A tough week in the Anglosphere.
Not only are Donald Trump in the USA, and Boris Johnson in the UK both struggling to bluff and bluster their way out of their self-inflicted problems, but even the previously untouchable Canadian Justin Trudeau was embroiled in decades-old controversies over black-face pranks.
It was left to the Antipodes to hold the line, which New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern managed, with her usual panache. But Scott Morrison, for all his supposed insouciance, had worries that might prove more long-lasting than the transient disasters of his colleagues.
Noisy Australians? Not worth bothering about.
Last week the earth moved for him too – not a major tremor, certainly not a tsunami, but a rumbling that warned of a political tectonic shift that needed to be fixed promptly, before his remaining credibility got washed away by the rising waters those pesky climatologists keep harping about.
Some seven million people, 300,000 of them his own constituents, rallied in protest, demanding more action – real action – over climate change. This could be shrugged off as yet another distraction – obviously they were not quiet Australians, the only kind worth worrying about.
Greta Thunberg must be ‘stopped, destroyed, vaporised’!
But they had a focus: Greta Thunberg, whose excoriating speech at the United Nations gained world wide attention and threatened to turn a demonstration into a movement. Clearly she had to be stopped, destroyed, vaporised. So ScoMo and his hardened shock troops sprang into action.
There was no need to respond to her arguments – too complicated, too time-consuming, and too risky, especially because they were largely irrefutable. Terminating the messenger was much simpler, and in any case would be more fun – how good is smashing a teenager? So let’s get kicking.
Her crimes are clearly many and deep-rooted, but the worst of them is undeniable and irreparable: she is young.
Not actually a child, although we will call her that when it suits, but by definition too naïve, stupid and gullible to have delivered that speech – or her numerous previous speeches – without coaching and manipulation.
She must be the victim of a sinister conspiracy, a cult aimed at undermining western civilisation. So it is not really her fault, except that it is – she should go back home (or better, a home run not by her obviously abusive parents, but one that is politically sound), and learn the revealed truth about the eternal benefits of fossil fuel and the fallibility of the science to the contrary.
But perhaps she can’t – after all, she has Asperger’s Syndrome, so she is not entirely rational – barking mad, in fact. Her lunacy is attested by her habit of wearing a plait – what normal girl wears a plait these days? And she speaks kind of funny, not like us dinky-di Ockers.
But above all, she is angry, or as Morrison might call it, needlessly anxious – why would a healthy 16-year-old be anxious about the future of the planet, her hopes and dreams? We adults have it all under control and if we don’t, well, something will turn up. Get back to school, you little presumptuous brat.
How to exploit anxiety for your own agenda
But Morrison, resuming his daggy-dad persona, is at least marginally sympathetic. Kids should be kids, he insists, and teenagers should be teenagers he told a bemused audience at his own UN address – perhaps he meant they should spend more time on the traditional teenage pursuits of sex and drugs and rock’n’roll.
He respected the passion of the young: ‘my impulse is always to respond positively and to encourage them,’ he continued patronisingly. ‘To provide context, perspective and hope. We must respect and harness’ – yes it’s all about control – ‘the passion and aspirations of our younger generations rather than allow others to compound or worse, exploit their anxiety, for their own agendas.’
That is clearly his job, and his success on asylum seekers, Sudanese gangs, internet porn, unnamed security scares and all the rest of it shows that he is bloody good at it. And to prove it, he was happy to drag in his own young daughters, aged 12 and 10 respectively. They discussed climate change and fossil fuels – but he wanted them to keep everything in context and perspective, just as he had said.
He wanted them to be optimistic, looking forward to what he called a pristine environment (if he ever knew what the word pristine meant, he has long forgotten it) in an ideal future.
We can just see him as he gathers them on his lap, and their little eyes light up at the prospect of a landscape scarred by coalmines, with power plants belching clouds of smoke all around as they stroke and pat their father’s pet, the lump of anthracite he one cradled lovingly in parliament.
Not at all like that deluded dupe Greta Thunberg.
Hey, climate change – not everything is about you!
Was there anything more to say? Of course there was, the usual lies about how Australia was doing its bit, more than its bit, and in any case it wasn’t polluting very much at all, and places like China should do more, which was no doubt why we were flogging them as much coal as we could possibly manage.
And now for the big announcement: cardboard man has morphed into plastic man. ScoMo is going to clean up the world’s oceans. Well, not really, but he is going to try and find someone who will, as long as there’s a buck in it, which, in the current circumstances – that recycling plants around the world are either closing down or putting harsh restrictions on the waste they will accept – may be tricky. Which is no doubt why Morrison’s government has some kind of aspiration to phase out the use of plastic packaging in Australia, but is not putting a timetable on it.
The environment is not just climate change, he thundered, and as far as he is concerned, that’s certainly true – it is not about climate change at all. And Australia has absolutely nothing to apologise for. Or at least Australia is not going to apologise, and definitely not to Greta Thunberg and millions of enthusiastic followers. Not now, not ever.
Deny, obfuscate, distract, mislead – and if that does not work, terminate with extreme prejudice.