Teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg came under fire from an Australian columnist for her decision to undertake a zero-carbon trip to a climate summit. But her response to the cruel taunts about her autism shows exactly why she’s a worldwide inspiration.
Greta Thunberg is no ordinary schoolgirl. She’s a passionate environmental activist. She’s addressed political leaders around the world on the subject of climate change. And she’s sparked a global youth movement by encouraging tens of thousands of young people in 112 countries to strike for the environment with #FridaysForFuture protests.
What Thunberg is not here for, however, is a cruel and ableist takedown of her autism diagnosis.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what went down when Australian News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt penned a savage takedown of the teenage campaigner on Wednesday (1 August), claiming she was “deeply disturbed”, “freakishly influential” and a “young and strange girl”.
In his deeply offensive column, the Herald Sun commentator likened Thunberg’s followers to members of a cult, and slammed her decision to sail across the Atlantic to attend UN climate summits in the US and Chile in a high-speed racing yacht instead of by plane.
Bolt began by disparaging her as “one of the most astonishing Messianic figures in world history”, who has fuelled a “frantic media hype”, adding that he didn’t “mean that in a good way”.
The article then turned into a poisonous character assassination, in which the high-profile columnist and Sky News commentator equated Thunberg’s autism to mental illness.
“No teenager is more freakishly influential than Greta Thunberg, the deeply disturbed messiah of the global warming movement,” he continued. “I have never seen a girl so young and with so many mental disorders treated by so many adults as a guru.”
Bolt then expressed confusion as to why many political leaders and policymakers around the world had treated Thunberg with “awe and rapture”, and belittled her environmental activism as a “fear” which supposedly resulted from her “disorders”.
Thunberg, meanwhile, showed the test of her mettle by tweeting an eloquent takedown of her own, writing that she was indeed “deeply disturbed” - by the hate and conspiracy campaigns that are allowed to “go on and on and on”.
“I am indeed ”deeply disturbed” about the fact that these hate and conspiracy campaigns are allowed to go on and on and on just because we children communicate and act on the science,” she wrote. “Where are the adults?”
Once more for Bolt and all the bullies in the back: the only aberration in the political discourse around climate change are those denying the environmental crisis. And if you have to resort to cruel jibes about mental health to score points, you’re only confirming that a intelligent and highly articulate teenager really is speaking truth to power, and successfully spreading her message far and wide.