By Ben Pensant
Of all the kind messages I received after publishing my heartfelt tribute to Black Lives Matter in October, by far the nicest was from a young lady called Ho Vs Wade, a friendly feminist who politely informed me I should get back in my lane and cease discussing black issues otherwise she would ‘climb up in my ass’. Going on to critique the essay as ‘misogynoir disguised as woke’ she simultaneously offered a grave warning about what would happen if I carried on writing about African Americans and a helpful hint on the best place to store my Eminem albums.
I’m honoured to have been on the end of such righteous rage and rest assured, Ho, if I do end up swinging from a tree in the grounds of ‘Buckingham Castle’ with Mr I’m Slim Shady Yes I’m The Real Shady’s back catalogue stuffed up my anus I will know it was categorically my own fault. Though whether there’d be room in there for everything from Infinite to The Marshall Mathers LP 2 after you’ve already climbed up in it is anyone’s guess. We’ll make it work.
At the more extreme end of the scale, the Donald Trump supporter who objected to my comments about their hero’s crap ginger hair and suggested I ‘focus on policy’ was blocked, muted and reported for hate speech before you can see ‘micro-aggressive troll alert’. With Trump soon to be ensconced in the White House we’ll be seeing a lot more of this so be on your guard, kids.
But it made me think perhaps it would be better to leave the identity conversation to those who really understand it. Y’know, middle-class feminists like Lindy West, Laurie Penny and Mandy Dingle off Loose Women. Which is why I decided to use my next tribute to the hottest protest movements of 2016 to focus on Black Lives Matter UK, a group who appear to know as much about every day black lives as I do about climbing up inside a privileged white male’s CD-chocka arsehole.
For the uninitiated, BLMUK was set up to highlight the issue of black men dying in police custody, an issue swiftly abandoned when it became apparent that this rarely happens and when it does it happens more often to white people. The obvious solution was to go down the same road as their American counterparts and claim that racist policeman are patrolling the streets shooting unarmed black men left, right and centre. This however, was equally problematic as due to the police in this country not being armed the shooting of unarmed black men happens even less frequently. And like the deaths in custody, when it does the victims are more likely to be white.
The obvious solution would have been to campaign against violence; get involved with black communities; provide support, education and opportunities to vulnerable youngsters; explore the socio-economic issues that lead to disproportionate numbers of young black men becoming involved in crime. But that would have been kowtowing to the government so instead in July they blocked roads around several airports to mark the anniversary of Mark Duggan’s death.
A noble attempt to highlight the epidemic of law-abiding, unarmed black men being executed by the police, an epidemic so serious it happens in Britain once every few years. And a roaring success it was too, just as long as you ignore the fact that Duggan was neither law-abiding nor unarmed but a career criminal who’d been under surveillance for months and in possession of an illegal firearm seconds before when he was shot.
So with one successful demo in the can it became clear BLMUK had bigger ideas. And boy, did they not, as for their next trick in September they pulled off their greatest stunt yet as 9 protesters grounded flights at London City Airport for six hours in protest at the inherent racism of climate change.
Predictably, right-wing trolls and idiots with more brain cells than surnames displayed their ignorance by mocking the idea that climate change is racist. But racist it is, as anyone who remembers the cruel fates of President Danny Glover and Chiwetel Ejiofor’s dad back in 2012 knows all too well. There’s no telling these apologists though. You can bet your life those scoffing also think it was mere coincidence that the super-storm of 2004 just happened to hit the exact spot in Scotland where Adrian Lester was stationed with Bilbo Baggins. Which reminds me: I must add Dwarves to list of races Climate Change hates.
And so it was that BLM came up with the masterstroke of aligning themselves with the Green lobby, a movement every bit as uncompromising and judgemental as them. Indeed, it’s tempting to look at the clip of the 9 people arrested at the London City Airport protest and wonder exactly what drew them to BLM as none of them are black and have clearly never set foot in any of the working-class communities they claim are being oppressed by aeroplanes.
But this is irrelevant. While it may be resolutely Not Okay for privileged white novelists and film directors to comment on black issues it’s perfectly fine for privileged white croquet champions and opera directors to campaign on behalf of the black community by lying down in the middle of the road. Some Tory trolls have suggested that perhaps those with actual experience of working-class black communities – such as working-class black people – are better placed to represent them. Which is utter nonsense: there’s nothing an unemployed 18 year old from Brixton can teach me about black Britain that Natalie Geraldine Twistleton-Wykeham-Fiennes can’t.
Because we may love, respect and patronise the black community but we can’t expect them to understand how climate change hates them. That would be madness. Far better to have it explained by someone who describes their occupation as ‘plotting the downfall of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy’. And what people like BLM activist and organic farmer William Pettifer lack in real world experience they make up for with their dedication to saving planet earth, fighting racism and spending their youth living on a houseboat before taking over daddy’s business on their 30th birthday.
So what better movement to infiltrate than one that takes its cue from an American protest group dedicated to peace, equality and segregation? BLM is tailor-made for Oxford graduates who call themselves ‘anti-aviation activists’. Because as anyone who’s read a column by Richard Monbiot or listened to an acceptance speech by Leonardo DiCaprio knows, the planet is getting hotter, it’s all our fault and the only solution is to scream ‘we’re doomed!’ and demonise anyone with a slightly different view.
Because the great thing about the environmental lobby is their ability to convince people with barely enough scientific knowledge to keep a spider-plant alive that anyone with slightly different views about climate change is an idiot denier who probably believes the earth is flat and Neil Armstrong was made of cheese.
So the ideology of zero tolerance green activism – espoused by everyone from John Kerry to Bono out of UB40 – allows liberals, actors and musicians to make huge judgements on people who think slightly differently to them. And these judgement aren’t restricted to someone’s opinion or theory but also their morals, decency and potential to kick dogs. For as we know, any opportunity for the left to let its mask slip and be every bit as intolerant as the nasty right-wingers we attack for being intolerant should be grabbed with both hands.
So it follows that a respected scientist who believes climate change is caused by man-made C02 omissions but doubts the speed and severity with which it’s happening will be attacked, dismissed as a loon and accused of being a shill for the gas & oil industry. Likewise, a climatologist could agree that global warming will have disastrous ramifications but think it’s only partly caused by C02 and that’s enough to be ostracised, stripped of funding and slammed as the flat-earth David Irving. And woe betide anyone who agrees completely with the general consensus but believes there are better ways to tackle it than encouraging dirt poor countries to recycle or throwing millions at the IPCC. With some sections of the left that’s almost as sacrilegious as saying Glenn Greenwald tells the odd porkie.
In each case it’s perfectly acceptable to lump them in with the smaller percentage of scientists who refuse to believe climate change exists at all. In fact it’s positively encouraged as, like most modern left-wing ideologies, if you don’t buy into it wholesale you’re off the team. Our parents didn’t pay small fortunes to have our heads filled with Marxist nonsense at uni just to abandon it for fascist concepts like the ‘middle ground’. You buy the job-lot or you’re the enemy.
And if along they way the actual science part gets lost and it all becomes about ideology and virtue-signalling then, duh – thats the bloody idea. You didn’t think this was actually about saving the planet, did you? If that was the case we wouldn’t be pre-occupied with treating anyone who displays the slightest bit of climate change scepticism as if they’re a Hassidic Jew who’s just walked into Malia Bouattia’s office and asked her to pass a motion condemning Hamas for blowing up buses.
No, if we really cared about why the planet is getting hotter we wouldn’t have deliberately forgotten that scepticism is part and parcel of being a scientist; that most scientists believe a theory is never ‘settled’; that if it wasn’t for scepticism we wouldn’t have scientists in the first place. Because getting bogged down in specifics helps no-one. Far better to let the debate rattle along on left/right, good vs evil terms and frame the argument as a simple question of ‘are you with us our against us?
And if that means making wildly contradictory claims in order to protect the narrative then so be it. So we can’t just agree with the theories written in the many peer-reviewed papers supporting man-made global warming. No, we have to go the extra mile and say their peer-reviewed status means they’ve not only been deemed of critical worth, they’re also 100% correct and anyone who slightly disagrees is a Republican stooge who thinks Elvis shot Kennedy. Then, when a troll pipes up that there are also many peer-reviewed papers that are sceptical about the causes and effects of climate change we simply ignore them, dismiss them as lies or claim that the peers who reviewed them weren’t proper peers.
Similarly, any rise in the earth’s temperature must be accompanied by an avalanche of fearmongering from The Guardian, the New York Times and the cast of Saturday Night Live, gravely warning that by 2018 the Sahara will be completely consumed by flames unless we all start going to work on roller-skates. Naturally this reaction will be in sharp contrast to less narrative-friendly news – such as the recently released NASA data showing temperatures have dropped – which the publications above tend to deal with by simply not reporting them.
Once that’s done we can echo Al Gore and John Kerry, brave men who went that extra inch by claiming there is ‘not one’ peer-reviewed paper that refutes the consensus on climate change. And correct they are too, as there’s isn’t ‘one’ – there are thousands, most of which are available to anyone with a computer, half an hour to spare and the patience to sift through pages and pages of Israeli-funded neo-liberal propaganda.
Speaking of Gore, using statistics and hyperbole from his his award-winning 2008 documentary An Inconvenient Truth is always a safe bet for easy virtue points. Though tread carefully when quoting Gore’s prediction that by 2014 the ice in the North Polar ice-cap could be ‘completely gone during summer’ as not only did this not happen but according to NASA the ice has since grown. This could be countered by pointing out it’s not a crime to miscalculate a prediction and re-evaluating the data to see where they went wrong. But it’s much easier to just accuse NASA of lying, claim Gore was misquoted or deploy the favoured tactic of shaking your head then telling your opponent there’s someone behind them and running away.
Likewise, another way of shutting down debate is to accuse scientists and journalists who believe in climate change but have a different theories on the causes, effects or timescale of being in the pockets of the establishment and big business. The idiot deniers will inevitably point out that the same could be said of those who push the accepted consensus, such as the IPCC – set up by the UN – and renewable energy companies who stand to make fortunes from alternative fuel sources. Do not be fooled by this line of thinking though, as the last thing anyone who cares about the planet must do is admit that maybe, just maybe, there are establishment forces and ruthless companies with ulterior motives on both sides of the argument.
Even-handedness is to be discouraged at all times and should anyone lapse into such a partisan approach simply shame them on social media and call them a tinfoil hat-wearing Trumpite. Then suggest the only reason these loons spread this nonsense is because they’re illuminati agents plotting to destroy the planet by poisoning bats and blaming it on wind turbines. It may not win you much support in the real world but the warm glow you’ll get from bouncing these accepted truths around your social media echo chamber is toastier than the Arctic will be by 2035.
All of which those 9 brave souls arrested in October would wholeheartedly agree with. As we’ll find out the next time they stage a Black Lives Matter protest that has precisely bugger all to do with black lives. On the plus side, with climate change-denier Donald Trump in the White House it’s only a matter of time before he demands all renewable energy companies are liquidised, every wind turbine is turned into a nuclear missile and the entire state of Arizona becomes one huge fuck-off fracking site.
Fear not though, kids, because when that day arrives you can bet BLM UK will awake from their slumber with an ingenious protest to both halt Drumpf’s plans to destroy the planet and highlight the damage all that drilling will do to the earth’s black population. Just as long as it happens sharpish, mind, as come June most of the Gang of Nine will be busy summering in the Cotswolds or ‘finding themselves’ on the French Riviera. But rest assured, they’ll be dreaming up ways to link these two separate issues without looking like a bunch of entitled entryists who know as much about the lives of working-class black Brits as I do about hopping on a private jet to Florence to show solidarity with junior doctors by purchasing Lombardo’s Bust Of Christ and wiping shit all over its beard.
And like good well-to-do liberals they can comfort themselves with the knowledge that neither climate change nor Trump’s rise had anything to do with them. Because the environmental lobby’s hands are clean; it’s the fault of stupid voters and filthy car owners that they elected a President who wants to watch the world burn. And like the Democrats, they can ignore the ugly truth that if the American left had devoted as much energy to addressing the concerns of the working-class they might not have an incoming POTUS who believes climate change was made up by the Chinese.
‘Go white privilege!’ indeed.