Naomi Klein, an activist writer embroiled in controversy

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Was it fate or some algorithmic force beyond our understanding that meant Naomi Klein and Naomi Wolf came together in London this week? The juxtaposition of these two polarizing figures — the former a radical writer and social and political activist, the latter an ironic academic turned conspiracy theorist — inspired Klein’s 2023 book on social media platforms in recent years. Doppelganger. So it was somehow fitting that Klein came to visit Doppelganger Thursday night’s inaugural Women’s Non-Fiction Awards saw her online twin in town, too.

It is also appropriate to acknowledge the Klein coincidence with a dry post at X. On the same day Wolff took to the stage to denounce London as „a cosmopolitan parking lot with no trace of British culture,” Klein remarked: „The record for that is London, I think you’re beautiful.

Hailed by jury chair Susanna Lipscomb as „a bold, humane and hopeful call to arms”, Doppelganger Begins with an absurd, almost comical, scenario of mistaken identity, but quickly expands its reach with themes that define our online era: the rise of personal commerce, the growth of alt-right politics, information wars and conflicts in the Middle East. It is the most personal of Klein’s books, but typical of his output in its range and ambition.

In 1999, at the age of 29, Klein became an overnight sensation by publishing his first book. No symbol, an elegant and provocative critique of consumer capitalism. Its release came days after the „War on Seattle,” a series of protests that erupted against the World Trade Organization. By 2005, he was ranked 11th in a poll of global intellectuals organized by Prospect and Foreign Policy magazines. The book followed in 2007 Shock theoryBefore shifting his focus to exposing neoliberalism’s contribution to climate change in 2014, Klein trained his views on free-market economic policy. It changes everything And 2019 on fire.

„I write books of big ideas about serious things,” he says with knowing humor in his introduction. Doppelganger. Depending on your point of view — or, more likely, your politics — these „big ideas” represent boldly speaking truth to power or the cry of a meddlesome ideologue.

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Klein’s own radicalism can be traced back to his family lineage. The daughter of American Jews — physician Michael Klein and feminist filmmaker Bonnie Sher Klein — she was born in Montreal in 1970, two years after her father moved the family to Canada to avoid the Vietnam draft. His grandfather, an animator for Walt Disney, co-organized the first animators’ strike in 1941, for which he was outed as a Communist before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Influence.

„[My grandfather] For me Donald Duck would draw and suddenly seeing this character from the movies appear on a napkin was magical. [but] It’s coupled with this horrific story of how he was mistreated by the company,” Klein said in a 2017 interview. „So he taught me to look behind the gloss, to look at the surface, but he also taught me that we can have irony, that we can be attracted to it, like it, like it, and like it. [also] It should be disturbing [and] There must be justice.”

A free-spirited and self-described „teenybopper,” Klein came to political consciousness in 1989 after the Ecole Polytechnique massacre, when 14 women were killed at a Montreal engineering school. „It’s the moment when I can no longer be an apolitical young person because you have to call yourself a feminist,” she said.

As social justice, climate change, and anti-Zionism have moved to the forefront of cultural and political debate, Klein’s status as an activist has grown. He is an outspoken supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel. Last month, he was one of more than 700 signatories under the umbrella group Fossil Free Books, which called on asset management firm Bailey Gifford (formerly a major supporter of UK literary festivals) to „divest directly from the fossil fuel industry and companies. Or Nvidia, Amazon and Alphabet.” including indirect links to Israel’s defense, technology and cybersecurity industries”.

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The first £30,000 Women’s Prize for Women in Non-Fiction – launched in response to new research highlighting the lack of consumer visibility available to female non-fiction writers – is sponsored by online genealogy service Findmypast. Its sister award, the Women’s Prize for Fiction (which was won this year by American writer VV Ganesanand), is sponsored by the Baileys liqueur brand and Audible, a subsidiary of Amazon.

Accepting the prize, Klein paid tribute to her fellow shortlisted writers and „their commitment to exploring the shadow lands of our world”, and revealed that someone had ripped down book posters advertising her photo around London this week. „The weird thing is, I don’t know what made them so angry,” he said. „I don’t know what I’ve written about vaccine misinformation, what I’ve written about Zionism, what I’ve written about climate change and non-fossil books.” Controversy seems to follow Klein.

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