In 1962, Bertrand Russell finally responded to Sir Oswald Mosley’s letters, which were badgering him into a debate about the merits of fascism. He replied: “It is always difficult to decide on how to respond to people whose ethos is so alien and, in fact, repellent to one’s own.”
Russell’s words can be reflected in a more recent political tennis match, indirectly concerning Greta Thunberg. There should be nobody who does not know this teenager’s name.
She already has proven herself to be articulate, precise and powerful beyond her years, as her 2019 address to the World Economic Forum proves: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house was on fire – because it is.”
Throughout the past year, she has broken through the political fishing nets designed to keep us immobile and now excels in the fact that, to quote her own book title, No One Is Too Small To Make a Difference.
Like any great thinker or shaker of established norms, there is kickback from the normally politically ambivalent. The vitriolic responses to Greta range between mild-mannered questioning to vicious ableist attacks due to her autism, her being a child and, while not as explicitly, a woman speaking more than is socially acceptable (as any woman ever will confirm).
Like most insults, those that are used most searingly tend to be that which the insulter fears the most; a female child who is deemed ‘lesser’ due to her medical disability, and who has embarrassed the norms of the right wing establishment. Having no good argument in response, the manner adopted by those who conform to established norms becomes that of Harry Wormwood, the father in Matilda. Matilda has realised he has been mechanically lowering the mileage clock on cars he is about to sell.
Matilda: Daddy, you’re a crook. […] This is illegal.
Harry: Do you make money? Do you have a job?
Matilda: No, but don’t people need good cars? Can’t you sell good cars, dad?
Harry: Listen, you little wiseacre. I’m smart, you’re dumb. I’m big, you’re little. I’m right, you’re wrong. And there’s nothing you can do about it.
Greta is doing something about it, and well.
Naturally, there must be a response. Naomi Seibt, a 19-year-old German teenager, spoke on Friday 28 February at a smaller side event of the Conservative Political Action Conference, a prominent right-wing convention in the United States. She is described as the ‘anti-Greta’ of climate change, and describes herself as a ‘climate realist’. Her views have already had to be defended due to being allegedly anti-Semitic. She has described Stefan Molyneaux, an alt-right spokesperson, as ‘an inspiration’ for his ‘views outside the mainstream’. If this isn’t enough, Seibt has been hired by the Heartland Institute, and the less said about them, the better.
Her views on climate change are as follows: “Today climate change science really is not science at all. […] The goal is to shame humanity. Climate change alarmism at its very core is a despicably anti-human ideology and we are told to look down at our achievements with guilt, with shame and disgust, and not even to take into account the many major benefits we have achieved by using fossil fuels as our main energy source.”
It is moments like this I wonder of the nerve of those who use ‘snowflakes’ as an insult. Much like the phrase ‘victim mentality’, the goal is to simply be so obtuse as not to listen or care for anyone else other than oneself, that calling the other side weak is seen as a strength.
The denial of our climate crisis and the fact there is even a climate ‘belief’ system shows how, for some, engaged debate is simply as useless as Mussolini’s hairbrush. The question soon becomes one of overwhelming political fighting. It is another battle of left-wing versus right-wing, progressive versus traditionalist, new versus old. It is hard to ignore how commonplace this is nowadays. You will remember the protests against Greggs’ vegan sausage rolls last year. At football matches every other week I hear fans frothing with similar rage when the referee gives a free kick to the opposite team. I realise now that it’s nothing at all about football or pasties.
It is about an attack of the old order by the new. The old order has rejected modern ideas that told them, directly or otherwise, that they and, by extension, their ways of thinking, were wrong.
This fundamental fact must be understood if the progressives are to combat more products of Seibt’s ilk. To present a new idea that shakes grounded beliefs, one must expect a response that will reach higher levels of depravity depending on the gravity of topic.
The only way to defeat this is to stick to truth harder than ever. Greta Thunberg is doing the work for those who would not, or cannot, speak for themselves, and she is holding to account those who have long hidden from their crimes by sticking to truth. Naomi Seibt, and those like her, do not provide solutions to the problems they find in thinkers like Thunberg.
The negative effects of not calling out their astounding lack of sense and logic, and lending ‘debate’ to those who have no intention of changing their own ways has been proven tenfold by the two blonde haired fellows in charge across both sides of the pond. It becomes a shouting match that entirely damages the name of ‘intellectual debate’, and soon, to paraphrase a famous saying, you will not be able to argue with them, as they will beat you with experience of inarguable incompetence.