Journalism

An award winning journalist, Naomi Klein is currently Senior Correspondent at The Intercept and a Puffin Writing Fellow of the Type Media Center.

Go Ahead, Make My Day

December 27th, 2000
By Naomi Klein

Ever since I wrote a book about nasty multinationals and the activists who bash them, I started getting the question: "So Miss No Logo, where do you shop?"

Those are the aggressive people. The nice ones ask, "Where should I shop?" Sometimes, they send e-mails requesting annotated lists of "good corporations." Last week, an Irish radio interviewer asked me, on air, for suggestions of ethical gifts his listeners could give their children.

I don’t know how I became a professional ethical shopper, and I’m not very good at it. But I can sympathize with the dilemma.

The newspapers are scattered with stories about factory fires in Bangladesh and sweatshop-stained children’s toys imported from China. Last week, a coalition of labour and human-rights groups announced that, despite encouragement from the Department of Foreign Affairs to restrict trade with the brutal dictatorship in Myanmar, Canadian retailers have actually increased their imports from that country — by 170 per cent since last year.

But it’s tough to turn this information into shopping advice. The more you know about how consumer goods are produced, the harder it becomes to offer practical dos and ...

Unlabelled the Left

December 20th, 2000
By Naomi Klein

Where do we go from here? There’s a big space in the political landscape for a new party, one that looks at the calls for localization and doesn’t see a dire threat to national unity.

There is a very simple reason to have a left-wing alternative to the Liberal Party: People are suffering. Despite all the wealth created by deregulated markets, many Canadians are seeing no part of it.

In fishing communities from coast to coast, on family farms, on the streets of large cities, Liberal Canada’s recipe for economic growth has meant people being thrown into the global market without a net.

In response, we have seen a wave of political organizing and militant protests. Students blockade trade meetings where politicians are bargaining their futures away in exchange for foreign investment. In First Nations communities, from Vancouver Island to Burnt Church, there is growing support for seizing back control of the forests and fisheries—people are tired of waiting for Ottawa to grant permission that the courts have already affirmed. In Toronto, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty is occupying buildings and demanding the shelter that is the right of all Canadians ...

Don't Expect the NDP to Lead the Way

December 13th, 2000
By Naomi Klein

When Canadian Auto Workers president Buzz Hargrove called for an emergency task force on the future of the NDP, he got blasted. Mr. Hargrove was "posturing," an NDP insider said. "The press isn’t the place to do this," Nancy Riche of the Canadian Labour Congress said— in the press. And NDP Leader Alexa McDonough claimed the process Mr. Hargrove demanded was happening already.

It is time to "let a thousand flowers bloom," Ms. McDonough said with a cheerfulness that has become increasingly manic, recalling a post-Regis Kathie Lee Gifford. Elsewhere, Ms. McDonough insisted that "there are no questions that are not fair game to put on the table."

The real question is: Why on earth would anyone on the left entrust this process to the NDP?

The defensive responses to Mr. Hargrove’s call for a task force (not the dissolution of the party, remember) say a lot about why the NDP must be demoted to guest, not host, of any gathering where the topic is the reinvention of the left. Too many times, attempts to reach out to "social movements" have been slapped back by party insiders so busy protecting their ...

Ya Basta! The Masks of Chiapas

December 6th, 2000
By Naomi Klein

On the weekend, the man in the mask came down from the jungle and held a press conference. In the new year, he will travel to Mexico City and address Congress on the need for an Indian bill of rights.

Subcomandante Marcos, voice of the Zapatista National Liberation Army, has been keeping a low profile lately. But he’s back, in trademark ski mask, rifle over his shoulder, and pipe hanging from his mouth. Rumour has it he is a university professor who fled to the hills to lead an indigenous uprising in Chiapas, but Marcos has no comment. Showing his face, he jokes, would disappoint his female fans.

It’s a mark of the Zapatistas’ influence that the very first act by Mexico’s new president was to order a partial withdrawal of troops from Chiapas. Vicente Fox also invited the Zapatistas to resume negotiations that broke down under his predecessor. Marcos told reporters he’s ready to talk, but not until Mr. Fox completes the troop withdrawal and releases all political prisoners.

It’s clear that Mr. Fox sees settling the Zapatista standoff as key to Mexico’s stability. Less understood is how powerful the ...

Environmentally, Canada's Going the Way of the Dinosaur

November 29th, 2000
By Naomi Klein

Last week, two Canadians made international headlines by burning their passports. They were protesting Canada’s leading role in making sure that the climate summit in The Hague was a complete disaster.

The catalyst? A coalition of 287 environmental groups handed daily "fossil" awards to countries that were especially obstructionist in the negotiations. Canada ended the conference with more awards than any other country, including the United States. For most people, the passport bonfire was a bit extreme—"shrill" to quote The New York Times.

When Tooker Gomberg, one of the passport pyros, called from The Hague on Sunday, I told him he may have done the cause of climate change a disservice. "If a single journalist had asked me why I burned my passport," he replied angrily, "I would have been happy to tell them."

He has a point. Mr. Gomberg’s stunt was the only event at the summit that managed to pry the attention of Canadians away from our election and the Florida recount—if only for 30 seconds. And the scandalous events in The Hague deserve much more scrutiny than that.

In Kyoto three years ago, Canada, along with the ...

Shopping for Labour

November 22nd, 2000
By Naomi Klein

When Alliance candidate Betty Granger used the phrase "Asian invasion," it was a flashback to Second World War "yellow peril" rhetoric and she was forced to resign. But there was another pearl of wisdom the ex-candidate shared with students at the University of Winnipeg, one that went largely unnoticed. Referring to the boats of Chinese immigrants seized off the B.C. coast, she said, "There was a realization that what was coming off these boats was not the best clientele you would want for this country."

Clientele. It doesn’t have the same xenophobic ring as "Asian invasion"; in fact, it sounds positively clinical. But it may be more dangerous, especially because it is an idea that is not relegated to the fringe of the Alliance but lies at the very centre of the national immigration debate.

We often talk about migrant labourers as "clients," while our country, with its public health care and reasonably healthy job market, is the product these clients would like to purchase. Since there are millions of migrants shopping around, we can carefully assess, as Ms. Granger did, whether they are "the best" clients available.

"Betty Granger just ...

Crackdown: When Police Wage War Against Activists

November 15th, 2000
By Naomi Klein

On Oct 20, University of Toronto student Derek Laventure attended a protest outside the Ontario Tory convention. He saw a police officer drag away a fellow activist and he was heard to say, "That’s not right." Next, witnesses say, he was brutally assaulted by several police officers, thrown against a barricade headfirst (his eye was so bruised, it swelled shut), and arrested.

His crime? Allegedly carrying a weapon and using it to assault a police officer. The "weapon" was a black flag.

On the night Mr. Laventure was arrested, Elan Ohayon, a U of T PhD student, was sleeping in Toronto’s Allan Gardens. He had camped there every Friday for more than a year as part of a protest against inadequate public housing and police harassment of homeless people. The next morning, Mr. Ohayon woke up surrounded by police officers. They arrested him and, he alleges, assaulted him. Like Mr. Laventure, Mr. Ohayon was charged with assaulting police. He was told to sign bail conditions that barred him from returning to Allan Gardens. He refused. That meant abandoning the vigil to which he had committed himself as an activist.

Last week, ...

Cyber-conversations and the Prophets of Profit

November 8th, 2000
By Naomi Klein

When the top two executives at BMG Entertainment resigned on the weekend, it revealed a deep schism in the way multinational companies see the Internet’s culture of sharing. Despite all the attempts to turn the Net into a giant shopping mall, the default ethos still seems to be anti-shopping: On the Internet, we may purchase things here and there, but we share ceaselessly—ideas, humour, information and, yes, music files.

So here’s the real debate as it goes down in the boardroom: Is this culture of on-line swapping and trading a threat to the heart of the profit motive, or is it an unprecedented profit-making opportunity, a chance to turn sharing itself into an enormously profitable sales tool?

When the five major record labels, under the umbrella of the Recording Industry Association of America, launched a lawsuit against Napster, they threw their lot decidedly into the first camp: file-sharing is theft of copyright, pure and simple, and it must be stopped.

But last week, something strange happened: Bertelsmann, owner of BMG Entertainment (one of the five companies behind the RIAA lawsuit), struck a deal with Napster (hence the BMG resignations). The two ...

Ralph Nader and the Nadir of Politics

November 1st, 2000
By Naomi Klein

The United States is supposed to be a culture driven by the worship of success. And yet it seems there is one man for whom success is universally unacceptable: Ralph Nader.

Mr. Nader is scolded for his popularity among voters. Ex-friends call him vain, reckless. He should quit, and instruct supporters to vote for Al Gore.

The man who was exiled to the margins for this entire campaign—barred from the debates, blacked out from the news—is now at the dead centre of the race.

No wonder there are threats being made against Mr. Nader’s advocacy group, Public Citizen, headed by Joan Claybrook. "How many progressive congressmen will be prepared to take Joan Claybrook’s telephone calls?" demands Jack Blum, counsel to Americans for Democratic Action.

It’s an empty threat. Mr. Nader has said repeatedly he is running for president precisely because public-interest influence is dead: You need a six-figure donation to buy the ear of Washington politicians. It was this crisis in democracy that led advocacy groups, including Public Citizen, to organize a massive protest during last November’s WTO meeting in Seattle. "If you won’t listen to us at the table," ...

Flavouring the Election Race with Memories of Liberalism

October 25th, 2000
By Naomi Klein

Is that Ralph Nader running for Prime Minister? It seemed that way when Jean Chretien entered the election with fists flying at fat cats, millionaires and "radical" right-wingers who care only about "the market forces."

Now, admittedly, Mr. Chretien could use an emergency tutorial from Mr. Nader on the etiquette of championing the working class. (Lesson #1: Don’t call factory workers uneducated, stunted citizens—as the Prime Minister did on Monday—especially when those workers are the very ones responsible for the economic boom you are hoping to parlay into a third term in office.)

But Mr. Chretien is doing his best. He even cancelled a Team Canada trade mission to China. There he was, all set to help Canada’s multinational manufacturers find low-wage factories where they can produce their goods cheaply and without pesky unions (presumably, he doesn’t think much of factory workers in China either) when he decided to stay home and lecture us about "Canadian values."

"I know the rich will take care of themselves," Mr. Chretien boomed on Sunday—except, of course, for the ones on Team Canada trade missions to China. But forget about trade for now. The new ...

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