Extinction Rebellion and the media

As climate protest break out across the world again — how does Extinction Rebellion see the media, and what role does it play? A discussion from the News Impact Summit in BiRmingham.

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

As Extinction Rebellion launch another wave of protests in cities around the world - what's the relationship between the rebellion and the media? A discussion from News Impact Summit in Birmingham on 7th October 2019, between:

  • Chloe Farand, Climate Home, @chloeFarand
  • Zion Lights, Extinction Rebellion and editor of Hourglass, @ziontree

Liveblogged notes - prne to error, inaccuracy and howling crimes against grammar and syntax.

Today, Extinction Rebellion is in the process of trying to close down Westminster. Zion feels bad, not being there with her friends. But the police have changed their tactics - and actually went into the Extinction Rebellion offices a few days ago. Most of the protestors escaped, and the ones arrested volunteered to be a distraction. But elsewhere, this is more serious. Over 100 climate activists have been killed this year.

Extinction Rebellion's key demands have not been met yet. Governments are not telling the truth about the climate crisis, they are not committing to zero emissions by 2025, and they are not setting up citizens' assemblies. That's why they're taking to the streets again. It's a decentralised movement, a movement of movements. They have vegan activists working with farmers. We're all on the same cause, really.

CF: Critics say that the movement is overwhelmingly white, and inaccessible to the less privilidged.

We're doing multiple things - but we're not there yet. We're not encouraging vulnerable people to get arrested. We're not asking everyone to get arrested. People answering the phones are as valuable as those being arrested. The concept is not shutting down the government - it's about building something better.

CF: You've recently launched the Hourglass, and Extinction rebellion run newspaper. What's the thinking?

The first reason we did it was to show a model of what climate reporting might look like. We're not saying we've got it all right. Is the huge support for climate action being reflected in the reporting? We're in a war, but it's a bigger war than we've ever seen before, there's no Switzerland, and we're all on the same side. What voices do we need in that situation?

The interviewed Ray Mears, as part of a strategy to broaden the appeal of the message. They get a lot of positive feedback from people who receive it. It's printed on recycled paper, and they're printing 110,000 copies, distributed for free by members of the rebellion.

CF: What is Extinction Rebellion's strategy on the media?

Zion Light of Extinction Rebellion speaking at the News Impact Summit

There's a lot of debate. We've had some difficult spots where the presenters haven't let the rebels speak, or been very rude to them. We can turn those down these days, as we get so many requests. A Policy Exchange report called the Rebellion "extremists". It emerged, through Vice reporting, hat it was funded by the oil industry.

As a person of colour, she's aware she's on the line with the rise of fascism. She's had awful hate mail. We can't control that - we just have to keep doing what we think is right.

There could be a horrible moment when the press all turn on us, and people start attacking us on the street. But we have a lot of people on our side, and everyone knows someone who is in the rebellion.

If you look back at newspapers during wartime, everything was impacted by the war - even the recipes. We'll keep campaigning about the media until they take this appropriately seriously. It's having an impact and we'll carry on doing it.

CF: What are your hopes and fears for the future of Extinction Rebellion?

I hope that we continue to grow, and our growth is exponential right now. I hope we get more diverse voices involved.

I would hope that the media can tell the ruth about climate, eventually. Do you know about the Murrow Boys who set the standard of what war reporting is? We hope we'll get something similar. What are you going to put on the line? Some of us are putting our lives on the line?

extinction rebellionclimate crisisnews impact summitclimate change

Adam Tinworth Twitter

Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.