The resistance against corporate culture grows

By James Keller

If No Logo was the anti-globalization “movement Bible,” then Naomi Klein’s follow up Fences and Windows is Revelations.

In its introduction, Klein explains the difference. While No Logo was thesis based, as it served to bring to light the source of much of the anti-globalization movement and activist culture, Fences and Windows is a play-by-play of that activism at work. A collection of articles (most printed in the Globe and Mail), speeches and essays, Klein’s sequel provides a lens through which to view both the activists and the mega-corporations and governments which they oppose. The collection begins with a December 1999 article she wrote while covering the WTO protests (and riots) in Seattle, pointing out errors in popular media representation of protestors and their message. It ends in late 2001, in the thick of post-Sept. 11 terror rhetoric–rhetoric that has systematically been used to quash popular dissent and label protestors as “anti-American,” “anti-democratic” and terrorists. In what turns into two very quick years, Klein offers readers clever and intelligent insight into all facets of the globalization efforts of mostly Western (and mostly American) corporations and governments.

After reading No Logo, many critics complained that the book was too heavy on facts, statistics and criticism (as telling as they were), and too light on solutions. Those same critics may have the same difficulties with Fences and Windows, but that is no fault of Klein’s. Just as No Logo served as an ethnography, brand culture and an introduction into anti-corporate activism, Fences and Windows acts as a literary documentary of a movement, documenting the people involved, the quiet victims and the corporations, governments and world bodies like the IMF pushing things forward. After all, how effective can solutions be until we can recognize the problem? There’s no point legislating and actively combating generically modified foods, gene patenting, IMF and World Bank restrictions on social spending and other effects of globalization without first recognizing them as problems to be solved. This is Klein’s actual goal, and she certainly succeeds through well-written, interesting and painfully candid accounts of both sides of the debate.

One thing that saves Fences and Windows from the pitfalls that often plague literature and rhetoric surrounding and supporting activism is a recognition that the anti-globalization movement is full of problems and incorrect assumptions, which often seriously hinder its efforts. Pointing out problems with not only organization but also the logic and messages coming from the marginalized left, Klein offers scathing criticism of the corporate world without letting their opponents off too easy.

Fences and Windows isn’t the answer to globalization that some may have expected, nor is it the dissertation-sized epic that was No Logo. Instead, it is a look at a culture, an examination of one step in a long road to change. From the tear-gas-filled streets of Seattle to a world where once well-intentioned calls for reform are labeled as fodder for terrorism, Klein urges readers to continue forward as dissent is only growing, the voice of opposition only becoming more fierce. If nothing else is clear from Fences and Windows, it is that something is growing. And it won’t be long until that something is impossible to ignore.