Disaster Capitalism, 2020

Andrew Freiband
2 min readMay 6, 2020
The Republican position is that this may happen every single day now. Image from Flickr/Michael Horan

Let us never forget 9/11 — and how the terrorist attacks provided the political cover for the largest seizure of civil liberties in the US since Asian-Americans were mass-interred during World War 2, and how the PATRIOT Act still enables intrusions into our digital privacy that were once the stuff of dystopian sci-fi. 9/11 is when the political establishment in America began to use the term ‘Orwellian’ as a compliment. 2,996 Americans died that day. Everyone seemed able to agree on at least this one thing: it was horrific, and the country was traumatized. And in the wake of that trauma, many of our fundamental laws were changed without due public consideration.

Imagine how much the Bush Administration could have accomplished if that had happened every day?

Well here we are in 2020. The country is administered by oligarchs who have invited 70,000 American deaths in 6 weeks. They are projecting that by June they will be enjoying a 9/11 every single day. It’s not incompetence, it’s not disregard. It’s disaster capitalism at a staggering scale. We are — all together — on our own in the face of the greed, opportunism, and malice of the highest levels of government.

Local governments have less to gain by disaster capitalism, because they do not influence the big systems in quite the same way. Their bandwidth for profit is somewhat less; their proximity and accountability to citizens is somewhat greater. This is not to say that there aren’t opportunists capitalizing on this catastrophe within local and state governments. However, the wealth that will be won, and the power that can be seized in this moment at the national level are enormous, enormous, enormous.

And people are devastated, rightfully unable to respond, confined and unable to speak up or march in the streets. It’s a frighteningly perfect storm. We will watch this happen.

The best we can do right now is survive, and cultivate habits of care for one another so that when we finally can emerge back into our country, we have practice in real solidarity and can recognize all the things that have been taken away, and we can join together to take them back and then some. There are a very, very few enemies of the people; this is not a massive conspiracy. They will be easy to recognize, if we’ve weathered this storm with our humanity intact. But getting there will be hard, and — like so many said about September 11th — we have to never forget, each day that we experience it again and again and again, just like the President wants.



Andrew Freiband

Filmmaker, Teacher, Researcher, Founder and Director of the Artists Literacies Institute (artistsliteracies.org)