It’s difficult for me to bring myself to criticize Greta Thunberg.
It’s not that I’m of the opinion that minors shouldn’t be attacked, especially when they’re most likely being swayed by a coterie of adults who seem practically giddy at the kind of attention she’s getting.
Rather, it’s this: I usually don’t take teenagers very seriously policy-wise, particularly ones who seem dangerously unskilled in political science and economics.
That said, the 17-year-old Thunberg wants to be taken seriously, and she has been, coming eyebrow-raisingly close to winning the Nobel Peace Prize. She wouldn’t have been the worst winner, given that prior honorees include Yasser Arafat, North Vietnamese dictator Le Duc Tho and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, but she’s at least as useless as winners such as Al Gore, Barack Obama and the European Union.
Beyond that, however, if you’ve fashioned yourself as a thought leader in the global conversation over climate change and emissions control, you’ve done so by your own volition. No one is forcing Greta Thunberg to cross the Atlantic in a carbon-neutral boat (which required a replacement crew to fly over the Atlantic to retrieve it on a very much non-carbon-neutral aircraft) or to lecture us all about how we were ruining her childhood and how, if we’d only acquiesce to her quixotic demands, she could be in school on the other side of the ocean. How dare us!
Greta’s doomsday prophecies — not to mention her age — collided in a strange way with the case of another minor in the news: Nicholas Sandmann.
Last year, a seemingly unrelated case of a minor whose political leanings were excoriated came during the March for Life in Washington.
Sandmann, at the time a 16-year-old student at Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky, was involved in a viral clip showing him smiling while a Native American man played a drum in his face. That man, Nathan Phillips, said Sandmann — who was wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap — was blocking him. Subsequent video showed nothing of the sort.
Network TV endlessly analyzed that smile before additional evidence came out and speculated about how evil it made the 16-year-old. Quoth former CNN host Reza Aslan, “Honest question. Have you ever seen a more punchable face than this kid’s?”
There were some rather facile similarities between the two cases until CNN’s Chris Cuomo ensured they’d converge.
Earlier in January, his network settled a $250 million lawsuit brought by Sandmann for its coverage of him and the Covington High School Students for an undisclosed amount.
Given the difficulty of winning a case against the media in our First Amendment-centric country, CNN either thought it had a good chance of losing or believed discovery was going to look doubleplusungood when you considered the fact more extensive footage showed the version of events being peddled by Phillips was prima facie false; waiting for a fuller picture to emerge before accusations were slung would have saved CNN a lot of face (and money, to boot).
In the intervening weeks, the network either hasn’t learned its lesson or its implementation as policy is weak.
Context: Greta Thunberg was in Davos, Switzerland, where the supposititious masters of the universe meet annually for the World Economic Forum. President Donald Trump was there as well.
If you didn’t catch her speech, it was nothing to write home about — not that you should be writing, because paper kills trees and email uses electricity.
Part of it involved asking countries to divest entirely from fossil fuels, a sure sign maybe it’s time to return to class.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was asked about Thunberg during a news conference in Davos on Thursday.
“Is she the chief economist? Who is she? I’m confused,” he joked, before saying, “After she goes and studies economics in college she can go back and explain that to us.”
U.S. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin says climate activist Greta Thunberg should go study economics https://t.co/ujOicDrQSc
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) January 23, 2020
Here’s Chris Cuomo, who either hadn’t heard of the Sandmann settlement or is unfamiliar with the concept of cognitive dissonance.
Why do these trumpers think it is ok to go at a kid? https://t.co/RYY2IrJPL3
— Christopher C. Cuomo (@ChrisCuomo) January 23, 2020
Are you kidding me?https://t.co/v18aj9KrgT
— Jon Levine (@LevineJonathan) January 23, 2020
Nick Sandmann? https://t.co/cUeeDgMCxs
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) January 23, 2020
Thunberg has chosen to inject herself into the global debate on how to address climate change. Her prescriptions on the matter are extremist, which is to put it mildly. They also exist in isolation from any other branch of social or mathematical science.
Yet, if you criticize her for her opinions, expect people to froth over at the mouth. Greta’s words drop like manna from her lips. If only we would realize how deeply powerful this youngster is — and don’t you dare attack her, you Trumpers!
Nick Sandmann wasn’t a public figure by choice. He didn’t seek out the limelight. He came to America’s attention after a misleading video of an incident between him and Nathan Phillips, in the aftermath of the Black Hebrew Israelites stoking the fire, went viral.
He had no desire to be in the spotlight. Greta has an entire team ensuring she stays in it.
If Chris Cuomo can’t tell the difference between these two things, he shouldn’t be on CNN.
I’m willing to bet very well can tell the difference between these two things — and his desire to turn a blind eye to them explains exactly why he’s on CNN in the first place.
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