Academic climate rebels and UKrant inciting protests

Every day, the editorial staff at the UKrant wonders: What are we writing about, why are we writing about it, and how are we writing about it? ‘At UKrant’, an irregular column, we take a look behind the scenes.

Last week, UKrant published an article called ‘Where are the Groningen climate rebels?’, about climate protest and Scientist Rebellion. Some people reacted with outrage: ‘Is the UK calling for action? This sounds like incitement.’ Or: ‘Why do I keep getting these weird, leftist articles in my student inbox?’ A staff member responded: ‘We also get this nonsense in our staff inboxes.’

Everyone is allowed to decide themselves how they feel about the article. You don’t have to read it if you’re not interested. But can UKrant be reasonably accused of inciting protests? Of course not. We weren’t telling anyone to block the A12 or occupy Schiphol, which is apparently how critics interpreted the headline.

In case you didn’t read the article, it’s about Scientist Rebellion, the academic arm of Extinction Rebellion. They’ve been popping up with increasing frequency all over the country lately, with the exception of Groningen. Here in the editor’s room, we wondered why that was.

Their answers are best described as non-activist

In order to get an answer, we spoke to UG scientists in climate-related fields. While their expertise means they’re concerned about CO2 exhaust and the ice caps melting, their answers are best described as non-activist: ‘I wonder if blocking the A12 isn’t taking it too far’, UKrant quoted one scientist. And: ‘I wonder who the intended audience is.’ Or they’ll respond by saying, ‘Should I be blocking the road in order to get my message across?’

Does that make this a ‘weird, leftist article’? I can’t see anything weird or leftist about it, let alone both at the same time. On the contrary. I see the dilemma these scientists are struggling with. How far should, can, or would you go? When do you stop being a scientist and become an activist? Where is the line?

Here’s another response to the article: ‘This article is bizarre. Where are the right-wing voices at UK? You spread your woke agenda through the university mailing system but have a clear political affiliation. It’s a disgrace.’ Yet another person told the editors that it’s insane that their tax money was paying for a leftist UKrant.

We write about things that concern the academic community

Anyone looking for right-wing content from us will have to wait a long time. So will people who expect any leftist content, or really any politically affiliated writing. We don’t do that. We write about things that happen, things that concern the academic community. Sure, no one is ever completely free from judgement, and neither are we. But that doesn’t mean we’re deliberately spreading (leftist) talk at the university.

Besides, UKrant readers have every opportunity to respond to our articles. Comments can be left-wing, right-wing, or anywhere else on the political spectrum – as long as they conform to our rules, of course – and we allow a lot; much more than many of our fellow media outlets in the country.

However, you might ask yourself whether the climate is a truly ‘leftist’ discussion. According to the most recent I&O Research survey held in the run-up to the elections in November, quite a few centre-right voters (60 percent of VVD voters and 75 percent of CDA voters) have been worried about climate change and its effects for years.

Rob Siebelink, editor-in-chief UKrant



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