Delving into the Mirror World with Naomi Klein

The idea for this book took root when the public started confusing its left-wing author, Naomi Klein, with another Naomi whose worldviews were diametrically opposed to hers: Naomi Wolf, an erstwhile feminist author turned right-wing conspiracy theorist.

Doppelganger: A Trip into the Mirror World, by Naomi Klein, Alfred A. Knopf, 2023

The concept of a doppelganger has existed in the lore of many cultures throughout history. The idea of an identical twin living a parallel life in some unknown corner of the universe is both intriguing and frightening. The doppelganger is also a device used in science fiction to show the evil side of apparently innocuous characters. Naomi Klein resorts to this device to warn her readers that current mass media is rife with hidden dangers and noxious outcomes.

She conceived the idea for this book when the public started confusing her with Naomi Wolf, an erstwhile feminist author turned right-wing conspiracy theorist. The commonalities Klein shares with “the other Naomi,” as she calls Wolf – such as first name, general physical appearance and ethnic origin – are in sharp contrast to their diametrically opposed worldviews. This insight inspired her to try to unravel the disinformation and confusion floating around in cyberspace.

Klein’s efforts have been more than successful. Her thesis is simple: Beware of appearances, as things are not what you think they are. Dig deeper and you will find out what’s true and what’s not.

The subjects covered in Doppelganger range from COVID, autism and the anti-vaxxer perspective, to the mutability of personal identity, fascism and the extreme right. Naomi Klein explains how the extreme right has appropriated the discourse of the left for its own purposes. She also analyses the Palestine/Israel conflict, the rise of the MAGA movement, the links between conspiracies and capitalism, and the historical origins of antisemitism. And of course, the link between climate change and capitalism is a major topic in all of her work.

A characteristic of Klein’s writing is that it generally starts off from the personal, only to arrive at the political without the reader being aware of the route taken. This seamless transition is easy for the author since there is no dissonance between her personal convictions and her actions. And wherever there might be a trace of a contradiction, Naomi (the real one, not the other one), is the first to admit it with frank self-awareness. 

As is her aim, Klein offers a way forward in these troubled times. She calls this path “unselfing” (a term borrowed from Iris Murdoch), or simply putting the needs of others and the planet we live on before our own personal needs. Solidarity, she reminds us, is a sine qua non for the success of any struggle.

Naomi Klein’s writing defies definition, which is a good thing – because for her, life is a process, not an endgame. I will stop the review here so that you can delve into the Mirror World on your own. Don’t be afraid if you feel lost. Naomi, the real one, will show you the way out with brilliant clarity.

Maya Khankhoje has followed Naomi Klein’s writings over the years, always amazed at the depth and lucidity of her work.