Biting back against media attacks

| 28th August 2019
Piers Morgan
Flickr
Environmental groups need to up our game in the media against a new wave of attacks.

-

There is a concerted effort in the media to attack and undermine those campaigning for the environment - whether it's Piers Morgan throwing up a vegan sausage on breakfast TV, Brendan O'Neill complaining about 'Green Miserablism', or Julia Hartler-Brewer trolling Greta Thunberg. 

This shouldn't be a surprise and should be seen in some ways as a compliment. Not so long ago climate change was never even mentioned in our media, and environmental issues were continually represented by white men in socks and sandals.

Things have moved on a long way in a relatively short amount of time. We now have experienced politicians talking about the climate, along with representatives of campaign groups putting sensible and professional arguments forward about why climate issues need to be taken seriously.

Controversy mongering 

We've had to fight every step of the way for this and we still have a long way to go. Often during election periods Green candidates are begrudgingly given the minimal coverage possible on mainstream TV, while the laziest of journalists return to old stereotypes. 

The bigger threat isn't the complacency of old media, but the role of the new wave of shock-driven  journalists who happily present right wing views as 'common sense' or 'what everyone is thinking but not allowed to say', whilst blaming the (nonexistent) policing of political correctness.

This is a carefully constructed narrative that has been built up over many years by tabloid journalists and their paymasters. It has made a major contribution in the rise of populist right wing politicians such as Farage.

Every opportunity is used to present green views as extreme, cultist and dangerous to society. Greta Thunberg's media appearances are described on social media as child abuse engineered by those who want to spread fear about climate change; people arguing for availability of affordable healthy food are painted as trying to take away people's rights to eat as much eat as their arteries can take.

These controversy mongers perpetuate a general message that people should have the right to drive, fly and damage their environment as much as they like, without any taxes or controls, while in reality the industries providing these products and services often enjoy some of the biggest public subsidies and lack of regulatory controls.

Bursting bubbles

Can you imagine if the tables were turned? What would happen if we had a progressive media that gave space to talking about right wingers with such hostility?

What if there were more radio and TV presenters who shared a green vision, and weren’t afraid to present that as common sense and mock every guest who they invited on to give an opposing view? That's a breakfast TV show I may be bothered to tune in to.

Until we have a progressive media we need to support and congratulate those who are regularly stepping into the lion's den, taking on the climate deniers and right wingers - and appreciate that the public need to hear our messages as much as possible.

I totally sympathised when Green campaigner Rupert Read refused to go on the BBC because a climate denier was invited to sit opposite him in debate. He is correct that the debate should never be about whether climate change is real, given the scientific facts.

However, we live in a world where just being right isn't enough and I respectfully fear that his approach was short sighted. The BBC should present climate change as fact and not up for debate. So should all other media. But the correct place to call them out for this failure is on air by challenging the presenters, not on our own Twitter feeds and in our own bubbles.

Shock media

Too many members of the general public have been fed lies by climate deniers. We need to work hard to pull them back to reality, and the best way to do this is through mainstream media.

Campaigners need to work closely together and support one another against the recent onslaught from shock media celebrities.

We need to look at where the funding for the attackers is coming from and what their motivation is, and we need to be as organised as they are in making arguments that appeal to everyone. 

This Author 

Matt Townsend is an environmental campaigner. Twitter: @Matt_J_Townsend. 

Image: IABUK, Twitter

Help us keep The Ecologist working for the planet

The Ecologist website is a free service, published by The Resurgence Trust, a UK-based educational charity. We work hard - with a small budget and tiny editorial team - to bring you the wide-ranging, independent journalism we know you value and enjoy, but we need your help. Please make a donation to support The Ecologist platform. Thank you!

Donate to us here