Here’s the Van Gogh Soup Thrower Explaining the Soup Throw. Seems Fine to Me.

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You probably should get used to this kind of protest because it’s going to happen a lot.

Here’s a video of one of the two people from Just Stop Oil explaining why they threw a can of soup at “Sunflowers” by Van Gogh last Friday at London’s National Gallery.

“I recognize that it looks like a slightly ridiculous action; I agree it is ridiculous,” she told the camera. “But we’re not asking the question, ‘Should everyone be throwing soup on paintings?’ What we’re doing is getting the conversation going so that we can ask the conversations that matter. Questions like: Is it OK that [Prime Minister of the United Kingdom] Liz Truss is licensing over one hundred new fossil fuels licenses?”

That seems pretty straightforward. There has been much consternation that this is not the right kind of protest—with condemnation even elevating to a proposal from the UK Home Secretary to crack down on actions in order to put the “safety and interests of the law-abiding majority first.” But as far as protests go, this one could be considered ordinary, even staid. Young people enraged about the climate crisis sought to garner media attention to fight it. Just Stop Oil wants to ensure “the government commits to ending all new licenses and consents for the exploration, development, and production of fossil fuels in the UK.” Even that demand, in the grand scheme of protests for climate action, is rather basic.

This is Dog Bites Man stuff: Activist group pulls stunt for media attention garnering mass media attention.

And yet, there was the usual outrage and hand-wringing. “Merely getting publicity for a cause doesn’t automatically translate into generating support for it,” investor Paul Graham tweeted. “If you get publicity for a cause in an obnoxious way, you’ll generate opposition to it.” Even the Associated Press snuck in a note from a climate scientist that vandalism “alienates many people we need to bring into the fold.”

One could argue the opposite. That this protest could be viewed as a brilliant attempt to bring forward the problem we face: The destruction of beauty. And it’s always worth repeating the obvious thing about all protests. The spectacle is the point.

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