An idiot's tale at Sundance

The Sundance Film Festival was held in Park City, Utah this past week, and one of the films featured was Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine. Most of my readers will know I found the book intellectually dishonest, and this long trailer does no better. Indeed, it is worse. I’ll spare you a review; all I have is that 7-minute clip and it’s obviously not any better than the book in its shoddiness. I outsource additional comments about the book to Mike Moffatt and Tyler Cowen.

I did find it curious that Ms. Klein had reportedly distanced herself from the film, while wishing them well. The narrator of the trailer (and I take it the rest of the film) is not Klein. In August she reported to the Independent:

“I can confirm that the original idea was for me to write and narrate the film. For that to have worked out, however, there would have needed to be complete agreement between the directors and myself about the content, tone and structure of the film.

“As often happens, we had different ideas about how to tell this story and build the argument. This is Michael’s adaptation of my book, and I didn’t want there to be any confusion about that. I wish the film success.”

There is no mention of the movie on her website for the book. And the adaptation, says the Independent’s Johann Hari, is awful.

Winterbottom serves up a cold porridge of archive footage and soundbites that have some vague link to the book, without the connecting spine of Klein’s explanations. It is as though an idiot has explained the book to another idiot, who then made a film.

This film should have been another Inconvenient Truth. Instead, it’s just inconvenient and a shocking waste of a masterpiece.

And he means “another Inconvenient Truth” in a good way.

And yet at Sundance Ms. Klein makes an appearance (a chance to sit with Robert Redford should not be rejected lightly.) I wonder what she would make of the fact that the Michael Spence, chair of the Commission on Growth and Development (and writer of a report on growth) agreed with her prescription for Haiti that its victims should come to the US. However he also says that it’s hard to change a developing country when things are not going well, and that there’s nothing there to rebuild from. You are literally starting over.

So what would she like to start over with? Thailand. She really thinks the underlying cultural norms, infrastructure, government, and economy of the two places are the same. Really. One country has six times the per capita income of the other. And by size, a tsunami on the coast has a much different impact than an earthquake under your capital. But these are trifling details, about as important as those Colby Cosh discovered her prattling on about ever since she wrote this book.

Enjoy your time skiing, Ms. Klein.

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