D_oppelganger_, the latest book by the writer and activist Naomi Klein, explores the “Mirror World” in which left and right collide, mix, and switch positions. The book fuses memoir, introspection, and polemic. The main target of the latter is Klein’s titular doppelganger, the writer Naomi Wolf. Like Klein, Wolf is a woman, a public intellectual, and the author of a number of bestselling books; back in the 2000s, both were outspoken critics of the Bush administration. Unlike Klein, Wolf has a track record of being a sloppy researcher and in some cases being blatantly wrong. In 2019, Wolf had a book pulled by the publisher because she had fumbled basic historical categories and was humiliated live on the BBC for it. To Klein’s frustration, she has often been confused with Wolf.

“Wolf serves as a strawman, allowing Klein to dismiss more reasonable criticisms.”

Worse yet, during the pandemic, Wolf embraced political stances that Klein finds unsavory. Wolf emerged as an outspoken skeptic of lockdowns and the Covid vaccines and was banned from Twitter for spreading alleged “misinformation.” Doppelganger is Klein’s first-person account of following Wolf down the rabbit hole of right-wing “anti-vaxxer” politics. To give Klein her due, Wolf says some pretty stupid and outlandish things. But in Klein’s account, Wolf becomes a stand-in for all deviations from the party line on Covid. Hence, Wolf serves as a strawman, allowing Klein to dismiss more reasonable criticisms by association.

At various points, Klein makes pained admissions that during the pandemic, she and her team, the left, leapt to conclusions and then dug in. For instance, here is Klein on the origins of the virus: