“Shock Doctrine” Enables Post-Hurricane Privatization in Puerto Rico

by Vins

In September 2017, Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, leaving citizens vulnerable to the ‘shock doctrine,’ which is when leaders use a time of tragedy to force privatization. An article by Reed Richardson, published by FAIR, notes that the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, has used the “shock doctrine playbook” to push privatization of schools and the island’s power utility. Naomi Klein introduced the term in her 2007 book, The Shock Doctrine. Many are unable to afford schooling and power, yet privatization is profitable for government and business. The situation is similar to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, yet establishment media have neglecting this aspect of story when it comes to Hurricane Maria.

As Richardson summarized, “under the ‘shock doctrine,’ disasters are to be exploited, not mitigated—and the main role of the corporate press is not to notice.” Richardson’s analysis of corporate news coverage on Puerto Rico after Maria documents how corporate news outlets–including  ABC Newsthe New York Timesthe Washington Post, and Fox News have failed to cover this aspect of the story.

This issue matters globally because any country recovering from a natural disaster is susceptible to the shock doctrine. If exposed by media coverage, leaders are less likely to push capitalism in times where citizens are vulnerable. As the article explains, corporate media has covered Hurricane Maria’s aftermath anecdotally; in other words, by simple observations. These stories tend to quickly fade within a matter of days, and take attention away from larger issues like the shock doctrine’s role in privatization of basic services.

Source: Reed Richardson, “Media Ignoring Puerto Rico’s ‘Shock Doctrine’ Makeover” FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting), February 9, 2018, https://fair.org/home/media-ignoring-puerto-ricos-shock-doctrine-makeover/.

Student Researcher: Jayda Noyes (University of Regina)

Faculty Evaluators: Janelle Blakley and Patricia Elliott (University of Regina)