Friday 24 January 2020

Declan Lynch: 'Australia's on fire but old farts are still trolling Greta'

Leading the fight: Climate change activist Greta Thunberg. Photo: Massimo Pinca/
Leading the fight: Climate change activist Greta Thunberg. Photo: Massimo Pinca/ Reuters
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Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

There is almost nothing that illustrates the profound idiocies of the age quite like the amazing case of Greta Thunberg.

Whatever happens in her efforts to draw attention to the issue of climate change is now secondary to her achievement in illustrating why there's an issue in the first place.

Last week Australia was on fire - indeed Australia has been on fire for some time, and will be on fire for a while yet.

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That's Australia - on fire.

So naturally you'd expect to hear Greta Thunberg getting "the mention" in relation to this, some acknowledgement that Greta Thunberg might have a point there, all the same.

And indeed there were mentions of Thunberg on programmes such as Morning Ireland last week, except they were not related to her apparent prescience, now that Australia is on fire.

No, it was all about Ricky Gervais quipping bad-naturedly at the Golden Globes that the movie stars in the room "probably spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg".

Now this was not a good joke by the otherwise excellent Gervais. It was poor from him, not on grounds of taste or decency or any of that, it was just a bog-standard line that seemed to be coming from what I would call the 'Teletubbies' school of humour and commentary.

This emerged from the popular children's programme Teletubbies, and the fact that everybody seemed to find the mere mention of the word 'Teletubbies' to be amusing in itself - regardless of whether any other part of the line was funny, as long as you threw in 'Teletubbies' at the end, you'd get your laugh.

So it is with 'Greta Thunberg' - even with Australia on fire (did I mention Australia?), her name has now assumed this role in our culture as a handy punchline for hacks and funnymen having an off-day.

Which is not unusual in most cases, but in this case, it is uncovering a truly stunning level of wrong-headedness. As we know, there is this dark area in which an addiction to the bleeding obvious can make you blind, and it's happening on a grand scale with the Greta-sceptics.

Old men… old men and old women, and old farts of every kind, from Trump himself to Piers Morgan to some of the "bad boys of Brexit" and down-to-earth no-nonsense types with names like Julia Hartley-Brewer, have been giving Greta the benefit of their wisdom - which they seem to believe is self-evidently superior to hers.

Weirdly, both Trump and Ryan Tubridy suggested that she should "watch a movie", to help her get back to the normal concerns of a 17-year-old. Though it must be said that Tubridy was coming from a considerably better place than Trump, who was also maddened that she had beaten him to the front cover of Time as their Person of the Year.

Much of the antagonism towards Thunberg is plain hackery, by the sort of "conservatives" who also seem to find the whole concept of veganism to be darkly hilarious - apparently learning nothing from the late Sean Hughes, who in the latter part of his career had a riff about vegans that was quite unfunny. And Sean Hughes, on the whole, was brilliant.

These old farts aren't even half-decent, yet they spew out their scorn anyway, sometimes adding a touch of fake "maturity" by adopting the position that poor Greta is more to be pitied than blamed.

And they might have a point there, if Greta was all wrong about this climate change thing - yes, you could feel sorry for her then.

But she's not wrong, she's right.

She's right and they're wrong, but somehow they don't care about that, even as Australia is on fire. Which is where we see a broader pattern in all this unpleasantness.

Being objectively wrong about very big things can get you a long way these days. As we can see from the far-right nationalist movements which are now governing the UK and the USA, an inability or a simple refusal to engage with the concept of factual accuracy can give you a great advantage.

Interestingly in Australia they recently elected a prime minister, Scott Morrison, who is now utterly despised as so many "conservatives" will eventually be despised, for his refusal to engage with the truth. But it's too late now - and it's too late now in the UK, where the Tories were so deeply impressed by Morrison's campaign, they hired the digital wizards who made it happen for him.

For them, Thunberg is just another voice annoying them, as they cling to their geriatric prejudices - like the EU, they wish she would just go away and leave them alone. While they disparage her as a little girl who can't control her emotions, it is they who are driven by rage and unreason and a refusal to do their homework. Like some sad old geezer who is set in his ways, to them every progressive voice sounds like "nagging".

Maybe they should chill out, and go to the movies. And never come out again.

Sunday Independent

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