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OPINION: One day’s disruption, a tiny price to pay for our future?

PUBLISHED: 14:08 07 September 2020 | UPDATED: 14:45 07 September 2020

Police and fire services outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, as protesters used bamboo lock-ons and vans to block the road Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Police and fire services outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, as protesters used bamboo lock-ons and vans to block the road Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Many newspapers including the Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News were delayed after climate change activists blockaded a print works on Friday night. Prof Rupert Read, a former EDP columnist, explains why.

Two protesters use bamboo lock-ons to block the road outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire  Picture: Yui Mok/PA WireTwo protesters use bamboo lock-ons to block the road outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

“This is censorship of a free press!” That’s the cry of outrage that’s gone up against the blockading of certain print works.

So let’s get this in perspective: What Extinction Rebellion did was to delay some newspapers. For one day.

That isn’t ‘censorship’. Censorship is what repressive regimes do when they end press freedom permanently.

By contrast, we disrupted certain newspapers for just one day, to make a point: The press isn’t free. It’s mostly owned by a handful of foreign billionaires. It’s not very smart to assume they run it in your interest. No: it promotes the world view of those who want to eliminate our environmental protections, and want more roads, more flying — and to hell with the consequences for our climate and countryside.

A single protester sits on the pavement outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire  Picture: Yui Mok/PA WireA single protester sits on the pavement outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

We caused a tiny disruption, to warn about the vast, permanent disruption that’s coming if humanity doesn’t completely change path. We need to drastically relocalise our world, to protect ourselves against climate-chaos and coronaviruses alike. We need to be travelling and burning carbon much less, not more.

The question you need to ask yourself is whether it’s smarter to get aerated about what we did, or to really think about why we did it. Why did 100 brave members of the rebel alliance sacrifice their liberty? They’re all now in police custody, and fair enough. Why did they follow in the footsteps of Gandhi and King, when they knew how tough the response would be?

Delivery of the EDP’s paper version was among the casualties of our action. All credit to the EDP for giving me space to put the Extinction Rebellion side of the argument today. But let’s be truthful: The EDP is not an innocent bystander here. The EDP doesn’t have a good record on climate and nature. It has an editorial position in favour of road-building, a key way in which Norfolk’s nature gets destroyed, and in which Norfolk contributes to the very climate damage that threatens our coastline and potentially threatens our kids’ very lives.

That’s the reality of a so-called ‘free’ press, voices predominate which promote the existing way of doing business — which is destroying its own foundations. Just look at the way the press universally promotes flying: the worst way we’re systematically destroying our climate and making ourselves vulnerable to pandemics. Remember, jet-planes are the real super-spreaders.

Police and fire service personnel gather around a pair of protesters on top of a van used to block the road outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. PA Photo. Picture date: Saturday September 5, 2020. Extinction Rebellion continues with its plans to hold 10 days of demonstrations across central London as part of its ongoing campaign to highlight climate change. See PA story PROTEST Climate. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA WirePolice and fire service personnel gather around a pair of protesters on top of a van used to block the road outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. PA Photo. Picture date: Saturday September 5, 2020. Extinction Rebellion continues with its plans to hold 10 days of demonstrations across central London as part of its ongoing campaign to highlight climate change. See PA story PROTEST Climate. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire

What we did this weekend was a huge shock to the handful of super-rich tax-exiles who largely control the press, chief among them Rupert Murdoch. This man wants you to be angry at us — while he pretends that global over-heat is not wrecking our world, starting with his own country, Australia, recently burned by the world’s worst ever bushfires which killed two billion animals.

If you’d asked Gandhi what he thought of a free press, he’d have replied: “It would be a good idea”. A free press is an ideal, not something we can complacently assume we’ve achieved. Our press is not free. It won’t be until its ownership is much more democratically shared. That’s what Lord Leveson wanted but instead we see a tiny handful of barons, still blocking the desperate truth on the climate emergency from being properly understood.

You can be a tool of those unaccountable press barons. Or you can act to save your kids’ future. I’m sorry to have to break it to you, but you can’t do both.


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