This weekend’s Extinction Rebellion ‘uprising’ was a damp squib. For now XR is over.

Andy Mayer

June 28, 2021

Extinction Rebellion, the climate change campaign spun out of the hard left Occupy movement, is back attention seeking with their latest public nuisance campaign.

This past weekend, as part of an “uprising based around shared values of love, solidarity, and care”, XR urged their supporters to commit colourful acts of criminal damage against institutions with which they disagree.

All the usual suspects, from Jeremy Corbyn to assorted identity politics campaign groups, gathered to “share the love”, while attacking buildings they claim are run by hidden enemies.

The focus this time was to ‘Free the Press’ and encourage them to ‘tell the truth’. Or, more accurately, blockade the free press with horse manure, until they espouse their agreement with XR’s unscientific and economically destructive idea of net zero by 2025. But ever was it so with the authoritarian left.

The notion that climate change is a hugely complex set of issues, poorly understood and highly contested is not for them. The notion that even passionate supporters of a greener, cleaner world disagree profoundly on how to get there is an inconvenient truth best left unsaid. The idea that there are trade-offs in climate policy, particularly with tackling poverty and promoting freedom, they consider to be little more than a conspiracy theory to protect the status quo.

Many of XR’s staunchest followers seem totally uninterested in any of this nuance, only inspiring ‘rebellion’ against a fictional establishment conspiracy of interest groups. Dimly unaware, it would seem, that establishment interests and orthodoxy, from the G7 to local councils, to corporations and the mainstream media are very much on the side of signalling their virtue on counting carbon atoms for a better tomorrow. And dimly unaware that media pluralism and social media further has made it remarkably difficult for anyone to control anything, at least in the West.

XR’s actual complaint really is that these bodies are, on the surface at least, still wedded to concepts like democracy, free speech and open markets, rather than a Citizens’ Assembly defining the truth and determining ecological justice through central planning by the ‘right people’.

The group’s language about the free press – “Just a few billionaires control our news”, “non-dom oligarchs” with “unfettered access” to “undermine democracy” by selling “easy stories of fear, confusion and division” – is simultaneously delusional, unself-aware and thinly rooted in the same stereotypes used in antisemitic conspiracy theories, similar to those which were used by some Corbynistas, and for which Corbyn’s Labour Party was recently condemned by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

It is very clear that XR want to ‘other’ these apparently ‘foreign interests’ to delegitimise dissent and radicalise their support. These tactics are borrowed from national socialist and communist movements of the past: Class War and Occupy are gone but the class warriors are still peddling hate.

In the past their criminal idiocy has been indulged and excused by leading moderates due to superficial agreement that climate change is an important issue worth taking seriously.

However, the establishment mood shifted after XR inspired a fight at Canning Town tube station in 2019 and, further still, after last September’s blockade of News Corporation’s printing presses and Parliament. The mask of pretence that these are activists interested in the institutions of a free society or using them for peaceful change slipped. The Police have increasingly  decided it might be wise to do some policing of these protests rather than street dancing and knee-bending.

The outcome of Saturday’s damp squib appears to suggest the XR party is over. Some were arrested prior to the weekend, others during, and there is little evidence of enthusiastic support or outrage from either the press or social media.

A return to quiet and boring policing in response to loud and obnoxious self-delusion has won the day. This is also what happened to Occupy. We can expect a few more attempts at relevance before they reinvent themselves again. But for now at least the truth about XR is that they’re more extinct than revolting.


  • Andy Mayer

    Andy Mayer is Chief Operating Officer and environment, energy and infrastructure analyst at the Institute of Economic Affairs.

Written by Andy Mayer

Andy Mayer is Chief Operating Officer and environment, energy and infrastructure analyst at the Institute of Economic Affairs.

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