Inevitably, the backlash against Extinction Rebellion is in full swing, writes Suzanne Harrington.
YOU would expect clickbait-desperate sections of the media to wade in with insults and inaccuracies, but everyone is at it, from the rabid end of Twitter to the British PM.
“Hemp smelling unco-operative crusties,” said Boris Johnson, of the middle aged and retired people who have been peacefully clogging up areas around the UK parliament. London has had the most arrests of the 60 participating cities worldwide.
The Gardai, on the other hand, have praised the peaceful protestors in Dublin, who sang to them as they were being arrested: Gardai, we love you, this is for your children too.
Johnson thinks he will be pelted with eggs if he appears in public. He doesn’t quite get it that Extinction Rebellion is non-violent, and wouldn’t dream of throwing anything, or wasting eggs. Not to mention the fact that the movement is largely egg-free, because the meat and dairy industry creates more global carbon footprint (25%) than all forms of transportation combined (14%). Has he been briefed?
Nonces, screams Twitter. Posh vegan nonces, disrupting the daily lives of ordinary people. (A nonce, you will remember, is English slang for paedophile).
Extinction Rebellion, according to Twitter, is full of them: burn in hell, you insufferable eco-terrorist nonces — that’s a direct quote. Using more joined up contempt, sociologist Frank Furedi calls the actions “a carnival for middle classes who love to dress up as activists.” Even the Guardian complains that the movement is too white and middle class. Talk about missing the point.
Here’s what the movement is: terrified enough at the prospect of mass extinction to take time off work from teaching, building, doctoring, nursing, office working, farming, accounting, studying etc, to beg governments to tell the truth, to act now, and — because opposing political parties are so rubbish at working together for the greater good — to appoint citizens assemblies to get change started.
The New York Times reports how Extinction Rebellion “urges its members to try and get arrested so it can use the judicial system as a platform to force change”, making it “one of the most prominent and radical climate movements worldwide.”
Yet who wants to spend their precious annual leave in a police cell? Why would people risk their jobs for a possible criminal record? Be called a nonce on Twitter for your trouble? Be screamed at by the media for causing inconvenience?
Petitions, campaigns, polite letters to the government — people have been doing this for decades and it hasn’t worked.
So now we have middle class professionals locking themselves on to government buildings and octogenarians being arrested in tents. “If your fire alarm goes off in the middle of the night you don’t turn it off and say, oh you’re disturbing my sleep,” says Dr Emily Grossman, of Scientists for Extinction Rebellion.
Because when it comes to the crunch — and science says we are almost there — climate wars, starvation and mass extinction are the most inconvenient of all. Like really, really inconvenient.