Stop the Presses! Before We Become Extinct

By William J. Furney

Britain’s daily newspapers were forced to apologise to their readers this weekend because they might not be able to enjoy their morning read, due to environmental militants blocking printing plants over what they claim is the papers’ failure to report on climate change. 

No-nonsense Home Secretary Priti Patel called Extinction Rebellion’s latest stunt an “attack on our free press, society and democracy” and that it was “completely unacceptable”. 

Who even buys newspapers anymore, when you can get your news online, without going anywhere, and for free?

But the rebel organisation fighting for climate-change action hit the headlines, in digital editions at least, which for them was all that mattered, even if 63 of the faithful were arrested. 

And forget dissipating coronavirus: after a pandemic-induced hiatus, XR is back and with a bang and also engaged in a two-week protest outside the British parliament and around the UK, under the banner, and pleading theme, of We Want to Live. 

“The people of the UK are fed up with the government’s failure to act on the climate and ecological emergency,” the rebels said as the rag-tag adventure kicked off on September 1. “The Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill (CEE Bill), is the only concrete plan available to address this crisis, and so on their first day back in parliament, we demand our elected officials Act Now and embrace this legislation.”

Everyone’s invited to join in, particularly the young. It’s their future, after all. 

Forget Greta and her pouty histrionics because she can’t get her global-warming way; the XR crowd are blowing everyone away, and creating a fierce storm of worldwide media attention that’s ramming the message home that there’s no time to lose in the climate fight imperilling us all. 

Big media folk like Rupert Murdoch and his right-wing press all over the world don’t want to know, because — hey! — carbon emissions are excellent for business and keeping our factories going and all those fossil fuels burning up, and that’s what counts, say XR. 

Even heir James has had enough of his 89-year-old father’s unwavering editorial line based on dollars and not sense, and in July quit from the board of News Corp over what was euphemistically termed “disagreements” due to “certain editorial content published by the company’s news outlets and certain other strategic decisions,” he said. 

So it’s no wonder the Extinction rebels hit back at Patel’s criticism, saying that a “UK free press is as much a myth as the benevolence of Empire” because media owners like Murdoch don’t live in the country yet through papers like The Sun and The Times — and Fox News in the US — they wield extraordinary power over public opinion and can influence the outcome of elections through their coverage and editorials. 

“If we are to cope with #ClimateCollapse we have to unlearn the toxic untruths manufactured by the lameStreamMedia that keep us frightened & divided. 70% of our press controlled by 5 non-dom billionaires,” XR tweeted.

As the pandemic starts to fade, the climate activists — who accuse the British government of failing to keep the public safe, having “ignored the warnings about coronavirus” and locked down the country too late, costing lives — say there now exists an opportunity to take real climate change action that will start to reverse a warming planet and all the potential destruction it could cause. 

In an updated statement following the press blockade, the rebels said a free press, society and democracy was not under attack by their actions but by “a failing government that lies to us consistently, is becoming increasingly authoritarian and is leading us towards 4 degrees of warming.” They said that, in reality, the British government is not interested in a free press or it wouldn’t have allowed the UK media “to be amassed in the hands of five people with powerful vested interests and deep connections to fossil fuel industries”.

They added: “A free press does not push the agenda of its billionaire owners. Freedom of the press to these corporations means a completely unregulated fanfare with no threat of accountability for the harm and division they cause … To Rupert Murdoch we say: we are not sorry for disrupting your business. Stop suppressing the truth about the climate crisis and profiting from the division your papers create.”

XR wants the media — or at least those elements of the fourth estate “finding it hard to understand why we’ve taken this action” — to play “a vital role” in telling the most urgent story of our time with the courage and conviction it requires”.

The environmental insurgents say the time has run out “for division and delay” and the media has “the ability to bring people together with [its] words”. 

The protesters’ main demands are for a climate and ecological emergency to be declared; an end to biodiversity loss, meaning the extinction of plants and animals, through human activity; a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to net zero (neither a surplus or deficit) by 2025; and the establishment of a Citizens’ Assembly that will lead the government on climate and “ecological justice”. 

After novel coronavirus brought the world to a halt and wiped out close to a million people, it would seem a much easier task. If the press allow it. 

  • Title image shows Extinction Rebellion members blocking a printing plant in Broxbourne, near London, England, on Saturday night. (Credit: Extinction Rebellion)

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