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Extinction Rebellion is criminal and must be curbed


IT’S reported that the government is considering measures to curb the increasingly destructive and harmful behaviour of the eco-anarchist Extinction Rebellion movement, or XR as they style themselves.

According to the Telegraph, the government is starting to recognise that XR have crossed the line between legitimate political protest and criminality.

This seems unarguable. XR don’t simply demonstrate to spread their own messages. Instead they try to prevent others from exercising their rights. Up to now it’s mainly been people’s rights of movement: to go to work or about their normal business. But now they even want to interfere with your right to read a newspaper.

We can cheerfully bet that should the government move forward in countering XR’s tactics, there will be those on the Left who will stand up for XR, claiming that the freedom to protest is under attack. Any such arguments must be resolutely countered.

It would be outrageous if the government set out to ban protest but no one is calling for that. However irritating XR might be (and they are) they must be allowed to protest freely. Let them parade about and indulge in their revolutionary public yoga sessions or naff street theatre.

But it is not permissible for any of their actions to interfere with the freedoms of others. You can have demonstrations and marches, but you can’t have blockades. ‘Blockade’, incidentally, being XR’s word of choice, an admission of an attempt through physical means to shut down opposing views. These are the seeds of totalitarianism.

The government should make it clear that such interference is a criminal matter. If necessary, changes to relevant laws on conspiracy and public order should be made to allow the authorities to deal with the matter. Let the government make it an issue for public debate and pose the question: ‘Should the right to political protest be allowed to interfere with the freedoms of everyone else?’ I’m sure the public’s answer would be no. Remember what happened when XR tried to block people getting to work at Canning Town in East London last year.  I think that’s probably a good indication of the public’s resentment at being bullied.

XR’s claim that extreme tactics are justified to draw attention to suppressed truths is dishonest and ridiculous. For twenty years or more we have listened to an endless din about climate change and ecology. The ideas they expound have had almost unlimited exposure. We probably hear far more of the claims made by XR than of any counter-claims that might sometimes appear in the newspapers XR tried to stop.

Of course, we shouldn’t over-react; XR’s actions are still only pinpricks to freedom, but every concession or failure to stand up to them only encourages further bad behaviour. And they aspire to be much more than an irritant. They want to destroy our economic and democratic models: ending capitalism and replacing Parliament’s authority with ‘People’s Assemblies’, meaning pliant mouthpiece assemblies for spreading their ideology.

In other words, XR are just the latest in a list of revolutionary cults. They are disguised as compassion and universal love to gull the naïve, but the end point is never pleasant. Even the dimmest student of history should understand that accomplishing the societal changes necessary to effect XR’s ideas would require massive coercion and almost certainly outright tyranny.

Some of their more committed cadres already know this, considering that our current political and business leaders deserve a ‘bullet in the head’. 

Ultimately, XR will probably fade into irrelevance. Such movements often exhaust themselves. It’s hard to keep the excitement going as adherents grow up and move on. And their desperate clamour for attention is often counter-productive: the more we see of them, the more contempt they earn. Most people find fanatics deeply unattractive. But still, they are capable of damage and disruption before that happens. We should not allow public policy to be influenced by direct physical methods rather than legitimate argument and established democratic practices that have taken centuries to develop. 

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Ollie Wright
Ollie Wright
Ollie Wright is an ex-Labour Party man with a life long interest in politics and history.

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