Trolling Greta Thunberg: How dare they?

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Psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg has, in the past, released videos on the effects of bullying children (Image via Wikimedia Commons/YouTube)

A high-profile psychologist has joined the ranks of media personalities and world leaders in lambasting environmental activist Greta Thunberg, writes Lyn Bender.

IT SHOULD BE no surprise that many of those denouncing Greta Thurnberg have a history of climate denialism. 

The vicious trolling of Greta Thunberg and the young climate strikers is directed at all who support the message she brings. Some of this denialism has sought its justification of trolling her as being in the service of children’s well being.

The rage against the youth climate movement is a testimony to the power of the School Climate Strike. However, the backlash against the young is still a tedious resurgence of the go-slow denial movement.

It’s the same old schtick. Red herrings and dead cats to distract, defer, discredit and delay.

The diatribes begin with:

I’m not a climate denier, but...

Children should be in school learning to solve the climate problem.

Children are being subjected to needless anxiety by environmentalists.

Children are being used and brainwashed.

Children protesting against adults are disgusting little (insert derogatory comment).

The list of Greta trolls is unsurprising and includes:

But wait, there’s more.

The most galling to me, professionally speaking, is psychologist and media personality Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, who has acquired a local reputation as the guru of adolescence. He has been making his patriarchal pronouncements on “problematic” youth for decades.

His commentary on Greta is condescendingly “father knows best”. But it is also denigratory.

Declaring that he is not a climate denialist, Carr-Gregg states that the science regarding climate change is not settled.

Actually, that is a classic climate denial statement, because the science is in.

Carr-Gregg is also denouncing the millions of youth voices and many others around the world. Essentially, he is a specialist in youth psychology who seems not to hear or listen to the voices of youth.

His attitude seems to be one of control rather than connection or validation and his stated view misses the point entirely.

There is a climate emergency that leaders and others – himself included – are ignoring, minimalising and denying.

He is also publicly abusing a minor. Aspergers is not a mental illness, actually.

But then again, his book titles don't hold back. His catchphrases and titles have included: ‘The Unfortunate Rise of Crap Parentingand ‘The Princess Bitchface Syndrome’.

Carr-Gregg exemplifies a disturbing lack of awareness. He is not listening to the message, just trying to shoot the messenger, a defence mechanism that he should comprehend.

His comments reveal that his interpretation is no match for the enormous grief and trauma of the climate emergency.

 The Australian Psychological Society (APS) has released a statement supporting the School Strike for Climate, which read:

 ‘Taking part in today’s protest is a very positive step for children and young people in asserting and expressing their views.’

Apparently, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg has failed to notice this statement. Talking to Neil Mitchell on 3AW, he has described Greta Thurnberg as being used as a political prop, saying she needs treatment. He added that she has “massively exaggerated the threat”  — not according to the 99 per cent scientific consensus of The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel. Dr Carr-Gregg goes on to criticise the Left and climate change activists and her parents as promoting Greta to the point of risking burnout. He claims “Greta phobia” or “Greta mania” is being induced.

Insisting he is not a climate denier, Carr-Greg nevertheless asserts that Greta is caught up in a ”doomsday scenario”.

This arrogant, insensitive stance is refuted by Environmental Psychologist Dr Renee Lertzman.

She has argued that Greta is far from being hysterical or mentally unwell and stated:

“Greta’s meteorite rise reflects a profound collective yearning for sanity and leadership on climate.”

Carr-Greg’s opinion is archaic. Instead of paying attention to context, he seems to be saying Greta is not fitting in with what he believes a 16-year-old should be. In old psychology parlance, he implies that she is therefore maladjusted. Furthermore, he adopts a patronising stance of being “worried about her”.

But thanks to Greta, more people are waking up to the present and future threat of climate change. Carr-Gregg and the trolls, who are in in the service of business, as usual, would have us go back to sleep.

Who is served by the maintenance of this stupor? The fossil fuel-vested interests. Those who profit from the system. The shock jock media.

The most iniquitous result of denying a crisis is that it:

  • renders us impotent to make the necessary changes;
  • facilitates the election of wantonly abusive governments that promote the old climate-destroying order; and
  • promotes the dangerous Valium veil of ignorance.

Carr-Gregg appears to be seeing active protest about climate injustice as an illness.

The irony of this is that climate change distress is now being cited as a real thing — solastalgia, the mourning for the loss of home as we watch it being destroyed.

Grief at the loss of ecological systems is being referred to by researchers as ecological grief. This includes anticipated losses.

Before “diagnosing” Greta, Carr-Greg would do well to heed the words of Martin Luther King Jr, in 1967 when he declared himself “proud to be maladjusted” to the injustices in society.

In an address to The American Psychological Society in 1963, Luther King Jr extended this challenge — ‘Tell it like it is’.

 Carr-Gregg needs to learn that the youth of today quite rightly comprehend their dire future if elders don't step up. It’s not “doomsday hysteria”, it's science.

While Luther King was referring to the vast ignorance of the white population to the reality of the lives of black people, the application to climate change ignorance and denial is clear. He exhorted the social scientists to not maintain the wall of ignorance and to tell it like it is.

Greta is telling it like it is.

 Millions are awakening and taking notice.

Yes, it's arousing our collective anxiety. The remedy for reducing our anxiety is clear, strong action on climate change.

In Greta’s own words:

“We've become too loud for people to handle so they try to silence us. So, we should also take that as a compliment.”

Lyn Bender is a professional psychologist. You can follow Lyn on Twitter @Lynestel.

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