Whatever one thinks of Andy Warhol’s famous silkscreened Campbell’s soup cans, or Van Gogh cutting off his own ear after a spat with Paul Gaugin, it is very hard to sympathize with the two young twits from Just Stop Oil who threw a different brand of tomato soup on the tormented Dutch painter’s 1888 “Sunflowers” in London’s National Gallery on Friday. We didn’t even know Van Gogh was an oil company. Or is Just Stop Oil Painting a thing? If not, what rational motive could possibly exist for such an act, followed by gluing themselves to the wall which also doesn’t seem to have worked? Or is making the world uglier as well as colder and poorer the real goal?
CNN reports that “According to a statement, Just Stop Oil timed Friday’s act “to coincide with the planned launch of a new round of oil and gas licensing” in the UK.” Which is interesting since “London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed they were responding to the incident and that the protesters had been arrested on suspicion of ‘criminal damage and aggravated trespass.’” Since JSO knew about it and even had a press release ready, they are presumably facing charges of conspiracy to commit same, right?
Well, we shall see since the rules are different for some. Despite its proud admission of criminal activity this group was getting money from a crowdfunding website although to their amazement it backed off after their latest stunt. But you can still give on their website using a credit card, while JSO also receives lavish backing in broad daylight from a “Climate Emergency Fund” which, in turn, boasts that “In 2022 so far, we have made $4 million in grants to 39 brave, ultra-ambitious groups” which helps JSO mount a sophisticated media outreach program though we deniers, of course, have all the money. (Anyone keen to dump $4 million on us, or $4, can find us at https://climatediscussionnexus.com/donate/).
In another odd episode on Friday, especially from the point of view of the rule of law, a JSO activist sprayed paint all over the sign in front of Scotland Yard from a large cannister before eventually being politely approached by officers. One wonders whether anti-terrorism measures ought not to have prevented anyone getting that close with undetermined chemicals in a delivery system, at least in a country with any adults left. Instead, the Evening Standard notes, “Demonstrators also blocked the road in front of the Metropolitan Police’s headquarters during Just Stop Oil’s action on Friday.” When we were young, the general idea was that significant crimes should not be committed in full view of large numbers of police officers.
Mind you, back then police did not rush to the assistance of those targeting the public. Whereas now “Four protesters also inserted their arms into pieces of what appeared to be metal piping as they sat on the road in front of New Scotland Yard in Westminster. Police officers gave the activists protective visors before cutting the piping in half to separate them.”
According to the participants, or rather a spokesperson for the group openly coordinating all this illegal activity, “As citizens, as parents, we have every right under British law to protect ourselves and those we love.” It is not self-defence to initiate violence against property and possibly complete strangers who pose no threat to you, and doing so isn’t lawful, it’s narcissism. But in the deluded and self-absorbed world of climate extremists the laws no longer apply to the righteous vanguard:
“The climate crisis is the greatest threat to law and order. The police should stop arresting non-violent people seeking to protect humanity and either join us or start arresting those planning our deaths. The government and the fossil fuel companies are guilty of genocide, we know who they are. These are the people who should be in prison.”
That this week’s alarmist loons seem even more deluded than all the others prompted Roger Pielke Jr. to tweet in a mix of sorrow and indignation that “I encourage you to read the @JustStop_Oil manifesto/ It's a sad statement of what we experts have done to young people/ It is chock full of hyperbole from authoritative figures, references to work of the ‘planetary boundaries’ folks & RCP8.5 studies”. For some reason he did not link to it in his tweet and another article that claimed to quote from it directly did not do so either (we found the quotation here but not Pielke’s references) and both their own website and a Google search came up empty.
In a way it’s unnecessary, because a surprising number of news stories read exactly like JSO manifestos, especially CTV’s “Climate and Environment” section “News” story headlined “Headlines, outrage and art: Climate activists use Van Gogh vandalism to make us question our priorities” that started:
“Is the desecration of a painting worse than the wilful destruction of the planet? This is the question that climate activists said they hoped to spark Friday by throwing soup on one of the most famous paintings in the world — Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers.’ Although the painting was protected by a layer of glass, social media was flooded with anger over the symbolic action. But behind the soup and the photos is a deadly story of increasing climate instability and government negligence, according to activists; one that they're hoping people will get just as enraged over.”
It went on to quote the activists, then describe their publicity campaign, then said “In April, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report stating that governments have utterly failed to live up to their promises to cut emissions, and that we are ‘firmly on track to an unliveable world.’” Following which it quoted someone called “Antonio Gutteres” (almost certainly António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, but who fact-checks in these woke times, especially the spelling of silly ethnic names?) that:
“For decades, the fossil fuel industry has invested heavily in pseudoscience and public relations – with a false narrative to minimize their responsibility for climate change and undermine ambitious climate policies.”
The author of this propaganda, “a freelance writer for CTVNews.ca” with “a bachelor of arts in english and drama from the University of Toronto” who apparently skipped the session on capitalization but “recently completed a master of fine arts in creative writing with the University of Guelph”, put the latter to use by insisting that “Just Stop Oil and other activists have faced criticism for targeting well-known artwork in their protests, but these stunts are becoming increasingly common as the threat of climate change increases, those behind the actions say” and moreover “It’s a combination of shock value, exposing our priorities and making connections, activists say.” And rightly, it seems:
“Just Stop Oil’s ultimate goal is not one of mere awareness, but of action — members have been protesting to stop all new licences for oil and gas projects in the U.K. All leading experts in climate change have made it clear that we desperately need to cease our reliance on fossil fuels…. Our present day governments are signing the death warrant for future generations, climate experts say.”
Yeah, experts say. In a news story, you understand. One that didn’t quote any, let alone show where they’d all said anything close to what they were alleged to have said. Nor did it engage in any professional journalisming by interviewing someone critical even of the tactics let alone the ideology. But the author has, alas, been led down this path by supposedly responsible adults taking an equally juvenile and one-sided approach.
Matt Taibbi declared irritably that “On the Loony Van Gogh Protests/ We were warned about this in Fahrenheit 451”. And indeed the belligerent lack of thought or context is scary. If these ineffective young JSO vandals had any sense of history, or any education, they would at least presumably have used the same brand of soup that Warhol did as an artistic touch. And it is good to know that the painting was “glazed” according to the gallery and hence protected from damage. But suppose they had managed to harm or even destroy one of Van Gogh’s masterpieces. What would be the benefit or even the message?
In a recent tweet, Michael Shellenberger said “Humans have overcome millennia of brutality, starvation, and environmental change, but apocalyptic greens think the world is coming to an end in their lifetimes, and that they will save it. That’s not selfless altruism, it’s exhibitionist narcissism.” Which induces us to quote G.K. Chesterton (which admittedly is not difficult):
“all feeble spirits naturally live in the future, because it is featureless; it is a soft job; you can make it what you like. The next age is blank, and I can paint it freely with my favourite colour. It requires real courage to face the past, because the past is full of facts which cannot be got over; of men certainly wiser than we and of things done which we could not do. I know I cannot write a poem as good as Lycidas. But it is always easy to say that the particular sort of poetry I can write will be the poetry of the future.”
Just as throwing soup on a Van Gogh might be as compelling now as painting one was back in the bad old days. And thus these juvenile twerps, barely able to dye their own hair and apparently possessing a combined age of around 37, decide they're entitled to attack a piece of art they could never hope to create or rival, to deprive the world of its stark beauty because… because… they feel like it.