Blunt post from Rachel Barge (here) at the leading youth climate site, It’s Getting Hot in Here, on why environmental street theater is counter-productive. She writes:
I think there’s 3 major chain-reaction problems with using street theater as a means to build a movement:
1. We look stupid
2. People feel alienated
3. It says, we’re different from you, therefore we’re against you
When was the last time you let a talking polar bear shift your views
on a political issue? Maybe you buy your car insurance because of what
a talking gecko tells you, but that’s a separate issue… The truth is, direct action street theater looks
totally stupid to the vast majority of people who witness it, and it
significantly undermines the credibility of the environmental movement.
The "talking polar bear" point reminds me of the infamous snowman question about global warming in the YouTube debate last year. That was (as you will see if you can stand to look at it) a moment when political street theater crossed over and made it into the national conversation about global warming.
But I think it’s generally agreed that was a low point in the discussion.
Certainly the question got no memorable answers out of any of the candidates, so whatever its value as entertainment, it failed as journalism.
Although Ms. Barge was roundly criticized by many fellow activists, I think her criticism is well paced.
I believe in drama, the word, and theater, but I don’t believe it can be imposed on people. If they don’t choose the experience, it’s not going to move them, won’t change their minds.
If thousands of activists did choose such an experience — as one suggests with a "million species march" on Washington; well, that might be different.
But snowmen asking questions on TV? Please: this is an important issue. Don’t turn it into a joke.
One thought on “Young Enviro Activist Slams Street Theater”
You can tell a movement is alive by the fact that it’s not afraid to look stupid to the vast majority of humans. (I say this from experience, as one who always wore a necktie to demonstrations when I started out c1962.)