“I love humanity; it’s people I can’t stand.” It’s a funny old line, attributed to everyone from Albert Einstein to Charles Schultz’s “Peanuts” characters. But in a political context the idea behind the humor takes on a much more ominous tone.
Recently I watched a few YouTube interviews of representatives from Just Stop Oil, the British-based environmentalist movement launched in 2022 and described on its website as “a nonviolent civil resistance group demanding the UK Government stop licensing all new oil, gas and coal projects.” Like their fellow climate activist group Extinction Rebellion, Just Stop Oil operates in decentralized, autonomous blocs with no formal leadership, and their strategy is to force political action on the environment through social disruption.
In practice, “social disruption” means everything from blocking traffic to interrupting sporting events to damaging priceless museum art. Last year Just Stop Oil carried out a days-long series of blockades that snarled British traffic for hours each time. Just last month in west London, a similar traffic protest caused one frustrated parent to exit her car and confront the activists, shouting, “I’ve got a baby in my car and we have to get to hospital!” The protestors refused to let her through. What’s the loss of one baby when you’re busy saving the entire planet?
Also last month, two Just Stop Oil eco-zealots interrupted a tennis match at Wimbledon by throwing orange confetti and jigsaw pieces onto the court, to the accompaniment of loud booing from the disapproving crowd. Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer later stated, “We must protect the right to peaceful protest, but that does not give license to a vocal minority to spoil events that millions of us enjoy.”
In October 2022, two young Just Stop Oil protesters threw tomato soup at Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” in London’s National Gallery and then glued their hands to the wall below the painting. One shouted, “Are you more concerned about the protection of a painting or the protection of our planet and people?” A witness later told The Guardian, “They may be trying to get people to think about the issues but all they end up doing is getting people really annoyed and angry.”
Indeed. Rather than galvanize action about the climate catastrophes they consider to be apocalyptic and imminent; rather than inspire others to join their movement, these tactics have earned Just Stop Oil the boiling enmity of the vast majority of British citizens, who are fed up with having their daily lives turned upside down by (mostly) young eco-hysterics.
The interviewers in the YouTube videos I watched, which dated within the last few weeks, included UK media staple Piers Morgan and Sky News presenter Mark Austin. Morgan often clashes with conservatives but to his credit considers the far-Left environmentalists to be “unbelievably irritating morons.” Austin, in his segment, was far more neutral but didn’t let his guest off the hook.
Both Morgan and Austin did express concern about the issue of climate change, but got straight to asking their guests why Just Stop Oil insisted on using tactics that inconvenienced and angered citizens, and drove away potential allies. It was a basic and legitimate question that millions were eager to have answered, but the activists refused to address it. They repeatedly fell back on fear-mongering talking points about the urgency of their cause. What’s really disruptive, they insisted, is catastrophic climate change. Do you have children? Don’t you love them? Don’t you want to save the planet for them?
Over and over again in their respective interviews, Morgan and Austin unsuccessfully pressed the activists to explain why they didn’t use methods more effective at garnering support. “The strategy isn’t working,” Morgan noted bluntly. One of his two guests, Riz Possnett, was a privileged young trans activist not associated with Just Stop Oil but supportive of their tactics. Her father is a wealthy businessman and Extinction Rebellion supporter. Possnett disrespectfully laughed and cursed throughout her pointless chatter without ever answering. Morgan’s other guest, a “green entrepreneur,” refused to acknowledge Morgan’s point that the world’s biggest polluter is China, not the UK, and that the activists exhibited a “moral cowardice” by not protesting in Beijing or Moscow or Mumbai.
Austin’s guest, a young woman with the improbable name Indigo Rumbelow, revved herself up into a cultish intensity that was more alarming than the hellish climate consequences she predicted were coming any moment now. She shouted that if Austin and his fellow members of the complicit corporate media were “doing their job properly,” Just Stop Oil wouldn’t have to resort to taking drastic action.
Frankly, the reason these activists refused to answer the simple question about why they resort to tactics that alienate potential supporters is because they don’t care about winning people over to their side. Despite claiming that they want to open people’s eyes to a coming global disaster, and that they want masses of supporters to help them confront government offices and disrupt fossil fuel use, the truth of the matter is that they are uninterested in persuading people. They are uninterested in winning hearts and minds. Their aim is to steamroll right over what other people want and to force political change now.
The religious fanatics of Just Stop Oil and their ilk are convinced of the righteousness of their planet-saving mission. Their sense of moral superiority means they have contempt for the average citizen just trying to get on with his or her life. They know that – impending climate doom notwithstanding – people still have to get to work or to the airport or to the hospital, and preventing that is the goal. If a mother can’t get her baby to the hospital in an emergency, well, that’s a small price to pay to save humanity. These environmental revolutionaries want to deconstruct and fundamentally transform our way of life, regardless of how it impacts people, because they’re certain it’s for your own good.
The larger point to draw from Just Stop Oil’s strategy of social disruption is that the Left has commonly professed to be “the party of the people,” when in fact leftists resent actual people. The term “the people” refers to a sort of Platonic ideal of humanity; the Left is comfortable thinking about people this way, as an abstraction. Actual people, by contrast, are real individuals whose variety, complexity, and frustrating ungovernability are troublesome for leftists, who require compliance with their totalitarian agenda.
This is why communist regimes hypocritically adopt populist names like “The People’s Republic of” China or North Korea, yet they terrorize, oppress, starve, and slaughter by the millions the actual people who live in these collectivist hellholes – because leftists view the mass of humanity as simply a means to an end, and that end, of course, is power. People are dispensable. Similarly, Democrat politicians in America pontificate about their concern for “the people” but then push for big-government policies that invariably do more harm than good – because their ultimate mission is not to better the lives of real people but to seize and maintain power, which they then use to continue imposing their utopian vision onto the people – for their own good.
Follow Mark Tapson at Culture Warrior