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Growing up, I skipped school all the time.

It started when I was 10 years old1 and our school decided that we should perform musicals all around town. Our teachers would never admit to it, but they strived to present well-behaved and choir-singing children under their culturally acclaimed ward. When I put my protests in writing, I got to experience what it means for a child to have grown-up enemies.

It’s safe to say that I salute my fellow Swede Greta Thunberg for skipping school to fight for something she believes in.

The fact that Thunberg evokes passionate resistance only serves as igniter fluid for her personal PR crusade. Her PR strategy strikes at the central nervous systems of several angry online publics:

  • The Confused. We have those who dislike unfair and unbalanced media reporting, but are unable to distinguish systematic media behaviour from those who are being put in the spotlight by these mechanisms.
  • The Paranoid. We have those who distrust the purity of Thunberg’s intentions and who worry that her campaign is professionally staged and used as a way to brainwash the population.
  • The Ideologists. We have those who thinks that her struggle is a privileged expression of identity politics; they argue that the climate issue is hijacked by the political left and used to enforce a stronger state.
  • The Resistant. We have those who believe that the climate issue is overstated and that alarmists aren’t doing our society any favours at all.
  • The Concerned. And, we have those who thinks that the grown-up world is taking advantage of a somewhat naive (and a little bit annoying) child. They see Thunberg as being a victim of various grown-up agendas.

From a PR perspective, few of these angry publics are fighting from a strong position. The climate issue has become the focal point of the Moral War.

For sure, the reporting is unbalanced when a young social media natural with a such a basic message (“We could do more for our environment!”) is awarded with an immensely powerful media platform. However, this is merely the logical outcome of how media works; many of Thunberg’s critics would be quite accurate — if only they aimed their harsh words against the media logic itself.

What about skipping school, then? Well, I got away with cutting classes for one simple reason: I always showed up for my tests and I always did well on them. And, when I did attend class, I made sure to demonstrate my knowledge clearly. I don’t know exactly just how many classes Thunberg skipped, but it sure didn’t hurt her grades.

“She got these excellent grades despite being absent from class far more than most of her followers: As the leader of a movement, an international celebrity, and a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, she traveled extensively during her last school year.”
Leonid Bershidsky at

Still, Thunberg might be winning the moral war, but is she making a real difference for the climate? Our mutual future will tell. For now, I sure do admire anyone who dares to face devastating online hatred for a personal conviction.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons


  1. For context, I did experience some difficulties prior to this as a direct result of being an atheist attending a school with mostly religious teachers.