Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Shock Doctrine

The Shock Doctrine is a short film, and maybe also a book? about how effective crisis and disaster are, as tools to wrangle an agenda. They make people compliant. I find myself wondering, after watching this film (5-6 minutes long)... where does the line lay, between pragmatism and cynicism? Where's the divider between efficacious and sinister? It's easy enough to suggest that we're being manipulated to the ends of The Powers That Be, and that's almost certainly true, but is it actually worse to be manipulated through psychological machinations, than to be manipulated through brute force? Is it somehow worse to be mindfucked, than to be obliged to comply with the business end of violence?

I realize that's probably a heresy against liberal-ness, but what can I say, I've always had a wide libertarian streak, and I'm alarmingly pragmatic sometimes.


Rufus said...

I've never really gotten the whole idea of mass-brainwashing, or cultural hegemony, or whatever we want to call it. If it's so easy, wouldn't the fear mongering of the right and left cancel each other out? And isn't this film just trying to use shock and awe to get us to be better leftists?

Rufus said...

I would also say that I've become much more libertarian in the last decade or so, if only because I think that liberals don't have any clue how to make anything better, and conservatives hope nothing ever does get better.

Besides, Hurricane Katrina was a great argument for libertarian ideas- and, actually, for anarchist ideas. The hierarchical, bureaucratic state agencies couldn't organize any help at all, while non-hierarchical, ad hoc groups of activists, and private individuals did more than anyone else. It was enough to make you reconsider the state.

I think what keeps me from joining the Libertarians is that I'd feel no better being fucked around by my boss than by my government. Also, as Robert Anton Wilson put it, I just can't make myself hate poor people enough.

Holly said...

Hmm, I don't know about the canceling out thing. Suppose that when there's a shock-crisis, everyone tries to get their agenda through, and whoever wins, wins? In America, the left exists mostly to impede the rightward progress, as far as I can tell. Not to actually accomplish an independent agenda.

What I got out of that is summed up at the end... be informed. Knowing what's going on is the best measure against being manipulated in the dark. I don't see that as a particularly partisan point of view. (Cynically: Instead, you can be stripped of your dignity and liberties in the light of day!)

I'm not really claiming association with capital-L Liberatarianism, wishing there was a Libertarian party ticket to vote down the line. I'm talking about the ideas of making your own choices, based in self-interest mixed with a wider view. It's a very pragmatic POV, and it means sometimes voting for the Republican, Democrat, or potted plant who best represents those interests. It's also a fairly idealistic, let's-act-like-the-constitution-is-worth-upholding kind of thing. The far end of that, where poor people are stupid because they've chosen to be poor (objectivism, etc)... not really my thing. No one chooses to be poor. (This is different from asceticism, to me.)

Rufus said...

Right- it's like they offer competing paranoias- politicians now offer a rapist in every garage and a terrorist in every pot!

Both the left and the right have a really hard time seeing how anyone could possibly think the other way. Conservatives believe that, were we hippie academics not brainwashing kids, everyone would be conservative. Liberals believe that, were talk radio not brainwashing people, everyone would be liberal. What they don't get is that different parties offer different things, and people decide which things they prefer.

I see what you mean about the film. It's hard for me to understand these 'Don't let them scare you!' documentaries because I'm not scared anyway. I'm a person who seems to lack the apocalyptic imagination. I think a lot of things suck, but I just can't become convinced that the West will fall under martial law fascism or be toppled by terrorists or Spanish speakers. And when I encounter people that feel that way, it's hard for me to sympathize. Also, I think they're really misrepresenting Milton Friedman there.

I definitely agree with you on voting for who will ensure the most freedoms for you. It's funny- I had a conversation about exactly this point with a friend of mine who is Muslim and much more sympathetic with those countries than I am. My point was that countries shouldn't be judged by loyalties, or ideas, or anything else- they should just be ranked according to how much freedom they offer to their inhabitants. In that case, the US is probably at the low end of the Western nations right now, but still higher than the nations like Iran that he was trying to argue for. I don't really have strong loyalties to any country. I like Canada on any number of positions, but hate that you can be charged with a crime here if you say something "hateful". I think I'm luckier than most people though because it's easy for me to move.