A 19-year-old German girl has joined the right-wing Heartland Institute to counter "climate alarmism" with "climate realism," leading MSM to dub her "anti-Greta" (Thunberg). But unlike Thunberg, she's open about her backers.
Naomi Seibt has been attacked as a "climate change denier" for working with the Heartland Institute, a libertarian think-tank funded by oil and gas companies and conservative groups. But the young German insists she's not denying climate change, just trying to inject some reason into the debate - a demand which has only caused her detractors to shriek louder.
"I don't want to get people to stop believing in man-made climate change, not at all," she told the Washington Post on Monday, while acknowledging she found the idea that human activity alone was responsible for the warming planet "ridiculous." The outlet's profile of the young activist, whom it not-so-subtly dubs "the anti-Greta," proceeds to paint her as a puppet of the Heartland Institute, which is "paying [Seibt] to question established climate science" - as if she would never have done so on her own.
Suggesting there's anything inauthentic or manufactured about Thunberg has been heresy in MSM ever since the young Swede burst onto the global scene at the tender age of 15. Even as it emerged that her rise to superstardom was choreographed with the help of PR man Ingmar Rentzhog, whose ‘We Don't Have Time' climate-focused social network featured her prominently in its marketing materials; even after a data leak exposed that Thunberg's Facebook posts were written by her father and an Indian activist, the integrity of her convictions was never questioned. After all, she had held those beliefs for years before embarking on her climate crusade.
Seibt's activism, too, predates her involvement with the Heartland Institute.She told the Post she developed a political consciousness "a few years ago" after questioning German immigration policy in class triggered a backlash from teachers and students alike, causing her to develop a general "skepticism about mainstream German thinking."Only after a Heartland Institute employee saw her speak at another think tank affiliated with the right-wing AfD party - after she was already making videos, including one in which she "came out" for Pride Month as a climate change skeptic - did she become the face of the group, which is heavily funded by oil and gas interests as well as conservative bogeymen the Koch brothers.
While Seibt shares Thunberg's long blonde hair and youth, the similarities end there. The German's measured presentation couldn't be further removed from Thunberg's emotional pleas. She references Thunberg's famous call to "panic as if your house is on fire" only to deliver a calm: "I don't want you to panic, I want you to think." Warning her audience of the danger of confusing science with politics, she urges tolerance of dissenting opinions and slams her opponents' use of the term "climate denial" for its not-so-subtle evocation of Holocaust denial.But while Seibt attempts to debunk accepted climate change wisdom, she doesn't pretend to have the solution, admitting she "could be wrong" and urging viewers to "continue doing your research and form your own opinion on the climate change situation."
This hasn't stopped her detractors from attacking her for her "arch-denialist" backers, however. Graham Brookie of the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, apparently unable to find real disinformation in Seibt's videos, slimed her anyway for allegedly creating a "false equivalency between a message based in climate science that went viral organically and a message based in climate skepticism trying to catch up using paid promotion." Fair enough - she has a long way to go before she catches up with Thunberg. Except the young Swede's message didn't exactly go viral organically, either.
Thunberg's "brand" - recently trademarked- may position her as a David to the fossil fuel industry's Goliath, but this is not entirely accurate. From the documentary crew shadowing the pint-sized crusader since her first day school-striking outside the Swedish Parliament to the PR muscle required to get her on board multimillion-dollar racing yachts and shaking hands with Barack Obama, evidence of the deep pockets behind the Thunberg phenomenon is everywhere, even if those pockets' owners remain elusive.Thunberg's apocalyptic talking points are compiled in the Climate Emergency Plan, released by Rentzhog's We Don't Have Time and another climate-focused think tank to which he belongs, Global Utmaning (Global Challenge) in collaboration with the Club of Rome in November 2018. Global Utmaning was founded by industrial heiress and former deputy central bank governor Kristina Persson and counts as members and advisors a "green" venture capital advisor and more than half a dozen veterans of Swedish-Swiss energy megacorporation ABB, which stands to make a killing on the transition to renewables.And these are just two nodes in the network of environmental NGOs behind Thunberg, a sphere of "nonprofits" that is ideally positioned to soak up what one of these groups, ClimateWorks, predicts will be $90 trillion spent over the next 15 years to stave off the worst effects of climate change.At least Seibt's backers, riddled with conflicts of interest as they may be, are out in the open.
Those attacking Seibt's for partnering with the Heartland Institute have pointed to the group's "attacks" on Thunberg and climate scientists to justify their own smears, though it's difficult to see how attacking Seibt as a "climate denier" achieves justice for the Swedish activist. Accusing Seibt of climate change denial because of who funds her work would - to avoid hypocrisy, at least - require them to hold Thunberg responsible for everything her shadowy backers have done or said - a prospect that is simply unrealistic, and not fair to Thunberg. Instead, all sides of the debate would be wise to listen to Seibt, who has implored climate skeptics and climate change protesters alike to bury the hatchet. "I hope that we can live in an era of discussion again...freedom of speech is the foundation for a society that can truly stick together."
Rather then give Seibt the benefit of the doubt, at least one other outlet pounced on WaPo for not being harsh enough on the German activist. Motherboard accused the outlet of "amplifying climate change denialism" from a "noted propaganda factory" that "can routinely be found peeing in the public discourse pool on behalf of its corporate donors." Imagine what hell would break loose if anyone used such terms to describe Saint Greta...
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is an American journalist and political commentator at RT. Follow her on Twitter @velocirapture23
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