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The Shock Doctrine (2007)

7.6
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 705 users  
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Drawing surprising connections between market methods and CIA torture techniques developed in the 1950s, the film explores how well-known events of the recent past have been theaters for the shock doctrine, from Pinochet's coup in Chile, to the Tiananmen Square Massacre, to the war in Iraq today.

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Naomi Klein ...
Herself - Narrator
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Drawing surprising connections between market methods and CIA torture techniques developed in the 1950s, the film explores how well-known events of the recent past have been theaters for the shock doctrine, from Pinochet's coup in Chile, to the Tiananmen Square Massacre, to the war in Iraq today.

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[first lines]
Herself - Narrator: Re-making people, shocking them into obediance. This is a story about that powerful idea. In the 1950s it caught the attention of the CIA. The agency funded a series of experiments. Out of them was produced a secret handbook on how to break down prisoners. The key was using shock to reduce adults to a child-like state.
Title Card: The following narration is excerpted from the CIA's 1963 and 1983 interrogation manuals.
Narrator: It's a fundamental hypothesis of this handbook that these techniques are in ...
[...]
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Interesting and well delivered short but has too little theory presented as fact without the material to convince
14 October 2007 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Starting with the development of shock treatment methods in the 1950's by the CIA as part of breaking prisoners down and holding them in a state of shock, this film extends the idea of people being vulnerable when in a state of shock. Dealing with an economists theory that governments should use natural disasters to immediately launch unpopular policies and programmes while the populace is still in shock, thus less able to react or challenge them.

Interesting short film this one with the appeal for me being that it was directed by the director of Children of Men. Using animation and stock footage, the film presents its theory in an entertaining and accessible way. The images are well chosen, avoiding showing us real horror for the sake of it but leaving us in no doubt about what we are seeing and what it means. The case it makes it not that strong though and this is probably where it falls down. Liberals will probably lap it up, while those on the flip side of that political coin will dismiss it out of hand as yet more pinko conspiracy theories – the material isn't robust enough to break through that wall of cynicism.

The connections between CIA torture methodology and political and economic decisions feels a bit forced. In a way the theory is correct but just because one man drew it from this source doesn't mean that it comes from there. I remember in the days after 11th September 2001 that there was a bit of fuss in the media about a Labour spin doctor who had sent an email (that leaked) to colleagues saying that now was a good time to get bad news out – this does not mean that she had studied CIA torture methods, just that she knew that even a 50% tax increase would end up on page 18 of The Times. It did feel a little like the film was trying to push an agenda that capitalism comes from torture and connect those two things in our minds and there wasn't enough evidence to convince me otherwise.

There was, however, probably enough about it to make me (as a bit of a liberal) check out Klein's book to see what there is to this idea beyond a 6 minute short film. For the film though, despite being well made and slickly presented, I felt that the material let it down, with too many sweeping conclusions presented as fact and not enough time to do a good enough job to make the cynics doubt themselves for even a second.


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