Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Activists hold a lit 'FAKE CRISIS' sign as they stage a protest outside the White House in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s prime time address to the nation January 8, 2019 in Washington, DC. President Trump urged Congress to fund $5.7 billion for a border wall.  (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

'Shock Doctrine' Author Naomi Klein Worries 'What Next?' If Trump Succeeds in Inventing a 'National Emergency'

"What further roll back of rights... become possible under the banner of 'emergency?'" asks author and activist. "What is to stop him from declaring emergencies again and again if this works?"

Jon Queally

As a result of creating a fake crisis in order to appease his far-right base and achieve a policy goal that has majority public opposition, President Donald Trump continues to threaten to declare a "national emergency" as a way to commandeer military funds in order to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

"Even I'm bored of the Shock Doctrine, but this is a bit extreme."
—Naomi Klein
But even as experts debate whether or not Trump has the authority to make such a declaration—and consensus that an immediate legal battle would ensue—author and activist Naomi Klein on Thursday morning expressed worry that if the president is allowed to get away with such anti-democratic maneuvers, what would stop him from repeating the tactics in the future.

Klein's statement of concern came in response to a new story on the issue by Charlie Savage at the New York Times – one which noted that "If the president does invoke emergency powers to circumvent Congress, it would be an extraordinary violation of constitutional norms — and establish a precedent for presidents who fail to win approval for funding a policy goal."

The Times article was headlined, "Trump's Emergency Powers Threat Could End Shutdown Crisis, but at What Cost?" To which Klein answered: "At a huge cost. What further roll back of rights (e.g. curfews, 'no protest zones'), not to mention intensified state violence and surveillance, become possible under the banner of 'emergency?' What is to stop him from declaring emergencies again and again if this works?"

In her 2007 book of the same name, Klein used the framework of the 'Shock Doctrine' to describe scenarios in which powerful actors such as corporate interests or governments use crises—whether natural or human-cause, real or invented—to push through a set of unpopular policies that would be impossible, or a least difficult, to enact absent the threat of fear and chaos generated by such societal "shocks."

On Thursday morning, Trump said that if a deal with Democrats is not reached soon," I would say it would be very surprising to me that I would not declare a national emergency and just fund it through the various mechanisms."

On Wednesday, Trump told reporters in the Oval Office that he has "the absolute right to do national emergency if I want."

In her reaction, Klein argued the president's syntax was revealing. "Not 'to declare a national emergency' but 'do national emergency' - make it out of whole cloth," she noted.

"Even I'm bored of the Shock Doctrine," Klein added, "but this is a bit extreme."

Update: This post was updated to include new comments from Trump about the likelihood he would declare an emergency.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'Grim and Alarming' UN Report Details 'Catastrophic' Global Failure on Climate

"We are not going in the right direction," warns the head of the World Meteorological Organization.

Andrea Germanos ·


Analysis Shows Facebook Allows 99% of Climate Disinformation to Go Unchecked

The new study coincided with Facebook's new initiative to combat climate lies, which civil society groups criticized as "too little, too late."

Jake Johnson ·


Sanders Says There's 'No Excuse' for Any Democrat to Oppose Lowering Drug Prices

"Now is the time for Congress to show courage and stand up to the greed of the pharmaceutical industry."

Jake Johnson ·


Covid-19 Vaccine Makers Blasted for 'Unconscionable Profits,' Monopolies, and Low Taxes

"Big Pharma's business model—receive billions in public investments, charge exorbitant prices for lifesaving medicines, pay little tax—is gold dust for wealthy investors and corporate executives but devastating for global public health."

Common Dreams staff ·


UN Human Rights Chief Calls for Global Halt to Sales of Dangerous AI Technologies

"The power of AI to serve people is undeniable, but so is AI's ability to feed human rights violations at an enormous scale with virtually no visibility."

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo