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The Changing Perspective of Greta Thunberg

by Josie Reaney

Greta Thunberg’s relationship with the media is a knotty one. 

‘Greta Thunberg has become a parody of herself’ (Sky News)

A ‘deeply disturbed’ young girl (New York Times)

‘Angry pro-Palestine mob clashes with police outside Eurovision as Greta Thunberg smirks on’ (Daily Express)

If headlines are anything to go by, then these are the images you’d have of Thunberg: a nuisance; a fly that won’t leave, no matter how many times you swot it. 

As Thunberg’s activism accelerated, her media narrative became increasingly harsh. The vilification of a remarkable young woman, fighting for the good of all, is laughable, but, unfortunately, not surprising. 

The mainstream media are determined to shoe-horn us, and when an activist like Thunberg goes from a neatly packaged young girl making speeches about the environment to a determined woman physically standing up for multiple social justice issues, they get angry. Recently demonstrated by an article based around Thunberg headlined, ‘Gen Z activists have swapped planet for Palestine’ posted by The Telegraph less than a week ago (May 3rd). 

Despite how the media choose to present her, Greta is still in conversation, and maybe that will be enough to keep her cause - the world’s cause- afloat. Now, let’s start by giving her a responsible write up, shall we? 

In the summer of 2018, aged only 15, Thunberg held the first ‘School Strike for Climate’ outside the Swedish parliament. The protest garnered much attention, with hundreds of thousands of young people across the world participating in her ‘Fridays For Future’ strikes. 

In 2019, Thunberg addressed the UN Climate Summit. Her speech marked not only a cornerstone in her own activism but a hallmark for the climatechange movement. 

Stood behind the plinth without a sign of hesitation, Thunberg expressed the horrors of climate change; urging world leaders to take action. 

Of course, the speech became subject of internet jokes, with her impassioned ‘how dare you’ echoing across the far corners of the social media universe. 

Though meme culture had its say, Thunberg’s message caused sparks and she soon became the face of climate activism.

Following the UN conference, Thunberg was on the cover of British Vogue and was the youngest person to win Times Magazines acclaimed person of the year award in 2019. 

The media crowned the teenager for her remarkable efforts towards climate change, knowing that Greta was so much more than herself; she embodied a generation. 

As is the cyclical process of protest- when they don’t listen, you must simply shout louder. With promise after promise being broken and world leaders brushing her off as nothing but a “poorly informed teenager” (Putin), with an “anger management problem” (Trump), Thunberg’s activism has started to come with more of a bite. 

The Climate Book was released in 2022, containing essays from 100 scientists, writers and activists. The book is an undoubted call to action to combat the climate crisis. Here, Thunberg goes deeper into politics than she has before, stating bluntly that “leaving capitalist consumerism as the dominant steward of the only known civilization in the universe will seem, in retrospect, to have been a terrible idea.” 

Of course, she’s right and her point is in no way radical but western media has never been known to take too kindly to people centred ideologies. 

To add to the medias distaste, Thunberg’s activism has become increasingly valiant. More recent footage of her being carried from protests by police, thumbs up with a grin in the back of a riot van littered the medias mocking headlines. 

Sky News’ particularly bitter critique branded Gretta as a screaming child and a public nuisance- bullying masked by a label of professional journalism.

In 2019, the media saw a young girl who represented the neoliberal dream, and her activism was seen as more endearing than fierce. 

Thunberg was crowned for her impassioned words and her idealism, but a dream was all she reflected. 

As she has matures, she is kicking aside words in place of action. Greta has always been a non-conformer but her recent protests with Extinction Rebellion have marked a shift in the medias view of her. 

Pictured smiling in the back of a police van and being forcefully removed from protests - this is not the kind of activism that garners media sympathy, but often, it’s the only way to stir change. 

Greta is now a threat, brushed off by reporters as an attention hungry nuisance. God forbid the masses take Thunberg seriously as that would be recipe for revolution, which is exactly why her crown has been confiscated. 

Greta (along with activist groups like Extinction Rebellion and Greenpeace) have the potential to spark massive change to the system. 

Ultimately, however the media shape Thunberg’s character, they cannot deny her cause. We should be forever thankful to Greta for her relentless activism and her bravery, she speaks for the world after all.

Edited by Emily Duff

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