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Friday, 4 May, 2001, 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK
Naomi Klein: Know logo
Naomi Klein
Anti-globalisation has gone global. We are experiencing a wave of anti-corporatism, and a young Canadian woman is at its crest. Caroline Frost of the BBC's News Profiles Unit watches author Naomi Klein take on the world.

Activists abound. They've been there, seen it, done it, bought the T shirt. And now they are all reading the book.

Naomi Klein's No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies examines all the forms of brand imperialism effected by such market swampers as Microsoft, Wal-Mart and McDonald's.

McDonald's meal
Big brands join forces to provide a balanced meal

In her book, Canadian journalist Klein explains how these companies have become purveyors, not of products, but of brands and ideas. They are "professional teenagers forever trailing the scent of cool".

Their success, she says, is measured by McDonalds' golden arches, the Coke bottle and the other logos that have become "the root of our international language, by force of ubiquity".

These are not new hypotheses to any self-respecting political activist. But Klein's smoothly sculpted, cut-to-the-chase, analysis of the capitalist greed of the few behind the exploitation of the many has brought old arguments to a fresh audience.

And her account of different working conditions has provided enough statistics to fuel and align disparate protest groups.

Protesters converge in Seattle
Protesters converge on the WTO meeting in Seattle

So is this an angry young woman who has lighted upon a cause? Or a cynical jumper on a millennial bandwagon, now riding her own gravy train?

In fact, Naomi Klein started writing her book five years ago, long before the seminal Seattle demonstrations.

Her research took her from the London courtroom of the McDonald's 313-day libel trial to the factories of Jakarta. But this odyssey was triggered at home by her own experience on university campus.

Klein, a self-confessed dedicated follower of fashion, had always been fixated on labels. Bright neon signs punctuated her visual memories of childhood, when her favourite was "the fluorescent yellow gorgeousness of the Shell sign".

Signs of protest: Starbucks comes under attack in Seattle

She epitomised the teenage rebellion against American hippie parents who had moved to Canada to dodge the Vietnam War draft.

Her Marxist grandfather was the first man to call a strike at Disney, but Klein, born into the pulsating corporate heart of North America, was described in her high-school yearbook as the girl "most likely to be in jail for stealing peroxide".

She was a marketer's dream, until she went to college and her radical roots reasserted themselves.

There, she campaigned against gender and racial discrimination. Later as a college researcher, Klein found other students complaining that their education was becoming compromised.

Their academic analysis was being funded by swashbuckling corporations with deep pockets and thus becoming little more than market research.

She firmly placed the blame for this and other disparate economic, environmental and political ills at one door, that of corporate greed. Her weekly column in the Toronto Star became a forum for all things anti-exploitative.

Seattle police use tear gas to control protesters
Seattle police use tear gas to control protesters

Now she has written what is being termed the "Das Kapital of the anti-corporate movement".

In it, Klein keeps her thesis alive with mind-boggling facts and figures. Michael Jordan's 1992 salary for endorsing Nike trainers, for instance, was more than for the entire 30,000-strong Indonesian workforce employed making them.

Such digestible statistics make this more a dramatic story than political diatribe, and the book is an international best-seller.

But it is this success that has laid Klein open to contradiction.

The shame of big corporation salary discrepancies is one of the major themes of No Logo. The author's own book royalties may not go down well with the Asian sweatshop workforces whose plight she conveys.

Nike logo
The promise of success: the Nike swoosh

But Klein is unperturbed and protected by the strength of her ideas. She has no problem with money being made by herself or others. It is with misappropriation that she takes issue.

"Starbucks pretend to sell us community, but they're selling coffee," she says. "This is a betrayal. Community is a strong and powerful idea, and I don't want it stolen from me."


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