Canadian journalist Naomi Klein’s latest work, Doppelgangers: A Trip Into the Mirror World, is a peculiar mix of personal memoir, postmodern philosophy and historical survey. But it’s largely a brief against the American writer and activist Naomi Wolf and her fellow travelers in the “mirror world” of conspiracy-mongering.
“In my defence, it was never my intent to write this book,” she writes in the introduction. “I did not have time. No one asked me to. And several people strongly cautioned against it.” She should have listened. This isn’t a book that will likely age well.
The author relates how the public confusion between the two Naomis – which had previously just been annoying – became infuriating through the pandemic, when Wolf began fashioning herself as critic of Covid/vaccine mandates. By Klein’s own admission, her “obsession” with the “Other Naomi” was even getting a bit much for those in her personal orbit. Yet she persisted and has expanded it into a broader critique of our present disorder in Doppelgangers
To give the book some intellectual padding, Klein draws upon psychologist Sigmund Freud’s notion of ‘doubles’ leading to a sense of ‘the uncanny’: “that species of the frightening that goes back to what was once well known and had long been familiar,” he wrote.
Why do I get the feeling Klein herself has become uncanny? I’d almost be relieved to discover the brilliant author of No Logo and The Shock Doctrine was replaced by a simKlein – a clever algorithm that has captured her voice, but not her gift for sharp class and corporate analysis.
According to Klein, the “Other Naomi” is:
“…one of the most effective creators and disseminators of misinformation and disinformation about many of most urgent crises, and as someone who has seemingly helped inspire large numbers to take to the streets in rebellion against an almost wholly hallucinated “tyranny”….”
Klein writes that her Other’s antics make it “almost impossible to fully take her seriously,” adding, “Wolf may be a joke, but she’s not a funny one.” (I haven’t seen any response yet online from her target. Perhaps she’s weighing her legal options, or just choosing to avoid a transnational catfight.)
That said, Klein does manage to get in a few good – er, jabs– against Wolf and her media guru, former Trump advisor Steve Bannon. In between the rhetoric and outright howlers, there’s still some excellent observations in the book – for example, on branding in the age of social media, predatory capitalism, and the Israel/Palestine conflict. This is Naomi freaking Klein, after all. She’s incapable of writing a wooden sentence. And she hasn’t written an absolutely terrible book – just one that’s deeply wrong in key areas.
First of all, here’s what’s NOT in Doppelgangers.
For all the references to Covid “conspiracy” and “conspiracists” in the book, the names of the health freedom movement’s go-to scientists on mandates and mRNA jabs are strangely absent: Dr. Peter McCullough, Dr. Michael Yeadon, Dr. Pierre Kory, Dr. Meryl Nass, Dr. Jessica Rose, Dr. John Ioaniddis, Dr. Byram Bridle and many, many other immunologists, epidemiologists, virologists and cell biologists across the world.
As we know, their credentials were impeccable up until 2020, when they started questioning the Covid orthodoxy and were exiled to legacy press / social media Siberia.
Klein doesn’t address their claims, or bring up contrarian pieces from peer-reviewed publications like the British Medical Journal. In the hundreds of notes at the end of the book, there are CDC and WHO releases and a smattering of citations to refereed scientific journals. The vast bulk of the references are to mainstream media ‘fact-checked’ sources, in a Möbius strip of manufactured consent.
The “Other Naomi,” a journalist like herself, is easier game than dissident doctors and scientists – a wolf on a plateau populated by grizzlies and cougars. And for all the ink spent on the supposed conspiracy-mongering by Wolf, there is no critical engagement on the latter’s chief focus over the past half-year: the thousands upon thousands of Pfizer internal documents, full of damaging information, continuing to be released monthly under court order after the FDA initially protested it would take 75 years to process them all.
Nothing for 348 pages on The Great Barrington Declaration. Nothing on VAERS or the UK’s Yellow Card system. Nothing on Sweden’s social distancing results, Event 201, “gain of function research,” negative efficacy, nudge units, ivermectin meta-analysis, etc. etc. A better title for this book would have been Lacuna.
There are a few moments in the first part of the book book where Klein seems like she might touch on pandemic era propaganda. “Moreover, plenty of people, pregnant or not, have good reasons not to trust both Big Pharma and Big Government, let alone the two acting in coordination,” she accurately observes. But it all circles back to the predominant messaging: Masking good. Lockdowns good. Covid vaccines good.
Completely avoiding the matter of early COVID treatment protocols using ivermectin and other medications, the author cites math-modellers who estimated 250,000 deaths from Covid could have been prevented through vaccination. “The responsibility for the catastrophic loss rest, in significant part with the people who have spread dangerous lies about vaccines that, while not risk free, a remarkably safe and effective in reducing Covid severity.” [bold mine]
Wait, don’t the jabs reduce transmission of Covid as well…? No, a Pfizer representative before the European parliament has admitted they weren’t developed to do this.
Yet some pages further in, Klein appears to pivot when suggesting that the Covid vaccines indeed stop transmission:
“More to the point, vaccination programs that ask strong, healthy people to accept small inconveniences to protect themselves – as well as people who are sicker, older, and more medically vulnerable – are the precise opposite of biofascism. On the contrary, they are acts of what we might call biojustice.”
As for mandates, it wasn’t that we did too much, it’s that we did too little. She asks, “how much did we do to push our government to keep mask mandates in place to protect the immunocompromised?”
And in this passage of high irony, you can can be sure Klein isn’t referring to those who cancelled or shunned noncompliant neighbours, friends and family members:
The horror of the society that flips fascist from within – without the aid of a foreign nation – lies precisely in this unsettling feeling of familiarity. When that ferocious force is conjured up to wage war on a portion of the domestic population, there are no outsiders to blame. It’s the nice, normal people down the street who turn out to be capable of monstrosity – monstrousness as revealed as the evil twin of nice, the doppelganger of normal.”
The book doesn’t focus solely on the pandemic. The author also makes space to telegraph the mainstream narrative line on other issues, like the Ukraine proxy war. In doing so, she left me wondering if she has a psychic talent for seeing through the Kremlin walls and into the bald head of Vladimir Putin:
“Throughout Russia’s illegal invasion and occupation of Ukraine, Putin would accuse the Ukraine government of the precise crimes he was busily committing, or considering committing, himself.”
As Dorothy Parker famously said of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, “This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”
I felt a bit Parkerish myself when I came to the dodgier sections of Doppelgangers, though I restrained myself several times from hurling my copy against the nearest wall. I still managed to get a minor physical workout from reading it – from the the neck up. I just couldn’t stop shaking my head and rolling my eyes.
It’s doubly maddening considering the excellence of Klein’s early works. That’s not to say Doppelgangers is entirely without flashes of brilliance and near-brilliance. She almost makes an important observation when she writes, “the structural critiques of capitalism are gone, replaced by discombobulated conspiracies that somehow frame deregulated capitalism as communism in disguise,” but renders it stupid with the thought-stopper c-word, which is used liberally throughout Doppelgangers, along with its variants (conspiracy, conspiracists, conspiracy theory).
The younger Naomi makes an appearance in the last part of her book as a superb analyst of predatory capitalism and its connection to racism and genocide. The author even spends one whole page on the immense profitability to the tech sector of an AI-dominated future, including the construction of “smart cities, which would radically increase the surveillance of daily life.”
And yes, there is a QAnonish faction of the health freedom movement that deserves criticism. Klein scores some points here, too. Yet these glimmers of understanding comes packaged with zero recognition that captured regulatory agencies like the FDA, the CDC and the WHO are now the playthings of big money, which is a lot more more worrying than health freedom influencers monetized through New Agey health products (which she spends pages on).
As for the World Economic Forum’s so-called “Great Reset” – and I’m paraphrasing here – phffft.
Into the Uncanny Valley
A quarter of a century back I sat down to interview the young author after she was kind enough to take time off her busy schedule promoting her excellent first book, No Logo. She was charming and thoughtful. I liked her then and it’s difficult for me to think poorly of her now, given that she soon became one of my intellectual heroines.
Back then, the conversation turned to a recent gathering of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) at the University of British Columbia, which had been heavily protested by students and activists. “A university campus to host a forum on globalization,” Klein said, shaking her head and laughing. “What was going through their heads?”
I now wonder the same thing about her. What’s been going through her head, a dial tone? No, she’s far too sharp for that. Has she been replaced by a doppelganger? It almost seems that somewhere between The Shock Doctrine in 2007 and this book, the brainy progressive author has plunged into her own Uncanny Valley, returning as a simulation friendly to drug monopolies and government diktats.
“I could offer a kind of equation for leftists and liberals crossing over to the neofascist and authoritarian right that goes something like: narcissism (grandiosity) + social media addiction + midlife crisis ÷ public shaming = rightwing meltdown,” she writes.
With this snarky diagnosis from Doppelgangers in mind, I asked a social psychologist friend for his take on Klein’s intellectual arc, and he responded:
A signature of cognitive dissonance is that the more one has invested in a belief system, the greater likelihood they irrationally defend that system in the face of contradictory evidence. Before her success as a writer, Klein may have identified more with the dis-empowered.
Her success created financial and ideological security that would now be threatened by challenging mainstream narratives: 2020-22 saw almost anyone of cultural significance destroyed if they dissented. What the meaning maintenance model (which includes cognitive dissonance, terror management, and other mechanisms of mental coherence) tells us is that our investment in a worldview is rarely a rational calculus based on evidence, but rather a deeply unconscious survival mechanism, often impervious to reason.
I suspect Naomi Klein, Chrystia Freeland, and many others are simply victims of their own psychological self-preservation. As religious history has shown us, collective insanity is often more adaptive than individual rationalism.”
I actually don’t believe Klein identifies less with the disempowered than when she was younger; the moving section on the Palestinian plight in Doppelgangers makes that plain. It’s just that most respectable liberal-left journalists wouldn’t attach that term to certain groups today.
The disempowered does not include women who extended the feminist dictum “my body, my choice” to decisions on novel gene therapy, or middle class refuseniks denied personal autonomy and informed choice through mandates. It doesn’t comprise the doctors, nurses and scientists cancelled, deplatformed, disciplined or fired for raising pertinent questions. As for those who were seriously injured or died shortly after a COVID injection – including children – there’s probably a stronger word that applies than disempowered.
Klein certainly now identifies with the viewpoint of the empowered, in the form of legacy media’s dominant paradigm on The Science™. But could it be that she and those in intellectual orbit haven’t actually changed all that much over time?
Back in 2010, MIT media critic Noam Chomsky explained why he didn’t focus on Fox News in his writings:
It is too easy. What I talk about are the liberal intellectuals, the ones who portray themselves and perceive themselves as challenging power, as courageous, as standing up for truth and justice. They are basically the guardians of the faith. They set the limits. They tell us how far we can go. They say, ‘Look how courageous I am.’ But do not go one millimeter beyond that. At least for the educated sectors, they are the most dangerous in supporting power.”
The cruelest irony is that Chomsky himself became a champion of freedom-quashing mandates. In October 2021 he endorsed the isolation of the unvaccinated from the rest of society “for their own good.” Their ability to get a hold of groceries in isolation “was their problem,” he added.
I’d like to think they’ve all have been replaced by doppelgangers. But my social psychologist friend – and Chomsky himself – have offered a more disturbing interpretation.
Another factor is that lefty media progressives are stuck in the grip of postmodern theorizing and past examples of despotism. It’s easy for them to imagine fascism goose-stepping into power with jackboots and truncheons. They have nightmares of its cartoon version prat-falling back into the Oval Office, wearing size 42 clown shoes and an orange tan. But it appears few among them can conceive of tyranny decked out with dress shoes, stethoscopes and syringes. They can’t compute that their own foundational values as lefties – collectivism and compassion – were weaponized back at them in the form of Covid/vaccine mandates.
They just can’t seem to get a bead on what writer C.J. Hopkins calls “GloboCap”:
…a decentralized network of governments, global corporations, banks, think tanks, media conglomerates, global health authorities, non-governmental governing entities, and other unaccountable persons and entities that establish and enforce the official ideological “reality” that we currently live in … which, call it what you want, but it’s global capitalism.”
It’s obvious the problem here is much bigger than one charming and brilliant progressive journalist who chose to go after her ‘doppelganger’ in print, weaving it into a takedown of “anti-vaxxers,” “anti-maskers,” the Freedom Convoy, and all the backwards, knuckle-dragging denizens of “mirror world.”
No, the problem comes down to Sudden Liberal Intellectual Death Syndrome.
Geoff Olson is an award-winning journalist and cartoonist whose writings and cartoons have appeared in The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Adbusters, Common Ground, This Magazine, Maclean’s and newspapers across Canada. For three decades Olson was a weekly columnist for The Vancouver Courier, and has supplied commentary to both CBC Radio, CBC NewsWorld and Roundhouse Radio. His work has been reproduced in journals and textbooks across the globe, and has given lectures on journalism at Langara College, Simon Fraser University. In the eighties he taught astronomy at the Gordon Southam Observatory and in the Vancouver School System. You can read more his work through his SubStack.
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