Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist that sailed to the USA from Sweden on a boat, has thus far received admiration and applause from all corners of the possibly ending world – but she is receiving increasingly more responses and backlash from those she targets in her speeches.
Her recent speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City is causing some uproar. It is difficult to imagine that some of the most trusted news sources and elite in society would stoop to dehumanising and discriminatory comments about a 16-year-old girl, but this is sadly the reality of the situation.
Her own Instagram clip of the speech is flooded with comments like “you are totally wrong with your brainwashed mind Greta Thunzwerg” and calling her a great actress, telling her to “then go back to school lol [laugh out loud]”. Some went as far as commenting on her appearance, heritage, and mental capabilities.
Looking at the contents of the speech itself, and considering her background, it would be evident to anyone that this is not acting. What confuses people who do not analyse rhetoric correctly, is the break of character, combined with the mechanical appearance of the emotional crack.
Greta is not mechanical because she is acting – she may seem mechanical because she is upset, and she has different expressions of emotion due to Asperger Syndrome.
Regardless of the specific appearance of the emotional outburst, up until now, Greta has been consistently calm and collected, giving us an impression of logos: she knows what she is talking about. Yet, this time, her emotions clearly get the best of her, when her script prompts her to address the culprits of climate change and economy-centred politicians directly, repeating: “how dare you?”
Because she utilised pathos this time, seemingly unintentionally, and a more harsh and direct accusation towards a specific group in society, she received more backlash than ever. All over Instagram reposts and her own post, comments were as degrading and dehumanising as to target her condition: Aspergers, and use it to argue that she is mentally unstable and untrustworthy.
In 2019, we have created a clear social norm of tolerance and understanding of mental illness and neurological differences. Therefore, these comments only help the rest of us to confirm that there is a part of society who actively does not care for others. No matter the precise urgency of climate change, her message is correct: some of us only care about ourselves, and this needs to change- or we will not survive as a species.
The speech sparked comments accusing Greta of acting, connecting it to her family background: her mother being an opera singer, and her father an actor. All over Instagram, young, male American high schoolers and college students consistently commented about her clearly being taken out of school by her “left wing” fanatic parents and forced to act for financial gain. This is a comment that has been written and posted by more than five accounts on Instagram.
These people are not so-called trollers, they are real, regular people, who are likely following the lead of Fox News panel commentator, Michael Knowles, who made this exact comment, calling her a “mentally ill Swedish child”. Fox News later apologised.
What is this showing us? That she is right. When one of the biggest news channels in America, and possibly the world, can cross these boundaries, her activism is revealing some pretty horrible prejudices.
Greta called out the people that are being unkind to the planet, people who focus only on financial gain, and those people are the ones who responded in these posts. She did something we in this generation do to demonstrate a point, or uncover truth: we call someone out, to possibly allow them to show the assumption is wrong – in this case, the people surfacing the internet in response to her call-out, the privileged, have not caught onto this, and are confirming her accusations by their ignorance.
Greta is acting as the ultimate catalyst of change, forcing the people who are combating climate theory, and exactly the people she was targeting, to respond, and that is showing us just how large scale the problem is.
Featured image credit: thenewsminute.com