- Anti-capitalist activist
- Author of the book No Logo: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs
- Believes that global jihadism stems from American racism
- Called for riots in New York City during the 2004 Republican National Convention
Naomi Klein writes a regular, syndicated column for The Guardian and The Nation. She is also the author of several bestselling books, and is a popular public speaker who draws large crowds wherever she lectures.
Klein was born in May 1970 in Montreal. Her mother, Bonnie, was active in the film industry, directing such documentaries as Not a Love Story, a criticism of the pornography industry, and Speaking Our Peace, a profile of female anti-war activists. Her father, Michael, was a draft-dodger who had fled from the U.S. to Canada during the Vietnam War; today he is a member of the anti-military group Physicians for Social Responsibility.
Both of Naomi Klein's parents were onetime Communist Party members who left the Communist movement after the horrors of Stalinism became impossible for them to ignore. Nonetheless, they retained their cherished Communist worldviews and ideals. According to Larissa MacFarquhar of The New Yorker:
“Bonnie and Michael [Klein's parents] would play tapes of a Pacifica Radio show that related American history through folk music–the story of McCarthyism through the Weavers, the civil-rights movement through the Freedom Singers.”
Klein's grandfather was a Marxist who in 1941 was fired by Disney for trying to organize animators.
Naomi Klein attended the University of Toronto, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, The Varsity. She dropped out of college to take an internship at the Toronto Globe and Mail, and later an editorship at This Magazine. She resumed her education in 1995 and completed her requirements for a bachelor’s degree.
In 2000 Klein published the book No Logo: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs, which has been described as the "Das Kapital of the anti-corporate movement" -- a reference to Karl Marx's lengthy treatise against capitalism. In her book, Klein laments that corporations have become vendors not merely of products, but of brands, which, according to the author, advance greed at the highest corporate level -- to the economic detriment of the workforce and the consumer.
In 2002 Klein published Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate, a collection of essays and articles she had penned between 1999 and 2002 regarding the anti-globalization movement which she strongly supported. In the book, Klein offered real-world examples of strategies for effectively organizing mass demonstrations. All proceeds from the book reportedly went to the Fences and Windows Fund, “a not-for-profit organization that provides financial support to grassroots activists who are directly resisting privatization and corporatization around the world.”
Klein was also a contributor to a 2002 screed titled After 9/11: Solutions for a Saner World, a collection of 42 articles that “untangl[e] the knot of our new post-9/11 landscape, tackling every subject from civil liberties to Islamic fundamentalism to economics to sex.” Other contributors to the book, which was published by AlterNet, included Bill Moyers, Barbara Ehrenreich, Barbara Lee, Arundhati Roy, Marc Cooper, Michael Klare, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Stephen Zunes, Arianna Huffington, and Robert Reich.
In 2002 Klein voiced support for the World Social Forum, an annual anti-globalization event condemning the “domination of the world by capital and any form of imperialism.” Klein was particularly pleased by the militancy of protestors who “have concluded that it’s not enough to overthrow one political party and replace it with another, [but] are instead attempting … to topple an economic orthodoxy.”
In March 2002, Klein was a signatory to a statement (which appeared in the International Herald Tribune) denouncing the United Nations’ post-Gulf War sanctions against Iraq as “one of the great injustices of our time,” having brought “starvation and disease to millions of innocent Iraqis.” Other signers of the statement included Ramsey Clark, Phyllis Bennis, Thomas Nagy, Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, Richard Falk, Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton, John Pilger, George Galloway, Robert Jensen, Michael Lerner, Arundhati Roy, Howard Zinn, and Harold Pinter.
Klein unsuccessfully encouraged the public to stage riots in New York City during the 2004 Republican National Convention:
"As I write this, days before the Republican convention, the plan for the demonstration seems to be to express general outrage about Iraq, to say 'no to war' and 'no to the Bush agenda.' This is an important message, but it's not enough.... [T]here is only one chance for Americans to express their wholehearted rejection of the ongoing war on Iraq: in the streets outside the Republican National Convention. It's time to bring Najaf to New York." (Najaf is an Iraqi city that served as a fortification for Islamic terrorists and a staging ground for many acts of terrorist violence.)
Klein has also been outspoken on the topic of Islamic terrorism, portraying global jihadism not as a longstanding tradition within Islam, but rather as a historical aberration provoked chiefly by American racism. For example, in her article "Terror's Greatest Recruitment Tool," Klein writes that Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966), an Islamic fundamentalist who helped develop radical political Islam, was deeply influenced by the poor treatment he supposedly had received while residing in Colorado in 1948. According to Klein, "so-called Islamist terrorism was 'home grown' in the West long [ago] -- from its inception it was the quintessentially modern progeny of Colorado's casual racism." Contrary to Klein's assertion, however, Qutb's radicalism began well before his stay in the U.S. One of Qutb's early writings stated explicitly that Islam "prescribes fighting in the way of Allah as a responsibility incumbent on every one who is able for it."
In 2004 Klein, along with numerous fellow critics of Israel, signed her name to a replica of the Separation Wall that serves as an anti-terrorism barrier in Israel’s West Bank. The construction of the faux partition was organized by War on Want, a human rights NGO that works closely with the Union of Palestine Medical Relief Committees.
In September 2004, Klein penned an article for Harper's Magazine titled “Baghdad Year Zero: Pillaging Iraq in Pursuit of a Neocon Utopia.” In the piece, Klein wrote:
“The great historical irony of the catastrophe unfolding in Iraq is that the shock-therapy reforms that were supposed to create an economic boom that would rebuild the country have instead fueled a resistance that ultimately made reconstruction impossible…. These dangers are so great that in Iraq global capitalism has retreated, at least for now. For the neocons, this must be a shocking development: their ideological belief in greed turns out to be stronger than greed itself.”
In 2005 Klein participated in the Second National Conference for Media Reform, staged by the organization Free Press. Other speakers at the conference included Medea Benjamin of Global Exchange and Code Pink; David Brock of Media Matters for America; author and radio host Laura Flanders; Bill Fletcher of TransAfrica Forum; Al Franken and Amy Goodman of Air America Radio; Juan Gonzalez of the New York Daily News; film producer Robert Greenwald; author and commentator Jim Hightower; Janine Jackson of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting; Democratic Party advisor George Lakoff; Free Press founder Robert McChesney; and California congresswoman Diane Watson.
In 2006 Klein was a signatory to a letter that appeared in a number of international newspapers, condemning Israel’s “illegal military occupation of the West Bank and the systematic appropriation of its natural resources.” Among Klein’s fellow signers were Noam Chomsky, Harold Pinter, Arundhati Roy, Howard Zinn, Richard Falk, and Gore Vidal.
In 2007 Klein released her third book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, wherein she identifies capitalism as a scourge whose most devoted advocates seek nothing less radical than "the elimination of the public sphere, total liberation for corporations and skeletal social spending." Moreover, she argues that conservative political leaders seek to exploit both natural and political disasters as vehicles through which they can impose predatory free-market policies upon unwilling citizens who first have been disoriented, or "shocked," by something hugely traumatic.
Klein cites the Iraq War, supposedly rooted in America’s quest to expand its economic influence across the globe, as a classic application of the shock doctrine. "The architects of the invasion," she writes, "had unleashed ferocious violence because they could not crack open the closed economies of the Middle East by peaceful means." President Bush, Klein elaborates, chose to attack Iraq rather than some other nation because of its "good central location for military bases," and because "Saddam's use of chemical weapons on his own people made him easy to hate." Moreover, she explains, when the Bush administration eventually realized that Iraqis would never voluntarily accept the laissez-faire economy in whose pursuit the administration allegedly had gone to war, "Washington abandoned its democratic promises and instead ordered increases in the shock level."
In other words, in Klein's estimation the U.S. government now devoted its efforts to fomenting the anti-American insurgency -- so as to ensure the military occupation’s failure, and, by so doing, create the sort of chaos that seemed to justify the imposition of a U.S.-controlled dictatorship:
"Had the Bush administration kept its promise to hand over power quickly to an elected Iraqi government, there is every chance that the resistance would have remained small and containable, rather than becoming a countrywide rebellion. But keeping that promise would have meant sacrificing the economic agenda behind the war, something that was never going to happen."
In a September 2008 piece appearing in the Huffington Post, Klein expanded upon her anti-capitalist theme, blaming the Wall Street financial crisis and the subsequent “bailout bill” on the Bush administration and the deregulation of industry:
“I wrote The Shock Doctrine in the hopes that it would make us all better prepared for the next big shock. Well, that shock has certainly arrived, along with gloves-off attempts to use it to push through radical pro-corporate policies (which of course will further enrich the very players who created the market crisis in the first place).”
Also in September 2008, Klein wrote that, to her own dismay: “Whatever the [disastrous financial] events of this week mean, nobody should believe the overblown claims that the market crisis signals the death of ‘free market’ ideology.”
Klein is a board of advisors member with the Free Gaza Movement.