I love Naomi Klein. Strong, courageous, principled. In her latest, Doppelganger: a trip into the mirror world (2023), willing to open her life for us to see for ourselves what makes her tick. A world of doppelgangers, shadow selves of many varieties from our repressed inner Other, to an AI construct of who you are in public.

Your social media profile is constructed by the ad world, which creates our 'Others' worlds, which become our online ghosts. We like a certain level of automated customization (suggest music, books, people) but the computer doesn't know when to stop! Before the cell phone, we moved through world like phantoms, no trace, no algorithms, cloud. Free. Now there has been a radical shift in what our lives are for and it's not pretty. We are all mine sites now, despite the intimacy of what's mined. It's done 'behind factory doors' by unaccountable mine operators. We have outsourced the management of our critical informational pathways to algorithms run by for-profit companies and govts. It (rightly) bothers Klein that protests of this are mostly far right, and our response is hate-speech laws.

We can bear unbearable realities only if we work to change them. She is not afraid to label the culprits. We must name the systems that have carved out the shadow lands, deemed them erasable: capitalism, imperialism, white supremacy, patriarchy. Struggle helps us see each other, to break from the peculiarities of our identities. John Berger remarks on the power of mass protest. It can disrupt the smooth flow of business, and it lets you feel solidarity with your 'class' (e.g., peacenik, environment-nik), not just as individuals.

Klein nails her media doppelganger, Naomi Wolf, who flipped from liberal feminist to far right after a brief flirtation with pro-Palestinian views. Big mistake. She was purged from academia after that and it seems her worldview as a liberal feminist collapsed with nothing to replace it, leading her down rabbit holes, antivaxxer conspiracies, cabals. Yes! Liberalism is a deadend.

Naomi Klein                                                                             Naomi Wolf

But Klein was and still is a feminist. Her evils include patriarchy. She wants no truck with the far right. Speaking of trucks, she slams the antivaxxers categorically, accusing all who kicked up a fuss over masks and vaccines as anti-social individualists. 

Agreed that Wolf's problem was liberalism—the individual is good/bad, so victim/perp is the focus, not the structures lurking in the shadows. 'America is not entirely enslaved like Australia or Shanghai or Canada because [of the] millions of owners of guns. It is harder to subjugate an armed population.'i No! It's our corrupt colonial institutions, stupid! Based on genocide and denial, so there is no trust. Guns only make things worse.

But wait a minute. The cabalists surely have a point. It's the Faucis who threaten us with totalitarianism, vaccine passports, loss of sovereignty to unelected global elites (WHO, EU corporations). Klein falls on her own sword there. She didn't know the damning results of the various parliamentary committees investigating Trudeau's use of the Emergencies Act, who unloaded the stinking pile earlier this year. In February 2024, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association announced it was suing the federal government, stating that the Emergencies Act must be reserved for national emergencies, which they argued was a "legal standard that has not been met, that the normalization of emergency legislation threatens our democracy and our civil liberties." Ouch. The truckers' anger was not just selfish liberalism, and the government acted like a dictator. The other Naomi has a point.

I suspect Wolf's errors (and her correct view of the truckers) spring not just from her liberalism but her earlier feminism (which she seems to have dumped). Her claim to fame is her bestseller The Beauty Myth (1991), which Klein damns with faint praise. She was a pretty face saying troubling things about anorexia when that was fashionable. We don't know where Wolf stands on feminism now though I suspect she's moved on after marrying a beefy body guard and falling in love with guns.

Klein may have lost her illusions about liberalism, but she's still a feminist, the kind that denounces truckers, promotes transgenderism as well as the usual unqualified access to abortion. But these are very much focused on individualism, not social solidarity, let alone socialism, and public shaming and the censorship of #MeToo, built on militant feminism, is as ugly as you can get.

And Klein's solution is totally secular. While she is not a doctrinaire workers-of-the-world Marxist, there is no hint that the key to transforming society may have a lot to do with spirituality, religion. She does embrace her 'Naomi confusion' as an 'unconventional Buddhist exercise in annihilating the ego,' but as a fillip. The thrill of being part of a mass protest that she finds transcendent (as do I) is a spiritual feeling. The high, the awe. The 'class' the protesters belong to is not so much a Marxian materialist one, but, especially now, a spiritual one, welling up from that part of our being, our ghost, our good doppelganger, the inner Holy Fool. It is the same feeling I get as a Muslim in communal prayer, which is always a protest against our sinful world, and a thanks for our conscious ability to change it.

Klein is conflicted. She buys into abortion, trans/ feminism, so wants laws to force acceptance and outlaw criticism. The nightmare of parents with flighty, confused teens hating themselves, with an aggressive state trying to settle the issue with force, is ongoing. Klein dismisses anti-vaxxers as selfish, refusing cooperation. But masks were 90% useless in 1918 and again in 2020. They should be recommended only (i.e., protect yourself with a good mask worn properly), and it was right to dispute and refuse dubious vaccines. Klein has no use for global corporations, but fails to at least consider WHO, Big Pharma, 9/11 (?) as conspiracies leading to fascism.

She does see capitalism as the underlying conspiracy. So I repeat: I love Naomi. She nails Israel too. In Israel post-1967, anti-semitism came to be treated not as a question in need of historically informed answers, but rather as something eternal. The spectral Shylock, the eternal Jew that is the shadow-double of all Jews. Israel made its own doppelganger, the sunbaked muscle-bound machine-gun-toting New Jew. With its own anti-self: the Palestinians, a eternal threat inside Israel and on its borders. Remembering genocide is a quest for wholeness. Retraumatizing freezes you in the shattered state.ii

Searching for ways to fight our collapsing world, our collapsing worldview, she digs up wonderful nuggets from the past. Red Vienna 1919-34, when social democrats swept the elections: 'He who builds children's palaces tears down prison walls.'iii Then the Nazis took the socialist policies and refashioned them for their racial supremacist project.

So nations have doppelgangers too! How apparently easy it was for Germany to flip into its shadow self in 1933. We witnessed this today, when Russia finally moved against the increasingly fascist Ukraine in 2022, egged on by US-NATO. We flipped overnight. Our programmed Russophobia clicked in. Kill, kill, kill as many Russians as possible. All the while, ignoring the massive slaughter of Ukrainians for no real reason, as Russia won't lose, with its nuclear trump card.

We witness it in the flip in Israel to genocide after October 7, 2023. Though it seems that this genocidal bent was already there, just better hidden. Klein's insight: we have both selves built in and can flip between them. Unless we become aware and 'not lose the thread'.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are archetypes for people and nations. Unless we become aware and deal with it, we live with our inner monster only by repressing, ignoring it.

As a parent of an autistic child, Klein is sensitive to the subtleties of that disability. An autistic person is inwardly forcused, lacking social norms. The archetypes are the hyperfocused artist, absent-minded professor. In Red Vienna, they were treated as different, requiring understanding, not as a disease, a pathology. Enter Hans Asperger, who started out a nice Viennese liberal, working with Georg Frankl, diagnosing young patients displaying autistic traits.

But, a more extreme version of Wolf, he flipped from nice liberal to Nazi executioner (of innocent children!), his own doppelganger shadow self. The autistic child shows a 'poverty of gemut (group bonding)', making them unsuitable to the eugenist program of creating a master race. They were transformed into diseased psychopaths. A small subset, little professors, were an exception, saved for Nazi use as codebreakers etc. The others were killed as defects. Asperger's work will be remembered as the epitome of Nazism, double-sided atrocities in the name of collective health and wellness.

Like Asperger, Wolf flipped from liberal feminist to far right. Asperger flipped willingly to fit the new zeitgeist, as did Wolf, whose collapsed worldview had nothing to replace it with. Asperger and his eugenist ideology lives on. Parents live through their children. They want them to have a 'competitive edge' to thrive in a world falling apart, rather than making a world where everyone can thrive.

Systemic forces buttress the 'core capitalist imperative to expand and grow by seeking new frontiers to enclose.iv I would add my own scaled-down feminism: this is all from the male aggression instinct, which capital has harnessed, and which needs to be controlled both at the individual and societal levels.

So I prefer Klein to her Other, but it's a close call. The social issues (feminism, gaylib) are worrisome, but the tide is turning on them. We can all agree that human behavior is still a mystery. The real issue is fighting capitalism/ imperialism. Klein didn't lose the thread there, like her Other, because she had a good training in Marx and Jewish socialism. She settles on the Bund as her model belief, that Jews can only be free when everyone free, not by building a militarized ghetto. Bundists saw nationalism as the enemy, leading inevitably to race hatred.

As for autism, Klein questions whether it has increased or is just better diagnosed. But the number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder has continued to rise consistently and dramatically since the 1990s. What's the explanation? How about capitalism? That is the conclusion of another (brilliant, Jewish female) academic, Liah Grenfeld, whose Mind, Madness and Modernity (2013)  argues that madness in its new form—the big three of contemporary psychiatry—schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression—was brought about by nationalism, the cultural framework of modernity, our secular, egalitarian, essentially humanistic and democratic world.


i Naomi Klein, Doppelganger, 310.

ii Ibid., 296.

iii Ibid., 209. Socialist educator Otto Felix Kanitz, 1925.

iv Ibid., 228.

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Canadian Eric Walberg is known worldwide as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s.

He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. Presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, he is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on Voice of the Cape radio.

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