Excerpt from The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Shock Doctrine

The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

By Naomi Klein

The Shock Doctrine
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Sep 2007,
    576 pages.
    Paperback: Jun 2008,
    576 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Amy Reading

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


Although he had been in contact with the agency for years, in 1957 Cameron got his first grant from the CIA, laundered through a front organization called the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology. And, as the CIA dollars poured in, the Allan Memorial Institute seemed less like a hospital and more like a macabre prison.

The first changes were the dramatically increased dosages of electroshock. The two psychiatrists who invented the controversial Page-Russell electroshock machine had recommended four treatments per patient, totaling twenty-four individual shocks. Cameron started using the machine on his patients twice a day for thirty days, a terrifying 360 individual shocks to each patient—far more than his earlier patients, like Gail, had received. To the already dizzying array of drugs he was giving his patients, he added more experimental, mind-altering ones that were of particular interest to the CIA: LSD and PCP.

He also added other weapons to his mind-blanking arsenal: sensory deprivation and extended sleep, a twin process he claimed would further “reduce the defensiveness of the individual,” making the patient more receptive to his taped messages. When the CIA dollars arrived, Cameron used the grant money to convert the old horse stables behind the hospital into isolation boxes. He also elaborately renovated the basement so that it contained a room he called the Isolation Chamber. He soundproofed the room, piped in white noise, turned off the lights and put dark goggles and “rubber eardrums” on each patient, as well as cardboard tubing on the hands and arms, “preventing him from touching his body—thus interfering with his self image,” as Cameron put it in a 1956 paper. But, where Hebb’s students fled less intense sensory deprivation after only a couple of days, Cameron kept his patients in for weeks, with one of them trapped in the isolation box for thirty-five days.

Cameron further starved his patients’ senses in the so-called Sleep Room, where they were kept in drug-induced reverie for twenty to twenty-two hours a day, turned by nurses every two hours to prevent bed sores and wakened only for meals and to go to the toilet. Patients were kept in this state for fifteen to thirty days, though Cameron reported that “some patients have been treated up to 65 days of continuous sleep.” Hospital staffers were instructed not to allow patients to talk and not to give out any information about how long they would have to spend in the room. To make sure no one successfully escaped from this nightmare, Cameron gave one group of patients small doses of the drug Curare, which induces paralysis, making them literal prisoners in their own bodies.

In a 1960 paper, Cameron said there are “two major factors” that allow us to “maintain a time and space image”—that allow us, in other words, to know where we are and who we are. Those two forces are “(a) our continued sensory input, and (b) our memory.” With electroshock, Cameron annihilated memory; with his isolation boxes, he annihilated sensory input. He was determined to force his patients to completely lose their sense of where they were in time and space. Realizing that some patients were keeping track of time of day based on their meals, Cameron ordered the kitchen to mix it all up, changing meal times and serving soup for breakfast and porridge for dinner. “By varying these intervals and by changing the menu from the expected time we were able to break up this structuring,” Cameron reported with satisfaction. Even so, he discovered that despite his best efforts, one patient had maintained a connection with the outside world by noting “the very faint rumble” of a plane that flew over the hospital every morning at nine.

To anyone familiar with the testimonies of torture survivors, this detail is a harrowing one. When prisoners are asked how they survived months or years of isolation and brutality, they often speak about hearing the ring of distant church bells, or the Muslim call to prayer, or children playing in a park nearby. When life is shrunk to the four walls of the prison cell, the rhythm of these outside sounds becomes a kind of lifeline, proof that the prisoner is still human, that there is a world beyond torture. “Four times I heard the birds outside chirping with the rising sun—that’s how I know it was four days,” said one survivor of Uruguay’s last dictatorship, recalling a particularly brutal stretch of torture. The unidentified woman in the basement of the Allan Memorial Institute, straining to hear the engine of an airplane through a haze of darkness, drugs and electroshock, was not a patient in the care of a doctor; she was, for all intents and purposes, a prisoner undergoing torture.

Copyright © 2007 by Naomi Klein All rights reserved.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    The Search
    by Geoff Dyer
    All hail the independent publisher! In May 2014, Graywolf Press brought two of long-revered British ...
  • Book Jacket
    Mrs. Hemingway
    by Naomi Wood
    Naomi Wood's latest novel, Mrs. Hemingway, is a fictionalized biography covering in turn writer...
  • Book Jacket
    The Stranger on the Train
    by Abbie Taylor
    The opening chapter of Abbie Taylor's debut novel, The Stranger on the Train, took me right back to ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

Tomlinson Hill
by Chris Tomlinson

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  166The City:
    Dean Koontz

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.