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The Shock Doctrine

Written By: - Date published: 11:40 am, September 19th, 2010 - 23 comments
Categories: democracy under attack, Parliament - Tags: , , , ,

Naomi Kline’s Shock Doctrine: the Rise of Disaster Capitalism was written in the wake of September 11 and Hurricane Katrina. It looks at how (capitalist) elites use moments of crisis to make power grabs while the normal checks are offline and/or the political opposition and media are swept up in a ‘unity’ mantra that prevents them acting to protect democracy.

“Believers in the shock doctrine are convinced that only a great rupture – a flood, a war, a terrorist attack – can generate the kind of vast, clean canvasses they crave. It is in these malleable moments, when we are psychologically unmoored and physically uprooted, that these artists of the real plunge in their hands and begin their work of remaking the world.”

We’ve seen this around the world time and again from Julius Caesar taking the Dictatorship for ten years after the civil war, to the Reichstag fire and the Enabling Act, to 9/11 and the PATRIOT Act, to the imposition of fascist laws by the First National Government during the 1951 lockout. And, now the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery and Reconstruction Act (CERRA, or Gerry Brownlee Enabling Act).

There’s another element to the shock doctrine that we’re seeing in New Zealand. Not only has National taken the chance to seize dictatorial power over the country, it also used the media’s focus on the earthquake to slip through things like the Foreshore and Seabed legislation’s first reading, which would normally have drawn far more coverage – particularly the conflicting promises made to iwi and pakeha rednecks.

ACT’s latest round of knives in the back is simply a welcome bonus for National in this context. The media’s attention has been further diverted to the point that most people are fully unaware of Ministers’ new powers. There is not a single article or opinion piece in any of the weekend papers that mention CERRA because they’re all about Garrett.

There has been no mainstream analysis of the Orders in Council that have already issued, including one that allows trucks to drive overloaded anywhere in the country and another removing Canterbury councils’ duty to ask to community before leasing assets or violating their Plans. The councils are not even required to consider the economic and social ramifications of their actions anymore.

The shock doctrine takes advantage of the human weakness to get swept up in panics, the ‘we need to do something, this is something, we must do this’ fallacy, and the cringing weakness of leftwing oppositions.

How can it be opposed? Only be standing fast and not being caught up in panic and fallacy. The Goffice say that if they hadn’t voted for the legislation they would have been pilloried for not caring about Canterbury. Not so. All they had to do was demand limitations on CERRA so that it wouldn’t be an enabling act – ie. make the power to amend legislation by Order in Council limited to certain Acts (not including CERRA itself), make all Orders in Council provisional subject to approval by Parliamentary resolution within, say, a month, and make it expire unless extended in six months.

If the opposition made a commitment to helping Canterbury but refused to back legislation without even these basic limits on executive power and National had grabbed them with a slim majority, rather than support of the whole House, then there would have been outrage at National, not at Labour. But the fear of blowback made the Goffice cower and vote for dictatorship, just as the shock doctrine predicts.

With the failure of opposition leadership, what can we do? We can arm ourselves and others with information. Tell everyone you know about CERRA and the unfettered powers it gives ministers’. Everyone I’ve spoken to has been outraged. Ultimately, the only check on power is a viligant, informed population who refuses dictatorship.

(hat-tip to Chris Trotter who told us to be wary of shock doctrine tactics in an article first published last Tuesday, just before the CERRA was introduced and passed)

23 comments on “The Shock Doctrine ”

  1. just saying 1

    I’ve been amazed at the general population’s ignorance of the exremity of the powers granted by the act. Some people have even been disbelieving at first. But the people I’ve told have been horrified when informed.

    This coup has been like stealing candy form a baby so far, but what frightens me is that it’ll be even easier next time.

    Like someone said on a previous post – I want one of those opposition things! Maybe the left will finally get one after the next election

    Oh and kudos to Chris Trotter for his prescient insightfulness on this issue

  2. nilats 2


    [lprent: Troll statements with zero content. There is a reason that I have you in permanent moderation – grow up and write something that doesn’t look like it was written by a dumb program. ]

  3. Jenny 3


    Great artlicle! If someone here with more writing skills and parliamentary knowledge than myself could write an artlicle for distrubution to the public about CERRA, or perhaps we could have several. We could have Pdf’s of those articles to download from The Standard.
    Printing and distrubution would be the final step. I’d be happy to go out and buy 10 X 500 rheems of A4, print it off and give them out. On each pamphlet we can invite the public to make copies to give to friends and family etc. Its a shame getting past the media needs to come to this but it really is the only way we are going to get the message out there. Can we do this for our democracy. I think we must and pretty quickly.
    The artlicles need to contain links to an online action site demanding a new CERRA be draughted and passed immediately with far more specific objectives limited to the job that needs doing.
    The online action site might have a paypal link for donations to a major campign to rewrite and replace CERRA.

    • Bill 3.1

      “The artlicles need to contain links to an online action site demanding a new CERRA be draughted and passed immediately with far more specific objectives limited to the job that needs doing.”

      Within the context of your idea, why only demand a new CERRA? Why not suggest that events are used as a catalyst for rolling out better democratic mechanisms to be utilised by affected people and communities?

      ie, why not suggest both (alongside other options) and allow people to make up their own minds between various options (or even formulate new ones), rather than enclosing possibilities within the limitations of highly prescriptive solutions?

  4. Jenny 4

    If 1 person can print and distribute 5000 copies of an article about Cerra that means if we 100 other volunteers do same then we get 500000 copies out to Kiwis. Hopefully more than this.

  5. ianmac 5

    Thanks Marty. It is very strange that the MSM who can make such a fuss over say “boy Racers,” or “Key on Letterman”, but totally ignore the implications of the huge elephant in the room. (Sorry Gerry.) It seems that the blog writers like yourself have a huge task.

  6. Rick 6

    It wasn’t just Chris, but – yeah – he’s right.

    Key’s government stands exposed.

    I’m afraid it’s unprintable.

  7. Jenny 7

    The idea that Gerry and the Nats will not misuse CERRA is totally flawed. If their intentions had been honest they might have passed this bill to run for 1-2 months untill more specific legfislation could be draughted as has been mentioned here.

    They know they don’t need all this power to deal with Canterbury and that leaves only one possibility. They intend to use this sweeping power for other purposes.

    • Bob Stanforth 7.1

      Then you should be hugely grateful, should you not? Will it not be that all your left dreams will come true, National will act poorly, the public will judge them based on that, and then at some point next year, turf them out.

      I’ll take that bet. No, really, I will.

  8. Jenny 8

    If the public ever find out. If the latest media blackout on this is anything to go by the public will conned. We wont hear much out of TVNZ. Those good paying jobs are thin on the ground.

    As the Nats tye us evermore tightly to the US we are told nothing by TVNZ about what has been really going on in that neck of the woods. All we get is propaganda. So we are not living in America but they can now read our emails and monitor our web surfing thanks to both National and Labour.

    Cameron Bennet promised to keep us informed on the search and Surveylance Bill. Job gone. We haven’t heard a peep from TVNZ or TV# on this bill which is at the point where the Nats can pass it any day now.

    Can’t prove that Cameron was ousted due to politics, but I’ll bet backroom coniving was responsible. He was told to reapply for another position with TVNZ but choose not to. He was pushed out of Sunday thats for certain. They don’t want anyone with the obvious integrity of Bennett with a grain of courgage fronting current affairs and questioning the National Party.

  9. Jenny 9

    And Bob what are your dreams for NZ. Impoverishment for the lower classes and a wealthy elite.
    Lots of the poor in private prisons at 90000 a year. Lovely. Its cheaper to help people before they get to the edge of the cliff only theres no profitt in it is there.

    You may find that once the new elite becomes dispensable when the job is complete, that the biggest fish gobble you up taking everything and you are left at the botom with the rest of us. I give it 10 years max. The classes are being divided for a reason. Divide and rule. But with technology and world control there will be no need for a very big wealthy elite once control is absolute. Thats why we are getting search and surveillance. The new police state is meant to keep people well chained while they are starved.

    • Bob Stanforth 9.1

      “The new police state is meant to keep people well chained while they are starved.”

      You know what, I don’t know what scares me more – that you can come out with complete crap like that – or the fact that somewhere, someone who gets to vote (maybe, Im being generous) can possibly think that is what is happening. Let alone spout it, or believe it. You deserve your own company, you really do.

      Try living overseas in a real police state you feckless twazzock. You live, if you indeed live here, in paradise.

      And dont forget, 9/11, CIA / FBI. No, really, I mean it.

      Try the red pill next time, Im told it makes you believe that Utopia is within reach. Move to Mana, you might make it.

  10. Rich 10

    Absolutely. I think we need a campaign to demand that the Earthquake Enabling Act be repealed and replaced with legislation that provides effectiveness and accountability. We need to identify politicians that don’t follow their party line of supporting this “as a signal” and support these people in list selection. We need to refuse to campaign, leflet and vote for parties that are behind this.

    (BTW, she spells her name Klein).

    • Salsy 10.1

      There has been no mainstream analysis of the Orders in Council that have already issued, including one that allows trucks to drive overloaded anywhere in the country and another removing Canterbury councils’ duty to ask to community before leasing assets or violating their Plans.

      What about a facebook group revealing these Orders in Council as they are passed. Perhaps then we can get some good discussions going and try to educate more Kiwis about what is going on here. The MSM wont bat an eye, until perhaps a “trucking accident causes more deaths than earthquake”. Most Kiwis dont seem to know what CERRA is except for that nice Mr Key is helping the citizens of CHCH..

  11. clandestino 11

    So what is this conspiratorial ulterior motive? Some credible evidence would make this sound so much less Glen Beck.

    • Loota 11.1

      The ulterior motive has already been achieved – the stripping back of due process and legalising of government by dictat with no recourse to judicial review.

    • Blighty 11.2

      they’ve already removed weight limits for trucks anywhere in the country.

      favours to their mates in the ulterior motive.

    • Richard 11.3

      So what is this conspiratorial ulterior motive?

      There is very unlikely to be some kind of grand conspiracy behind this. There is no Bavarian Illuminati, etc.

      Which is precisely what makes this even more insidious.

      National have passed this because they fundamentally don’t believe in elected democratic governments. They will say they do, but they don’t really.

      They have passed this law because they think that by “cutting out all the bureaucratic nonsense”, they will be able to quickly and rapidly respond to the situation in CHCH. They probably even think that they are doing Good.

      However, as a consequence of this law, they will make decisions based solely on their own judgment. The only advice that will heed is that of their “friends”. So, whatever their good intentions, their decisions will ultimately end up favouring one sort of business over others, or give businesses direct or indirect control over formally public assets/utilities, or allow businesses to get away with unsafe/unwise practices, and Gerry’s powers will inevitably be used to quash or frustrate future (or current) investigations into what exactly is occurring Ultimately it is exactly what we sanction shitty dictatorships like Fiji for.

      Now, none of these outcomes are totally terrible — they aren’t (probably) going to result in the formation of the secret police. However, this law will result in a lot of shonky poorly thought out legislation, some truly appalling and unsafe construction (some sort of problem like “leaky homes”) and National’s mates will one way or another be able to capture a lot of money intended for reconstruction. This law certainly won’t help reconstruct Canterbury.

      It is all so predictable and banal and deeply stupid. Being NZ, this is more of a “shambles” than it is a “coup”. But, Canterbury and NZ will be ruing the consequences for decades to come.

      The other problem is that it sets the precedent for seizing dictatorial power alarmingly low. I’m personally less bothered by that; it’s a problem but precedents can be ignored as easily as they can be followed.

  12. clandestino 12

    For a month or two? Ok so they’ve done that….now what? It just comes across as scare-mongering like when Glen gets his board and favourite right wing book of the week and draws a line between Obama and the devil, in this case Gerry and chaos in canterbury

  13. Drakula 13

    That was a very perceptive article, I agree I think that this country is in a very dangerous situation.

    I am a member of the Green Party; OK the Greens tried to moderate this bill by putting a number of amendments to it but they were voted down every step of the way by labour.

    Then the Greens voted for the bill which I found deeply disappointing and I pointed this out the next day among many other very angry supporters.

    There is a lesson here ; they either paniced or were led up the garden path.

    I think that the only course left to salvage this situation is that in a couple of weeks when things are safe and the rumblings have subsided is for the teachers, radiographers and UNITE to go on their usual strike actions.

    AND if they bring the red brigade?????????? If you get my drift!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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