Any visit by Naomi Klein is a big event. Bristol folks proved it by spraying a welcome on the road to town. After publishing No Logo in 2000, in which Klein explored the troubling concept of branding on cruel capitalist terms, she quickly gained vast influence and was considered one of the most influential thinkers on the left. In The Shock Doctrine (2007) Klein explored how politicians use unpleasant events, such as earthquakes, political coups, terrorist attacks, or ‘shock methods’ to gain more power while people are still fragile and shaken by the events, yearning for protection.
With all the extraordinary events that have unfolded over the last year, what with Brexit, countless terrorist attacks across Europe and the election of Donald Trump as the new President of the United States, Klein felt the need to make sense of what has been happening. She published her latest book, No Is Not Enough (2017), at speed, with the intention to send a warning of Trump’s potential to cause major disruption as well as to offer an alternative to the people “before they went numb”.
Klein is optimistic in her vision of the future and talks about alternative ideas around the “slow death of neoliberalism”, justified through the appearance of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn. She spoke fondly of Corbyn’s 2017 campaign as being very different to the one the Labour Party ran exactly twenty years ago, in 1997, by applying corporate principles to politics and re-branding into New Labour. Now, it seems, the Labour Party is going to the workers and they are regaining the trust that flailed for a decade.
In the meantime, Donald Trump is playing by the rules of branding and gains impunity through wealth, therefore maintaining an amoral brand by selling the dream to the masses. According to Klein, the first step to oppose Trump is to damage his brand by making him look like a puppet – which he takes very personally – and most importantly, by directly attacking his wealth. She identifies systematic betrayals of Trump’s brand – Make America Great Again – which people oversee due to his ingenious success at refocusing the attention of the public through unstoppable small shocks one tweet at a time.
The main argument of No Is Not Enough is that opposition needs to take a different turn and joint resistance forces need to come up with a plan of an alternative future, a better future, as imagined by all. In this vein, Klein offers a manifesto, drafted by a dozen activists, where they offer a springboard for further development. Klein says after writing The Shock Doctrine she hoped that by offering an analysis of what has been happening in politics behind closed doors, the public would come up with a political platform for facing the crisis. This having failed, she is now advocating a revival of the utopian imagination and the need for a new narrative. By rejecting the logic of the collective extraction and waiting for a political saviour, Klein’s Lean Manifesto is the first step towards creating a new narrative ourselves, one that comes from a social movement.
“We have too much dystopian fiction; now we need more utopian,” said Klein to a room full of applause and bright faces in need of a better tomorrow.
Image of Naomi Klein by @JonCraig_Photos