Whoever you are and whatever you do with your life, at this point you’ve probably heard of Greta Thunberg. The sixteen year old Swedish girl has over the last year become a household name worldwide thanks to her climate activism. As the unlikely founding mother of what has become a global movement of schoolchildren, to say she has become a public figure is a gross understatement.
For that alone I’m not going to shower with superlatives, as I think it’s fair to say that being thrust into prominence like this often has a large part to do with circumstance, but what I will say is that in order to continue doing that which she is doing in the current political climate takes a fair amount of courage.
The bullying and abuse which she has faced since becoming a public figure has been nothing short of sickening. There have genuinely been few moments in my lifetime where I have been so disappointed in humanity as when I saw the depths grown adults are willing to go to in order to attack a sixteen year old girl. The pettiness, spitefulness, and all-out hatred that people are able to direct towards a sixteen year old who has harmed nothing, except seemingly for some people’s egos.
The treatment of Greta Thunberg by some seems to have nothing to do with political disagreement. That could be first of all because she only has one widely-known political position, that climate change is a bad thing, and that’s not objectively disagreeable. Furthermore, there have been no counterpoints raised by these people, simply ad hominem attacks and bullying.
If a girl of sixteen is living rent free in your head, it says more about you
Without giving the people responsible the credit of being named, it has been the usual right wing sewer rats who have reared their heads in order to bully and slander Thunberg. While I have already said how disappointed I was reading what they had said, I wish I had been more surprised.
First of all Thunberg was attacked for the way she speaks in public. This in itself is not sickening, if puerile, especially given that speaking in front of thousands of people, or the actual United Nations, is something that few people find easy, let alone if they are speaking in their second language, sixteen years old, and autistic. I would like to see some of the right wing talking heads try to keep it together while making a speech in front of the U.N..
Second is the online goading that has taken place. One particular instance was a tweet from one vile right wing mouthpiece aimed at Thunberg explaining how she had been on a long aeroplane journey recently as part of a family holiday and felt good about it. The exact phraseology was “level of guilt felt: 0%” yet obviously they and anyone else who writes or says similar things is feeling something; if a sixteen year old girl is living rent-free in your head to the extent that you can’t enjoy a family holiday without goading her on Twitter, it says more about you than her.
this last decade has seen a “footballisation” of politics
There have been other forms of bullying which have taken place, but the one which turned my stomach the most was the linking of her to Nazi propaganda. Even in this time of low-quality politics, this is a depth which I thought we would not sink to. In the current political climate, it is frankly dangerous to share imagery like that given the threats of death and violence which are sent to almost all political figures these days.
That, effectively, is what this comes down to. Politics globally has become a tribal “us v them” than an exchange of ideas in the hope of making things better. This last decade has seen a “footballisation” of politics; people taking sides they don’t really understand in order to feel like they belong, voting based on feeling rather than fact, and seeing opposing viewpoints as their enemy.
The bullying of sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg is a symptom of this; producing that level of hatred and vitriol in the direction of a literal child in the street would get you locked up, but because it’s politics it’s apparently fair game for a large number of people.
I could finish here by saying that people would maybe wake up once someone got killed, but people have been killed already and it hasn’t made the blindest bit of difference. In fact, it’s not even contentious to say that politics has got a lot nastier in the three and a half years since Jo Cox MP was murdered in broad daylight for her political views. I fear for Greta Thunberg and anyone like her going into politics these days. The level of abuse she has faced has been shocking so far, but Iwould be inclined to suggest that worse is on its way.