So, 1010 have, it seems, attempted to gain publicity by releasing a film which was clearly going to be controverial, waiting for people to upload it onto youtube, then removing it and apologising.

I’m going to do exactly what they want, and post the film. It’s here:

This well worn tactic for ensuring things ‘go viral’ is, of course, pretty clever. It is also taking a big risk. They take the chance of offending lots of people by producing something which is genuinely different and likely to generate discussion.

So, for these reasons, they should be congratulated. Too often, NGOs chicken out of doing anything scary because if anyone objects, then the action is seen as ‘too controversial’.

Activists should be controversial. The opposite is being ignored.

However, I’m afraid I’m going to line up with the ranks of lefty bloggers saying that this really was pretty terrible.

I have no problem using images of people being blown up to make a point. I understand the arguments aruond violent imagery, but if it helps communicate a message as urgent as the need for rapid action on climate change, then fine.

The problem is not that it was a bad way to communicate the message. The problem is that it was a very good way to communicate a very bad message: essentially, it says ‘climate change is your fault. You should be feeling more liberal guilt. If you don’t, you are evil. Even if you are a small child.’

And if you blame people for something that they don’t feel like they have actively chosen to do, then they don’t feel guilt. They feel like they are under attack, and so they defend. They deny. If you don’t believe this, then look at the fact that the Act on CO2 campaign earlier this year was one of the biggest publicity campaigns in the history of the British Government. Yet it corresponded to one of the biggest increases in climate denyal. It’s true that the lies about the Climate Research Unit provided a hook for this, but people were certainly very quick to believe the story.

More to the point, not only is it counterproductive to make people feel like they are individually to blame for climate change, it is also a lie.

Overconsumption of fossil fuels is not something that happens because of the individual consumer decisions we make, but because of our economic system, our transport system, our planning system – how we organise our society.

And yes, we are all responsible for these things. But we are responsible not as consumers but as citizens. When 10:10 tell people that we must reduce our carbon footprints or we are evil people, they are re-inforcing the lie that we can successfully solve a massive problem which how we arrange our society by changing our personal consumer habits. And until we stop re-inforcing this lie, we will never avert climatic disaster.

Now, that isn’t true of the whole 10:10 campaign. In fact, they have done a good job of getting big businesses, and even governments, to sign up (though whether they should be allowing some of those who have to use their brand is quite rightly controversial). But it is true of this film.

So, given the discussion that this film has generated (which I am guilty of perpetuating) we can only say, hats off to 10:10. NGOs always try to get films to ‘go viral’. We almost always fail. They have communicated their message very effectively.

But unfortunately the message that they have re-inforced in the film is one which is massively damaging to the climate movement as a whole. 10:10 say in their apology that they will learn lessons from this. I hope that people don’t take away from this whole episode the false lesson that shock tactics and risks and cotroversy are a bad idea. I hope we do learn that if you launch an attack on the people you are trying to win over, you will inevitably fail.

Adam Ramsay

About Adam Ramsay

Adam is Co-Editor of Open Democracy UK and a green activist based in Edinburgh. He co-founded Bright Green in 2010.