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Climate strike was a masterclass in manipulation

David Murtagh 23 September 2019 27

Children can’t be questioned as you would challenge an adult. If you do, you come across as a bully. Or a big meany. Or both. Photo: George Tsotsos.

The climate change march on Friday attracted large numbers of protestors, but what is its lasting impact? David Murtagh says while well-intentioned, the protests are largely misdirected and it’s an exercise in manipulation. Kirsten Duncan argues that the march will empower a generation at critical risk.


After extraordinary scenes from around the world, even the most doubtful sceptics should concede that the Climate Strike was an overwhelming success. Especially in the ACT.

Although allowing Aussie kids to ditch half a day of school was never going to be a hard sell, it would be churlish to deny its success, no matter its in-built incentives.

In Canberra, the first Climate Strike in March fit comfortably in City Walk, but organisers were wise to shift the protest to the larger Glebe Park venue for its second iteration.

Canberra didn’t disappoint.

Having conceded the strike’s success, can we now concede that it was a masterclass in manipulation?

This column is not debating the science of climate change or its dangers. And it certainly isn’t going to make the mistake of belittling the sincerity of anyone who rocked up to Glebe Park.

Having seen the reaction to Jeremy Hanson’s pre-strike tweet, that mistake won’t be made here.

The Member for Murrumbidgee was brutally ratioed for this effort. The response from Canberra was near-unanimous. And that’s why children are now front and centre in the latest effort to raise awareness about climate change.

Children are being manipulated to lead the protests and we are being manipulated by the children because – as Hanson found out – children can’t be questioned as you would challenge an adult. If you do, you come across as a bully. Or a big meany. Or both.

So instead, adults become supine and patronising, and nod approvingly as though they haven’t heard the message to “listen to the science” 1000 times before. Which is essentially the only message Swedish activist Greta Thunberg has because she isn’t a scientist or an innovator. She brings nothing new to the debate except a fresh face which will soon be replaced when we reach ‘peak Greta’.

When you hear messages from scared children, it is easy to be swayed. Which is why it isn’t only adults being manipulated. So are the children.

Twin messages from the strike were that Australia needs to go to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030 and that Australia (and everyone else) was doing nothing to solve the problem.

If Australia is doing nothing, nothing sure costs a fortune.

At least $1.67 billion will be spent this year alone by the Federal Government on climate policies. Then there are non-budget measures the government takes such as renewable energy mandates. Plenty is being done. Especially in Australia.

Maybe it’s time we asked who are feeding our children false information.

But thanks to the strike, we’re now all aware of climate change. For real? Is there anyone over the age of five who hasn’t heard of climate change? Or the proposed remedies?

BTW, sceptics totally agree that the climate is changing. The sceptics’ case relies heavily on the fact that the climate has always been changing. It’s almost impossible to find anyone who doesn’t agree that climate change is real. And if you could find them you could probably fit them all in the boot of a Tesla.

If you squashed them in.

Which you would.

It is great that children feel strongly about such an important issue, but it would be even better if they weren’t being manipulated. That we weren’t being manipulated. And that’s before we even question how much Australians contribute to global emissions.

David Murtagh is a Canberra writer and podcaster.


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27 Responses to Climate strike was a masterclass in manipulation
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fbarons 7:15 pm 27 Sep 19

If you don’t want to be manipulated David you probably need to stop listening to any politician speak, about anything, ever.

Judy Ryan 1:25 pm 27 Sep 19

Thank you David Murtargh and Riot Act for daring to speak the truth. If you type
bit.ly/tgm-j
into your browser, you will come to my page. I challenge your readers to prove any of the educational posters there incorrect. You won’t be able to answer there, but you can here.

A Nonny Mouse 6:35 pm 26 Sep 19

I recently saw the following quote that seems pertinent: “There are two types of human-induced climate change deniers, those who profit from denial and fools. The profiteers don’t bother trolling social media. They leave that to the latter.”

A Nonny Mouse 6:25 pm 26 Sep 19

The “masterclass in manipulation” has been the fossil fuel lobby and their wilfully ignorant stooges who have acted like the tobacco lobby once did. They have achieved decades of delay, which is why all the credible science now says we are facing a crisis.

Why shouldn’t Greta say “listen to the science”? How is it reasonable to do otherwise? We need every country acting. We don’t need each country making excuses, claiming that it can be exempted, especially a country like Australia with easy means to make greater cuts from very high per capita levels. Australia’s emissions are rising not falling. Australia promised to return to international negotiations with greater ambition than its interim 26-28%. Instead Australia came back promising an accounting dodge to half its inadequate ambition. Greta is right be angry. I am angry too.

Acton 6:04 pm 25 Sep 19

Those being influenced by Greta Thunberg, the Swedish girl who has become the role model for this movement, should take into account that she was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.

A Dept of Health info sheet says the symptoms and signs of Asperger syndrome vary but may include:

“Difficulty with actual communication despite apparently good language skills.
Difficulty in comprehending that effective communication requires listening as well as talking.
A tendency to take a very literal understanding of what has been said.
Behaviour can vary from mildly unusual, eccentric or ‘odd’, to quite aggressive and difficult.
Insistence of living with a set of rules and rituals that all family members must follow.
Visible frustration when things do not happen as they want.
Overly sensitive to criticism.
A narrow field of interests and an ability/desire to learn all there is to know about a specific topic.”

Greta is indeed passionate about her beliefs, but we and especially kids, should be cautious about being influenced by someone with a diagnosed developmental disorder affecting how the brain processes information and an unwillingness to accept alternative views.

sportsmum 12:54 pm 25 Sep 19

It is indeed alarming that so many seem to be either in denial about, or completely ignorant of, the absolutely clear and unequivocal science concerning climate change.

If “plenty is indeed being done” in Australia, then why are our carbon emissions increasing at a rapid pace? Why is Australia leading the world in per capita emissions? Could it be because the money being spent by this government is on projects that do not deal with the underlying issues, and is itself a smokescreen to protect billionaires who do not want their businesses disrupted, and those billionaires happen to be major contributors to the LNP? All the data released by the government on carbon emissions and climate change is heavily doctored and manipulated. If you want to talk about manipulation, that is perhaps where you should focus your attention.

Each person who dismisses climate change as something airy fairy or unreal should be required to educate themselves using the reports issued by the world’s top climate scientists, the United Nations and other peak bodies. Otherwise known as “the experts”. Armchair experts who cherry-pick facts, and distort the issues, should be ignored.

Climate change is real, it is happening and it is a significant threat to life as we know it, pure and simple.

Students protesting about the inaction of so-called leaders in this arena is absolutely justified, and these young people should be supported, not ridiculed.

https://climateactiontracker.org/countries/australia/
http://theconversation.com/whichever-way-you-spin-it-australias-greenhouse-emissions-have-been-climbing-since-2015-118112
https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/reports.shtml
https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/CC_MVSA0143-Briefing-Paper-Australias-Rising-Emissions_V8-FA_Low-Res_Single-Pages3.pdf
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-06-06/australian-emissions-rise-again-delayed-government-data-shows/11184906
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/aug/30/australia-carbon-emissions-rise-again-greenhouse-gas-lng

John Moulis 4:37 pm 24 Sep 19

My views on “climate change” are well-known but I have to ask why the media – and Kevin Rudd – seem to believe the march is somehow representative of young people in this country. Certainly not the young people I come into contact with.

There are young guys and schoolkids training at the gyms I go to. People in their teens and twenties. They’re interested in building muscle, keeping fit, sports and looking good. I suggest that “climate change” wouldn’t even feature on their radars.

It seems to me that the more left wing media have been blinded by the smoke and mirrors performances emanating from some of the more shouty and aggressive elements involved in the “climate change” industry. The performance by Greta Thunberg at the UN today is a case in point. It was great theatre but that’s all it was.

The fact that adults have elevated her onto a pedestal and hang on every word she says is even more disturbing than her mad gesticulations and face pulling whilst delivering her speech.

    retired_canberran 6:26 am 25 Sep 19

    We might have reached ‘PEAK GRETA’! She’s sill useful to the adults around her for now, but I’m not sure how many more times she’ll be invited into someone’s home to spit at them ‘How dare you’ or accuse her hosts of stealing her privileged childhood. Certainly not my house!
    What are we doing? As a country that contributes very little to global emissions compared to our neighbouring superpower, $1.6 billion this year alone is not nothing. I can think of many immediate on the ground services that money would help our people enormously. I’m not saying do nothing, definitely keep working on climate change, but enough influence of the bratty, abusive ‘it’s not enough, do more now at whatever cost’ mouthpieces who know nothing of sacrifice or real opportunity cost as it applies to their lives. The girl on The Drum last night was more bearable to listen to.

plausibly_deniable 10:16 am 24 Sep 19

Manipulated by who, for what end? Why do you suspect ulterior motives when the simpler hypothesis is that the protestors genuinely and correctly don’t think we’re doing anywhere near enough?

    A Nonny Mouse 6:30 pm 26 Sep 19

    And consider the powerful and rich who might have an interest in manipulation. Who is more likely to be disinterested, the world’s most credible research institutes or people with investments in fossil fuels?

rationalobserver 9:30 am 24 Sep 19

This constant bombardment of our young people with alarmist messages and calls to action must be having a phycological effect on some at least. It should be considered a form of child abuse, but to those who are really behind these things the end always justifies the means.

Capital Retro 10:21 pm 23 Sep 19

When I was a kid I was threatened by my mother that I would get a visit from the “boogey man” if I didn’t toe the line (narrative is the term used these days).

Today, the threat it is “climate change” however, as children grow up they will automatically challenge what their parents, teachers and religious leaders taught/deceived them and when they discover the nicer things of life (lust, fast cars, overseas trips etc.) the climate change rallies will become a distant memory.

HiddenDragon 7:47 pm 23 Sep 19

In the absence of yet-to-materialise technological miracles, it certainly is manipulative to let people think that they can go on living their privileged lifestyles if only we have enough solar panels and wind farms (and protest marches).

For those demanding “real action”, let’s see all kids walking, cycling, or taking public transport to and from school, and to after-school and weekend activities, and no more parking spaces at schools for teachers or driving-age students. Then let’s see pester-power turned to holidays – no flying, ever (Alan Joyce recently confirmed that “environmentally-friendly” aviation fuels are still some way off) – just local holidays which can be accessed by public transport or an electric or hybrid car. No more up-to-the minute technology or fashion for privileged kids – that all comes with an environmental cost and too often involves questionable labour practices (regardless of marketing to the contrary). And, of course, we need to get rid of our swishy coffee culture – much of it is imported (“food miles”, people!) and there’s all the artificial heat required to produce it.

When that day-to-day stuff is under control, the “real action” campaigners can start working out how we pay our way in the world (including servicing our massive foreign debt) if the mining exports, which earn so much of our foreign income, are closed down.

    Capital Retro 10:34 pm 23 Sep 19

    Totally correct. Even if climate is perceived to be changing faster than expected, humankind will adapt to it and find technological solutions for living with it.

    The real problems we have to deal with are alluded to in your final paragraph. My personal concerns are the borrowings my children must commit to to buy a home while they are worrying what will happen when their jobs disappear.

    A Nonny Mouse 6:33 pm 26 Sep 19

    If you think adaptation to unmitigated climate change will be easy and technological fixes easily found, you clearly don’t understand what the scientists have been saying. They are not talking about just occasionally unpleasant weather!

Robert 7:35 pm 23 Sep 19

The inadequacy of the current federal government in dealing with climate change is all to apparent. I encourage anyone with an interest in the facts to read the Climate Council report https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Climate-Cuts-Cover-Ups-and-Censorship.pdf

    Acton 8:56 pm 23 Sep 19

    What or who is the so-called Climate Council? It is not a Government body. It is not a scientific body. It appears to be a defunded Labor quango once known as the Climate Commission, now striving to maintain its existence and relevance through public donations. Of course it would claim government funding is inadequate because government funding is necessary to ensure lucrative research grants, employment tenure, attendance at overseas conferences and a credibility which it now lacks.

    Robert 10:38 pm 23 Sep 19

    Your replies to my and other posts do not make reference any factual information.

    Instead you rubbish organisations staffed by scientific and academic professionals.

    The science is in. It is no longer up for debate. Anthropogenic Climate Change is real. ( Please provide credible scientific peer reviewed research to back your claim if you disagree ).

    For me, it’s not a question of blame. Who’s right or wrong. It’s just a matter of making good of the time while we still can.

    We will all face the realities of a warming planet over the coming decades. We can carry on as before and pretend there isn’t a problem, or we can try and mitigate it’s effects. With either approach there will be a heavy price to pay.

    I personally feel that mitigation is the way to go. Though harbour fears that whatever we do, it will be too little to late.

    Capital Retro 8:32 am 24 Sep 19

    How does one mitigate gullibility and imagination?

    Acton 3:26 pm 24 Sep 19

    “The science is in. It is no longer up for debate.” That is an arrogant statement and typical of the closed minds attempting to prevent discussion and alternative theories inconsistent with the approved groupthink. The Catholic Church once persecuted heretics who disputed their sole interpretation of the religious world and science. Those who argued that the sun did not revolve around earth were deemed heretics. Google Copernicus. Those who now dispute anthropogenic climate change are the new heretics. When I studied science we were taught to use observation, experiment and to adapt theories as new evidence and facts became apparent. But common sense and an open mind are not permitted when “It is no longer up for debate.” If climatologists (calling them scientists is an insult to real scientists) or the ‘Climate Council’ were presented with alternative evidence they would dismiss it as heretical minority views, just as the medieval Church once dismissed disbelievers. As we have seen at one Qld university, challenging the orthodox view now leads to professional persecution.

    Robert 10:57 pm 03 Oct 19

    My opinions are based on reading factual information from reputable sources including CSIRO, Royal Society, IPCC and Climate Council to name but a few.

    But if that’s to much like reading to be bothered with, you need only go as far as the Australian BOM and look at charts with decades of historical data for atmospheric and ocean temperatures, and rainfall to realise there is something to this climate change nonsense. Plenty of pretty coloured graphs and pictures that you can look at and kid yourself that rapid climate change isn’t happening.

    So please enlighten me and share links to sites and information I should be reading to get a more balanced perspective of the issue.

    Here’s a paper I’d like to share with you. It’s a study of research papers on climate change.

    J. Cook, et al, “Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming,” Environmental Research Letters Vol. 11 No. 4, (13 April 2016); DOI:10.1088/1748-9326/11/4/048002

    (https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/11/4/048002)

    From page 6: “The number of papers rejecting AGW [Anthropogenic, or human-caused, Global Warming] is a miniscule proportion of the published research, with the percentage slightly decreasing over time. Among papers expressing a position on AGW, an overwhelming percentage (97.2% based on self-ratings, 97.1% based on abstract ratings) endorses the scientific consensus on AGW.”

    Robert 8:37 am 04 Oct 19

    You reference a time when church and state were one and the same. Where explanations for naturally phenomena were controlled and manipulated by the church and state for its own purposes. A scientific method, based on assiduous observations and measurements, that questioned church teachings resulted in persecution and execution for those who did not repent.

    How repugnant, perverse and imbecilic to align your views with Copernicus who is credited for using an evidence based approach to support the heliocentric model when…

    “The level of scientific agreement on AGW is overwhelmingly high because the supporting evidence is overwhelmingly strong.” J. Cook, et al, “Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming,”

    And that “the growing politicization of government science and research and the breakdown of processes for filling key government positions.” to subvert the work of the scientific community. (https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/policy-solutions/proposals-reform-volume-ii-national-task-force-rule-law-democracy).

Acton 6:07 pm 23 Sep 19

Thank you, thank you, thank you David. For having the guts to provide a lone and sensible voice in the media against this alarmism we are being subjected to. What we are witnessing is a modern day outbreak of mass hysteria over the climate changing. Or alternatively, a moral panic, which is a widespread irrational fear that someone or something is a threat to the safety, interests or existence of a group or society. Typically, a moral panic is perpetuated by the news media, fueled by politicians and those motivated by self-interest, and often results in knee-jerk responses to target the imagined source of the threat. History is full of such psychological and self-delusional disturbances. But usually sanity prevails. The kids need to read the allegorical fable of Henny Penny and the barnyard panic she causes. The phrase “The sky is falling!” has passed into the English language as indicating a hysterical or mistaken belief that disaster is imminent. There are a number of Henny Pennys out there.

    retired_canberran 7:33 pm 23 Sep 19

    Yes! And well done RiotACT for having the guts to run *gasp* two opposing opinion pieces!

peturbed_but_pretty 5:56 pm 23 Sep 19

All of your arguments portray their points as moot, however:
When our policy makers and leaders act of the science in front of them, the children will not need to raise it.
When our policy makers and leaders listen to what the experts in the field have been saying for decades, the children will not have to protest.
When appropriate action is taken, then the children will not have to continue to provide a ‘fresh face’ for the conversation.
How much more talking and protesting and striking must be taken before it is no longer needed?

    Capital Retro 10:36 pm 23 Sep 19

    “……listen to what the experts in the field have been saying for decades….”

    Who are the “experts” (please do not say 97% of all climate scientists) and what have they been saying that has actually eventuated when they said it would?

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