Social Authoritarianism and Climate Change

Some days ago I found a post on LinkedIn attacking Greta Thundberg with the occasion of her recent book The Climate Book. What was surprising to me is that most people criticizing Thundberg in the comments to that post had not read the book. Few knew that most of The Climate Book is not written by Thundberg herself but by over one hundred experts. Many comments were not just criticism, but direct insults to Thundberg.

Then I found Tim Urban’s post on social authoritarianism.

Non-authoritarians don’t enforce their way of thinking on anyone els


The social bully gets angry or offended with friends who disagree with them, which keeps the people around them walking on eggshells.

The idea supremacist goes a step further…

The idea supremacist believes that ideas they disagree with are so vile and dangerous that they must be silenced. They don’t just impose their preferred echo chamber on the people who choose to spend time with them—they try to impose their echo chamber on everyone.

We can illustrate this by comparing how people react to an upcoming talk by a speaker they disagree with. High-rung thinkers find a lot of value in having their beliefs challenged. Low-rung thinkers, not so much. But only the idea supremacist tries to cancel the event.

(…) This concept helps illuminate the difference between criticism and cancel culture. Criticism attacks ideas, which enhances discussion. Cancel culture attacks the people who speak the ideas, which makes it scary to speak and chills discussion. Cancel culture is idea supremacy.

Ad hominem attacks are nothing new. You may agree or disagree with Thundberg and her peculiar style of activism for climate change. But you should not discard the ideas just because you don’t like the messenger.

Greta Tundberg authoritarianism ad hominem attacks open mind learning

Join my free newsletter and receive updates directly to your inbox.