Naomi Klein takes on the "mirror world" of organized disinformation

Unmasking lies, disinformation and 'conspiracy theory culture'

Naomi Klein takes on the "mirror world" of organized disinformation

“Narcissism(Grandiosity) + Social media addiction + Midlife crisis ÷ Public shaming = Right wing meltdown.”

This is how writer Naomi Klein “half-jokingly” explains the process by which certain formerly progressive figures transform into shills for Republican authoritarianism. It’s an important equation that merits further examination, and it’s exciting to see Klein take on the subject.

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On Tuesday, Klein released a new book, “Doppelganger: A Trip Into the Mirror World,” which examines the topic through a very personal lens. That’s because, in recent years, Klein has found herself increasingly mistaken for Naomi Wolf, a different writer who has gone from progressive thinker to regressive conspiracy theorist.

From Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times:

Klein and Wolf, both brown-haired middle-aged Jewish women writers, are often mistaken for each other. That became a growing problem for Klein as her reputation was tainted by Wolf’s escalating lunacy. Trapped at home by the pandemic, Klein became increasingly obsessed by Wolf’s transformation into a heroine of Covid truthers.

That obsession, in turn, guides Klein into an examination of what she calls “the Mirror World,” the vertigo-inducing inversion of reality common to contemporary far-right movements. Think, for example, of Vladimir Putin claiming that he’s liberating Ukraine from fascism or Donald Trump howling that his multiple prosecutions are a racist plot to subvert a presidential election. When I spoke to Klein recently, she described how jarring it was to watch protests against Covid measures appropriating left-wing language — common slogans were “I can’t breathe” and “My body, my choice” — making them “this weird doppelganger of the movements that I had been a part of and supported.”

The tactics described above have become increasingly familiar. Characters like Trump flip reality and preemptively accuse others of doing that which they themselves are doing. The instances of this tactic are almost too numerous to count (case in point: Kevin McCarthy and House Republicans, who decried the well-earned impeachments of Trump, are now seeking to impeach Biden without cause).

The last few years have also seen an uptick in the number of people publicly embracing falsehoods and conspiracy theory. Writes Klein in the introduction of her book:

I am hardly the only one to grapple with a sense that reality is somehow warping. Almost everyone I talk to tells me about people they have lost “down the rabbit hole” — parents, siblings, best friends, as well as formerly trusted intellectuals and commentators. People once familiar, who have become unrecognizable. Altered. It began to feel as if the forces that have destabilized my world are part of an expansive web of forces that are destabilizing our larger world — and that understanding these forces could hold a key to getting to firmer ground.

Only a few pages in, it becomes clear Klein has written an important and necessary book. She describes the current atmosphere of disinformation and conspiracy theories as a “mirror world” in which lies — so-called “alternative facts” — have come to rival truth as the basis of reality. But instead of being paralyzed by these tactics, Klein is finding a way to fight back.

We encourage FrameLab readers to pick up this book and read along with us. We’ll share further thoughts in the weeks ahead.

FrameLab is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

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