Doppelganger: a trip into the mirror world

Read Doppelganger: A Trip into the Mirror World by Naomi Klein
Not long ago, the celebrated activist and public intellectual Naomi Klein had just such an experience—she was confronted with a doppelganger whose views she found abhorrent but whose name and public persona were sufficiently similar to her own that many people got confused about who was who. Destabilized, she lost her bearings, until she began to understand the experience as one manifestation of a strangeness many of us have come to know but struggle to define: AI-generated text is blurring the line between genuine and spurious communication; New Age wellness entrepreneurs turned anti-vaxxers are scrambling familiar political allegiances of left and right; and liberal democracies are teetering on the edge of absurdist authoritarianism, even as the oceans rise. Under such conditions, reality itself seems to have become unmoored. Is there a cure for our moment of collective vertigo?

I’m slightly annoyed at this book, because I’d like to review it and recommend it as a nice find, but also everyone has already raved about it (Cory Doctorow, Alice Cappelle and Ben Werdmuller, among others) and it even has a Women’s Prize now.

That’s fine, I’ll talk about it still.

In Doppelganger, Naomi Klein gets obsessed with Naomi Wolf.

…alright, let’s make this more specific.

Naomi Klein, the leftist who wrote No Logo and The Shock Doctrine, consistently gets confused for Naomi Wolf, the woman who wrote The Beauty Myth and the very weird liberal book The End of America.

It’s not a problem. It’s vaguely annoying that people would always confuse these two prominent Jewish Naomis with left-leaning views, but that’s about it.

Until we get to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because now, Naomi Klein, the anti-sionist radical leftist who wrote No Logo and The Shock Doctrine, consistently gets confused for Naomi Wolf, the woman who is on every far-right news outlet to rant about how only Trump can save America and who got banned from Twitter for spreading anti-vaccine and anti-mark misinformation.

And little by little, Naomi Klein gets obsessed with Naomi Wolf, with the « shadow world » of conspiracy theories and hating the Other and of what is even going on in a time of worldwide instability and fear.

This is not a book about Naomi Wolf, or about Naomi Klein herself, although both are prominently featured and serve as an excuse to broach every single topic that is covered. This is a book about fascism and conspiracy theories and identity, and it’s smart and gripping, and it sometimes gets a bit too long but it’s definitely worth the read, even though it hasn’t changed my life as much as I’d expected when I saw the earlier recommendations.

That is one overarching message I choose to take at the end of my doppelganger journey: time to loosen the grip on various forms of proprietary pain and selfhood, and reach toward many different forms of possible connection and kin, toward anyone who shares a desire to confront the forces of annihilation and extermination and their mindsets of purity and perfection.
Faced with the ultimate doppelganger threat—the flip into fascism that is already well underway in many parts of the world—this ability to melt some of the hard, icy edges of identity, however well earned those defenses may be, will be important to any hope we have of success. It will not be enough to protect “our” people; we will need to have the stamina of true solidarity, which defines “our people” as “all people.”

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