On Wednesday, teen climate activist Greta Thunberg was named TIME Person of the Year for 2019. The annual distinction is at times seen as an award, but not all the “people of the year” are necessarily positive contributors to society. More often the choice reflects the amount of influence a person or the movement surrounding them has had one society. In Thunberg’s case, it’s her ability to mobilize huge groups of people, adults and children, into climate activists themselves.
Wow, this is unbelievable! I share this great honour with everyone in the #FridaysForFuture movement and climate activists everywhere. #climatestrike https://t.co/2t2JyA6AnM pic.twitter.com/u4JUD4cgCz
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) December 11, 2019
In August of 2018, Thunberg began skipping school every Friday and sitting outside of Swedish Parliament with a sign that read Skolstrejk för klimatet or “School Strike for Climate.” Since then, her movement has grown, and millions of people all over the world joined her in a strike for the climate last summer.
I find this two pictures so incredibly moving. This is @GretaThunberg aged 15, sat alone outside the Swedish Parliament Aug 2018 – the first school strike. Today she's TIME's 2019 Person of the Year. Never underestimate the power of one young person.#TIMEPersonoftheYear2019 pic.twitter.com/TaGPNWCXNa
— Mohamad Safa (@mhdksafa) December 11, 2019
Greta’s journey started when she was about 11, and learned of the impending climate crisis. She was stunned that it seemed like no one was doing anything about it, and the situation pushed her into a deep depression. Her parents responded by making changes in their own lifestyle, like giving up meet and airplanes and committing to solar energy at home, and she began to come out of it as she realized there was something she could do.
Thunberg has Asperger’s, an autism spectrum disorder, and she has said that if she were a neurotypical person, she might not have had that intense reaction to the bad news about the planet. She would have been able to compartmentalize it more easily. It’s also given her an intense focus on the work she has to do to get what she wants. So, Thunberg has become an advocate for other people with Asperger’s as well, openly discussing how being different can make you more powerful.
This has all been very triggering for conservatives, especially the old straight white male variety. There’s something about a serious teen girl who can’t be swayed by taunts or jeers that just makes them rage. Thunberg receives death threats, has been attacked by Donald Trump, compared to Nazi propaganda, and also been weirdly sexualized by these creeps. And now they’re losing it over her acknowledgement in Time:
Time leaves out the Hong Kong Protesters fighting for their lives and freedoms to push a teen being used as a marketing gimmick.
How dare you? https://t.co/dnV9mESM6G
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) December 11, 2019
Like Trump Jr., many conservatives have focused on the fact that the Hong Kong protestors were on the shortlist for the award, and are covering their distaste for Thunberg with faux outrage over them being passed over for a teen girl:
The @TIME Person of the Year should have been the Hong Kong Protestors.
Risking your life for a Free Hong Kong — standing up to an authoritarian government that put dissenters into concentration camps and harvests their organs — this is real courage.
— Eric Brakey (@SenatorBrakey) December 11, 2019
Hong Kong protestors won the vote but we know left wing institutions have trouble accepting that they didn’t get what they wanted so @Time made Greta the "Person of the Year" anyways.
— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) December 11, 2019
But most are just being sarcastic and weird:
They really should've make Greta's parents person of the year for indoctrinating Greta at the age of eight and taking away her childhood, but ¯_(ツ)_/¯ https://t.co/hLqkqRZBCD
— Josh Jordan (@NumbersMuncher) December 11, 2019
Wow cisgendered white girl as person of the year. Time Magazine reinforcing white heteronormativity once again. Outrageous. https://t.co/pb4zgeDUFp
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) December 11, 2019
— Sebastian Gorka DrG (@SebGorka) December 11, 2019
They’re mad because they’re scared, and they should be: Thunberg’s message is important to a whole lot of people.