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Degrees of Evil: Savoring the Nuances of Co-optation

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Photo: Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein of 350.org

Intercontinental Cry

Sept 6, 2013

By Jay Taber 

 

Mind games of the non-profit industrial complex aren’t hard to decipher; the gullible simply have to decide they no longer want to be coddled by bromides, no longer treated as infantile consumers of spectacle. Once they reach the point of being skeptical, the charades of capitalist activism come clearly into view.

Spectacle celebrities like Naomi Klein, while raising valid (albeit hypocritical) criticism of the complex, count on infantile consumers to maintain their activist credentials. Serving as proxies for consumer rage, yet asking nothing serious of them as citizens, makes these capitalist activists popular and profitable PR puppets. (I especially love Ms. No Logo‘s logos.)

When Klein cuddled up to assimilated indigenous activist Arthur Manuel on the celebrity panel at the Idle No More conference, she was branding Manuel with the approval of the heavyweight philanthropies behind her. Manuel, already co-opted by Ford Foundation through the Seventh Generation Fund, has wisely chosen not to sell out directly like Rebecca Adamson of First Peoples Worldwide.

Using philanthropic cutouts to maintain plausible deniability of co-optation, while strategically clever, however, is not immune from exposure by those willing to look. Once those masquerading as agents for change are revealed, non-profits like 350 dot org are seen for what they really are.

While these charades might seem harmless to naive consumers of the non-profit spectacle, they unfortunately interfere with the ability of authentic activists and indigenous governing authorities to successfully challenge Wall Street and the modern states it has corrupted. When PR puppets — indigenous or otherwise — dominate social media, both the infantile and the skeptical are led astray.

Chutzpah personified would be Naomi Klein — board member of 350 dot org — talking about Big green opportunism. I guess that’s why elites like Rockefeller fund it.

As for scams, it’s hard to imagine a more losing strategy than the 350 dot org fossil fuel divestment campaign. I mean, shifting university shares in oil companies to Wall Street is hardly going to improve corporate behavior.

 

[Jay Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as director of Public Good Project. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations.]