Climate activist Greta Thunberg is only a child, but her activism is attracting hatred from world leaders and internet trolls alike. Whats up with that?

I sat on my own lounge a couple of days ago and listened to one of my parents and my in-laws relay so much hate towards, for all intents and purposes, a 16-year-old (now 17) that I could hardly think of how to appropriately react whilst remaining diplomatic. When I drilled down as to why one of them hated Greta Thunberg so much, I was met with one reasonable reply: “I hate her face”.

If I had achieved a scintilla of what she had by her age in my entire life, I would be so proud of myself, and my parents would be so proud of me. She’s been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, for goodness sake.

But it’s not just my parents’ generation. Greta Thunberg has engendered so much vitriol from around the world and from every conceivable age group that I am staggered. I am absolutely astounded at the level of hate, pure spite, that she has attracted. We have had years of it from politicians, commentators, lobbyists, businessmen and any number of people associated with the right. As the Irish Times opines:

Even for someone who spends a lot of time on Twitter, some of the criticism levelled at Thunberg is astonishing. It is, simultaneously, the most vicious and the most fatuous kind of playground bullying. The Australian conservative climate change denier Andrew Bolt called her “deeply disturbed” and “freakishly influential” (the use of “freakish”, we can assume, was not incidental.) The former UKIP funder, Arron Banks, tweeted “Freaking yacht accidents do happen in August” (as above.) Brendan O’Neill of Spiked called her a “millenarian weirdo” (nope, still not incidental) in a piece that referred nastily to her “monotone voice” and “the look of apocalyptic dread in her eyes”.

The poisonous icing on the cake this week was the sticker produced by a Canadian oil company employee depicting her name and her rape for which X-Site Energy Services have apologised (the sticker image was stolen from a tattoo design).

Thunberg recently came to Bristol to spearhead some schoolchildren climate marches, but in line with a steep rise in right-wing populism, she was also met on internet forums and threads with a huge backlash. Bristol Live reported in “The abuse and threats made to Greta Thunberg by people from Bristol” (with the tagline “By grown men, many who appear to have children of their own”):

The thousands of negative comments were on familiar themes – questioning the validity of climate science, questioning the rights of children to go ‘on strike’ from school, questioning young people’s use of technology, transport and general carbon footprint and complaining about the disruption of the city centre’s roads being closed.

But most of the more furious ire was reserved for Greta Thunberg herself. Many other articles in other media have examined why a slight, tiny 17-year-old schoolgirl from Sweden triggers such anger and hatred from, mainly older people, but the kind of fury that follows the campaigner around the world arrived in Bristol with a vengeance.

Most of that abuse was just that – abuse, sharing unkind memes about her, calling her a ‘puppet’, questioning her own actions travelling the world, or just calling her names.

These comments came in their thousands, day and night, filling Facebook pages and groups – faster in greater volume than anyone moderating those pages or groups, or Facebook itself, could hide or delete.

But some people went even further – further than just abusing Greta Thunberg and the young people taking part in the school strike.

The extra step they took was to appear to call for, encourage or incite people to take physical action against either Greta Thunberg or those taking part.

The people who were appearing to make those suggestions of physical actions and violence were very often parents and grandparents themselves. Some had even called for people on social media to ‘be kind’ following the death of TV presenter Caroline Flack.

The following is a fraction of the apparent calls for violence or violent intent against Greta Thunberg or the school strikers, and those apparent calls for violence or violent intent are a fraction of the general, non-violent but not kind statements made.

The thousands of negative comments were on familiar themes – questioning the validity of climate science, questioning the rights of children to go ‘on strike’ from school, questioning young people’s use of technology, transport and general carbon footprint and complaining about the disruption of the city centre’s roads being closed.

But most of the more furious ire was reserved for Greta Thunberg herself. Many other articles in other media have examined why a slight, tiny 17-year-old schoolgirl from Sweden triggers such anger and hatred from, mainly older people, but the kind of fury that follows the campaigner around the world arrived in Bristol with a vengeance.

Most of that abuse was just that – abuse, sharing unkind memes about her, calling her a ‘puppet’, questioning her own actions travelling the world, or just calling her names.

These comments came in their thousands, day and night, filling Facebook pages and groups – faster in greater volume than anyone moderating those pages or groups, or Facebook itself, could hide or delete.

But some people went even further – further than just abusing Greta Thunberg and the young people taking part in the school strike.

The extra step they took was to appear to call for, encourage or incite people to take physical action against either Greta Thunberg or those taking part.

The people who were appearing to make those suggestions of physical actions and violence were very often parents and grandparents themselves. Some had even called for people on social media to ‘be kind’ following the death of TV presenter Caroline Flack.

The following is a fraction of the apparent calls for violence or violent intent against Greta Thunberg or the school strikers, and those apparent calls for violence or violent intent are a fraction of the general, non-violent but not kind statements made.

The thousands of negative comments were on familiar themes – questioning the validity of climate science, questioning the rights of children to go ‘on strike’ from school, questioning young people’s use of technology, transport and general carbon footprint and complaining about the disruption of the city centre’s roads being closed.

But most of the more furious ire was reserved for Greta Thunberg herself. Many other articles in other media have examined why a slight, tiny 17-year-old schoolgirl from Sweden triggers such anger and hatred from, mainly older people, but the kind of fury that follows the campaigner around the world arrived in Bristol with a vengeance.

Most of that abuse was just that – abuse, sharing unkind memes about her, calling her a ‘puppet’, questioning her own actions travelling the world, or just calling her names.

These comments came in their thousands, day and night, filling Facebook pages and groups – faster in greater volume than anyone moderating those pages or groups, or Facebook itself, could hide or delete.

But some people went even further – further than just abusing Greta Thunberg and the young people taking part in the school strike.

The extra step they took was to appear to call for, encourage or incite people to take physical action against either Greta Thunberg or those taking part.

The people who were appearing to make those suggestions of physical actions and violence were very often parents and grandparents themselves. Some had even called for people on social media to ‘be kind’ following the death of TV presenter Caroline Flack.

The following is a fraction of the apparent calls for violence or violent intent against Greta Thunberg or the school strikers, and those apparent calls for violence or violent intent are a fraction of the general, non-violent but not kind statements made.

Etc etc.

She gets a lot of stick for perhaps being slightly less than absolutely perfect in terms of carbon footprint because. you know, she is actually alive and necessarily consuming things (especially in moving about to these big events). There is a meme that sums this up perfectly:

Nuff said on that point.

I have often wondered why she attracts such hatred and much of it, I posit, is similar to what I said about veganism in “Why So Anti-Vegan? A Tale of Cognitive Dissonance”: that people are subconsciously felt to feel morally inferior and threatened. Thunberg’s position is not shrill. She does not rant and rave (although my relatives were under the impression that she does, and this comes from the media that they access that misrepresent her). She is relatively calm, especially when compared next to the shrill response to her from right-wing media sources.

I wrote about anti-vegan vitriol (along with other reasons):

The main thing I think that is going on, though, is cognitive dissonance, again. Let’s simplify it to a cocktail party. A vegan is in conversation with a non-vegan, and he mentions he is a vegan (in, let’s assume, a non-threatening, neutral way).  The non-vegan is met with an implicit moral declaration that, simplified, says, “I am morally better than you.” The non-vegan, like most other humans, thinks he is morally perfect, or at least morally good. Not many people lead their daily lives genuinely thinking they are moral degenerates because they think their decisions are generally morally benign. By the way, what I am explaining here also explains climate science denial, to some extent.

The non-vegan has to deal with the claim that the other person is morally superior and, by extension, he is himself morally inferior. There are two options for him: accept this idea (as I did) and admit that you are morally inferior, thus changing your core belief that you are morally upstanding (correct). The other option is to disbelieve the evidence. To bury it. Sometimes, people do this by ignoring it; other times by spending all sorts of energies trying to rebut it using any sources they can find and confirmation biases to evaluate their new evidence above the contrary claims; and other times by poisoning the well  – ridiculing or attacking the source of the new information (the vegan). Or a combination of all of these. (Occasionally, they can successfully disprove the contrary evidence).

In short, anti-veganism is a way that non-vegans have of dealing with the idea that they are morally inferior and it allows them to keep that core idea that they aren’t that. They are good people.

This is the same with environmentalism whereby, on a daily basis, virtually none of us are doing enough to be morally responsible in terms of behaviour with regard to the fact of climate change. We fall short. So our brains do funny things to allow us to maintain the belief that we are still good people. Greta = bad means we = good.

As the Irish Times agrees:
Then there’s the fact that we don’t like being made to feel bad about our life choices. That’s human nature. It’s why we sneer at vegans. It’s why we’re suspicious of sober people at parties. And if anything is likely to make you feel bad about your life choices — as you jet back home after your third Ryanair European minibreak this season – it’ll be the sight of small-boned child subjecting herself to a fortnight being tossed about on the Atlantic, with only a bucket bearing a “Poo Only Please” sign by way of luxury, in order to make a point about climate change.

But who’s the real freak – the activist whose determination has single-handedly started a powerful global movement for change, or the middle-aged man taunting a child with Asperger syndrome from behind the safety of their computer screens?

And that, of course, is the real reason why Greta Thunberg is so triggering. They can’t admit it even to themselves, so they ridicule her instead. But the truth is that they’re afraid of her. The poor dears are terrified of her as an individual, and of what she stands for – youth, determination, change.

The reason they taunt her with childish insults is because that’s all they’ve got. They’re out of ideas. They can’t dismantle her arguments, because she has science – and David Attenborough – on her side. They can’t win the debate with the persuasive force of their arguments, because these bargain bin cranks trade in jaded cynicism, not youthful passion. They can harangue her with snide tweets and hot take blogposts, but they won’t get a reaction because, frankly, she has bigger worries on her mind.

That’s not to say that we should accept everything Thunberg says without question. She is an idealist who is young enough to see the world in black and white. We need voices like hers. We should listen to what she has to say, without tuning the more moderate voices of dissent out.

Why is Greta Thunberg so triggering? Because of what she represents. In an age when democracy is under assault, she hints at the emergence of a new kind of power, a convergence of youth, popular protest and irrefutable science. And for her loudest detractors, she also represents something else: the sight of their impending obsolescence hurtling towards them.

When I read some of things people say about her or hear it first hand, I often think how pathetic it is, but also how sad. Why we should not be singing the praises of one so young and determined who has inspired so many others. It’s the anti-do-gooder mentality that is rife. It’s odd because she engenders so many of the characteristics we, as teachers and parents, espouse in the abstract in our children. And yet, when manifest in this context, so many people give such a backlash.

Well, it will come as no surprise to my regular readers, both sides of the fence (and some well underneath it, in a different realm) that I fully and publicly stand up for her. And the great thing is? She doesn’t need me to do that. She has the strength and wherewithal to blaze her own trail in life. Her response to the sticker was to assume the upper hand:

“They are starting to get more and more desperate…” she wrote. “This shows that we’re winning.”

Good on her.

Original source: https://www.patheos.com/

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