I know a protest when I see one. Walking around in London today it is evident that the tens of thousands of adults playing at being children are not so much protesting but putting on a performance of protest.
Unlike normal protest the men and women wearing uniforms in London today, are not there to police but to be helpful and assist this very noisy and very colorful performance.
For their part the chanters of apocalyptic slogans and the boisterous participants declaring that they know what's best for everyone, have rehearsed their role for this mass expensive street theatre. Queuing up to get arrested is all part of this drama. There are even celebrities lurking about to provide a sense of the occasion.
When I encounter a group of middle aged distinguished-looking activists tucking into their lunch, while sitting on the pavement by the Embankment, I am reminded of the kind of street parties that occurred during the Queen's Jubilee. Talking to these chaps and chapettes, it becomes evident that not only are they having the time of the life, they are also under the impression that their picnic contributes to the saving of the planet. When I put to them my view that ‘this is a self-indulgent carnival of reaction', they don't argue back. One of them tells me to go to hell. An elderly lady sneers at me and simply states that ‘I will not have a bad word said against these young people'. As far as she and her companions are concerned, Extinction Rebellion now possesses the kind of moral authority previously associated with the Church and the institutions of the state.
The ease with which Extinction Rebellion has succeeded in occupying the moral high ground has little to do with the quality of their arguments and the strength of their case. In all but name, the political establishments of the western world have given up the attempt to exercise moral authority. The elite no longer upholds the values of their ancestors and is all too aware of its loss of legitimacy. It no longer believes in itself and is evidently prepared to be flagellated by its environmentalist critics. In turn Extinction Rebellion knows that when it instructs its posh friends to jump, their answer is likely to be ‘How High'!
A lot of people on the streets of London and elsewhere are of course really miffed and angry about the way this carnival of reaction has disrupted to their life. In private conversations they murmur and swear at ‘these wastrels'. But as long as the performers enjoy backing of the media, the cultural elites, a significant section of the political establishment, and of course the all-important celebrities, their voice can be safely ignored by the protesters.
Until now participating in a Climate Extinction performance has been a risk-free activity. Unlike real protests which always incur serious risks, this week's performance is unlikely to costs the performance very much. The cost will be borne by an increasingly fed-up public who was never asked whether or not they wanted their life to be turned upside-down.
By Professor Frank Furedi, a sociologist and author. His, How Fear Works: The Culture Of Fear In The Twentieth Century is published by Bloomsbury.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.