In George Orwell’s seminal dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, children are depicted as being a key tool in the control of civilians by a totalitarian state. In the novel they are ideologically trained by the ruling Party and come to adore its rituals and the processions; they proudly wave banners, preach Party orthodoxy, and fiercely chant slogans and songs, seeing it all as a “glorious game”. Their malleable minds were shaped before drying into cement, the training inculcating a ferocity which was “like the gambolling of tiger cubs which will soon grow up into man-eaters”.
Nineteen Eighty-Four was published in 1948; but, by that point, the ideological targeting of children had long been a staple of population control. Certainly a staple of aggressive political authority. Something that undeniably took place during the Nazi regime in Germany. In his speech at the annual Nazi Party rally in 1935, Hitler declared: “He alone who owns the youth gains the future”.
The Nazis put tremendous effort into indoctrinating children. One of its principal outlets was the Hitler Youth, an organisation which was inaugurated in 1922 (Hitler-Jugend, Bund Deutscher Arbeiterjugend “Hitler Youth, League of German Worker Youth”). The Hitler Youth constituted the single most successful mass movement of the Third Reich. Children were removed from their parents and obliged to participate in National Socialist rituals and drills and military training, leading to doctrinal lessons. The sole purpose of which was to instil children with Nazi beliefs.
In 1939 Hitler Youth was made mandatory, but by the mid-30s it had a monopoly on all youth sports facilities in Germany, effectively locking out non-members. Furthermore, before it was made compulsory, pursuing higher education or getting an apprenticeship was contingent on membership, and parents were regularly coerced into getting their children to enlist in state programs. The children themselves, had they not been members, were asked in school to write essays about “why I’m not a member of Hitler-Jugend”.
When children weren’t in school or at Hitler Youth they were faced with continual Nazi propaganda, from the media and popular culture generally, which centred around the existential threat to the German people from the purported infiltrators and saboteurs, namely the communists and Jews. The news was awash with this grand doomsday narrative, cynically spun to manipulate the minds of young Germans.
As strong as it may sound, the recent ‘Climate Strike’ protests reminded me a little of Hitler Youth in its exploitation and ideological targeting of impressionable children. Climate Strike’s face was “climate activist” Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old girl from Sweden. And its foot soldiers were comprised of millions of truant children across the world who took to the streets with placards and banners to demand that world leaders take swift action to avert an “impending environmental catastrophe”. The numbers of anxious and spirited adolescents were helped, I’m sure, by the fact that the protests were staged on a Friday, with many teachers the world over encouraging their students to skip class.
Naturally, the mass media were falling over themselves to cheerlead for the millions of truant children. They praised them for their moral fortitude in leading the movement to save the planet. But they were of course lying. Like all political movements, Climate Strike was set up by cynical adults, who merely enlisted the support of the youngsters by propounding a message customized for their digestion.
Similarly, in Nazi Germany young Germans were incessantly praised by the media for their contribution towards defending the Fatherland from the invaders. The National Socialist message also had a black-and-white doomsday appeal, only this time it was the existential threat posed to the Aryan race by state enemies, and not the existential threat of the economic system on climate change.
In Nazi Germany, firstly debate was discouraged; then dissenters were silenced; finally, all those opposed to the objectives of National Socialism were imprisoned and transported to the concentration camps in the east. Detractors of official orthodoxy on climate change, on the other hand, are widely given the label “climate denier”, which is suggestive of fruit loopery and conspiracy theories. It’s also redolent, dare I say, of “Holocaust denier”. And Greta Thunberg’s mother, Malena Ernman, even equated the two in her book, ‘Scenes from the Heart’.
The term’s use is clearly designed to suppress debate and shame those with heterodoxical views, or those who just want to probe the matter for themselves. Accordingly, there’s little to no debate about “the science” in mainstream circles, wild claims are merely repeated alongside wild forecasts. In fact, it’s quite remarkable that there’s been so much talk about “the science”, with so little talk about the actual science itself. It’s hardly in keeping with the enlightenment spirit. And more in keeping with a cultish allegiance to authority and dogma.
After the protests, Greta Thunberg was granted an audience at the UN and gave an impassioned speech about the crisis, scolding world leaders about their inaction in tackling what was a “mass extinction” and that “people are dying” and “entire ecosystems are collapsing”. She received an ovation for her moving performance, which was bereft of one single piece of salient data. Greta merely pleading that we should “listen to the scientists”. Which scientists she did not specify; presumably not the 31,000 scientists who have signed a petition declaring the ‘official’ scientific position to be politicised and unscientific.
Greta stated at the beginning of her speech that “she shouldn’t be here” and that she “should be in school on the other side of the ocean”. Precisely, Greta. Since when are world leaders taking their advice from schoolchildren, and why was this one in particular given a world platform to speak on this issue? I tentatively suggest that she was given this platform because what she had to say was exactly what the globalist elite and the UN wanted to hear; more importantly, what they wanted YOU to hear. She also has extremely powerful backers.
“You’re stealing our futures….we will never forgive you” was Greta’s powerful refrain midway through her speech. She spoke about losing her childhood and losing her dreams, like so many children across the world, as a result of the decisions made by older generations. This thread, pitting credulous children against so-called cynical adults, who have “fantasies of eternal economic growth”, I have to say, is most sinister. It has all the hallmarks of Orwell’s dystopian vision, in which a brutal regime was depicted as making every effort to systematically undermine the family unit, while calling its leader “Big Brother”, which was a tacit appeal to the sentiment of family loyalty. Essentially, Orwell vividly described the very effective obtrusion of the regime within the confines of the home.
In Orwell’s work the dictatorship went further and was even able to use children as spies and informants to ensnare parents who were not loyal to the regime. This is how Orwell describes it:
“It was almost normal for people over thirty to be frightened of their own children. And with good reason, for hardly a week passed in which The Times did not carry a paragraph describing how some eavesdropping little sneak — ’child hero’ was the phrase generally used — had overheard some compromising remark and denounced its parents to the Thought Police”
A political attempt to place a wedge between children and adults on this matter is disgraceful and intentionally divisive; and it is an unsettling development. But it was in keeping with Al Gore’s remark in an interview with a Swedish outlet several years ago where he claimed that climate change wasn’t a political issue, but a “moral one”; that we “owe it to the children and their children” to act decisively on this matter. In this 30-minute interview Mr Gore didn’t provide any data that could be independently verified. A recurring theme. The predictions he made in the 2006 film “An Inconvenient Truth” have of course proven to be spurious. But the environmentalists continue to make wild claims, only this time they do so with mentally atypical children as their face and not ex-politician hucksters.
Perhaps it could be considered discourteous to raise Greta’s well publicised Asperger’s syndrome and various other conditions, but I think it’s germane. You must be allowed to criticise ideas. When they’re protected from scrutiny by an artificial blanket you have a problem. Commentators have already fallen prey to political correctness. One example is Michael Knowles, a guest on Fox News. He said:
“….the climate hysteria movement is not about science. If it were about science, it would be led by scientists rather than by politicians and a mentally ill Swedish child who is being exploited by her parents and by the international left”.
On the same segment the other guest, progressivist Christopher Hahn interrupted Knowles, saying “Shame on you…..You’re a grown man and you’re attacking a child. Shame on you”.
Fox News later made a public apology to Greta Thunberg, adding that Mr Knowles won’t be invited on as a guest in the future.
Children with disabilities are – rightly so – immune to criticism, even when they’re advocating radical politics. Sceptics are being forced to tread carefully in what is another clear example of an attempt to shut down debate. Environmentalists are rather like bank robbers who, on their getaway, are using human shields to deter hostile fire. And what better human shield than a mentally atypical child? As for her condition, from what I understand it can bring about an obsessiveness undocked from the marina of perspective. But 16-year-olds lack perspective generally, in my experience. Especially when they’re bereft of credentials, don’t cite data and work themselves up into a frenzy reading somebody else’s words.
I think Michael Knowles was largely correct in his surmise. If there was genuinely an existential crisis a young girl would not be the face of the movement.
If there was genuinely an existential crisis the science would be open to refutation, because that, after all, is what science is. Unfalsifiability is not a strength, it’s a weakness. When current data isn’t provided, and debate is either discouraged or suppressed, the science ceases to be credible; rather, it veers into dogma.
If there was genuinely an existential crisis the campaigning would not be exclusively confined to a western audience but would be focused on China and India who are by far the worst culprits of greenhouse gas emissions.
If there was genuinely an existential crisis which was based on grounded science, proponents would not be seeking to stimulate the audience’s emotions, but the intellect. Because targeting emotions, with the most powerful being fear, is precisely what the PR industry does, ad nauseum, on the back of the astonishing achievements of their pioneers, propagandists like Edward Bernays, Ivy Lee and, dare I say, Joseph Goebbels?
Greta has hitherto been great PR and has proven effective at mobilising a younger audience. Pushing children to the front of a movement makes for great imagery. And pulls at the heart strings. But to target them with rhetoric replete with pathos and deplete of logos, indoctrinating them in schools, which is reinforced by the ubiquity of the message in the media and popular culture, prophesising cultish doomsday scenarios divorced from balanced judgement and transparent certifiable data, and pitting them against adults, while stroking their egos, is redolent of totalitarian regimes which exploited children for political control. And the movement is being fronted by a pigtailed 16-year-old girl from Sweden.