An establishment rebellion

Why the elite loves the eco-warriors.

Fraser Myers

London’s Victoria and Albert Museum has acquired a number of artefacts associated with Extinction Rebellion (XR), the protest group campaigning to reduce Britain’s carbon emissions to ‘net zero’ by 2025. Apparently, just nine months since Extinction Rebellion’s first public stunt, its paraphernalia deserves to be housed alongside some of the world’s best art and design works of the past 5,000 years.

It is hard to think of any supposedly radical protest movement in history that has been so readily embraced by the establishment as Extinction Rebellion. And the love-bombing isn’t just coming from the usual luvvies like Dame Emma Thompson and activist celebs like Lily Cole and Charlotte Church. Recently, XR attracted the attention of wealthy philanthropists. Last month, three wealthy Americans (one of whose family wealth comes from the oil industry) donated nearly £500,000 to XR and vowed to raise millions more. Other wealthy backers include a hedge-fund manager, who remains anonymous.

Then, there is the literary establishment – from heavyweight authors like Margaret Atwood and Phillip Pullman to big-name publishers like Penguin, it has thrown its weight behind Extinction Rebellion, too. This Is Not A Drill, XR’s protest handbook, was recently rushed out for release by Penguin. Penguin’s editor breathlessly declared that climate change was so pressing that XR’s book needed to be published several months before its initial release date: ‘This is an emergency, and we have to react like it’s an emergency.’ The book even features a contribution from Rowan Williams, former archbishop of Canterbury – the former head of the established church.

The reason for this establishment love-in is that Extinction Rebellion represents no rebellion at all. It has the appearance of a rebellion, certainly – protesters glue their hands to buildings, block roads and get themselves arrested. But the message is one that affirms and flatters establishment opinion rather than challenging it.

Parliament, for instance, was quick to heed XR’s demand to declare a ‘climate emergency’. More significantly, the group’s main aim of reducing UK emissions to ‘net zero’ is one that is shared not only by the Conservative government, but also by MPs of all stripes. The ‘net zero’ target for 2050 was nodded through parliament with just an hour and a half of debate and without a single vote needing to be cast. XR is only more impatient in its demand, calling for a 2025 deadline.

Many have tried to compare Extinction Rebellion’s climate crusade with past movements for progressive change. Justifying the V&A’s decision to acquire Extinction Rebellion artefacts, senior curator Corinna Gardner compared their punchy colour palette to that of the Suffragettes. Similarly, XR leader Roger Hallam claims his protesting is in the ‘tradition of Gandhi and Martin Luther King’.

These comparisons are delusional, pretentious and insulting. But they unwittingly highlight something important. Whether it was the Chartists, the Suffragettes, the civil-rights movement, or the gay-rights movement, these genuinely progressive campaigns were all despised by the elite at the time. These were campaigns that sought to expand human freedom, to wrest rights and resources from the establishment. By contrast, environmentalist campaigns like Extinction Rebellion are, by their very nature, against freedom. They seek to place new limits on human activity: on industry, on economic growth, on our travel, on our diets, and on childbirth.

For many years, the great and the good have been in broad agreement that something must be done about climate change. But they also seem to agree that the bulk of the costs should not be shouldered by them. Only last week, celebrities, business leaders and politicians descended on Sicily for the 7th annual Google Camp, which this year was dedicated to tackling climate change. After arriving in their private jets, mega yachts and sports cars, delegates were treated to a lecture on climate change by Prince Harry, who delivered it in his bare feet. Earlier this year, 1,500 individual private jets flew to Davos. The highlight of the summit was a conversation between Prince William and Sir David Attenborough… on climate change.

The establishment only seems to care about ‘pollution’ when it is ordinary people doing the polluting. It is always cheap flights, cheap food and cheap fashion which cause the most consternation among environmentalists. In turn, climate change presents the establishment with an opportunity to manage the little people’s habits, tastes and aspirations.

Extinction Rebellion merely provides a faux-radical gloss to this depressing and stultifying prospect.

Fraser Myers is a staff writer at spiked and host of the spiked podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @FraserMyers.

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


Tony Murphy

14th August 2019 at 8:16 pm

The GW movement is a perfect vehicle for pushing the NWO globalist agenda. Note we’re always sternly warned that our response must be ‘international’.

Peter Jenkins

9th August 2019 at 5:56 pm

The narrative about the elite (Emma Thompson!?) and the establishment for or against something is repeated endlessly but can usually, like all dual-logic arguments, be simply reversed. A whole range of powerful, elite, wealthy people and institutions are fully, like you, against those who claim there is an ecological crisis that will affect the poor more than the rich elite.

Jerry Owen

13th August 2019 at 12:08 pm

And just who are they, and what size carbon footprint do they have travelling the globe telling us AGW doesn’t exist ?

James Knight

8th August 2019 at 5:14 pm

Just a bunch of eco-toffs and a few naive youngsters grandstanding their obedience and conformity.

Jerry Owen

8th August 2019 at 5:21 pm

Unfortunately backed by big money , government and media.
When I was a rebellious socialist in my student days ( and I knew I was right about absolutely everything ! ) I had none of that behind me .. and thank Christ I didn’t !
We should worry not jest.


8th August 2019 at 1:32 pm

The commies are coming out as eco soldiers to fight against common sense. Imagine them taking over the EU and HM Government to abolish planes, cars, lorries, tractors, ships, the army, navy, RAF, factories and animals for farting and polluting the environment? Does this reminds us of the evil Druids?
Were Karl Marx, Freud and Lenin secret followers of Druidism?
Maybe it isn’t the commies but the Druids that are coming out with all their human sacrifices and morbid rules?

gershwin gentile

8th August 2019 at 3:05 pm

Um, have you read Richard Wurmbrand’s book about Marx? You may well want to.

John Doran

9th August 2019 at 5:09 am

A great little handbook for the layman by climatologist Dr. Tim Ball:
Human Caused Global Warming The Biggest Deception In History
Only 121 pages, reveals all, the science & scandals, the politics & profiteers.
The main funders & profiteers are multi-billionaires like Rockefellers,
George Soros, Ted Turner & Maurice Strong who set up the fraud factory
John Doran.

Michelle Canada

11th August 2019 at 3:40 am

That website doesn’t exist.

William Stuttard

8th August 2019 at 12:49 pm

You can use the same ‘state regulation is destroying our freedom’ arguement for many government actions. But regulation through the power of a democratic government is an effective way to control the negative externalities of an uncaring capitalist system.

Neil McCaughan

8th August 2019 at 11:26 am

Anyone who has seen Emma Thompson’s enormous 4×4 will want to reflect on the meaning of the word “hypocrisy”.

Neil McCaughan

8th August 2019 at 11:24 am

“heavyweight authors like Margaret Atwood and Phillip Pullman”
A pair of derivative second-rate mediocrities tirelessly puffed by the imbecile BBC.

Captain Scott

8th August 2019 at 12:15 pm

Attwood is a brilliant writer, but I fail to understand why that would make her opinion on the climate important.

Philip Humphrey

8th August 2019 at 9:42 am

And yet the one thing that stands out about much of the climate movement is its sheer hypocrisy. David Attenborough telling us to preserve the environment while he and his film crews have most likely generated thousands of tonnes of CO2 flying all round the world many times, Emma Thomson who flew LA to London and back, generating near a tonne of CO2 to show off at the Extinction Rebellion protest in London, all the climate science conferences and junkets with politicians and scientists flying in from all over the world. “Do as we say (but not as we do)”. Until these preachy middle class hypocrites change their behaviour, you can hardly expect ordinary working people to listen to them.

Jerry Owen

8th August 2019 at 8:47 am

Cortez and her ‘green new deal’ is open about changing the system, destroying capitalism, her husband has indeed admitted this, and it isn’t about the climate, the manufactured ‘climate catastrophe’is a means to an end.
XR is the British version of the ‘green new deal’.
I think the establishment bigging this up shows that indeed the communists long march through the institutions is no tin foil hat theory but reality.
The rise of XR in less than a year.. with zero science and it’s ability to close large parts of London with virtually zero state intervention in what is an illegal activity shows the communists are coming out into the light with some arrogance.
Nasty times ahead.

Bri -an

8th August 2019 at 11:25 am

” it’s ability to close large parts of London with virtually zero state intervention in what is an illegal activity”
How quickly the Met. learns from the authorities in Hong Kong.

Jerry Owen

8th August 2019 at 3:44 pm

The Met chief on radio asked about the pink boat blocking the road, his response laughing .. ‘just how do you go about moving something like that ?’
Upon being asked why doesn’t he clear the streets.. ‘I don’t think our officers could cope ‘.
I kid you not !

Bri -an

8th August 2019 at 7:56 am

This ‘Extinction’ challenge is a fine example of history repeating itself.
In the 16th C a certain ‘International Organisation’ taught that day and night were caused by the Sun orbiting the Earth and your relinquished your freedom if you disagreed, even if you had first class evidence to support your argument.
The truly ghastly ‘Extinction Rebellion’ organistion does not present any arguments or evidence to support its claims but latches on to politicians (UN/IPCC, EU) who, claiming democratic mandate (!), seek to enhance their political power.
There is a serious need to challenge this absurd ‘fear project’.
I suggest reading the so called science of the IPCC, the claims made for a ‘greenhouse effect’ are perfectly absurd, the arguments presented by the IPCC in the ‘Assessment Reports’ support the ‘reality’ of perpetual motion, free energy for ever!
Isn’t it wonderful how Prince Harry, the 1,500 individual private jets flew to Davos. the conversation between Prince William and Sir David Attenborough all claim, if they understood their own words (!), that there is energy free for the taking.

William Stuttard

8th August 2019 at 12:52 pm

About 99% of scientists agree that man-made climate change is happening.

gershwin gentile

8th August 2019 at 1:26 pm

No they don’t. 97% number is BS, from a fixed poll. Enter into a internet search engine of your choice: 97% climate change debunked.

Eric Praline

8th August 2019 at 2:04 pm

@Gershwin Gentile – the first result from that search is a site debunking the debunkers.

Hana Jinks

8th August 2019 at 2:39 pm

Lol, @ Eric.

It’s a complete and utter hoax, William. Watch this vid from around the 37min mark.

gershwin gentile

8th August 2019 at 3:09 pm

“So 64 out of 11,944, or 0.5%, take the view that humans are the main cause of global warming. But that includes all abstracts, including those that did not take a position. It would be nice to take the 64 as a percent of those that did take a position. Unfortunately, in their data set, Cook et al put 4a, those that do not address the cause of global warming, with 4b, those that express the view that humans’ role in global warming is uncertain or undefined. It would be nice to separate them, but we can’t unless we have the even rawer data. So let’s generously conclude that everyone in category 4 has expressed no view. That’s a total of 7970, leaving a total of 3,974 that have expressed a view. The 64 who think the main cause is humans is, drum roll please: 1.6%. ” Sorry, but you are wrong.

Jerry Owen

8th August 2019 at 5:25 pm

No they don’t actually !
Over 30,000 scientists signed a letter against the Kyoto agreement some years ago.
About 80-90% of scientists will tell you that they do not believe Co2/ man causes climate change.

Jerry Owen

8th August 2019 at 5:27 pm

William Stuttard
Do you also believe that 8/10 cats prefer Kitty kat ?

Jerry Owen

8th August 2019 at 3:48 pm

I haven’t read the IPCC website, the leaked emails were good enough for me!
Mark Steyn writes a good book on debunking M Mann and the IPCC .. indeed it isn’t Steyn per se but PHD scientists in their own words that he has collated.

Hana Jinks

8th August 2019 at 4:00 am

Breathless gossip, which seems to be how the levt promotes itself. You have two political prisoners in your city, and you should be agitating for their release. That’s if you wanna get involved.

Jim Lawrie

8th August 2019 at 10:32 am

Spіked made it clear that they agreed with Mr Robinson being jailed for breaking the law.

Hana Jinks

8th August 2019 at 2:32 pm

Point taken, Jim.

Hana Jinks

8th August 2019 at 2:34 pm

It’s the reason I’m talking about it. It’s a conspiracy, Jim.

steve moxon

8th August 2019 at 12:44 am

??!! The Suffragettes … “progressive”?! * They demanded an educational qualification to deny the vote to most men and most women, but having THREE votes for their own upper / upper-middle-class households (given their husbands had two: one re property, another either re business or university-education). * They ignored the fact that the big democratic defecit was not re women but re men: most men did not have the vote in 1918, despite being blown up and shot in the trenches, and that only they were impacted by decisions in parliament, which were almost all re war and how to pay for it. * They went against the great majority (75%) of women who did not support female suffrage but instead supported universal male suffrage. * They ignored the fact that almost all issues affecting women were decided locally, where women from time immemorial had always had a vote (whether manorial or parish). * They knew full well that there continued to be the longstanding support in parliament for female suffrage, and it was only a question of the right juncture, because of worry about corresponding universal male suffrage. * What held back female suffrage was the suffragettes themselves in their violent actions, which no political could be seen to be giving in to. The suffragettes were pantomime dames. ‘Progressive’?! Pull the other one. They were bigoted upper-class numptie frauds.

gershwin gentile

8th August 2019 at 1:22 pm

Let’s not forget that the “progressives” were also into eugenics.

Philip Humphrey

8th August 2019 at 4:20 pm

They still are. They call it selective abortion and “assisted” suicide.

Hana Jinks

8th August 2019 at 6:06 pm

They love wars the most, Philip. That’s why they’ve re-introduced the eastern religion into our society.

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