Monday, May 11, 2015

"The Shock Doctrine": documentary feature seems to wander from Naomi Klein's book

The Shock Doctrine” (2009), based on the book by that name by Naomi Klein, and directed by Mat Whitecross and Michael Winterbottom, explores the idea that capitalism feeds on natural disasters, war and other instability.
The film draws a curious analogy to medicine, particularly shock treatment for mental illness in the past, along with sensory deprivation treatment, tried in the early 60s, depicted in Montreal in this film. (The idea of being “dulled” actually came up in my personal therapy at NIH in 1962.)
The film then moves on to major historical examples, starting with the right-wing coup that kicked out a Marxist government in Chile.  Economist Milton Friedman, from the University of Chicago, was called on to help implement economic “reforms”.
It then covers the confluence of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher (“The Iron Lady”), leading to the conservative revolutions of the 1980s, where privatization of many government functions occurred and unions were attacked (as with the airline traffic controllers strike in 1982).  In time, the ratio of CEO pay to average worker pay rose from 40 to 1 to over 400 to 1, and hostile takeovers became common.  The film covers Thatcher’s Falklands War.
The film goes on to cover the fall of the Soviet Union, and the consolidation of Boris Yeltsin’s power in the 1990s, with footage of the attack on the Moscow “White House”.  The film covers the end of the Cold War in a negative light, claiming that it knocked many or most Russians into poverty, while allowing a few oligarchs to become billionaires and flash their wealth.  The was all “pre-Putin”.  But does it set up the aggression of Russia today, as well as the anti-gay climate (with the law passed in 2013)?
The film covers 9/11, but noting that on Sept. 10, 2001 Rumsfeld had announced “bureaucracy” as the new enemy.  But then, 9/11 created a “Before and After” (as had AIDS 15 years before) and a “clash of civilizations”.  We had totally misunderstood our world (as it seems we do now, given ISIS).  We spoke of a “clash of civilizations”. The documentary moves on to the war in Iraq, and notes that most Iraqi people are worse off today than they were under Saddam Hussein. 
That may be true because of the weak government and power vacuum, allowing ISIS to rampage, but remember that much of the ISIS military comes from Saddam Hussein’s former secular generals.
The film concludes with coverage of the 2008 financial crisis, following on to the Russian and Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s (subject of a big Esquire issue in 1999 about young men without girl friends).
Naomi Klein also has a short film “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism”, on a page here. Klein is reported to have serious differences with the filmmakers as to content, link here.
The feature can be rented from Netflix. 


I need to mention “Deep Web” by Alex Winter, distribution by “Bond Influence” (or Bond/360) which I missed at the Maryland Film Festival.  There seems to be an issue with availability on cable, which I discuss on my Network Neutrality blog yesterday.  I will review it as soon as I can get a DVD or legal link. 

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