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Tag Archives: extinction rebellion

Protest tactics matter

By 2353NM  

Those that demonstrated around the world for ‘Extinction Rebellion’ recently have certainly been making headlines. Pity it is for the wrong reasons. On an intellectual level, their point is sound — unless there is meaningful and urgent efforts across the world to mitigate climate change, there is an environmental (and by inference economic) disaster just around the corner. All you have to do to see the evidence of unprecedented change in climatic conditions is to recall that a considerable part of Binna Burra Resort in South East Queensland burnt to the ground in September. Binna Burra’s claim to fame was its location in an unspoilt rainforest. Typically, rainforests don’t have bushfires.

A lot of the Extinction Rebellion activities are based on protest actions in the past such as the anti-Vietnam War movement in the 1970s. In reality, as the politicians of the 1950s retired there would have been the gradual de-escalation of tension between the Communists and Capitalists of this world in any event. It’s probably also fair to suggest that the only lasting effect of the protest marches of the Vietnam War era has been the lack of acceptance that those who served overseas in the Vietnam War endured when they returned home when compared to those that served in World War 2 and other conflicts. It really wasn’t the conscripted soldier’s fault that they were sent to Vietnam.

Certainly, those that are concerned about the future of the world in a potential climate disaster have the right to their opinion and to protest the lack of apparent action to correct the perceived wrong. Those that choose not to join the ‘rebellion’ also have the right to their opinion and the right to get to where they need to be without delay from ongoing protests in our big cities. However people that do marketing for a living will tell you the days of the over-hyped advertising screaming at you (as the protesters are doing) to buy a particular product are long gone. Most have realised it doesn’t work, except those that inhabit the wastelands of shopping channels on third rate digital television stations. Even then, they have to give you two items for the price of one to convince you to call ‘in the next 20 minutes’. So, blocking roads, gluing themselves to infrastructure and so on may get a few cheap headlines but it doesn’t answer the relevant question; what exactly do they believe should happen and how exactly do we get there?

This blogsite published a piece after the last federal election suggesting that the ‘anti-Adani’ caravan from Melbourne to Clermont in Central Queensland was a disincentive for people to support political action on climate change. The article suggested

They rolled into towns that are certainly not in ‘boom times’, having weathered a lot of economic changes in recent times due in part to drought and the cyclical nature of mining to tell everyone that their jobs and lifestyle should immediately and irrevocably change. Not subtle or conciliatory, is it?

Extinction Rebellion are using the same tactic. Demanding instant and immediate change without offering a preferred solution or a practical method of getting there is not realistic. It is the same problem the Greens suffered in 2009 when the Rudd Government was prepared to legislate for an emissions trading scheme. As we noted in the same article

The scary thing is that it’s not the first time Brown and the Greens have not seen the forest because of the trees. They voted on principle against former PM Rudd’s emissions reduction scheme in 2009 because the target range of 5 to 20% reduction didn’t go far enough. A 5 to 20% reduction was politically achievable and would have reduced emissions. Voting against the legislation meant a 0% reduction in emissions, which is what has occurred. ‘Principles’ don’t reduce emissions; legislation is far more effective.

As a result, the last 10 years of Australia fiddling while the earth burned is largely due to the Greens lofty principles overruling logic and understanding what can be achieved, together with absolutely no idea of how or when to compromise and gain part of what they want instead of nothing.

On the Nine Media news websites, Madonna King recently discussed how Extinction Rebellion is failing to achieve its aims. Unlike the demonstrators, King identifies the problem and offers a solution.

Just imagine if they tried something else — like getting every year 9 student in the state to write to the Premier, and plead for a hearing, for example.

Imagine how the media headlines might be different. Voters — aka mums and dads — would be helping out with Facebook posts, and Twitter feeds, posting letters and making banners.

As King argues, the Same Sex Marriage debate wasn’t won by people gluing themselves to roads in peak hour or other headline grabbing stunts, it was won by consistent, targeted consensus building and facilitating change in the attitude of the community, not only in Australia but around the world. Twenty years ago, love between consenting adults of the same gender was still illegal in some states of Australia and there was discussion on the need to protect the environment from climate change. Today people are free to love and marry whoever they like, regardless of gender and we’re still having the argument on climate change.

It’s pretty obvious which action group has the better tactics.

What do you think?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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Celebrity Protesters and Extinction Rebellion

Benedict Cumberbatch. Olivia Colman. Fine actors. They believe in Extinction Rebellion, or perhaps, rebelling against the prospect of extinction. The environment thing, humanity as a damnably scandalous, ecologically damaging species. But they also believe in taking sponsorship from the very same entities who are doing their best (or worst) to engage in matters of existential oblivion. So the circle of contradiction, even hypocrisy, is complete.

The matter has come to the fore over overt expressions of support for XR’s two-week effort of disruption in London by the entertainment set. Severable notable sites have received the attention of the climate change protest group. The Treasury building has been sprayed with fake blood. The London Underground train system has been disrupted. Protestors have glued themselves to trains, to floors and even mounted trains. Roads to Westminster were blocked, sit-ins staged at City Airport. Over 1,700 arrests have been made.

Phil Kingston was one such figure, not exactly a rabble rouser or hardened rioter. The 83-year-old glued his hand to the side of a carriage at Shadwell and was concerned for his grandchildren. “I’m also very concerned about what’s happening in the poorer parts of the world who are being hit hardest by climate breakdown.” Being Christian, he expressed concern about “God’s creation being wrecked across the world.” Kingston was also jointed by a rather eclectic sampling: a vicar, an ex-Buddhist instructor, and a former GP.

The incident, which involved aggressive scuffling between commuters and the protesters, was acknowledged in a statement from the movement as something divisive. “In light of today’s events, Extinction Rebellion will be looking at ways to bring people together rather than create an unnecessary division.” Others were keen to pick holes in the rationale of the protest: Why, for instance, get at an electric train? Within XR, things are far from uniform.

Such protestors were a rather humble lot, but it did not take long for the bigger fish to join the shoal. Cumberbatch added his voice of support, his grin flashing as it was snapped by cameras in front of the Extinction Rebellion hearse blocking traffic to Trafalgar Square. Behind him were the conspicuous words hovering with spectral, foreboding promise: “Our future.”

The criticism of this was not far behind. Cumberbatch is the very conspicuous “brand ambassador” for MG in India. (Previously, Jaguar counted him among their celebrity proponents). The MG GS sports a particularly thirsty engine, and the actor is featured in an advertisement doing rounds in one on, of all places, Trafalgar Square. MG India’s Hector SUV has also boasted Cumberbatch’s smooth persona.

Academy award winner Colman has also found herself at odd between protest and brand. Having openly expressed her support for the movement, questions were asked by some of the more barbed wings of the British press whether there might be a clash between being on a British Airways inflight video, and disrupting flights.

Over the summer, Oscar winning actress Dame Emma Thompson was also ribbed for flying from Los Angeles to London to participate in an Extinction Rebellion protest. Her explanation to BBC Radio 4 was that the objects of her job, and being a protester, might not always converge. “It’s very difficult to do my job without occasionally flying, although I do fly a lot less than I did.”

Those bastions of supposed establishment wisdom, such as The Spectator, were chortling and derisive. Toby Young was keen to highlight how purchasing vegan baguettes at Pret a Manger was inconsistent with anti-capitalist protest. He also expressed, at least initially, concern at how law enforcement authorities had, generally speaking, been models of restraint before XR enthusiasts. Had there been “a group of Catholic nuns protesting about changes to the Gender Recognition Act, the riot squad would have been straight with the tear gas.” For Young, it was good to laugh at these modern millenarians infused with the spirit of apocalyptic terror.

The issue of celebrity encrustation, however, was bound to come by and find voice. And the engine room of entertainment turns the moral message, however hypocritical, into entertainment. Bite the hand that feeds you and call it a show. Having anticipated the rage, the celebrity big wigs have turned vice into a virtue. An open letter with a hundred names or so, from Sir Bob Geldof to Sienna Miller, took to the barricades and distribution channels with an open letter of affected contrition.  “Dear journalists who have called us hypocrites. You’re right. We live high carbon lives and the industries that we are part of have huge carbon footprints.”

What matters is the broad church of hypocrisy. “Like you – and everyone else – we are stuck in this fossil-fuel economy and without systemic change, our lifestyles will keep on causing climate and ecological harm.”

Those behind the letter stressed the speed of change as their concern. “Climate change is happening faster and more furiously than was predicted. Millions of people are suffering, leaving their homes and arriving on our border as refugees.” Children, through the voice of Greta Thunberg, had also called upon “the people with power and influence, to stand up and fight for their already devasted future.” (Rather cocksure are these celebrities, they, who wield such, as yet unmeasured influence).

Unlike those critical journalists, the signatories cannot help but be just a touch smug. There was “a more urgent story that our profiles and platforms can draw attention to. Life on earth is dying. We are living in the midst of the 6th mass extinction.”

Much, and in some cases too much, can be made about the celebrity activist who undercuts the argument. “None of us,” explained Sarah Lunnon of Extinction Rebellion, “is perfect.” The argument is still worth making, and publicity still worth having. Unfortunately for the likes of Cumberbatch, the gravity of such messages can be obscured by the person as label. In revolution, becoming a label is not only counterproductive but deadly. Protestors like Kingston can just hold their head that much higher.

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