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In the year since Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg began her Fridays for Future school strike for climate change, she has catapulted to super-stardom as the new face confronting the climate crisis.
It’s driving Thunberg’s conservative trolls absolutely bonkers.
Yesterday I posted a photo wearing a borrowed T-shirt that says I’m against fascism. That T-shirt can apparently to some be linked to a violent movement. I don’t support any form of violence and to avoid misunderstandings I’ve deleted the post. And of course I am against fascism.— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) July 26, 2019
On Wednesday, Thunberg reached New York City after a two-week journey across the Atlantic on a wind- and solar-powered yacht. Today, she is among hundreds demonstrating outside United Nations headquarters.
Thunberg’s visit to America has sent her right-wing critics into a trolling frenzy.
On Newstalk, Spiked magazine editor Brendan O’Neill said, “The Cult of Greta Thunberg is becoming more and more creepy. The green movement has turned her into an eco-messiah who has apparently come to save humankind from its sinfulness and stupidity. It is so backward. It has all the trappings of a cult.”
Quoting Australian News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt’s repulsive hit piece about the teen, Avi Yemini, spokesperson for far-right and anti-Islam provocateur Tommy Robinson, said she is “deeply disturbed.”
Many went even further. Some criticisms consist of conspiracy theories—such as the one that she didn’t actually sail the Atlantic (her Instagram is full of photos from the voyage). Others were so inaccurate as to be downright hilarious. But most were just offensive, particularly directed at a child.
"Sorry, my brain is not working correctly"— Boomieleaks (@notwokieleaks) August 28, 2019
Looks like Greta Thunberg has early-onset Joe Biden disease. pic.twitter.com/1WH1iXoYgM
As the new school year approaches I say to children: play truant as often as possible. They will try to turn you into another zombied #GretaThunberg Read #books especially classics. They will teach you more than all the years in school.— Alexander Nekrassov (@StirringTrouble) August 30, 2019
It’s insane a 16 year old is being used as a pawn and people are OK with it.— LJD Merchant (@ljd_merchants) August 30, 2019
She must hate plants starving them from their CO2 The earth is greener than it has ever been in the last 50 years according to NASA.— Jon Davis (@Lvfreddie) August 29, 2019
Zero images or video witness the alleged journey of #GretaThunberg to New York on the 'substainable' boat.— Tecnologie Ambientali (@Tec_Ambientali) August 30, 2019
Not a single credible and clear shot or feed from the moment they left to the moment they arrived.
Ask yourself (and her) why. pic.twitter.com/0C1JYZe0Un
This poor tired, autistic girl is having a breakdown in front of your very eyes, yet as long as the cameras are rolling and she’s saying what you want to hear, just keep smiling at her and ramp up her fear. #GretaThunberg pic.twitter.com/1ZZ1Jq8wv0— Dickie Esq. (@d_greenleaf82) August 30, 2019
Thunberg’s trolls include relatively well-known conservatives.
Climate denier Jim Lakely, spokesman for the free-market Heartland Institute, claims to “feel sorry for her,” and says that she is “being exploited by the adults around her to push the climate delusion while they use her as a human shield to shame anyone who criticizes the alarmist agenda,” the Washington Times reported.
Breitbart London’s James Delingpole called her “a brainwashed child in pig-tails pushing a hard-left, anti-capitalist agenda.”
The attacks seem to roll off the shoulders of the teen Nobel Peace Prize nominee. It probably doesn’t hurt that legions have her back.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres was among those tweeting approvingly of Thunberg, writing, “Welcome to New York, @gretathunberg! The determination and perseverance shown during your journey should embolden all of us taking part in next month’s #ClimateAction Summit. We must deliver on the demands of people around the world and address the global climate crisis.”
The Venn diagram of people who dismiss Greta Thunberg because she is a child who lacks climate science expertise, and people who dismiss adult, degree-qualified climate scientists because reasons, or “conspiracy”, is pretty much a perfect circle of obstinant arrogance.— Simon Angilley (@dufussy) August 29, 2019
Imagine thinking Greta Thunberg is strange but Steve Bannon is normal— Lexi Alexander (@Lexialex) August 30, 2019
Conservatives are sociopaths that will bully a teenager with autism because she wants to save the planet https://t.co/0JUeV4XswS— Liv (@LivvyFanon) August 29, 2019
Breaking: Greta Thunberg has been awarded the Nobel Prize For Triggering Assholes. She is the youngest recipient of the award ever. pic.twitter.com/WfuGifuVwo— The Out And Abouter (@OutAndAbouter) August 29, 2019
This woman beater is now picking on a brave young girl. @GretaThunberg is an autistic teenager. What is it with these Far right planks, they seem to enjoy attacking women and young girls. Stay away from young girls you woman beater https://t.co/hemVRXgJ8v— Top Guns (@One_Arsenal_) August 30, 2019
If you ask Thunberg, she’d probably say something like when they go low, we go green.
Claire Goforth is a Jacksonville, Florida-based journalist covering politics, culture, justice, and unicorns. Her work has appeared in publications ranging from regional alt-weeklies to Al Jazeera.