July 16, 2024

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Naomi Klein, an activist writer stalked by controversy

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Was it fate or some algorithmic force beyond our comprehension that meant Naomi Klein and Naomi Wolf both converged on London this week? The confusion of these two polarising figures — the former a radical writer and social and political activist, the latter a contrarian academic turned conspiracy theorist — on social media platforms in recent years was the inspiration for Klein’s 2023 book Doppelganger. So it was somehow fitting that as Klein arrived to see Doppelganger awarded the inaugural Women’s Prize for Non-Fiction on Thursday night, she found her online twin was also in town. 

Fitting, too, that Klein should acknowledge the coincidence with a wry post on X. The same day that Wolf took to the platform to denounce London as “a globalist parking lot” with “no sign of British culture”, Klein remarked: “For the record London, I think you are gorgeous.”  

Praised by Suzannah Lipscomb, chair of the judging panel, as “a courageous, humane and optimistic call to arms”, Doppelganger begins with an absurd, almost comical, scenario of mistaken identity but quickly expands its purview to grapple with themes that define our online era: the rise of personal branding, the flourishing of alt-right politics, information wars and conflict in the Middle East. It’s the most personal of Klein’s books, but is also typical of her output in its range and ambition.

In 1999, at the age of 29, Klein became an overnight sensation with the publication of her first book No Logo, an elegant and excoriating critique of consumer capitalism. It helped that its release came in the days following the “Battle of Seattle”, a series of protests that erupted against the World Trade Organization. By 2005, she was ranked 11th in a poll of global intellectuals organised by Prospect and Foreign Policy magazines. The book was followed in 2007 by

2024-06-15 00:00:44

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