1) Extinction Rebellion Facing ‘Organised Crime’ Curbs
The Sunday Telegraph, 6 September 2020Government crackdown on extremist group after “unacceptable” attack on free press
Extinction Rebellion could be treated as an organised crime group as part of a major crackdown on its activities that may also include new protections for MPs, judges and the press, the Telegraph can disclose.
Whitehall sources said Boris Johnson and Priti Patel have asked officials to take a “fresh look” at how the group is classified under the law, after the Prime Minister described its blockading of major printing presses as “completely unacceptable”.
On Saturday, police were criticised for failing to act more quickly after the blockade began on Friday evening.
Hertfordshire police faced anger for stating that officers were “working to facilitate the rights of both the protesters and those affected by their presence” but protesters were not cooperating.
“It’s clear they’re not your normal protest group, so you have to look at them in a different way,” said one Whitehall source.
Ministers are also considering new powers making it easier for police to stop demonstrators from entering particular areas, bolstering protections for parts of the UK’s critical national infrastructure, and explicitly outlawing disruption to “tenets of democracy”, such as MPs voting in Parliament, judges attending court, and the printing and distribution of the free press.
The move comes after nearly 200 activists used vehicles and bamboo structures to block roads outside major printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, and Knowsley, near Liverpool.
The presses print The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, along with Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp titles including the Sun and the Times.
Extinction Rebellion (XR) accused the newspapers of failing to report on climate change and chained themselves to the bamboo structures to obstruct the roads outside the works.
But there are fears the group has been infiltrated by far left groups, who want it to pursue a more overtly militant socialist agenda.
By Saturday night, 80 people had been arrested after the blockades resulted in delays to the distribution of several national publications to shops across the country.
Many readers of The Daily Telegraph were among those prevented from accessing a newspaper.
The Met Police issued fines totalling £200,000 to activists after they exceeded the limit of 30 people in any one gathering. […]
On Saturday, senior ministers were also discussing whether and how the group could be reclassified to help police to crack down on its activities.
A Whitehall source said one option under discussion was for XR to be viewed as an organised crime group, which could result in its members being policed primarily by the National Crime Agency – Britain’s FBI.
Under the 2015 Serious Crime Act an organised crime group “has at its purpose, or one of its purposes, the carrying on of criminal activities, and consists of three or more people who agree to act together to further that purpose.”
Those found to have participated in the activities of an organised crime group can be imprisoned for up to five years.
2) MPs Unite In Defence Of Free Speech After Extinction Rebellion Attack On Newspapers
The Sunday Times, 6 September 2020
Cabinet ministers spoke up for press freedom after a blockade of printing plants by climate change activists prevented 1.5 million newspapers from leaving the sites yesterday.
Boris Johnson, Priti Patel, the home secretary, and Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, condemned Extinction Rebellion, as did Labour’s Emily Thornberry.
The prime minister branded the barricades “completely unacceptable” and last night ordered new laws to be drawn up to protect freedom of the press, with protesters treated as saboteurs of democracy.
Johnson, a former journalist, said: “A free press is vital in holding the government and other powerful institutions to account on issues critical for the future of our country, including the fight against climate change.”
Patel described the protest as an “attack on our free press”, while Jenrick said it was the work of “an intolerant minority” and urged people to buy a newspaper.
They were joined by Thornberry, the shadow international trade secretary, who questioned what the protest would achieve and said the construction of barricades was “very worrying” and “wrong”.
Under the government’s plans, a new “subversion power” would protect “critical national infrastructure”, treating access to printing plants, parliament and the courts as key pillars of democracy.
A senior government source said: “It would be illegal to stop MPs going to vote or judges getting to court and it would also protect a free press.”
Changes to the Public Order Act would also stop protest groups entering specially defined areas outside key sites. Yesterday the Metropolitan police handed out £10,000 fines for breaching Covid-19 rules to more than 20 Extinction Rebellion protesters, some of them involved in bringing a boat called the Lightship Greta onto London’s roads. The boat has been seized.
3) Police Accused Of Facilitating Extinction Rebellion Assault On Press Freedom
The Sunday Telegraph, 6 September 2020Authorities were first warned that the group might target newspaper printworks last year
Police have been criticised for failing to halt a demonstration intended to stifle the freedom of the press as Extinction Rebellion was accused of crossing the line “from protest to planned criminality”.
The condemnation came as it emerged warnings the group – known as XR – was planning to target newspaper printworks were reported nine months ago.
David Blunkett, the former Labour home secretary, said the anarchic behaviour of the protesters should have been quashed quickly by Hertfordshire Constabulary, which apparently sent only six officers to the Broxbourne plant when the alarm was raised shortly after 10pm on Friday.
Asked about the failure of police to remove more than 100 demonstrators who had sat down in the road or chained themselves to infrastructure, Mr Blunkett said: “I think they’re mixing up historic debate about [union] picketing with protests relating to political issues, which can be dealt with through the normal democratic process.”
He said officers should have used “whatever powers were available” to allow people to go about their business.
Meanwhile, Richard Walton, former head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command and now senior fellow at Policy Exchange, said the group had shifted from mere protesters into organising “planned criminality, and should be treated as such”.
He urged police to get better at gathering intelligence to uphold the law and intervene “before such acts of criminality”.
“Their reticence to do so undermines our democracy and strengthens extremist groups like XR,” he said.
Ian Austin, a Labour MP, said: “The police should uphold the law, enable people to go to work and read the papers they choose.”
4) Cult Reawakening: An Extinction Rebellion Post-Mortem
David Zaruk, The Risk-Monger, 28 August 2020
Cults cannot survive the mainstream scrutiny while maintaining zealot dogma. Radicalism amplified turns quickly into ridicule and leaves any mass movement open to internal collapse.
When a cult loses its grip on a person, a form of reawakening takes place. It involves having to return to a society not managed by guru slogans, children chanting or all information managed via a dogmatic funnel into a simplified worldview. Many young people in the West are reawakening from an experience with the Extinction Rebellion cult which had gripped them for an intense period for most of 2019.
There are many emotions to manage in a post-cult reawakening: bitterness at the deception, embarrassment over the personal vulnerability, apologetic to those close who may have been hurt, concern for those still held in the grips of the gurus, fragility about re-entering society. Should the experience be blocked out, explained away or assessed? A catharsis may be necessary to come to terms with the power the cult had held in dominating the individual’s freedom.
For around a year Extinction Rebellion managed to grip many young, vulnerable idealists in many ways that religious cults operate. What were some of the manipulative tools they used? In the heady days of 2019, Extinction Rebellion:
* postulated an end-of-days apocalypse within ten years
* provided a simplified salvation pathway and virtue reinforcement
* identified a dogmatic “us vs them” war on evil
* created a fun, carnival atmosphere with communal chants at their events
* developed a series of pagan-like spiritual rituals and iconic priestesses
But this cult was a shallow, abusive front. The objective of the organisers (the Rogers and the Ruperts on the activist extreme) was to overthrow the capitalist state, and an army of brainwashed young people simultaneously dancing, chanting and weeping in the streets proved, on paper, to be the perfect distraction. Add a few ageing celebrities, some clever street pranks and a cocktail of virtue signalling opportunities … the strategy was brilliant (even if their organisation and execution was pure Pythonesque).
The Broad Church of Nature
Cults grow on the far, narrow edges of religious belief systems.
Within every religion there are extremes – the zealots, the dogmatists, the fundamentalists, the manipulative cult gurus… I have written often how environmentalism is our new religion with a wide range of believers practising a variety of rituals (like recycling, culinary sacrifices, carbon emission cuts…), preaching of Armageddon (climate change), offering redemption from original sin (consumption) with a collection of angels, saints and demons every church needs to “iconicise”. This Church of Nature grew out of the ashes of the decline of traditional religious faith in a more affluent West. We did not grow too sophisticated for religion; it just donned different cloaks and occupied different temples.
Religion provides meaning in life, virtues, inspiration; it also protects the believers in a communal context from their deepest fears and concerns. Most in the congregation of the Church of Nature want to live decent lives and feel good about themselves. They listen to the sermons against consumption but do enjoy some of life’s finer pleasures. They donate when the collection basket comes around, but are not active in the campaigns.
On the extreme of the Church of Nature lie the cult organisations that dictate to the true believers, crusaders and missionaries: the zealots who provide the religious oxygen for the clergy to breathe and the fires to burn. But the problem with fire and brimstone is that when outrage and condemnation burn out of control, they can bring temples down.
Extinction Rebellion’s death-cult tactics discredited climate science, pushed environmentalism to the hard (anti-capitalist) left and offered little common ground for political compromise. When these groups used children to shame adults (How dare you!), political discourse was abandoned in favour of media spectacle.
In 2019 the Extinction Rebellion cult became the story and the Church of Nature lost its moderate members. This has seriously hurt the entire activist movement as cynicism and disenchantment does not translate into donations or further engagement within the wider Church.
The Fall from Grace
Extinction Rebellion had reached its cult zenith well before the COVID-19 pandemic took their issue off the front pages, silencing their media marketing machinery. Perhaps the turning point was Canning Town Tube Station where morning commuters turned into an angry mob beating up two XR hippies who had tried to stop their train. That same day the two-week October blockade of London was quietly called off well-short of their campaign objectives.
Once the coronavirus lockdowns began to bite and people got to appreciate the consequences of Extinction Rebellion’s demands (no jobs, no travel, no shops…) and the absence of any social interaction that the rebels could disrupt, the organisation went into hibernation. I attended an XR Zoom conference in May, 2020 where their main gurus unveiled their strategy for the next wave of post-COVID-19 campaigns. By the time their philosopher-in-chief, Rupert Read, took to the microphone, there were only 42 listeners on the view-counter (41 if you exclude the Risk-Monger). Today Extinction Rebellion’s various twitter pages have little interaction or post engagement.
A cult with no following is merely a club. The revolution has faded to what was just a flash in the pan – an embarrassing footnote in the history of the climate campaign. Extinction Rebellion has, well, gone extinct.
Even Greta has gone back to school.
But that leaves the challenge of managing the reawakening. The rapid downfall of a powerful cult has left a generation of young people even more cynical and technophobic. Disenchanted, uninspired, the victims of the climate death cult campaigns who have been told everything that is wrong with humanity now have nothing positive to dream for. Who will provide these vulnerable young people with the solutions they crave? How can these post-cult victims reintegrate into a world with bigger (viral) fears on their plate?
Who is there to inspire young people crying out for something, someone, to believe in? Telling them how terrible everything is just creates cynicism and distrust (and an open door for the next opportunistic guru). This cult may be dead, but the problems and threats persist.
Lessons from a Leaderless Rebellion
What did the rapid rise and fall of Extinction Rebellion teach other activist campaign organisations?
When Extinction Rebellion co-founder, Roger Hallam, claimed that the environmental NGOs have failed to make progress over the last 30 years, he was not wrong. I had written about the shift in the activist model almost four years ago. The activism world is changing from an NGO-driven organisational structure to a loose body of gurus and networks driven bottom up by their members.
So what have the dinosaurs learnt from this extinction threat?
* Today’s movements have a very short period to focus attention, instil change and leave a legacy. In our hashtag culture, the 15 minutes of fame has become 15 seconds on TikTok. So actions have to be fast, on message and mediatic (“Let’s park a pink boat in Oxford Circus!“).
* The revolution has to be driven by a simple, vague message devoid of detail (a citizen’s assembly can sort all of that out once we get rid of the bad people). Most NGOs have become too “policy-wonkish” when the cult-vulnerable just want a slogan to chant and a dream to hang onto.
* There is no grey on environmental issues; it is “us” versus “them”. They lie; we tell the truth. They want profits; we want to save the world. They pollute; we care. When frightened, the vulnerable are easily channelled into this binary world of good vs evil seeking trust and reassurance. There is no compromise or moderate alternative to be tolerated.
* People need to have easy (non-sacrificial) pledges and commitments worn as badges of honour. Only an idiot (or one of them who doesn’t care) would not join us.
* Campaign actions should not be overtly activist-led or appear organised but more of an open, spontaneous, feel-good event to change the world with virtue-signalable gestures everyone can get in on. XR created an induction process for small independent cells of rebels (with little centralised accountability).
* Armies of children need to be marched in front of the cameras. Their purity and innocence are unquestionable (and they believe and do what you tell them). Try to also empower the older children. It’s not hard to recruit teenagers craving attention by giving them an opportunity to rage at their parents’ generation. And if anyone criticises this tactic, focus on the first white, middle-aged male to speak out, and, well, the rest of that script just writes itself.
* Targets of outrage need to be multiple, external and non-specific (international trade, capitalism, finance…). Contradictions can easily be absorbed into a general nondescript outrage (so I can protest against cars by chaining myself to a public transport vehicle and people will feel for my anxiety).
What did the Risk-Monger learn from the Extinction Rebellion flash in the pan?
* That people made sufficiently afraid can believe the most stupid things and act on them when placed in a crafty Armageddon-complex communications campaign. The Goebbelian nightmare that if you just incessantly repeat the same claim, load it with slogans (the “last generation”) and fear (the “end of humanity”) proved to be very easy to pull off.
* That a newspaper like the Guardian can fabricate a global NGO movement and provide the oxygen to manufacture front page news (for almost a year). Not only could they reinvigorate their columnists’ careers (and speaking fees), the Guardian was aiming for a new generation of dedicated contributors. As with the cult of chemophobes driven by LeMonde in France, the mainstream media is morphing into activist campaign groups and as their readership is breaking down into social media tribes, there is no longer a means to question the objectivity of their “news”. What I find astonishing is how no one is really noticing.
* That global leaders (at the UN, Davos…) and activist groups have no ethical qualms (at all) about using the emotional voices of children to advance their short-term interests. The degree of this exploitation in broad daylight was bone-chilling. If there were ever to be a course on activist ethics, there should be a chapter on how Greta was exploited by the Parkland strategy recruiters.
* That leaders in European governments and corporations are quick to be mollified and bullied into agreeing to ridiculous campaign demands and ignoring basic facts rather than having the courage to stand up and defend the valuable societal goods they have just committed to surrender. With cameras shining on them, our leaders chose not to confront the cultists with facts but commend them for their commitment.
* That standing up to these cults is dangerous for one’s reputation. I cannot count how many times I was painted (particularly by a small group of science communications SJWs) as being a white, middle-aged male climate denier with a Greta complex because I was drawing attention to the manipulative and ridiculous death cult organisers. When people stop listening and become enraged, they get stupid very quickly (even those with diplomas in the sciences).
A Reawakening of Hope …
As the XR climate death cult hold on the young and the vulnerable quickly collapses into insignificance, I leave room for hope. Could other irrational environmentalist cults face the same evaporation of power?
5) Janet Daley: Extinction Rebellion’s Assault On The Free Press Is An Attack On Democracy
The Daily Telegraph, 5 September 2020
Without public debate and the liberty to disseminate differing opinions, there is simply no future for democratic societies.
I must say I didn’t think it would come to this. I really believed that the leadership of this mob had more political nous than to try to shut down the press. Arrogance and purblind narcissism have always been a feature of professional activism but there has generally been a recognition of the parameters within which public debate is conducted in a free society.
But I suppose we should have seen it coming. The move from thinking that your opponents are not just wrong but wilfully wicked to believing that they must be eliminated is a very short leap. Eventually, carried to its logical conclusion, it ends in the terrible ideological crimes of the twentieth century when it becomes permissible not just to prohibit the dissenting opinions but to eliminate the dissenters themselves.
Yes boys and girls, this is the real thing: the tyrannical impulse that, given its way, would prohibit the expression not just of disagreement with the prevailing orthodoxy but even of a considered and careful critique of it – which is pretty much all that the newspapers which are now being blockaded were engaged in. Welcome to the new Dark Age.
Presumably the next step would be for all proposed newspaper copy on the subject of climate change to be submitted for prior approval to – whom? The keepers of the Accepted Doctrine? And to whom will they be responsible? Themselves? And what happens when they – as radical movements always do – have schisms and splits over points of doctrine? Will they appeal to a higher authority – as the medieval papacy believed it could – and resolve their differences behind closed doors while we all await their judgement?
Of course, the press could easily adopt the opposite solution. Perhaps it has not occurred to these thugs that the easiest way to avoid their totalitarian diktat is simply never to cover the subject at all. If every word that is published on climate change must be submitted to the censors, then we can undermine their power quite easily – by not printing anything about it. That would mean the end of climate change as a public issue of course (which is precisely what the XR protesters claim they are promoting). This is not something most newspapers would wish to bring about. But given the choice between silence and submission to tyranny…
And what a revenge that would be – because publicity is what this is all about. Extinction Rebellion has lost out big time in the race for front page headlines since the Covid epidemic. Hence this desperate, stupid move against the press with which newspapers will have to engage in a very publicity-worthy fight.
In fact, XR has not only lost the star role on the public stage for the duration of the present emergency – it has actually lost some credibility. Many commentators have pointed out that even the drastic decline in air travel – severe enough to bring about the collapse of the airline industry and all the employment that it entails – has not made much of a dent in the level of carbon emissions. So what exactly would it take to produce the falls that XR is demanding? A return to pre-industrialisation with all the poverty and social backwardness that went with it? An end to the social and geographical mobility that modern economic freedom has enabled?
Given what even this tiny reduction in pollution has cost – socially and economically – the prospect of what XR proposes is devastating. Yes indeed, it’s been a bad six months for the eco warriors who once looked as if they could take over the world with their child saints and their apocalyptic warnings. And, of course, as the demonstrators have made clear, this is not just about climate anymore: they are blockading the distribution of newspapers with which they disagree on a whole range of subjects: the usual litany of causes – immigration, wealth distribution, capitalism, blah-blah. In other words, they will shut down any form of public platform that does not agree with their views.
How did we get here? Is this a monumental failure of education? Have we managed to produce a generation – or at least a notable proportion of a generation – who know absolutely nothing about what democracy entails? Have the most fundamental principles of free speech been denigrated to such an extent that there is a whole cohort of young people who can be led into such absurd and pernicious behaviour?