Thursday, October 19, 2023

#292 / Doppelgänger

That question - "Which Twin Has The Toni?" - has stuck with me since my youth. Really, you have to be pretty old to remember this advertising campaign (if you do remember it, that is). Information obtained by clicking the link, above, suggests that the ad campaign for the Toni Home Permanent began in 1948, or shortly thereafter. A personal account (just click this link), says that young women were availing themselves of the Toni Home Permanent in 1950. It was "all the rage."

The "Which Twin Has The Toni?" question came to mind as I read The New York Times Magazine on September 3, 2023. Jennifer Szalai wrote an article titled, "When Your ‘Doppelganger’ Becomes a Conspiracy Theorist." Among other things, Szalai's article provided some pre-publication publicity for Naomi Klein, whose book, Doppelganger, was recently released, on September 12th, a week or so after The Times' article was published. From what I read, the book will be interesting to all those who are concerned about our contemporary politics - and particularly our post-pandemic politics. Hair styling methodologies are not featured in the book - just to make that clear. 

The theme of Szalai's article, and presumably of the book itself, can be seen as a kind of "Which Twin Has The Toni?" exploration, in the field of contemporary political analysis. For instance, which person, below, wrote, Doppelganger?

That's Naomi Klein (the author) in the second photo. Naomi Wolf, pictured in the first photo, is the "doppelganger" that Klein is talking about in her book. As Szalai notes, at the very beginning of her article [as printed in the hardcopy version], "For years, the writer and activist Naomi Klein has been conflated with another famous Naomi - a confusion that has led her, in a new book, to explore the mixed-up politics of the Covid era."

I have noticed, myself (consistemt with what Klein apparently says in her book) that progressive and "left" politics in my own community has been transformed, for many, into a twisted version of what I would call "progressive" concerns, with this new version modifying everything by way of a heavy commitment to conspiracy theories. This new and twisted politics I am talking about ends up making former "progressive" friends sound like a distored version of Donald J. Trump. 

A neighbor, for instance, has told me, in all seriousness, that he now realizes that the only reliable explanation for the events of January 6, 2021, has been made available by Tucker Carlson, the former Fox News, right-wing television star. According to my politically "progressive" neighbor, per Carlson, there really was no significant problem, and no significant violence, at the United States Capitol on January 6th. The way he sees it, the Democratic House of Representatives pushed a false narrative for political purposes, with arch-fiend Adam Schiff manipulating events and the evidence. In addition, in my neighbor's telling, Russia is right to have invaded Ukraine, since Ukraine is nothing less than a "Nazi" state, and Russia was absolutely justified in defending itself against Ukraine's "aggression." My neighbor also appears to believe that our best pick for president is Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., whose conspiratorial explanations for many unwelcome aspects of our current politics seem quite convincing to him. Oh! Let me not forget to add that my neighbor sees Donald J. Trump as the "peace candidate" for president.

I am not sure that I am going to read Naomi Klein's new book, but I do encourage you to read the article, if you can find a way past what will probably be some kind of paywall, seeking to prevent you from doing just that. In case a paywall does prove an obstacle, I am providing a quote, below, highlighting a concern about how we will deal with what Szalai calls the "climate crisis," given all the forces that are seeking to divide us, forces that may make it imposssible to understand that we are, actually, "all in this together." We can't counter global warming if we remain politically divided. We need to get over our divisions - particularly false divisions. We need to "operationalize" the insight that "we are all in this together." There is a lot to lose, if we fail!

In “Doppelganger,” Klein draws links between climate denialism and the conspiracy theories of the mirror world, where panic about “pandemic lockdowns” mutated into panic about “climate lockdowns.” Even before Covid, Wolf was tweeting out warnings that a Green New Deal would amount to a power grab by elites — “a sort of green shock doctrine,” as Klein puts it, which left Klein speechless. Similar to what she hoped at the start of the pandemic — that by showing us how connected we all are, it could lead to “something better, greener and fairer” — she was initially drawn to the subject of global warming because of its redistributive potential. The more complex the crisis, the harder it is to solve through technocratic fixes that allow the system to continue to operate as usual. As she put it in “This Changes Everything,” which was published in 2014, the climate crisis could serve as a “people’s shock” and a “galvanizing force for humanity.”

Yet galvanizing forces can have a way of being surprisingly divisive. In “Doppelganger,” Klein describes how the narrative of climate justice — that this emergency is survivable only if everyone works together — is at risk of being superseded by its mirror opposite: Some of us can get through the end times by hunkering down with our solar panels and canned food while other people, the most vulnerable among us, figure it out for themselves.

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