Oh, to be Greta. The queue of (mostly) middle-aged men using their media platforms to attack her is now running around the block.
They have resorted to these ad hominem attacks because they have nothing left. Having substantially lost the political and the scientific arguments against climate action some time ago, they now face losing complete control of an agenda they have become accustomed to manipulating.
It’s like a Who’s Who of disorientated individuals.
We can start with the Grande Dame of anti-environmentalism: Koch-sponsored Brendan O’Neill, who Debrorah Orr reminds us “has already devoted a thousand or so of his rancid words to ‘The cult of Greta Thunberg’”.
Orr points out that O’Neill has suggested Greta “was a ‘millenarian weirdo’, then bulking out his thesis with the following: ‘The monotone voice. The look of apocalyptic dread in her eyes … There is something chilling and positively pre-modern about Ms Thunberg.’”
As the desperate pile-on grew in intensity day by day, Aussie right-winger Helen Dale provided an anomaly to the usual British, male, pale, and stale commentariat — but only demographically. She suggested:
As Orr (again) noted, this is “particularly crass” because people on the autistic spectrum, as Greta has said she is, are “commonly described as having a ‘meltdown’” when they get overwhelmed.
Therefore, Orr points out, “Dale is suggesting that a neurological condition should be triggered on camera, in a child, in order for her to suffer global humiliation.”
If you wanted further evidence of the displaced self-entitlement these people are exhibiting then ‘Weatherman’ and climate science denial shill Piers Corbyn can help out:
Not to be outdone in this veritable race to the bottom, Toby Young (who else) teamed up with the hate-blog Guido Fawkes to try and discredit Greta, because —wait for it — her mum used to be a musician.
Such efforts spectacularly backfired as people swarmed social media to ridicule Young (the son of a baron) for ‘calling out’ Greta’s privilege.
Times columnist Iain Martin couldn’t hold back either. But his was a more apocalyptic critique. He tweeted:
It’s perhaps unsurprising that someone who wills the government to follow the edicts of the Murdoch-owned, seventh best-selling newspaper in the UK, has a shaky grasp of what ‘democracy’ looks like.
Clearly, Extinction Rebellion’s mass protests (and public support for the group’s aims) isn’t enough to persuade Martin that acting on climate change is the will of the people.
Not to be outdone, The Sun unleashed Jeremy Clarkson to spray the pages with random abusive words in which he (sort of) explained that while “we all know that we are messing up the planet” everyone including David Attenborough was wrong about how to deal with it.
Oh, and environmental protestors should be sprayed with cow manure (it’s not entirely clear why). That’s fairly run-of-the-mill stuff for a bloke that got sacked for punching a producer.
But taken as a whole this stream of vitriol is quite a phenomenon. Clearly, Extinction Rebellion, the school strikes for climate action, and Greta Thunberg’s quiet authority have deeply upset these people.
There are obvious psychological explanations for their upset. Here are young people — beings who are routinely excluded from having a voice or a platform — who suddenly seem to be having some influence. For some commentators, that is just intolerable.
But there’s also a political explanation. As James Murray, editor of Business Green says of Greta:
She has found a highly effective way to communicate what is already known and accepted by every scientific academy on the planet, virtually every government, huge numbers of big businesses, and a majority of the public: we are in a *lot* of trouble. And her critics simply do not accept that reality, even if some of them pretend to. That is why they won’t come forward with a credible alternative plan for tackling climate change – they don’t think it needs to be addressed in a meaningful way at all.
In a media landscape in which former serious newspaper titles give space to Rod Liddle, Toby Young, and Brendan O’Neill, the prospect for serious debate would appear limited.
But next week, Extinction Rebellion are apparently meeting government ministers. Not the Institute of Economic Affairs. Not the Adam Smith Institute. Not the Taxpayers’ Alliance or any other number of shadowy economic libertarian campaign groups cosy with these commentators; Extinction Rebellion.
That’s a brave new world that O’Neill, Young, Liddle and Clarkson are predictably apoplectic about as they and their mates continue to slide into irrelevancy.