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Mojatu Foundation

By Ophelie Lawson

You might wonder, what on earth is disaster capitalism and the shock doctrine?

Let me explain:

The “shock doctrine” is a political strategy that consists of using the public disorientation following large-scale crises and disasters – wars, natural disasters, pandemics – (in other words massive collective shocks) to push through policies that systematically deepen inequality, enrich elites and which would normally never be accepted in ordinary circumstances.

It uses the public’s disorientation following a collective shock to push through radical pro-corporate measures, often called “shock therapy”.

Shock tactics follow a clear pattern: wait for a crisis, declare a moment of what is sometimes referred to as “extraordinary politics”, suspend some, or all, democratic norms – and then force the corporate wish list throughout hastily.

The term Disaster capitalism is described by Naomi Klein in her book The Shock Doctrine (2007) as the way that private industries spring up to directly profit from large-scale crises.

Capitalism uses disasters and catastrophes to privatize new sectors of society and imposes free-market reforms, creating private company profits but failing in terms of democracy, fairness, and justice. It hides behind situations that create hardship for people, profiting from the collective shock.

This concept of disaster and crisis profiteering is not new.

In her book, Naomi argues that it really became intense under the Bush administration after 9/11.

The aftermath of 9/11 left Americans disoriented and in shock.

The Bush administration seized the collective shock and fear felt by Americans after the attack and declared this sort of never-ending security crisis, privatizing security state, launching the ‘War on Terror’, and enabling the “Patriot Act” which violated many constitutional rights.

The Patriot Act is an Anti-terrorism law, passed by the United States Congress and signed by George W. Bush on October 26, 2001.

The purpose of the act is to deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world.

Homeland security is now a $200 billion industry.

Homeland security companies gained a lot, thanks to the atmosphere of crisis and fear that was being spread through media outlets.

It gives the government rights to look at records on an individual’s activity held by third parties, allows security services to access computer data held by individuals and businesses without prior authorisation and/or notifying users.

Now you might wonder, how does that apply to the so called ‘refugee crises?

Refugee flow is a phenomenon that has already gained worldwide attention.

In 2015, Greece was the main entry point for over one million refugees, forced migrants and migrants who fled to Europe by sea. 1,000,573 people reached Europe across the Mediterranean, mainly to Greece and Italy that year.

A further 34,000 crossed from Turkey into Bulgaria and Greece by land, according to the UNCHR

The number of people displaced by war and conflict was in 2015 the highest seen in Western and Central Europe since the Balkan crises of the 1990s, (UNHCR).

This period is known as the ‘European migrant crisis’, otherwise called ‘refugee crisis”. And much like any other “disaster,” the crisis has been and is continuously exploited for political and economic purposes, it is the perfect excuse for governments to push through radical agendas, as we have seen unravelling over the past few years.

Policy makers within Europe have used the “refugee crisis” to push for more restrictive, selective, and securitised immigration and border control laws.

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic and for most European governments, it was the perfect opportunity to push through even more radical immigrant agenda – another ‘disaster’.

Earlier this year, for instance, the EU started experimenting with new digital measure to prevent people from crossing, with the Greek border police firing bursts of deafening noise from an armoured truck over the frontier into Turkey using “sound cannon,” to protect its borders.

This was part of new experimental digital barriers that were being tested during the quiet months of the Coronavirus pandemic and installed while Europe was still dealing with disorientation and shock in the middle of a catastrophe.

During the pandemic, EU member states have used illegal operations to push back at least 40,000 asylum seekers from Europe’s borders.

Their methods have been linked to the death of more than 2,000 people, an article from Guardian revealed following investigations, using the pandemic to both push through their agendas and ‘protect’ the borders.

Meanwhile, private companies have secured and made profits through providing technology and infrastructure to help strengthen border enforcement, but also through providing services that have help different countries house, feed, detain, and also deport arriving people, making ‘illegal’ border crossing their core business idea.

Private security companies, defence contractors, and others capitalised on crisis. 


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