Culture

Sorry, Jane Fonda, but flying to Washington to stage your arrest is not climate activism

A bunch of celebrities getting arrested doesn’t solve anything, yet there they are, every Friday in October, like it’s some sort of stage play.

Libby Emmons and Barrett Wilson Montreal, QC
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Everyone loves when Hollywood celebrities turn to activism, which is why it’s so inspiring to see Jane Fonda wield her considerable wealth and free time to raise awareness about climate change. For four months, Fonda has vowed to protest on the steps of the U.S. Capitol every Friday. She has even moved temporarily to Washington, D.C. to facilitate this endeavour.

Her “new weekly civil disobedience campaign is called #FireDrillFriday, and its mission is to pressure American policymakers to tackle the climate crisis.”

Inspired by Greta Thunberg, who has still not returned to school, Fonda has been so successful that her first two times out protesting without obtaining a required permit, she was arrested. Her first arrest after arriving in Washington, DC, was on the first FireDrillFriday, October 11. She stood on the steps of the Capitol, shouted, waved her sign around, and generally demanded that she get taken in by officers.

On the third time, she brought actor Ted Danson along to get arrested, too. I supposed she figured that would really get the job done.

Danson and Fonda have taken empty Hollywood virtue signalling to the next level. The idea that flying from L.A. to Washington to stage your own arrest is even remotely close to activism is preposterous. It’s disingenuous pandering to the extent that it makes Extinction Rebellion look legit. It’s all so eerily similar to The Simpsons parody of celebrity environmental activism:

We get that they care, and they are for sure acting under the assumption that the “house is on fire” and action must be taken, but it would help if the action was more thoughtful in nature. Instead of taking on this project with themselves as the centre of it, those unsung heroes, Hollywood celebrities, should go where their efforts are most needed. Maybe they could lobby their representatives instead of harassing them at their place of work, or make sandwiches for the Extinction Rebellion crowd, or stuff some envelopes for an action committee, or make phone calls to CEOs to encourage them to change their ways.

These are the ways that people of power and means can have an impact. Fonda and Danson are not needed at the grassroots level, they’re needed at the gala, on the red carpet, making CEO’s and politicians feel like they’re part of the in-crowd and want to stay there. This posturing may make them feel like they’re actually taking part and taking a stand for their beliefs, but that’s all it is, a feeling, not a reality.

The effective celebrity activist has a very different face than the one Hanoi Jane is accustomed to putting on. It looks more like Kim Kardashian-West, who met with Donald Trump to encourage him personally to do something about those who are either wrongfully convicted or who have received sentences that are far too long for the non-violent crimes committed. This has been an effective strategy. But Fonda, who famously joined the Mile High Club on Ted Turner’s private plane, is no stranger to hypocrisy. As is always the case with these entitled celebrities, it’s do as I say, not as I do.

It does not help the climate movement to have big celebrities stride out the steps of the Capitol, do a little dance, and get hauled off in squad cars. If Fonda’s goal is to have more people come out and join her, she should consider that the ramifications of getting arrested every Friday won’t be quite so meaningless for those little guys. Fonda and friends can go back to California with some notches on their permanent records, but no worse for wear.

Fonda would be well-served to take a cue from Kardashian-West and try to affect real change in the real world instead of performing this empty gesture on a weekly loop. Action toward affecting climate change goals is not something that needs more awareness-raising. We’re all pretty well sure that we need to do better. But we need solutions. A bunch of celebrities getting arrested seldom solved anything, yet there they are, every Friday in October, like it’s some sort of stage play. Actually, that’s exactly what it is.

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