Worse-than-useless documentaries about “activism” – the why, the how, the what instead

We are allowing ourselves to brightside ourselves.


This is no better than the fucking gaslighting by those who would have us sleep through the apocalpyse.

[Sweariness warning. I am trying to be more Omar – not the killing people bit, but the not cussing. Today, I’m failing. If that means you can’t fucking share this, then I am fucking sorry about that [not fucking really]].

We are allowing ourselves to settle for cheap and worse-than-useless (more of that later) “documentaries” (neither as funny nor as informative as Spinal Tap). In this detailed well-structured essay I am…

Ah, screw it. Imma take the lazy option and do this as an imagined Q and A. I’ve already spaffed enough time and money at the wall about this atrocity…

What is the film and why (briefly please) are you so bent out of shape about it?

It is a documentary that follows a doctor who spends her spare time climbing trees in Tasmania to stop them getting chopped down, and a 15 year old “school striker” in Victoria.

That’s it?

Well, there’s also an attempt to give a background about Australian environmental campaigning, but that was flubbed too.

I’m almost afraid to ask, but… go on.

Well, there’s the standard old footage of Jack Mundey (RIP) and the Green Bans stuff. Then some Terania Creek footage, then – of course – the Franklin Dam.

Sounds legit.

Um, shouldn’t a film about CLIMATE CHANGE talk about all the stuff in the 1988-1992 period? The long-dark 90s? The peak of stuff in the 2000s. All that Climate Camp stuff? Holding hands around Parliament? etc etc? To maybe make the point that we have been, you know FAILING ON CLIMATE CHANGE FOR THIRTY YEARS AND THAT FILMS THAT ARE HACK HAGIOGRAPHIES DON’T HELP AND MAYBE WE COULD ASK MORE OF OURSELVES AND EACH OTHER IN EVERY FUCKING SENSE.

Give us a for instance? While, you know, breathing. And NOT SHOUTING?

Well, there’s a glancing piece of footage of Bob Brown on the “Stop Adani convoy” that was so stunning successful in a) not stopping Adani and b) helpfully firming up the LNP vote in Queensland. They could have asked him what he thought was being achieved? And then there was footage of a Queenslander making the point that her family had generations of mining and what else were they supposed to do.

So nobody used the term “transition”?

Hah, glad you asked. There was NOTHING about a “just transition” or anything. But the word “transition” got used by a Tasmanian plod as a euphemism for facilitating the clear-cutting of forests and the defeat of NVDA.

There must have been something good in it all?

My comments aren’t about the dedication or courage of the people portrayed in the film. But at the end the quack makes the entirely valid point that those trashing the planet are organised and we need to be. But nobody asked her what organisation would MEAN, or what we might, you know FUCKING LEARN FROM THIRTY FUCKING YEARS OF SMUGOSPHERE EMOTACYCLES EGOFODDERING AND FAILURE.

Did you air your grievances? Coherently? What was the response?

Hell yes. Not really. “I made a film about ocean acidification, why would I make a film about mistakes, that wouldn’t be inspiring.”

Wait, I can understand why you’d think it was useless, but where does this “worse-than-useless” shtick come from?

Because it has taken up bandwidth that could have been used to ask some basic strategic questions. It allows people viewing to say “ah, there’s still hope” while ALSO giving them permission to say “well, I couldn’t be that brave/I don’t have the time” – the people profiled were either kids, retireds or ‘ferals’ – there were no “ordinary working people'” who were “doing” long-term activism, and no discussion of biographical availability etc.

What is to be done?

Fuck this shit. I am going to propose to Climate Emergency Manchester that we make a warts-and-all documentary about ourselves, telling of our successes and failures, what we’ve learned, and just how fucking hard and unrewarding most “activism” is, and what a toxic swamp of gaslighting, greenwashing and half-arsed virtue signalling most “activism” is.

And if they say no?


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