Thursday, September 13, 2007

Disaster Capitalism and the Security-Industrial Complex

In the last few days I've discovered a new set of concepts and wordings designed to describe the modern world, and none of them are very comforting. Even considering them with the appropriate doubts of the intents of their creators and promoters, it still appears rather distressing and depressing. The populist banner cries of Freedom, Democracy and Liberty stand like antiquated oddities before them.

So let me share some of the things I've read with you and you tell me if they are valid or vapid or portents of a 21st century in which an individual is the Most Endangered Species.

First I read an excerpt from a new book, by author Naomi Klein, called "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism." Klein is a most vocal journalist and activist who has been in the forefront of opposition to the tenets of globalization. The Guardian presented this excerpt, which you can read for yourself. Here are some quotes:

"For weeks after the attacks, the president went on a grand tour of the public sector - state schools, firehouses and memorials, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention - embracing and thanking civil servants for their contributions and humble patriotism. He praised not only emergency services personnel but teachers, postal employees and healthcare workers. At these events, he treated work done in the public interest with a level of respect and dignity that had not been seen in the US in four decades. Cost-cutting was suddenly off the agenda, and in every speech the president gave, he announced some ambitious new public programme.

But far from shaking their determination to weaken the public sphere, the security failures of 9/11 reaffirmed in Bush and his inner circle their deepest ideological (and self-interested) beliefs - that only private firms possessed the intelligence and innovation to meet the new security challenge. Although it was true that the White House was on the verge of spending huge amounts of taxpayer money to launch a new deal, it would be exclusively with corporate America, a straight-up transfer of hundreds of billions of public dollars a year into private hands. The deal would take the form of contracts, many offered secretively, with no competition and scarcely any oversight, to a sprawling network of industries: technology, media, communications, incarceration, engineering, education, healthcare.

What happened in the period of mass disorientation after the attacks was, in retrospect, a domestic form of economic shock therapy."


Through all its various name changes - the war on terror, the war on radical Islam, the war against Islamofascism, the third world war, the long war, the generational war - the basic shape of the conflict has remained unchanged. It is limited by neither time nor space nor target. From a military perspective, these sprawling and amorphous traits make the war on terror an unwinnable proposition. But from an economic perspective, they make it an unbeatable one: not a flash-in-the-pan war that could potentially be won but a new and permanent fixture in the global economic architecture."

I know, as do most cognizant citizens, how much value and 'new meanings' which key words and phrases now in place to frame many, if not all debate, on the topic of security and patriotism seem to be shielded from scrutiny.

But a 'disaster capitalism' mindset? Who could believe or endorse such an idea? How about the Wall Street Journal, which is now offering opinions to support the "Security-Industrial Complex"? Writer Heather McDonald, of the Manhattan Institute, presents an enormous amount of "ifs" and "maybes" to justify radical changes in American life.

How do we shore up the country's equally limitless vulnerabilities? There is reason to think, however, that we may have overestimated Muslim terrorists' reach. To find out whether this is true, the next stage of the homeland security enterprise should be oriented around one overriding goal: determining the actual capacity of jihadists to strike the U.S. That means ramping up our intelligence efforts and facing down privacy zealots and civil libertarian extremists, who continue to impede those efforts at every turn."

Klein and filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron ("Children of Men") have also presented a jarring and disturbing short video to advance their discussions, which you can see at Klein's website.

As for me, these concepts are some of the most dehumanizing ideas I've encountered in some time. If it all sounds too weird, too conspiratorial to hold any truths, then simply consider that despite what you or I might think, policy-makers and 'experts' are using this language and have been for some time.

1 comment:

  1. Joe, thank you for helping expose the expansion of the entrenched "military industrial complex" to now include disaster relief. It is no surprise that we are seeing the same corporate faces receiving these very lucrative "no-bid" contracts from our now corrupt administration. I too have been working and writing on The Lang Report to educate real Americans of this form of legal corruption.
    Let us continue to fight with words and action to put a spotlight on these vermin.
    Michael Lang
    The Lang Report