Though it is not quite the kind of large-scale “shock” she explores in her new book, author and activist Naomi Klein says that people should stand firm against anyone who tries to exploit for political purposes the “horrific” violence that took place Wednesday morning when a lone gunman targeted Republican lawmakers and others during practice for a congressional baseball team.
“I have no doubt that this horrific event is going to be exploited for political ends,” Klein told Common Dreams by phone. “It already is.”
After details emerged showing the assailant in the attack—identified as 66-year-old James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois—held negative views of the Republican Party and President Donald Trump, many progressive organizations and individuals involved with the anti-Trump resistance movement quickly denounced the violence. And when Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) learned that Hodgkinson may have volunteered for his presidential campaign last year, he took to the Senate floor nearly immediately to say he was “sickened” by the assault that left Rep. Steve Scalise, Republican Majority Whip in the U.S. House, in critical condition and several others wounded. Sanders described it as a “despicable act” of violence.
“I think the very swift and clear response from Bernie Sanders, absolutely repudiating violence of all kinds, is precisely what’s needed,” Klein said. “This is a nonviolent movement and committed to being so.”
Klein continued by saying that Sanders swift rebuke to the violence underlined for her “the fact that we haven’t seen such clear and immediate responses from Trump, when his name has been invoked by killers.”
The president has been roundly rebuked for his selective response to acts of violence—quickly and loudly condemning attacks he perceives as being perpetrated by Muslims or immigrants but going noticeably silent when assailants are white males or those expressing xenophobic vitriol, like in the case of a white supremacist who murdered two men in Portland, Oregon last month.
Klein said nobody in the social justice movement that has converged to confront Trump and his agenda should be cowed into feeling responsible for the hateful violence of one disturbed man.
“This person,” she said, “has absolutely nothing to do with the values of the movement that I am a part of, and attempts to claim otherwise are lies. I think there will be cynical and dishonest attempts to associate this economic populist movement with this kind of hateful act. But there is no connection. And people just need to be very clear about that and not be bullied.”
Klein’s new book—entitled No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need—is out this week and she says those who identify as “economic populists” recognize at this point in history that there are actual powerful interests, in this case Trump and his neoliberal backers, that do need to be countered. “[Those forces] need to be confronted,” she told Common Dreams. “Not violently, but clearly.”
These neoliberal forces, she explains in the book, are driving the major crises the world is now facing: unbridled capitalism, outrageous levels of inequality, and climate change.
But because “not everybody has the same interests” when it comes to battling against theses crises, she says, advocates of the dominant neoliberal order—which places corporate power and profit above all else—would use any opportunity to undermine those fighting back. And while she emphasized that Wednesday’s attack is not the kind of event she thinks of when she talks about the “shock doctrine” formulated in her previous book—and warned against people viewing it as such—the idea that powerful forces would still attempt to take advantage of it was treated as a given.
And so even as some on the political right were already trying to associate the isolated violence in Virginia with the countless non-violent citizens who for months have been mobilizing against Trump, Klein said, “I think people will have the fortitude to recognize how cynical that is.”
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Jon Queally, senior editor and staff writer, has been with Common Dreams, where this article originally appeared, since 2007 covering US politics, foreign policy, human and animal rights, climate change, and much in between.