- - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Naomi Klein is one of the most recognizable faces of the left-wing, anti-globalization movement. Yet there are things about her that make me wonder if she’s nothing more than an “anti-capitalist” capitalist.

Let’s go back a few steps.

Ms. Klein was born into a Jewish household in Toronto, Canada. Her mother (an author and filmmaker) and father (a physician) were both Americans who resisted the Vietnam War and fled to my country.

The Klein family has roots in both socialism and communism. As the political activist told The New Yorker’s Larissa MacFarquhar in December 2008, “my grandparents were hard-core Marxists.”

Interestingly, Ms. Klein initially railed against her left-wing roots. In an August interview with Vogue’s John Powers, she said, “I was the rebel in our family and a child of the eighties. That meant going to the mall.” She was clearly more interested in fashion than peaceful protest, until some events — including her mother having a severe stroke — began to shift her mindset.

Her writing and speaking style is fairly easy to understand. She takes extreme political positions, and tries to modify them for particular audiences. This can include leftist radicals, young people, minority groups and the anti-big-business crowd.

Ms. Klein‘s breakout book, “No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies” (1999), specifically deals with her intense dislike of large corporations and globalization. “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism” (2007) is a screed about the dangers of free-market economics. Her newest book, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate,” is a first foray into environmentalism and global warming.

While there is much about Ms. Klein‘s ideas and positions to disagree with, there’s no question that she’s very skilled in the art of self-promotion. In our shared profession, achieving this level of success is more than half the battle.

Yet, in many ways, I would argue that Ms. Klein is the ultimate hypocrite. For all of her anti-capitalist ravings, she still has the same capitalist tastes from her (somewhat) rebellious youth.

As Mr. Powers wrote, “Although she may be the world’s most famous critic of consumerism, she understands the joys of shopping. At an appearance in London, somebody asked her to name one thing she liked about capitalism. She instantly replied, ‘The shoes.’” It’s worth combining this assessment with Ms. MacFarquhar’s earlier details, “[Klein] was wearing a long necklace and black high-heeled mini-boots. She may have made up with her parents, but in matters of style she stands firm against activism of the old school. She wears jeans, but she is groomed as flawlessly as an anchorwoman.”

Meanwhile, Ms. Klein comes from a comfortable background — and doesn’t seem willing or interested to part with the finer things in life. Neither does her husband, filmmaker and former CBC and al Jazeera English TV host Avi Lewis. As the Vogue interview pointed out, “Because of their backgrounds and prominence, Klein and Lewis are sometimes portrayed as representing a kind of left-wing royalty, a notion they find hilariously grandiose. It might be more accurate to call them a marriage of true minds.”

I don’t have an issue with Ms. Klein enjoying shopping and living in a nice neighborhood with her husband and young son. Those who inherit wealth, or legitimately acquire it, in a free-market economy have every right to spend their money as they wish.

Yet, here’s the ridiculous part: While Ms. Klein sits on her left-wing pedestal and preaches about the evils of consumerism and capitalism, she lives and benefits from the supposedly evil system she enjoys condemning — knowing all too well, one assumes, that a shift in her country’s economic model would dramatically affect her standard of living.

If this isn’t hypocritical, then what is?

There’s another interesting point to be made. As mentioned in a Sept. 24 Investor’s Business Daily editorial, “It’s off-putting enough for someone who has so benefited from capitalism to be so keen to destroy it. But people like that are out there. What, however, is to be said of an establishment that can’t stop adoring her?”

Very true. Left-wing elites will buy her books, pay for her speeches — and won’t say anything derogatory about their idol, because they likely do the same thing. Her support among the poor and disenfranchised will remain intact, because they’re not going to rock the boat and attack someone who has the elites’ ear.

It’s all in a day’s work for the world’s foremost “anti-capitalist” capitalist.

Michael Taube is a contributor to The Washington Times.

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