotten better media coverage than in the wake of the—his Syrian missile strike, you know, called "beautiful" by Brian Williams. And it’s—you know, suddenly, he was presidential—right?—ordering cruise missiles over delicious chocolate cake at Mar-a-Lago. So, you know, we have to be very, very vigilant about this.
And, you know, the U.S. has had a strong antiwar movement in the past, but that antiwar movement hasn’t been in the streets in the same way. And, you know, I think that this—these resistance movements are going to have to get ready for that kind of a shock, because once the wars begin, you know, it’s very hard to stop them.
Another example, I think, of shock resistance, we just saw in the U.K. during Jeremy Corbyn’s—during Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign, where Theresa May was exploiting the Manchester attacks, the London Bridge attacks, to say, "We are going to, you know, have to get rid of your online privacy. You know, we need backdoors into all of your communication apps. We may need to suspend human rights law." And Jeremy Corbyn was talking about root causes, the failure of the war-on-terror paradigm and how this is leading to an increase in these types of attacks. And, you know, I think that a lot of people decided that that made more sense after these many years, like not to double down and give up rights in these moments, but to try to understand why this is happening and to do something about it.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, Theresa May lost her Conservative majority in the Parliament. On Saudi Arabia, the first country President Trump went to, the first foreign country, was Saudi Arabia. He does the orb with the Saudi Arabians. He does the sword dances, or tries, with the Saudi Arabians.
NAOMI KLEIN: The sword stumble.
AMY GOODMAN: He seals these deals, well over $110 billion, leaves there extolling the Saudi leadership and attacks the European leaders, and then comes home, and, despite the almost begging of the European leaders on the issue of the climate accord, he not only attacks them, but then comes home to the United States and announces he’s withdrawing from the very accord they’re pleading with him to remain in. What about this primacy of Saudi Arabia right now, both its connection to war, with the U.S.-backed Saudi bombing of Yemen, which is leading to a horrific cholera epidemic, not to mention just the number of deaths, and climate change?
NAOMI KLEIN: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. You know, one of the things that really worries me is how motivated these petrostates are to have more instability, because that sends the price of oil up, and, you know, their profits flow even more. It’s something that the Saudis have in common with the Russians, have in common with Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon. You know, the way I think we should see that foreign trip of Trump’s is basically as traveling weapons salesman, right? And he’s sending this message: You buy enough American weapons, you’re our friend. You know? Like this is the price. So he heaps praise on Saudi Arabia for, you know, having done that, having made that deal, and he goes to Europe, and he screams at them, you know, NATO members, for not pulling their weight, right? Which means not buying enough weapons. You know, I’m Canadian. I’m Canadian-American, dual citizen. But my government shamefully came home and announced a massive—sorry, a massive increase in weapons spending. So, you know, this is—this is Trump’s foreign policy, is traveling weapons salesman.