Are Extreme Stunt Climate Activists Like Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil Actually Fossil Fuel Industry Stooges? They Might as Well Be

Some climate activists have taken to defacing cultural icons. Many of these stunts have been symbolic, since, for instance, the glass over Mona Lisa protected it from tomato-soup-throwing Riposte Alimentaire protestors. But this seems so unproductive as environmental action so as to question the bona fides of the rebels. What exactly does great art made hundreds of years ago have to do with environmental degradation? If you want to send a more on topic message that will still get headlines, how about stopping traffic? The message could be that we soon can’t afford cars due to resource costs and climate impact, and users need to come to grips with a future where our now-routine commute-type trips are rare and expensive. I am no expert, but one would think it would be useful to tie the happening (as they were called in the 60s) to the message, and call attention to what bad future outcomes will be and what they mean for ordinary folk.

Instead some of these protestors are engaging in exploit escalation. IM Doc sent this tweet today:

More detail from the Sydney Morning Herald, courtesy Rev Kev:

Two climate protesters who sprayed orange paint on the ancient Stonehenge monument in southern England were arrested on Wednesday after two bystanders appeared to intervene and stop them…

The incident came just a day before thousands are expected to gather at the roughly 4500-year-old stone circle to celebrate the summer solstice – the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.

English Heritage, which manages the site, said it was “extremely upsetting” and said curators were investigating the damage. Just Stop Oil said the paint was made of corn starch and would dissolve in the rain.

Video released by the group showed a man it identified as Rajan Naidu, 73, unleash a fog of orange from a fire extinguisher-style paint sprayer at one of the vertical stones.

As voices can be heard yelling “stop,” a person wearing a cap and raincoat ran up and grabbed Naidu’s arm and tried to pull him away from the monument. A man in a blue shirt joined in and wrestled the paint sprayer away.

The second protester, identified as Niamh Lynch, 21, managed to spray three stones before the first bystander in the hat stopped her…

Just Stop Oil is one of many environmental groups around Europe that have received attention – and blowback – for disrupting sporting events, splashing paint and food on famous works of art and interrupting traffic to draw attention to global warming.

The group said it acted in response to the Labour Party’s recent election manifesto. Labour has said that if it wins the election on July 4, it will not issue further licences for oil and gas exploration. Just Stop Oil backs the moratorium but says it is not enough.

Now this sort of action is not as obviously backwards as (almost certainly paid for) protestors in Georgia opposing a pre-transparency law that would require US levels of disclosure for foreign donations to NGOs….trying to depict themselves as pro-democracy. What they are instead defending is US and EU meddling.

But alienating the public from your cause (and not demonstrating countervailing muscle, as labor does in general strikes) is so obviously bone-headed as to raise questions as to what is really afoot. From GM via e-mail:

You have to wonder if these are not organized on purpose in order to completely discredit any concerns about climate change. Just make it as ridiculous and abhorrent as possible so that people are maximally antagonized by the idea that there is a real problem.

It has always seemed to me that in the West “the left” was destroyed exactly following such a deliberate plan, by associating it with the various gender and race studies lunacies, which had two very “beneficial” effects — first, it moved attention away from the real issues that concerned people in the past, and second, it totally discredited “the left” in the eyes of the general population.

It has been a remarkably successful and well executed plan, if it was indeed a deliberate plan. But why would it not be?

One has to always remember that during the Cold War the two sides were largely mirrors of each other in their tactics, which is because practical necessities and analogous situational factors tend to result in convergent evolution. The CIA trafficked cocaine from Latin America while the KGB trafficked heroin from the Middle East, that sort of thing. And we do know that most intellectuals were fully controlled by the agencies in the Eastern Bloc, but that is because the archives were opened there. They were never similarly opened in the West. So one has to wonder whether the same programs weren’t in place there too.

It wouldn’t be the same, of course, because communists didn’t really have to do all that much ideological manipulation (the ideology was official and immutable, and there wasn’t real public debate anyway, so you didn’t need public consciousness shaping through public intellectuals and universities) but the main point — that the intellectuals were directly controlled — is quite possibly true on both sides. And it doesn’t at all have to be all of them being puppets on strings all the time, it would be much more subtle than that, of course.

So why not run the same playbook with respect to climate change.

Just as the crisis really starts to hit.

BTW, it is really, really noticeable now. I’ve been working from home for the last year, so I have been tending to the garden in my old grandparents’ house, and what is happening there is a very objective criterion for how things have changed:

1) Last year it didn’t rain at all from early August to early November. Not unusual for August, but extremely unusual for September and October. And we actually started running out of water in October, with restrictions imposed.

2) September was just another August in terms of temperatures, i.e. 30C every day, and then October was 25C every day.

3) Normally, fresh vegetables would end in mid- to late September, because the first frosts would come then and kill the plants. It’s how it has been all through the 20th century (I have direct memories since the early 1990s). Last year the last fresh tomatoes were picked around November 10. Only then did the frosts hit, but it was still 20-25C weather just days prior. Completely absurd for our region.

4) There was barely a winter. Which has been the norm for a while now — it started noticeably shortening around the year 2000, but now it is hard to even speak of winter. Two cold spells for a week each in December and January, otherwise it was 20-25C around New Year, and colder weather (but “cold” as in 10C, not -10C as it should be) basically ended in late January. This for a place that used to be buried in half a meter of snow for months a few decades ago.

5) Then it has been even more noticeable this year — normally trees will be green and blossoming after April 15th here. This year it happened around March 15. Strawberry season runs roughly May 20 to June 10, this year they were ready in early May. Cherries were ripe on May 10-15. Usually that’s an early June thing. Apricots are ready around July 1st, this year they already all fell of trees a few days ago and were ready around June 10. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, etc. you start picking July 1st the earliest, but it was June 15. Basically everything shifted by 15-20 days earlier.

6) Which may all sound great — who doesn’t want fresh vegetables in November? — but again, last year it didn’t rain for two months during the second main rainy season. The primary rainy season is May-June, and we did have regular rain in May, but June has been completely dry. Combine that with snow packs disappearing from the mountains, and you see where it goes in the long run.

Now it’s true that there has always been year-yo-year variation with respect to temperatures and rainfall, but growing seasons have largely been constant regardless of it. When they change like that, that’s an unmistakable sign of serious shifts.

So it’s a real problem — just when the effects of climate change become impossible to miss, how do you trick the population into sincerely believing nothing is happening?

Lambert concurred: “They must be cops. Who else would be so stupid?”

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  1. JohnA

    Apropos Stonehenge, which always gathers large crowds of Druids and interested onlookers at solstices, hence the timing, the stop the oil protestors failed to communicate immediately that the orange substance was dyed cornstarch that would wash away in the rain, not indelible paint, allowing the usual suspects in the media and politics, including Starmer, to denounce them as terrible vandals who should be locked away for life, or as near as damn it. And that was the message that stuck with the general public.

    The protestors do need to think things through better, to prevent their message being drowned out in apoplectic outrage from the establishment and their media messenger boys and girls. The Stonehenge protest is very much an own goal, sadly.

    1. AhMòStoBene

      Haven’t these protesters always engaged in “non permanent damage” of cultural ‘heritage’? I figured this was counterposed to the considerably longer lasting damage of climate change. The challenge posed is something like: does this appal you? Why? What are you accepting that is worse? What more do you stand to lose?

      The media coverage is almost uniformly to do with VANDALISM and it does seem to have sunk in with the public that this group is trying to do genuine damage to art and historical sites. When Starmer decries such acts as prisonable offences he is being disingenuous. Likely his paid role. This is a question of who has the loudspeaker & how much capacity most people have to think critically (a question of informatuon sharing and educational institutions, of power & hegemony management). If such protesters were an op, and not just slightly incoherent but rightfully upset liberals, wouldn’t they do some real harm? It seems like a plot hole that they are genuinely not doing any damage. If people were allowed a moment to cool their beans you would hope they might spot this but other aspects of the present dialectic are keeping folk stressed out of their minds.

      The strategy isn’t working and I’d never have banked on it working given the perennially gammony zeitgeist of British… English?… culture; but still it seems less like an own goal and more like the pitch & goal posts are bought-off and in on it.

      What would the proper strategy look like? I have no idea. The energy of the masses is being successfully captured before our eyes to oppose (boneheaded, malicious) green policy that feels like it targets lowly individuals but not captains of industry and their corpos. It will be captured by right parliamentary forces.

      Is climate catastrophism the right banner to organise behind? The big red one still looks best to me. Individuals concerned about climate collapse can do most by working to overcome their own fear of death, in the ancient spiritual and philosophical sense, and then seeing what action seems appropriate. Cajoling more and more of the people around us to reject Business As Usual (to the extent of what looks like self abnegation to consumerists and careerists but which isn’t) while setting good precedents for positive organising at the community level feels like the most accessible option for most right now. Trying to imagine the biggest most mind-changing PR campaign feels like a trap.

  2. lyman alpha blob

    This year the local pick-your-own strawberry farm unexpectedly announced there were opening up early about a week ago so people could pick the “early” strawberries.

    When I was a kid, I remember covering the tomatoes with a sheet in late September in case of frost. I haven’t even thought of doing that in years and have sometimes picked tomatoes into November in recent years (if the blight doesn’t get them all).

    Sugaring (maple syrup) season, which depends on freezing nights and warmer days, has shifted and most people start in February now as opposed to mid-late March.

    Last year I planted some snapdragons which are sold here as annuals. They blossomed into November so I didn’t pull them. Then it froze and I couldn’t pull them easily, and figured I’d just get them in the spring. This spring they started greening up again and right now they are in full bloom and look great by my doorstep. Nice to save $5.99 on plants this year, but in the long run I’m not sure it’s worth it.

    1. Trees&Trunks

      Crappification of everything in any way you can. In Sweden Thais are imported under slave contracts to pick blueberries, lingonberries and chanterelles because the local youth that used to do it can’t be bothered to earn some money or are too stupid to orient themselves in the woods or recognize the berries and mushrooms. The consequence is that the berries and chanterelles are picked too early. The berries have no taste, the chanterelles are still dry.

      1. steppenwolf fetchit

        What were the youth of Sweden paid to pick blueberries, lingonberries and chanterelles? How much would the youth of Sweden need to be paid to pick them today and learn how to pick them right?
        Does such a wage even exist in theory?

        If it does, how much would blueberries, lingonberries and chanterelles have to cost in order to support those wages so high the youth of Sweden would do it? Would the customers of Sweden be willing to pay a youth-of-Sweden wage to get the blueberries, lingonberries and chanterelles picked right at peak quality?

  3. funemployed

    It would be nice to think that nobody opposed to climate change is that stupid, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a clandestine “operation” of sorts. I’m afraid I also wouldn’t be surprised if they really are just idiots though.

    In my several failed attempts to do “activism” here in the US of A, I learned that strategic thinking and discussion is largely taboo among an awful large segment of the “activist” community here.

    I’ve reached the point where I avoid pretty much anyone who calls themselves an activist (I know many wonderful people do so, they just aren’t the ones I’ve personally met), as I assume they are primarily an attention-seeking, not terribly bright, bully. In recent years, in particular, being a white straight cis male means my inclusion means shutting up except to endorse literally anything someone who doesn’t look like me says (bonus points for calling out another white dude for privilege if he dares to say anything).

    Even long before that though, when people like me were welcomed and even disproportionately valued for our historically determined social advantages, I think “activist” had become primarily an identity for the purpose of social groupings, and “activism” was the name given to the social events held by those who so identified. Asking “why are we doing this?” or “how does this accomplish our stated goals?” or “who outside of our circle might join us?” or “how might a representative sample of people in our polity respond?” essentially just makes you a party pooper, and nobody likes those.

    In any case, I’m perfectly well that the reason I had this experience is decades of aggressively damaging and generally rat***king all but the least effective leaders and institutions, but the outcome, to get back to the main point, is that when the logic of “activism” is to get as much attention as possible for yourself personally as an activist, and willingness to alienate others is seen as proof of commitment to your identity, it is actually perfectly logical to attack revered art and historical objects, or briefly interrupt a sporting match, because that makes the news, and grants tremendous social cache in your personal little “activist” club.

    1. funemployed

      tldr: If success is defined as getting attention, and attention is what you need to validate your identity as an “activist,” this counterproductive nonsense makes perfect sense.

    2. Camelotkidd

      “And we do know that most intellectuals were fully controlled by the agencies in the Eastern Bloc, but that is because the archives were opened there. They were never similarly opened in the West. So one has to wonder whether the same programs weren’t in place there too.”
      Francis Stoner Saunders “The Cultural Cold War” makes the case that Western intellectuals were indeed useful stooges
      And the FBI’s Cointellpro made extensive use of agent provocateurs
      Plu sa change

    3. t

      Most of the activist I know tell these people they’re idiots. Cease Fire Now! Lets go burn down Wendy’s!!! But I suppose there are people who want to do something now and just get loud and when folks won’t join them at Wendy’s, they keep looking or roll their own.

      That said, I do know a couple of black block types who – as far as I can tell – are just out for a weekend away from the kids.

      Another faction would be well-funded media hungry grifters who have stoogy volunteers throw paint on Kardashians (but not football players) for the clicks.

      And there are no shortage of stooges. If I was infiltrating a ln environmental group, I’d certainly be scouting around for the paint throwers and Laura Loomer types. (Although apparently she’s unpleasant the folks funding Ben Shapiro and his idiot sister won’t have her.)

    4. matt

      too many ‘activists’ i know are either embattled in petty conflicts or circlejerking. they have a very black and white mentality, us vs them, mob mentality instead of critical thinking. too often you see things with an audience of your friends in the discord server who think meaningless acts are a hilarious own. it’s why i also stay away. the internet has made this infinitely worse, as you can surround yourself with people who think identically into this positive feedback loop of stupidity.
      i want to applaud people for trying to do something, which i really do appreciate. but engaging with these groups is so exhausting, and they’re far too ban happy. and so, nothing gets done. :(

  4. Louis Fyne

    to add a spin to Hanlon’s quip….

    don’t attribute to a grand conspiracy what you can attribute to stupidity and narcissism.

    (IMO) Much of modern day activism is as much about expressing to the world and one’s peer clique that one has “right-think” as much as any form of tangible social change.

  5. mrsyk

    It is frustrating to have argued your issue over and over, through every channel possible, by every “peaceful” means just to be duly ignored on a policy level. I imagine other readers can sympathize with that. Me, I prefer that the Mona Lisa not be turned into pizza Margherita. Not because of its cultural value so much, rather because what the destruction of cultural heritage as a means of communication says about our trajectory.

    1. i just dont like the gravy

      what the destruction of cultural heritage as a means of communication says about our trajectory

      The utter destruction of the biosphere wasn’t enough to convince you of our trajectory?

    2. AhMòStoBene

      But the soup protest did not threaten the Mona Lisa with destruction; it conjured for a moment an image of the possibility of the Mona Lisa’s destruction which, in reality, was never at all likely to be brought about by flung soup.

      It should be left to the Daily Mail and other such outlets to fulminate over such actions. For the majority the concern is not disrespect of ‘heritage’ (a novel packaging of history) — because there is none here, if anything there is an engagement with the power of ‘heritage’ — but what messaging can possibly work in such a treacherous bog as the modern information-sharing landscape when one is genuinely concerned about changing minds.

  6. The Rev Kev

    The oil and gas industry is one of the largest sectors in the world and generates an estimated $5.3 trillion in global revenue. With that sort of money in play, I think that it is a given that the big corporations have their own intelligence units for the purposes of spying on competitors, customers, politicians and also those opposed to those corporations. And I would also be not surprised to learn that the ranks of these intelligence units are staffed with former spooks from countries like the US, France, the UK, etc. as they not only have the training but also the contacts with their “former” employers.

    So I think that it is a given that they have infiltrated those environmental organizations and help nudge some of their ideas and targets. And this has probably been going on for decades. So perhaps this explains the obsession that these groups have with attacking artworks and cultural monuments rather than the corporations that are doing the actual damage. They have been “turned.”

    If this does not sound likely, I offer two data points. The German Greens in the 80s were anti-war, anti-nuke environmentalists but have since been “turned” into the pro-war fanatics that they are now. The second data point is how deep these undercover agents are prepared to go. It came out years ago that the British police sent undercover agents into environmental groups in the 90s where some of them not only formed relationships and lived with female activists but also fathered children by them.

    1. mrsyk

      I agree with your thesis, but what’s the point? The era of saving the whales is over. You can park them over by that clutch of hippies out behind the WalMart. Money owns western law. Nobody is going to step in and say “Hey big ag in the state of Iowa, you have to do something about all those nitrates you’re responsible for leaching into public water, and you have to do it now”.

    2. Aleric

      Rat traps. Lure the idealistic and energetic with tasty idealism, then the lid drops into the bucket of a dysfunctional and stupid if not controlled organization. The rats can be turned into snitches and moles against other groups if not directly neutralized.

      At this point it doesn’t even matter if there’s a chance these groups could be effective, half a trillion a year is being spent on internal controls and surveillance in the ‘free world’, if they weren’t able to lure fools with words, money and careers would require manufacturing activists to provide something for the controlling organizations to do.

  7. Louis Fyne

    Adam Curtis was spot on….the left and right have become Richard Nixon—paranoid and seeing conspiracies everywhere, when arrogance, pride, hubris, and/or love of money can pretty much explain things better and easier.

    “This is a film about how all of us have become Richard Nixon. Just like him, we have all become paranoid weirdos. It’s the story of how television and newspapers did this to us and how it has paralysed the ability of politics to transform the world for the better.”

    First broadcast 9 Feb 2009 as part of Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe.

    1. CarlH

      The more I learn about the history of our security services and other citadels of power, the more I realize that “conspiracies” are a normal part of how our system works. Cointelpro, Gladio, Paperclip, the assassinations of the 60’s, MKULTRA and it’s ilk, the run up to the Iraq War (WMD’s and other lies), and so many more that it would take days to list, are just a few examples off the top of my head.

      1. steppenwolf fetchit

        As they say about “conspiracy theories” . . . its not a ‘theory’ if it happened. Or is happening now.

  8. Polar Socialist

    On an anecdotal level I can say that stopping traffic is worse – that’s what they do in my corner of the planet. Quite regularly now. And instead of people shrugging it off (“loonies…”) they get angry (“[familyblogging] idiots!”).

    While one may concede that sometimes loonies can have a point, it’s much harder when you’re deemed to an idiot. Especially if you don’t offer anything, you merely demand that others take some undefined action to prevent an undefined catastrophe. And do it now! That not even re-arranging the deck chairs in Titanic, it’s just hand waving.

    If you’re going to stop the bus or tram* I’m in, you better offer me an alternative policy (tax free local food, for example) or a simple, understandable action point (keep every Saturday as an energy sabbath). By now everybody and their dog knows we need to act, what we all need is smart advice on how to act.

    We really don’t have time to wait for US congress to come around – and thankfully we don’t have to. There are, besides other governments perhaps more attuned to hear about alternatives, 1.3 billion people in the developed countries that can make different choices, can create political pressure, can understand complicated issues and, most of all, can not be forced to change – until mother nature does it.

    And sorry for the rant.

    * yes, the darlings here tend to strike the public transportation. Which has cut it emissions between 53% and 90% in the last decade. Two years ago they even blocked the bicycle lane I was using. Go figure.

      1. Polar Socialist

        Yeah, my bad. But considering my, shall we say, less than modest body mass, I can say that I have sequestrated more CO2 than I have released, so there’s that.

        1. The Rev Kev

          Still seems senseless to block the bicycle lane. You would think that they would have taken care to make sure that bike riders had clear access.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      Targeting the C-suiters would be much more appropriate. Go after the people who deserve it. If stopping traffic needs to be a tactic, maybe spread some traffic spikes across CEO driveways. For starters…

  9. Petra

    Regarding noticing climate change – remember that underwater volcano that erupted the other year in the Pacific – do a few google searches on recent papers published – this event had huge implications on climate and warming.

    1. Grumpy Engineer

      That would have been the Hunga Tonga eruption: It was the largest and most disruptive eruption since Krakatoa in 1883, and it notably sent significant amounts of water and ash all the way into the stratosphere.

      I’ve read a couple of articles that suggest that this eruption contributed significantly to the warming we’ve seen over the past couple of years, but I’m not enough of a climatologist to be able to determine if this makes sense. For the sake of humanity, I hope the articles are correct, because if they’re not, it means that the environment is more sensitive to CO2 than we realized, and our collective inability to keep annual emissions from rising (as seen in means that we’ll have some very hard years (no, decades) ahead.

      1. Paleobotanist

        Big volcanic eruptions usually trigger cooling…. I am a paleoclimatologist. I don’t know if there was something particular about this eruption that breaks this rule, but it would be highly unusual.

        1. Grumpy Engineer

          The Hunga Tonga eruption was underwater, and apparently it was at just the right depth to entrain large amounts of water while still being able to get it all the way to the stratosphere.

          I’m pretty sure this particular aspect would quality as “highly unusual”, but would the newly-injected high-altitude water vapor be enough to reverse the cooling normally seen after a big volcanic eruption? I don’t know.

      2. steppenwolf fetchit

        Once the Hunga Tonga excess water comes back out of the atmosphere, then the atmosphere-surfacesphere system will get back on track doing whatever it did before. Then we will know.

        My personal guess is that once the Hunga Tonga excess water is back out of the atmosphere, that the global will carry on warming as before.

  10. Chris Cosmos

    I think you’ve pointed out the tip of the iceberg on the activism problem. I’ve seen videos of climate activists stopping traffic and irritated drivers physically remove or try to run down the demonstrators. You won’t win friends by making overstressed people more stressed. We need to express love and friendship to others both for our mental and physical health and that of others. We are living in a new era of what I believe is a genuine move away from “rationality” into something quite new. One can no longer have an “intelligent” conversation about anything because conceptual/mythological frameworks are often too diverse due as a result of the “information age” that has resulted in the “disinformation” age. People often base their identity on what I call prejudices so, other than a few clearly brilliant people who share my intellectual background and age, I can’t talk to anyone without them becoming offended and agitated.

    We can no longer look to “experts” because the world of science is not to be trusted–just read the several studies on studies like the one John Ioannidis published a couple of decades ago. We cannot trust the “science” on anything because we don’t know the power-relations involved (just try reading RFK’s book on Anthony Fauci). Most of us who are boomers grew up in an era when information was very low and we could all argue on the basis of something “concrete” that we all agreed on. Today, I can’t because I would have to deconstruct my interlocutor’s whole framework which would piss that person off.

    So defacing monuments of one kind or another just alienates them and me. We have to look in the collective mirror and admit we are lost, really lost so we have to love in the direction of love and compassion as many young people I know believe.

    Defacing Stonehenge is a clear act of desperation which definitely alienated me even more than the Mona Lisa painting but that too is upsetting to me. But I’ll forget about it in a couple of days and my life, as are most people’s lives, way to intense and busy, to bother about it. I realized some time ago that what we need is healing not confrontation. Families you’d never think would be inundated with stress, family members with autism, drug addiction, mental illness, strange obsessions, cults and so on along with all of humanity facing possible world war. There’s just too much to think about and try to understand the whole of what is going on so I urge people to relax more

    1. Vicky Cookies

      While it’s true that many of us are overstressed and deal with personal crises, and we could use a little gentleness, I’ll say that activism is one expression of a deep concern for others. Of course, one can’t change either a governments’ policy or the direction of a multitrillion dollar global industry with the depth of your feeling. Funemployed above pointed out some of the more exasperating features of activist circles, but instead of disengaging out of despair or frustration, I think it’s worthwhile to try to nudge those involved towards more serious analytical, strategic, and tactical thinking. It requires compassion and patience, and the relinquishing of self-regard, but it pays off in little ways: I got a Marxist to actually read Marx!

  11. Henry Moon Pie

    It might be worthwhile to hear from the protestors themselves why they employ these tactics. Here’s Roger Hallam, one of the founders of extinction rebellion, being interviewed by Aaron Bastani just after Hallam was released from prison. Here is a link to Extinction Rebellion’s FAQ page that addresses many of the questions raised in the post and the comments.

    These are people who are optimists in a way. They believe that actions exist that can tip the scales toward changing our trajectory toward disaster. If you’re an optimist, what actions do you think might change that trajectory given the omnipresent propaganda in our culture either denying the reality of Overshoot or claiming that electric cars will fix it all? What will it take to wake people up from the “Middle Class Dream” that propels the consumption that is making the Earth increasingly unlivable for us and thousands upon thousands of other species? How much time do you think we have to accomplish that awakening? Would you prefer more and better podcasts or maybe head in the other direction to a Weatherman approach that bombed pipelines?

    I’ve heard these criticisms of non-violent civil disobedience from the time I was a teenager and anti-Vietnam War demonstrations blocked streets right up through Occupy. Everyone wants some easy, convenient, polite way of sounding the alarm. I doubt that such a way exists. At least the ER people are still trying rather than giving into despair.

    1. Peter L.

      I have a comment about your final paragraph. It is not important to me to have “some easy, convenient, polite way of sounding the alarm,” but instead to have a way that actually works. Just because an action is hard, inconvenient and impolite, does not in any way suggest it will be effective. The criticims of these activists are not based on the form—in and of itself—their protest takes but on its effects, which can be reasonably guessed to be alienating.

      I’m almost embarrassed to be saying something so obvious, but what matters is whether the action works. There is a simple argument with ample evidence that Extinction Rebelion people are counterproductive.

      I made another comment remarking that the 1960’s seem to have given left leaning people really bad ideas about activism. Somehow, symbolic gesture has come to be seen as the highest form of activism for people who sympathize with left causes. Methods for getting power and weilding it effectively seem to be studied and known only to the rightwing, now.

      I noticed this from the XR (Extinction Rebelion) website: “XR is Beyond Politics – we are not bound by political lines or cultural lines, just as the Climate and Ecological Emergency crosses those same lines. We do not back particular governments or particular political parties.” XR also askes, “ARE YOU A CRYPTOPRENEUR? Does defi excite you? XR GS is moving into these spaces with a clear eco-conscious mission.”

      Well . . . They are “beyond politics.” This seems to me to be almost a caricature of an organization dedicated to being irrelevant to forcing changes we desperately need. Self-defeating, liberatarian influenced organizations begging for help from Cryptopreneurs (wow!) are probably going to make things worse.

      1. mrsyk

        Sorry, but exactly what action does work? I’m pretty sure the people at XR would like to know. per your comment, XR is not allowed to make symbolic gestures (symbolic gesture has come to be seen as the highest form of activism for people who sympathize with left causes, I think not), not allowed to creatively fund raise, not allowed to frame “politics” as the corrupt uniparty it is, what else?
        You’ve nailed the reason, just have a look. Nothing works. Can you blame them for having to go to extreme lengths just to get the least bit of notice. I would remind you that climate change is going to make the earth uninhabitable and right quick at that.
        PT Barnum had something to say about publicity.

        1. Peter L.

          Thanks for your comment! I appreciate the reply. Forgive me for being a little pedantic in my response, hopefully you’ll see I mean it in good humour.

          XR is allowed to do whatever they want. Nothing I say will have any effect on what they are allowed to do. My words here have no power over them at all.

          My belief is that XR is probably counter-productive. The fact that climate change will make the earth uninhabitable does not tell us anything about what methods, extreme or otherwise will make the political changes necessary to prevent that outcome.

          Don’t you think there is something fatally paradoxical about XR being “beyond politics” yet also wanting to influence governments? Current power structures, in the US at least, are not going to change unless well organized groups gain power and force the changes we need on resisting powers.

          In answer to your first question: in my opinion what is needed is a long, tedious, difficult struggle for political power, that will necessarily involve gaining control of the institutions of society to force measures on, among others, the fossil fuel industry. There’s no easy answer, and “extreme” actions have to be evaluated on whether or not they advance this cause. I think some of the stunts carried out by XR are hurting the cause.

          And one little thing more: come on! “creatively fund raise” from cryptopreneurs? This is a red flag if there ever was one. Cryptocurrency, besides being prosectution futures, is probably one of the most utterly useless environmentally destructive human passtimes ever invented. It is a bad sign they are into this stuff.

          (Just so you know some of my thinking about this was influenced by reading If We Burn, by Vincent Bevins. Tactics and strategy can go wrong! Protestors—especially those in decentralized organizations—have histroically, as demonstrated by Bevins, run into serious problems sometimes contributing to the very problems they were trying to overcome.)

          1. mrsyk

            Thanks for this thoughtful response. Forgive me the negative tone above. It’s friggin heat dome hot here. Onward.
            My belief is that XR is probably counter-productive. Agree from my perspective, but I’m in m 60s and I’m quite convinced humanity will be all but extinct by 2030. But if XR is giving some young people something to live for, such as messing with the older generation who seem to have, if not gotten us into this mess, certainly didn’t do anything about it, that’s not a bad thing.
            Don’t you think there is something fatally paradoxical about XR being “beyond politics” yet also wanting to influence governments? Absolutely. Fatal paradox seems to be baked into our reality. “Beyond” is a poor choice of words.
            what is needed is a long, tedious, difficult struggle for political power That ship has sailed long ago. We simply do not have the time. Had climate activists taken a page out of the republican playbook, installed favorable judges/ lockstep party opinion fifty years back, perhaps. That, of course would have meant having the full support of the dems, so probably wouldn’t have taken seed.
            And one little thing more: come on! “creatively fund raise” from cryptopreneurs? I’ll give you that one. Sounds shady to me too. I did want to make the point that nothing happens without shit-tons of money.
            Appreciate your time and effort.

            1. Peter L.

              I hear you. I should be clear too, that I think these activists probably have good intentions, and I don’t want to be a jerk and make fun of them.

              I think I have one substantial disagreement. Let me try to phrase it in a funny way: We don’t have time to waste saying we don’t have enough time. One way or another it is going to take time to get the power necessary to mitigate the now inevitable harms from global warming. I just believe we need a coherent long term plan, which may take patience to implement and feel frustrating when it doesn’t look like much is happening.

              I can’t fully express the frustration and helplessness I sometimes feel about this, and in those moments I admire XR or whoever is DOING SOMETHING. At least they are trying. When I feel a little more calm, I think that we need to do the boring and dull work to lay a good foundation for a strong political organization. XR can continue their work, but sadly (or not depending on your feelings about them) I don’t believe they will contribute anything good. Like another commentator said, positive change will probably come from the global majority or the Third World in its original honorific sense.


              1. mrsyk

                Thanks. You’ve chosen “hope”. I’ve chosen “courage”. I’ll knock on doors if you’ll have a long hard think on mortality.

          2. mrsyk

            I want to add one idea here, not as a tit for tat, but for discussion. This regarding symbolic gestures, if someone were to ask me how we came to quit Vietnam, I would answer “Because four kids were shot dead at Kent State protesting the war.” I’m trying to distill this idea, go for it.

            1. Henry Moon Pie

              I perceive Kent State in almost the opposite way, as the moment when the Establishment escalated, and we folded. Not immediately. Everything was shut down in May, ’70. But then things began to simmer down, and before long, McGovern was taking a lot of energy, including mine. Back into conventional politics. Back into futility.

              That’s the way Haldeman and Nixon saw it, as a defeat of the antiwar forces, an attempt to scare them off that succeeded. How much Gov. Rhodes had to do with implementing that plan is not as well documented as it should be.

              What do I think ended the war. They realized a draft army wouldn’t work like it did in WW II because the draftees made rebellious soldiers. Everything had to be re-tooled to fight with a different kind of military, a volunteer military so they left the ARVN holding the bag. “Quang Tri, An Loc. Take Saigon by six o’clock.”

              1. Michael Fiorillo

                The war ended because field-level officers were being fragged, front-line troops were doing junk, working class kids were resisting the draft and acting out – look into the wildcat strikes in auto and coal, etc. in the early 70’s – in the mines and assembly lines when they returned home.

                Kent State was about sending a message domestically, but the war was already lost.

      2. Henry Moon Pie

        Jimmy Carter ran on “a government as good as its people. That’s what we have now: a government as good as its people. It’s a hard truth that if the American people were really committed to any kind of change required by our Overshoot moment, they wouldn’t squawk so loud every time the price of gas rose. There remains no better predictor of a President’s popularity than the price of gasoline.

        It sounds like you have not tired of playing the “institutions game” that you offer as an alternative to any kind of direct action. Does anyone really believe that Occupy would have appealed more to Joe and Mary Split Level if the Black Bloccers hadn’t come along for the ride occasionally. I’m tired of playing the Institutions Game. I’ve heard enough about “mo & betta.” It makes me nauseous to hear about someone “fightin’ for me.”

        I think ER, along with people like Jem Bendell and William Rees, perceive that current institutions are far from adequate for the task, and that the problem is deeper than politics. It’s cultural, at the least. Unless a new perception emerges that values life above money and profit, all those institutions, as long as they manage to survive, will not be able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

        Leary mused about Acid in the water supply. ER is trying to wake people up from the ‘Murcan Dream that has turned into a nightmare, consuming the last crumbs as it farts its last message of comfort and convenience.

        1. Michael Fiorillo

          Leary was a publicity hound, fraud and grifter; if ER wants to model themselves after him, it would say a lot.

    2. Jake

      You missed the point entirely I think. The point is that just ‘doing something’ isn’t always the right thing. These acts are alienating people who might otherwise support these activists and making it harder for everyone else to get things done, because the oil interests can rightfully say “look at these immature kids, they are stupid.”

        1. mrsyk

          Adding here, when I say “convenience of the masses” I do not mean their “carbon footprint” being larger due to convenience, although that may be the case. I agree strongly with flora’s “gadfly comment” below, for my own reasons. “the convenience of the masses” here refers to time/pay rates/cost of living relationships and the hurdles they erect. Who’s got time to protest besides this old man? Who’s got time to care?

      1. matt

        the activism is a cry for help. is it better to scream when you are being attacked, or punch your assailant? will the screaming draw people to your cause, will your attack escalate the conflict? it’s hard to know. especially in the middle of a fight, when nothing happening is rational, there is no time to think about the right move.
        throwing soup and paint is relatively easy; some people only have energy to scream. taking certain actions like engaging with politics or engineering takes a lot of time, money, expertise, that people simply do not have. or do not know how to acquire. (there are many, many, blockades to success.)
        is it better to do nothing, or to take an action that could go wrong? i’m obliged to agree with the latter.
        ‘a riot is the language of the unheard’ – MLK jr

    3. Jeff W

      “It might be worthwhile to hear from the protestors themselves why they employ these tactics.”

      Thanks, HMP, I agree.

      The members of Just Stop Oil know they’re annoying but they’re not looking to make friends. Here’s what one supporter says:

      “The idea is that they’ll hate the messenger, but they’ll get the message. So, while people say: ‘Oh, I don’t like this group of people because they take it too far,’ they have to acknowledge that the demand is feasible.”

      If they attack the actual infrastructure, they get no response:

      “I’ve been told so many [effing] times: Go to Parliament Square, go to an oil refinery or whatever. I’ve locked myself to an oil tanker for 36 hours. Nothing. I was just at Parliament Square for three days with 60,000 people, nothing happened. But my best friend throws soup on a[n effing] Van Gogh and we’re in the news for months.”

      [word changed to avoid filter]

      “[G]reat art made hundreds of years ago” has nothing “to do with environmental degradation”—Just Stop Oil doesn’t think it does so their protests are not “symbolic” in the sense that throwing biodegradable paint on Stonehenge means something—but, again, now the media (and this site) are mentioning Just Stop Oil, albeit in largely negative terms.

      If they engage in non-destructive acts against cultural artefacts—“the paint was made of corn starch and would dissolve in the rain” (and it seems like every one of their protests has been non-destructive)—all hell breaks loose—and Just Stop Oil gets vilified but, at least, they get attention. (There’s also a meta-message which is “Why are you outraged at the ‘destruction’ of manmade artefacts and not at the infinitely more destructive damage of the planet arising from continued oil, gas, and coat production?” which, probably, a lot of people miss.)

      If they stop traffic, as is suggested in the post, they risk delaying first responder vehicles (ambulances, fire trucks, etc.) or vehicles involved with urgent situations, and jeopardizing people’s lives—and then they’d really get vilified and, probably, more justifiably.

      It’s worth noting that Just Stop Oil is not Extinction Rebellion. Just Stop Oil’s demand is relatively modest. As this post points out

      Just Stop Oil don’t demand the closing down of the industry. They’re not calling for all oil and gas industry workers to be sacked and all petrol driven cars crushed. They exist specifically to demand that “the UK Government stop licensing all new oil, gas and coal projects.”

      And that article points to the Beyond Oil & Gas Alliance, created by Denmark and Costa Rica, “to facilitate the managed phase-out of oil and gas production.” So it’s not like Just Stop Oil’s modest demand is entirely unrealistic.

      We can argue that, whatever their rationale, the actions of Just Stop Oil are counterproductive—and maybe people are more outraged about that. But, really, even if one thinks that Just Stop Oil is “stupid,” how many people here say “Well, those Just Stop Oil activists are annoying, or, perhaps, worse, ‘useful idiots’ of the oil and gas industries, and, therefore, I am against stopping licensing all new oil, gas and coal projects in the UK.” Anyone?

      Sure, we can frame these people as “extreme stunt climate activists” and and say they “might as well be…fossil fuel industry stooges” but, as long as they’re getting their demand of having the UK Government stop licensing of all these fossil fuel projects on the political agenda—or, at least, mentioned so that it might eventually be on the political agenda—they’re at least succeeding on their own terms.

      1. Jeff W

        And, in keeping with the idea that it might be worthwhile to hear from the protesters themselves as to why they employ these tactics, here on PoliticsJoe is Just Stop Oil spokesperson James Skeet talking about the group’s action at Stonehenge and its strategy generally. [10:21]

  12. Patrick Donnelly

    Ya think?

    Glad to see this percolating here …

    Now consider the falsehoods in ‘Science’, that some call scientism.

  13. DavidZ

    IMO – early on these newer tactics brought significant attention to the problems and were useful and worked.

    Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be working anymore. Probably best to try something different now.

  14. Peter L.

    In my—small & limited—experience with activism among people who lean leftward, I’ve noticed bizarre confounding, mixing up of power and symbolism. When left leaning activists say “that was a powerful action,” what they seem to mean is “I was personally very emotionally moved by that gesture.” It’s almost the very opposite of power, in the normal sense of being able to force someone else to do something they don’t want to do.

    This tendancy to confuse a symbolic gesture with real political action seems to have thoroughly colonized leftish activist thinking.

    Someone must have studied this, right? I would love some good recommendations about understanding this phenomena. My gut feeling (very vague) is that the popular conception of the ’60’s absolutely degraded and warped the thinking of people who have left tendancies, so that we all have instinct to do ineffectual symbolic gestures as a form of activism. The image of a girl putting a flower in a gun, or something like that, pervades our thinking about how to do activism. It’s almost created in us a worshipping of powerlessness combined with tragic gestures.

    (A little anecdote: I had a discussion with someone about stopping or changing a city developement project. My instinct was to figure out exactly who was responsible for what and then start attending a lot of boring and confusing city meetings in order to work out who needs to be pressured to alter the plans. It would be nice to figure out legal methods for citizens to get in the way of the development.
    This idea was ignored, because it seemed too outlandish. Instead the other activists wanted grade school children to hand paint signs and march around with them in the relevant area. This would be “powerful” in their minds.)

    These climate activists, I would guess, are suffering from this sort of corrupted thinking. Lucky for Big Oil!

    1. ISL

      I think you are onto it. The point of activism has to be to grow the movement until it reaches a critical movement that forces the powers that be to take notice. If an act of activism doesn’t grow the movement it is counterproductive to the goals of the movement, though it can generate a steady income stream.

      Meanwhile, the solution will not come from the developed world – that boat sailed – the answer must come from the global majority. And there is no connection between the climate action movement destroying art work in the west and rural India shifting to cars and air conditioning.

      1. Peter L.

        Thanks for your reply. I think you are correct when you write, “Meanwhile, the solution will not come from the developed world – that boat sailed – the answer must come from the global majority.”

        There is no organized left in the United States (I’m less sure about the rest of the West). It is decades behind the right in terms of actually wielding the power necessary to force the measures needed to reduce the harms from climate change, and to stop contributing to global warming.

        However, those who lean to the left in the West need to do the tedious, thankless and surely decades long work of creating political organizations that can actually force through the necessary changes. Hopefully catching up to the global majority, as you put it. Extinction Rebelion is probably hampering this. As I noted in response to someone else, they explicitly claim to be “beyond politics.”

        1. flora

          What’s called the left in the US stopped being about economics a long time ago. Economic exploitation is of no interest. So as in France when the so-called left govt demanded everyone get rid of their old internal combustion engine cars and buy new EVs, “to save the climate and the planet”, it hit lower income peoples’ finances the hardest, and gave rise the the Gilets Jaunes – the Yellow Vest protests.

          Starting 25-30 years ago heavy manufacturing was sent to other countries (where there was little anti-pollution regulation), we were told it was to reduce our co2 pollution to save the climate. In fact, it was to reduce labor costs and break the manufacturing unions in the West and diminish the political/money power of the working class.

          The left will not touch any of that, will not touch anything to do with economic exploitation. At least now younger workers in the service economy are starting to organize and unionize. / end rant. / ;)

    2. Jake

      This! Exactly this. Greg Casar is the embodiment of your point here. He loves to grandstand and make a big show, but in the end he’s just as corrupt and ineffective as any other Democrat. Well… unless you are in the Austin real estate industry, he was pretty effective and helping them gentrify the city even faster, but voter ate it up because of his numerous symbolic gestures that made no real difference IRL but got a lot of impressions in social media. The point of the article makes great sense as well, why would people take the alienating, symbolic actions if they are not in bed with whatever corrupt interest benefits? I’m still fairly certain that the people who created Homes Not Handcuffs, or perhaps just the people in Austin who used to run that chapter, were/are in bed with the real estate industry. They conned the other activists into believing that if they fight to let the real estate industry get everything they could ever dream of in the name of density, expecting prices to drop when instead they went up even further. I suspect the monied interests are using so called left wing orgs taking unpopular actions to make the rest of the population oppose their fake orgs along with every other left wing org. And it’s working really well.

    3. matt

      i think a lot of this ties into the increase in media and shortened attention spans. people who want something big and splashy to go viral on tiktok! and also, how increasingly, people are alienated from material effects. we live in a world where thousands of images are constantly flying at our skulls, people want to make those images. it’s like the leftist activism version of what’s going on right now in us politics, meaningless words taking center stage instead of action. plus, throwing paint and soup is a lot easier than slow and unexciting coalition building. i don’t want to be the classic social media hater, but i’ve seen the effect it’s had on my peers. truly brainrotting. short term happy brain chemicals over long term societal improvement.

    4. Michael Fiorillo

      Activism, if it’s to be anything other than (often neurotic, at best) “self-actualization,” which by definition is anti-political, must seek to educate, organize, mobilize or help remedy the injustices/crises to which it is addressed.

      Who are these people educating, organizing, mobilizing or helping outside of their demographically-circumscribed little club?

  15. ajc

    But alienating the public from your cause (and not demonstrating countervailing muscle, as labor does in general strikes) is so obviously bone-headed as to raise questions as to what is really afoot

    Anti-abortion activists alienated the public, including multiple murders of abortion providers, from their cause and still won. Animal rights activists have been alienating the public from their cause for decades, and they have won many victories over the years, regardless of upsetting the complacency of the normies. And there is a lot of crossover with animal rights activism and environmental activism.

    The reality is that many of the climate activists, rightly imo, believe the world is on the verge of an apocalypse with the biosphere quickly (a century or two at the most, but more likely a handful of decades) becoming completely inimical to human life and all the other lifeforms we rely upon to actually survive and thrive. What does art mean in that context? What does the legacy of the past mean in that context, that context being mass extinction, including the extinction of the human species?

    Libs tend to embrace gradualism and have the expectation that change is a linear process, even though history consistently teaches that this isn’t so. And climate change isn’t a linear process, it is a non-linear dynamical process, that like all non-linear dynamical processes, is resistant to meaningful prediction, especially when the collective we is accelerating that process, and also accelerating the accelerating of that process.

    The juxtaposition that is lost in these art defacements by the normie public and the yellow press is that the normies are the ones who are really destroying art and our historical legacy by refusing to give up on modernity, ie industrialization and its discontents, which is the cultural dynamic that is actually rendering art, history, and soon humanity, meaningless, so much so that the prophets of the age are desperately welcoming the “intelligent” machines to replace us all.

    What’s remarkable is that the only time in recent history that the rate of carbon emissions dropped in recent history was the pandemic, because of the lockdowns, etc. and the toiling mass of humanity could not abide that state of affairs because accelerating the death of the planet for convenience and immediate comfort is more important than actually changing our collective trajectory towards extinction.

    Ultimately, I think the climate activists will lose, not because I don’t agree with their tactics or message, but because it is obvious that even the most well-meaning normies can’t give up the constant need to get their fix via all the dopamine pathways hijacked by industrial civilization, especially when the cure is nature that has already been heavily robbed of its wonder and beauty to feed that avaricious addiction.

    “Ashes to ashes
    We all fall down”

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, anti abortion forces did NOT win via in-your-face stunts. That is utterly bogus. Richard Nixon had already bought into their cause by cynically allowing abortions to be legal but not funded. A right you can’t afford to exercise is not much of a right.

      They won via Republicans pushing through conservative judges at every opportunity they had while Democrats were perfectly content to let “liberal” candidates languish.

      Animal rights activist stunts similarly have had no impact. I used to wear and would still wear fur. When it is really cold, nothing else is remotely as heat-entrapping (and the activists hypocritically give a pass to shearling but not, say, super warm beaver). Morally it is superior to eating meat since you get vastly more utility per animal death.

      What has worked is exposes of conditions of cruelty, like drug testing and the conditions in factory farms. That is reporting, not gimmicks.

      1. ajc

        They won by making and keeping abortion as a central issue to Republican nominations and elections, and they did that by constantly protesting outside abortion clinics with graphic pictures and every other conceivable method of guilt-tripping, in spite of “liberal” judges going out of their way to suppress anti-abortion activists’ free speech by creating things like protest buffer zones (definitely a precursor to the infamous Free Speech Zones of the Iraq war protests) around clinics in the name of “safety” for doctors, workers, and patients.

        This article covers concerted liberal attempts to suppress anti-abortion protesters’ free speech rights Unsurprisingly, many of those arguments made by groups like NOW keep reappearing in our age mis-dis-infomation.

        Animal rights activists have gotten slaughterhouses around the country shut down (I personally know about work in Chicago, which was famously a meat-packing town that got big), as well as pushing for more humane treatment under factory farming, which is due to their activism (ie working undercover or breaking into factory farms to film conditions) and has caused the Ag Industrial complex to overreact and pass Ag-gag laws in an attempt to hide their cruelty. And you see that they are succeeding with slightly better conditions for chickens and sows.

        And the filming of actions goes back (at least, afaik) to ELF/ALF days when those activists (or eco-terrorists as they were called at the time) filmed their actions and would watch and share their videos with each other and potential members. They create their own heroic narratives that stand in opposition to the typical normie narrative of those crazy activists. And they still do this. I’ve partied with vegan/animal rights activists and they sit around and watch videos of their groups and affiliates doing actions, many of which are unreported and unremarked upon by the mainstream.

        The fact is that gimmicks work. They worked for ACORN back in the day (it was central to their model of community organizing. Again, I know this because I was an organizer for them back then) and it worked for James O’Keefe and his heavily edited prostitute tax video that destroyed ACORN in the middle of their work for Obama in 2008. Sometimes the gimmicks blowback in the public sphere, but the reality is that there is a generation of kids coming up who know and understand that almost all of the adults “in charge” and demanding reasonableness are also guaranteeing them hell on earth as their inheritance.

        Plus you have the history lessons of previous protest movements where the protestors were reviled in their time and are considered heroic and noble a handful of decades later. And the organizers of XR and JSO are deeply aware of that truism. To them it is much more important keep pushing this in the media with outrageous actions, even with the expected negativity, because it keeps getting the message out, and it keeps letting people who otherwise would give up that there exists avenues for radical action. And XR has a global ecosystem of activism, activist training, etc that is open to anyone, by design, including the police and feds, because they believe that the purity of their purpose and the actual apocalyptic truth about climate change will overcome the machinations of the state and its security goons.

        1. steppenwolf fetchit

          I have always wondered why ACORN collapsed so suddenly and comprehensively after the Okeefe fake video and the consequent government defunding of ACORN.

          Was ACORN really so weak, hollow and un-self-funded as to collapse with that one little push?
          Apparently it was.

          Or am I wrong?

  16. flora

    I guess I look at O’s two beachfront seaside multi-million dollar mansions, look at Al Gore’s many multi-million dollar mansions (the last one was ocean side in southern California, I think), Bill (“I don’t care about trees”) Gates and Jeff Bezos enormous mansions, private jets, huge private ocean liners, etc etc…

    …and I’m tired of the “do what we say, not what we do” crowd. I am done with being told I must have less (so that they can have more).

    My gadfly comment du jour. / ;)

    1. steppenwolf fetchit

      I agree, with the following caveat . . . . if there is a way that my doing-with-less can degrade or attrit revenue streams or power fields going to those who have more, then I will do-with-less to a reasonable extent.

      The doing-with-less has to be weaponizable and weaponized against the doing-with-more classes of people. If I can bear a certain amount of deprivation to inflict that same amount of deprivation against a doing-with-more person, and that doing-with-more person can withstand ten times as much pain as I can inflict by doing-with-less, then the only way that “doing-with-less” will impose a meaningful amount of pain on the doing-with-more person is if ten other ” have-littles” join me in “doing-with-less” in order to inflict eleven times more pain on the doing-with-more person than each of us eleven doing-with-less persons feels individually.

      There was a saying among the officers of the Imperial Czarist Army to the effect that ” Quantity has a quality all its own.” But what would inspire a “quality-all-its-own” quantity of have-littles to “do-with-less” when we have been raised and educated in the spirit of learned helplessness and learned hopelessness?
      Can a million toothless anteaters transform themselves into a million toothy honey badgers?

  17. Michael Fiorillo

    Morally vain children (whatever their age) at best; industry/gov’t-manipulated fools, at worst. They conclusively demonstrated their political imbecility (if not’t penetration) when they shut down the London subways a few years ago.

  18. Joe Well

    Tangential to the question of whether these “activists” are stooges: Has anyone else observed that there are people who actually *enjoy* demonstrating, who get an adrenaline/dopamine rush from it? And that they tend to drive protests? Whereas for most people, it’s a chore.

    I noticed volunteering for the Bernie Sanders campaign that there were many, many more people willing to attend rallies and carry signs and banners (this has been shown over and over again to be close to useless), than to do the hard work of door-to-door canvassing and phonebanking (which still worked despite the high % of no-answers) or the office work that made all that possible.

    Which is to say, if they are stooges, it’s not that hard to find stooges who will do “stunt” activism.

  19. flora

    Offer something better, something that works, something that’s affordable. Stanley Meyer developed a water powered engine some years ago. Died young. Much speculation. Very short utube clip. (There are a couple longer utube videos you can find by searching ‘Stanley Meyer water powered car.’)

    Now, Elon Musk announces a new water/hydrogen powered engine. Sounds like it’s based on or similar to Meyer’s idea. utube videos available. Wonder what Big Oil will do if his engine works? / ;)

    Toyota has announced their new water/hydrogen V8 engine.

    1. flora

      the difference between Meyer’s engine and Toyota/Tesla engines is the former runs on plain water only and in theory can work on any existing ICE car, the later 2 run on hydrogen fuel cells which are expensive and require a new engine design to deal with the heat of hydrogen combustion. So they’re not a game changer economically, maybe Big Oil will leave them alone. A ~2+ minutes utube clip of a local tv news segment about Meyer’s car.

      Stan Meyers water powered Buggy

      1. Captain Obvious

        On modern day Internet one can’t know if people are joking, or they actually believe in perpetuum mobile.

        1. flora

          Well, that is true. It’s possible that it was a brilliant scam that fooled a lot of people into investing.

          What to make of Porsche’s efuel plant? A hoax? (If it’s a hoax it’s at the George Plimpton “Sidd Finch” hoax level of hoax.) A cutting edge experiment?

          Porsche Fires Up Production of eFuel, Made from Water in Chile

          It’s experimental now, but Porsche will be selling this environmentally responsible fuel for cars in the millions of gallons by the end of the decade.

          1. flora

            adding: their are some current utube videos about the plant and the processes involved in the manufacturing of eFuel.

  20. Javier Hernández

    “It has always seemed to me that in the West ‘the left’ was destroyed exactly following such a deliberate plan, by associating it with the various gender and race studies lunacies, which had two very “beneficial” effects — first, it moved attention away from the real issues that concerned people in the past, and second, it totally discredited “the left” in the eyes of the general population.”
    This is the reason I no longer identify as Left leaning from like a decade ago. However, rather than being intentionally destroyed from outside I’d say there is an even simpler explanation for the left betrayal of its core causes (environment, the worker class) in favor of academia lunacies: the commitment of money.
    It’s not easy for a politician or entrepreneur to say they support the environment, if they have huge homes, SUVs and massive consumption they will be immediately disproved. To support workers, they have to pay theirs well and push for minimum wage raises and working conditions that donors will hate them for. What if you support transgenderism? You don’t have to do none of the above and you can still pretend to be “revolutionary leftist”.
    The best current example is Justin Trudeau: massive ecocide to extracts some drops of oil from sand, what he does not cut he sets it in the world’s biggest campfire, the vanguard of disregarding privacy rights and what is he proud of? Setting rainbow flags in the streets.

  21. Planter of Trees

    The policies JSO agitate for amount to top-down sumptuary laws and demand destruction. In other words, state-imposed poverty. They might as well carry on vandalizing national treasures, because it’s not as if that idea is going to get any more popular with the public.

  22. Jake

    “But alienating the public from your cause” this article does a great job of capturing how hard it was to live in Austin and watch so called homeless advocates destroy that city just to prove a point because they were angry that homelessness exists. Creating meth camps and demanding that the drug addicts that live there be allowed to do whatever they want because “YOU CAN’T CRIMINALIZE HOMELESSNESS!!!!!11” is exactly the same ploy that these activists a using. They just ruin art or landmarks instead of peoples’ communities. But the childish motives are exactly the same.

  23. Jams O'Donnell

    “So one has to wonder whether the same programs weren’t in place there too.”

    Well, there is the example of Robert Conquest in the UK, who was part of:

    ‘The Information Research Department (IRD) was a secret Cold War propaganda department of the British Foreign Office, created to publish anti-communist propaganda, including black propaganda, provide support and information to anti-communist politicians, academics, and writers, and to use weaponised information, but also disinformation and “fake news”, to attack not only its original targets but also certain socialists and anti-colonial movements.’ (Wikipedia). I imagine the US was even ‘better’ organised for such propaganda.

    As for ‘offensive’ protests – anyone who is offended but is supportive of the general aim of the campaigning behind such protests is really under a moral obligation to suggest better targets which will be equally or more effective but not offensive in the same way.

  24. mgr

    “So it’s a real problem — just when the effects of climate change become impossible to miss, how do you trick the population into sincerely believing nothing is happening?”

    In my opinion, the one most crucial element to have a chance of averting the worst of climate change effects is/was found in one word, cooperation; at every level, especially internationally. Remember how the Biden admin was going to lead the global effort? Where dreams go to die…

    In any case, if tricking them into believing that nothing is happening is not enough to keep them docile, you could always try distracting them while effectively foreclosing on any possibility of cooperation let alone curtailing fossil fuel usage by starting Cold War 2. Oh, wait…

  25. Raymond Sim

    In the 70’s, when I was in my teens, I had some interaction with The Movement for a New Society. They seemed devoted to a future of eternal protest. I couldn’t see how change was ever supposed to occur.

    A few years ago I read an article about CIA-linked efforts to defang the American left, and their name came up. I wish I could recall the author or publication – it seemed credible, enough so that my worldview was rattled.

    Now, having seen the info ops around Covid, I’m firmly in GM’s camp on this: If sustained inaction is your goal, then societal rancor and confusion will get you what you want, and can be promoted with the prime actors remaining well hidden.

  26. steppenwolf fetchit

    I can think of why Climate Change Activists might not want to take their chances stopping traffic. They might get beaten up by working class people who have to get to work and who will be punished for getting to work late. Weren’t some of the Extinction Rebellion people in England who interfered with a trainfull of working class passengers chased down and in some cases roughed up a little?

    Fear of physical violence from bitter working class people might incline some Climate Activists to attack works of art, stonehenges, etc. instead.

  27. Thucydides

    “And we do know that most intellectuals were fully controlled by the agencies in the Eastern Bloc, but that is because the archives were opened there. They were never similarly opened in the West. So one has to wonder whether the same programs weren’t in place there too.”

    Anyone got a good source on that? About what was found about intellectuals in the soviet archives once opened, I mean. I am genuinely curious, but I bet there is no shortage of propaganda.

  28. Craig Dempsey

    I sense two basic worldviews in the comments above. Some people seem to think there is lots of time, and reject protests because long sober work to fix things is what is needed. Others more or less say that the end is at hand, and reject protests as no better than panic in a building fire. To the first group I say, Good luck! To the second group, maybe a little panic is good for calling attention to the crisis. Beyond that, perhaps it is time to move away from the panic, and towards an exit, or at least a less painful death. Anthropogenic Global Warming is here now, and getting stronger. Dangerous tipping points are hidden in the warming, and we may already have triggered future disaster we already cannot stop.

    Jem Bendell in his 2023 book, Breaking Together, believes societal collapse began around 2015, as measured by criteria such as life expectancy and food supplies. His advice is to accept the collapse, live graciously, and avoid doing anything too stupid; which I interpreted as do not buy a house beside the sea, in a flood plain, or in a desert. Find community. Grow what you can of your own food. In particular, be a Doomster, not a Doomer. By the way, a couple of his friends helped found Extinction Rebellion. You can read about it in his book!

    1. flora

      Around 2015? So, after the subprime debacle and Great Financial Crisis, after the banks got bailed out and made bigger, after foaming the runway, after fraudulent foreclosures on thousands of mortgage holders, after clear bank fraud went uncorrected, after Occupy Wall St? Oh kay. / ;)

  29. Clueless Joe

    XR, Stop Oil and other movements are obviously bullshitters or complete morons, for one obvious reason:
    As stated above, their key argument is “At least it helps spreading the message.”
    WTF kind of drugs are they on? Every fucking person in the West knows the message. The only question is if they believe it or not. But I was aware of environmental devastation and global warming more than 30 years ago, when most of the braindeads weren’t even born. Heck, if I had had my way back then, most of them wouldn’t even have been born, and we would be on track to actually solving things.
    So their key argument is utter nonsense, or they’re just complete morons who just discovered 3 years ago that there’s actually a massive issue, and assuming everybody is as clueless and ignorant as them, they think they have to “do something” to bring awareness.
    So, either they’re even dumber than your average dumbass, or it’s indeed some deliberate trick to sink the entire cause – which means that some, specially the leaders, are traitors and human scum, but doesn’t mean that they’re all paid opposition, many are most probably deluded manipulated fools.

  30. Mikel

    “It has always seemed to me that in the West “the left” was destroyed exactly following such a deliberate plan, by associating it with the various gender and race studies lunacies…”

    And gender and racial concerns have possibly been affected by similar subterfuge. For example, I don’t think Prof. Gerald Horn’s writings are lunacy, but there’s a BS zeitgeist that would have his writings confused with dubious pop culture writings about race.

  31. Joe Well

    I just saw a meme about this on X (in Spanish but I’ll translate).

    It compares the Stonehenge vandal group to a fictional group “Allinol” in the children’s movie, Cars II.

    They’re both part of a giant conspiracy to ruin environmental activism.
    Their founder is secretly owner of a petroleum company.
    Everyone hates their organization.

  32. Lefty Godot

    This is the protest equivalent of “strategic” bombing (dropping bombs on civilians). “It will make them support their government less.” A ridiculous notion, both for the belief that the desired effect will actually occur and for the assumption that the little people’s support or non-support for their government makes any difference. In this case, the protest will not make people more opposed to the fossil fuels industry (why would it?) and what ordinary people think about the fossil fuels industry or any number of other issues has zero influence on government policy, which is written by lobbyists and bought and paid for by the rich.

    A meaningful protest would involve publishing the names and addresses of fossil fuel company executives and major individual stockholders (might take some Ramparts style research first to identify those), then assign teams to show up at the residences of such people and do some protest actions there. It might be well to also include on the list the Congress members and judges who have been especially subservient to the fossil fuels industry. Oh, and in conjunction with the above or by itself, obtaining and becoming proficient in the use of firearms and knowing you rights to legally carry them is never a bad option.

  33. AG

    Since Yves mentions “stopping traffic”.
    In Germany it was done and it totally backfired.

    I don´t think it´s helpful to offer B&W answers here. After all protest has become one of the most difficult things.
    Which is of course also due to the demise of institutionalized resistance in form of labour unions.

    Where structures like these have been dismantled where do you take legitimacy from? How do you connect with the public? How do you create pressure against whom to achieve something?

    To “reach” the public of course has become an aberration in the era of social media.

    p.s. I never understood why our activists wouldn´t create ties with Chinese institutions to offer a serious structurally well thought-of concept to counter the environment issue.

    Instead these young people find great pride in NATO.
    Well the Pentagon is the world´s fifth biggest polluter, if Karen Kwiatkowski was right on “Judging Freedom” a couple of days ago.

    So why not address that? Or try to address the German agenda of creating a bad train system so as to not weaken domestic car manufacturers. Try to end the Ukraine war. Inform people with investigations into true power. But being apolitical (i.e. pro government) is the new “sophistication”.

    These are political issues which are apparently too much to handle for those kids today.

  34. steppenwolf fetchit

    Here is a reddit post proceeding onward from the news that Just Stop Oil has orange-spray-painted Taylor Swift’s private plane at a British airport, to illustrate the concept that ” billionaires are not immune”.

    It then goes on to discuss the funding source for Just Stop Oil ( and other groups) and what the funder ( a Getty Fortune heir) does or does not have to do with the oil industry itself.

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