Radiohead Vs. The Tar Sands Oil Pipeline


Photo credit: alterna2 via Flickr/CC BY

Word of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline -- and of the massive protest that's gathering in D.C. a week from now to fight it -- is beginning to spread beyond environmental and activist circles and into the mainstream. But some Americans still haven't even heard of the 2,000 mile pipeline (which would connect the tar sands in Alberta, Canada to refineries in the American South), and fewer are aware of the powerful implications it would have regarding our nation's dependence on fossil fuels.

So it's a bit of good news that the world's most popular art rock band has weighed in on the tar sands battle, and endorsed the civil disobedience slated to take place at the White House on August 20th. Let me explain, briefly, why this matters. First, here are Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke's thoughts on the matter, which he dashed off on the band's blog, Dead Air Space:

President Obama is soon to make a decision on whether to press one of THE big red climate self destruct buttons..

and is under considerable pressure from a fake grassroots campaign funded by um .. certain interested parties (its called Astroturfing)
into allowing the Tar Sands nightmare to go ahead..
if you don't know anything about the Tar Sands have a quick google...

as seems to be the way of politics this won't happen unless a strong show of resistance can be seen to help obama say no.

Anyway there is a campaign of peaceful civil disobedience planned in washington..TAR SANDS ACTION

He also includes a link to "astroturf type shit" for those that need a point of reference.

Now, it's not like a blog post from Radiohead is going to change Obama's mind on the Keystone XL pipeline question. But we desperately need more icons of the current counterculture to wade into the activist sphere, and Radiohead has been one of the few major bands to forge itself to a political and social identity -- Thom Yorke is known for voicing concern for climate change, and for being critical of government and corporate inaction. Now, there'd be a truly sizable impact if Radiohead actually showed up at the protest, but simply having the band lend the event cultural currency helps vitalize the movement.

Since I penned the evidently inflammatory Let's End Hippie-Style Environmental Protests. ASAP. article, I've been thinking more about why today's counterculture is so impotent in the activist arena, and why we're left relying on old hippie tropes to voice our dissent.

The short, oversimplified answer seems to have something to do with the disconnect between our artistic counterculture and activist subculture -- in the hippie movement, the two worked in lockstep. We've since lost that countercultural mode of cooperation, and I'll explore why that might be in future posts. But for now, suffice to say that we should all be trying to make more noise about the Tar Sands pipeline, and climate issues in general -- and doing more to enlist the aid of cultural arbiters like Radiohead.

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More on Civil Disobedience
What Will Effective 21st Century Civil Disobedience Look Like?
Massive Tar Sands Pipeline Protest to Hit White House this Month

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