The line to get into Naomi Klein’s talk, “Disaster Capitalism: Milton Friedman and the Chicago Boys,” extended through the hallways of the University of Chicago International House and onto the street, where individuals who came to see the journalist known for her radical politics nonetheless managed to avoid the “Workers Vanguard” and Trotskyist publications being thrust at them. Although Klein emphasized the need to spread the truth of ideology-free history and reason to as many Americans as possible, swarms of interested individuals were turned away from the low-capacity assembly hall. Once inside, the audience seemed to consist of mostly balding and graying heads, while the younger, more “radical”-looking crowd that I expected composed a large part of the group that milled in the halls until it was clear that there was absolutely no hope of getting in.
Klein delivered many of the zingers that audience members likely looked forward to in the beginning of her talk–notably her comment that the establishment of the Milton Friedman Institute would be the “academic equivalent of a big yellow Hummer sitting in the middle of your campus.” She then focused on highlighting the pitfalls of an academic ideology that has proven disastrous in reality. Constantly stressing her status as a journalist, as opposed to an academic, she railed on the negative historical consequences of Milton Friedman’s ideas and the techniques of the right used to sustain the empty ideology. The relentlessly negative tone of the talk was felt by audience members, as their questions reflected a desire to move the discussion towards the topic of positive change rather than a rehashing of the problems that most attending already acknowledged. The talk even ended with a sincere request from an audience member to “end on a positive note.” Klein did so in her own style, with a long story about the horrors of the Argentinean financial crisis which, in a roundabout way, led to a small acknowledgement of the potential for mass change.