Since Friday’s Global Climate Strike, and now Greta Thunberg’s speech at the UN Climate Action Summit, climate change headlines are more abundant than ever. Videos of the young Swedish activist gone icon are being shared by the millions every day. Her catalyst affect brought millions from their schools, work, and homes to the streets to send a message to political leaders that we are facing extinction.
It is hard to gauge Greta’s popularity among all voting eligible people. As of 2016, only 48% of adults in the United States accredited humans as the driving force of climate change, according to Pew Research. Surely that number has increased by some measures as more robust studies have been published. With more available science, the same young people that are most likely the ones registering to vote are also more likely to view climate change as the hottest issue of our generation.
Unlike most of the people that make headlines in our society, Greta Thunberg has a “superpower” — she has Asperger’s. For those who tail her activism, they’ll see her powers aren’t anything short of just that — super. Her tenacity and straight-forwardness are two of the most notable features of her leadership style. She can let the world know just how she feels and what she is thinking. For youth and young adult activists, Greta is the hero we needed but never deserved.
As all of this attention is being thrown at Greta for being the face of the youth movement, she is also being harshly objected to the cruelties of fame. My blood curls thinking about the number of “Anti-Greta” memes, videos, and articles bouncing around Facebook. With social media content it’s important to point out that different age groups and populations will differ. But when has it ever been “funny” to make these kinds of “jokes” — let alone be unafraid to share them on the internet! But maybe I am wrong. It is more often than not from older generations who are sharing these things (and their kids right behind them). As a culture, perspectives and opinions on what is “acceptable” and “unacceptable” are always mixed and over time the collective attitude will shift. In the book, “Freedom for the Thought We Hate” by Anthony Lewis, there are plenty of examples of court cases that have ruled to either allow or control “obscene speech” in contexts that were considered either public or private. Or such as in this case, somewhere in between.
My auto response when I see a post of that nature, like making fun of a teenager with Asperger’s for the way she talks, holds herself, and giving a damn about the planet we all live on: I take a screenshot. A screenshot of the post, who posted it, when, who liked it, shared it, and commented. This is a way of keeping track of who is safe and who is not. This speech is unacceptable by all standards and I don’t think that Facebook, or any other social media platform ought to involve themselves in censoring it from accounts.
From where I stand, Facebook’s recent action to create a 40 person oversight committee and automated detection software makes the world more dangerous. I would much rather allow people the ability to openly proclaim these ideas and attitudes, rather than have them suppressing it and only sharing on infinitely more cryptic and anonymous platforms. Although it is terrifying to have to confront hateful content, it’s better to note red flags and respond publicly to send the message that certain types of speech will not be accepted in the private sectors of society. This I believe is a more effective way of building a tolerant and accepting culture.