Naomi/Naomi: The People Who’ve Gone Off The Deep End

Earlier in their careers, mix-ups between the two writers were less common. They had each carved out a distinctive beat, with Wolf on feminism and Klein on corporate exploitation. The problems began, Klein believes, around 2007, when Wolf began to write more broadly on politics, and, at least on the surface, they appeared to be covering similar subjects. Wolf’s book The End of America focused on elite institutions, as Klein had in The Shock Doctrine, though with a very different approach and tone; Klein wrote about the Green New Deal, and so did Wolf, though with added “special conspiracy twists.” Klein reported on “the dangers of geoengineering as a response to the climate crisis” around the same time that Wolf was “busily speculating on social media about chemical cloudseeding and covert mass poisonings.” Wolf’s writing could be read as a funhouse mirror version of Klein’s work on concentrated power and its ravages, overlaid with a film of overheated theories and urgent warnings. Telling these two modes apart, however, means recognizing the precision of one versus the hyperbole of the other, seeing the difference between rigorous use of sources versus panicky leaps in logic. It’s not hard to imagine how the two versions might easily blur in the mind of a casual reader. Klein is refreshingly, resolutely anti-conspiratorial in her summary of all this. She doesn’t see the convergence of her themes and Other Naomi’s as remotely intentional, she dryly remarks. “Just deeply unfortunate.”

At first, Klein responded to the mix-ups by trying to ignore them. But as Wolf’s rhetoric escalated in 2021, Klein paid closer attention. After Wolf’s video on Why Vaccine Passports Equal Slavery Forever, she hyped fears of a “CCP-style social credit score system.” She appeared “on Fox seven times in less than two months” and became a regular guest on Steve Bannon’s podcast War Room, weighing in on vaccines at first, but then on all manner of political news. She rallied for Five Freedoms, which she listed as “No Vaccine Passports, No Mask Mandates, No Emergency Law, Open Schools Up 100%,” and “Freedom of commerce, worship, petition.” And though Klein notes that Wolf is “prone to exaggerating her own influence,” she amassed a large, engaged following and “seemingly helped inspire large numbers to take to the streets in rebellion against an almost wholly hallucinated ‘tyranny.’”

As much as Klein wanted to keep a distance, she felt pulled into “a quest to understand what messages, secrets, and forebodings” the appearance of her double offered. She began to spend evenings watching everything she “could find about doubles and doppelgangers, from Carl Jung to Ursula K. Le Guin; Fyodor Dostoyevsky to Jordan Peele.” And of course she developed an intense psychic and intellectual involvement with Wolf’s Twitter presence. Some of the most charming moments in the book are recognizable domestic skirmishes over unhealthy social media use: as when Klein saunters into the kitchen with her laptop, sheepishly asking her husband if she can “just read you this one tweet,” or when she swears to give Wolf-watching a break during a family vacation to Prince Edward Island, only to end up furtively bingeing on episodes of War Room in her car (“a full-blown relapse into my doppelganger’s world”). She develops a level of obsession that might sound like stalking were it not so familiar, were it not in fact the nature—and the entire business model—of social media itself.

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