Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists, increasingly overshadowed by the coronavirus, have been discussing new and ever more desperate ways to grab attention for their next big publicity stunt.
Mooted tactics include: committing suicide in public (perhaps at the UN’s next climate summit in Glasgow later this year); hunger strike to the death; painting parliament green; spraying traffic lights black; blocking every station, airport, and motorway in Britain; and “scare the fuck out of people”.
These are among the actions proposed on a leaked XR discussion document titled ‘Vital Additions to Action Strategy.’ They appear in a list under the heading ‘Top Ideas from the Sessions.’
The radical ideas seem to be a response to concerns within XR that the public have grown slightly bored with or even irritated by their antics.
For example, the protests in October last year when XR activists were filmed being pelted with missiles and dragged off a tube train in London by angry commuters trying to get to work, is described in XR discussion documents as “arguably problematic for the movement” and “alienating”.
This, the document explains, is because “at the present time, we simply do not have the numbers needed to achieve our goals through mass civil disobedience.”
Extinction Rebellion has been conducting interviews with journalists to find out which of their stunts play well with the media and which don’t.
Unpopular actions were seen to alienate the public and the press. Positive, “funny” actions were overwhelmingly preferred to “doom and despair”.
A major impression from the interviews was that occupying London again will generate less media interest, unless it is a) substantially bigger or b) cleverer – “sitting in the road is not enough now”. Clear targeting and creativity are seen as essential for driving us forward.
There is no evidence of any XR member having actually volunteered to commit suicide or go on hunger strike in order to save the planet. And the document concedes that “highly sacrificial actions” have been vetoed up until now because of “strong pushback from the movement”.
What’s clear, though, is that there are elements within Extinction Rebellion who think that suicide and similar “highly sacrificial actions” are just what the cause needs.
In addition, as the Climate and Ecological Emergency becomes more dangerous every day, we must encourage more extreme actions to achieve meaningful change. This movement must not become ineffectual and forget its rebellious heart as it grows. Extreme self sacrificial actions can act as a vanguard for the movement, inspiring people in their rebellious journey and focusing the world’s attention. However, these highly sacrificial actions have suffered so far due to their lack of organisation / cohesion of message and because of strong pushback from the movement. For such high-risk actions, action design must be slick and highly considered. It also seems necessary for the movement to clearly outline in any strategy going forward, the intention to encourage more extreme action in response to genuine growing crisis so as not to face pushback from the movement as a whole every time a highly sacrificial action takes place.
One of the problems XR may face, however, in their desperate attempts to ramp up the green scare narrative is the stiff competition they now face from the coronavirus pandemic.
As more and more real people suffer and die as a result of the very clear and present danger posed by the actual virus, the public may rather lose patience with the fake news scare of man-made climate change.
he public might also begin to wonder why they ever viewed these unwashed middle-class hippies with third-rate degrees in environmentalism and poi studies with such indulgence.
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