Modern Activism: How Far is Too Far?

Photo from The Conversation, Activists in Van Goh Museum

Photo from The Conversation, Activists in Van Goh Museum

Vinni Storer, Staff Writer

In October of 22’, two young activists took a trip to the Van Gogh Museum in London dressed in shirts which stated, “Just Stop Oil.” Along with them, they brought cans of tomato soup. Phoebe Plummer and Anna Holland proceeded to make their own painting over Van Gogh’s Sunflowers to bring attention to their cause. This caught the eyes of many, but not for the reason the activists intended. Social media went wild over these two girls, believing that they were wrong for defacing art for the sake of attention. Then, just a week later, two German activists carried mashed potatoes into another art museum and dumped them onto the painting, Grainstacks. They proceeded to glue themselves to the wall which the painting was mounted on. Mirjam Hermann, a protester, reminded the bystanders that people all across the world are dying from starvation or being frozen to death. She demanded that people should put business aside and take care of the actual threat. Other pieces including the Mona Lisa, and The Scream were also defaced in the name of climate change activism. Another member of the Just Stop Oil group zip-tied themselves to a soccer goal post during the game between Everton and Newcastle. 

Climate change is a very real issue that is not being addressed enough, but defacing famous art is not the way to get the message across. Attempting to ruin art makes the activists look like the bad guys. Sure, owners of the art use the pieces to fill their pockets. I first assumed these activists were targeting oil paintings, which made me think, why are people trying to destroy oil paintings if they’re fighting against climate change? Oil paint and fossil fuels are two very different things. This was not their intention, however. The idea was to bring attention to themselves so they could explain their views.

Yes, activism is definitely important. Without it, many people would lack the basic human rights we take for granted, but defacing art or zip tying yourself to a soccer goal post is not the way to go. This puts yourself in danger not only with the law but also your body. What happens if there is no protective glass and the activist gets prosecuted? What happens if the zip tie is tied just a bit too tight?

Continuing to vouch for things that cannot speak up is critical. However, we can do this in many other ways. Social media is one of the number one ways to spread information. Starting organizations and doing service projects are also great ways to help and make the organization look good.

Another example of an activist who went too far is That Vegan Teacher. She quickly became popular on her TikTok account after posting songs which demanded that fast food restaurants go vegan. She even replied to one of famous chef Gordan Ramsay’s TikToks telling him to go vegan. Some of her very controversial points included comparing butchering animals to the Holocaust, and saying that becoming vegan was more important to those who can come out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. She asked her viewers, “Do you know how your ancestors were treated? Enslaved and murdered? Do you not know what they do to their animals right now?” This statement is obviously pointed towards the treatment of African slaves. She also replied to multiple religious videos which stated that veganism was against their religion, and she claimed that they must change that religion. TikTok users said that she forced young individuals to go vegan even if they could not afford the diet or it was medically safe for them. Many viewers came forward and stated that their loved ones had passed away after being on a vegan diet from malnutrition.

She also posted multiple videos of her dog, Bella, who is and has been on a vegan diet for years. Studies by veterinarians said that dogs should not be put on vegan diets, because canines require a certain amount of protein that fruits and vegetables cannot provide. The amino acids in the diets make high protein plant-based foods harder to digest. These diets also do not include enough vitamins and minerals which can be found in meat. Some of That Vegan Teacher’s videos showed Bella eating grass which, in dogs, means that they are instinctively eating something that will make them vomit because they feel they have consumed something they shouldn’t have. 

In 2021, she was banned from TikTok after over twenty thousand people signed a petition for her to be removed from the app, and although veganism is a completely safe lifestyle/diet, people should not be forcing it on others. A few people converting to a vegan diet will not change the production of the meat market. It is estimated that around eighty-billion animals are slaughtered just for food. This number probably does not include the amount of animals that are killed for their other resources, but as science and technology progresses, we may see an increase in artificially manufactured food sources. The FDA has already approved lab grown meat, so who knows what we may see in the future. 

In 2020, President Donald Trump was impeached just before the end of his term. Current President Joe Biden now holds his place. The two presidents have very different beliefs and views. After the election, Republicans became furious over the results. Thousands of protesters from all over the country surrounded the Capitol building in Washington D.C. Many carried flags and signs including the Trump 2020 flag, the American flag, and even the Confederate flag. Signs which stated the election was rigged were also carried. In some images of the riot, a gallows can be seen amongst the crowd. That early afternoon over two thousand people rushed into the Capitol building in protest. These individuals stole and destroyed items they could find. Both Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi were evacuated from the building as fast as possible. Roughly $1.5 million worth of damage was caused upon the building. During this riot, many were injured and five were found dead including four protesters and one police officer. The FBI and Department of Justice arrested around 725 protesters. 

Over two years later, we can look back on this event and label it many things. People with political affiliations may say this was right. Others may call this event a terrorist attack. It officially has been called a riot, by most news sources and the US government. Some may say this was purely the rioters fault or maybe President Trump, for he had made several Twitter posts encouraging his supporters to do something irrational. 

After only looking at three examples of fighting for beliefs, we can conclude that there is certainly a right and a wrong way to get the point across. When supporting something you are passionate about, support it in a safe and respectful manner.