Naomi Klein recently finished her latest book “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism” and asked Alfonso Cuarón to provide a quote for the book jacket. Instead he pulled together an amazing team of artists — including Jonás Cuarón who directed and edited ‘Children of Men‘ (one of my favorite movies of all time) — to make The Shock Doctrine short film (available above).
Klein’s thesis is that present-day global capitalism took hold when its advocates learned to exploit disasters. After a disaster (war, tsunami, terrorist attack), you can push your agenda for worsening labor conditions, looser regulation, and pocket-lining exercises (Enron, Halliburton) while the reeling, disaster-struck population of the world has its attention elsewhere.
Klein attributes this technique to Milton Friedman, who is reported to have said that “only a crisis — real or perceived — produces real change.” She connects this idea to the fundamental notion underpinning CIA torture techniques (as reported in CIA interrogation manuals from 1963 and 1983) — to produce a state of shock in which the victim is out of control of her faculties, a “suspended animation” that can be exploited to get victims to do things that violate their own ethics or beliefs.
Relatedly, The Instruction Manual for Psychological Torture is now available online. Published in 1961, it contains techniques for interrogation and brainwashing. The book’s publication was sponsored by the US Air Force who were worried about what psychological techniques prisoners-of-war might face behind enemy lines.