Following Jonathan Moylan’s ANZ hoax I wrote some days ago about whether his actions were justified. I was interested in critiquing some of the fatuous arguments against his act of civil disobedience and looking at the action through the lens of grassroots political activism. Now I’d like to consider the role Moylan has played, examined with Bill Moyer’s ‘Movement Action Plan‘ as a guide. I’ve previously written about Moyer’s ‘Four Roles of Social Activism‘, which is the best foundation for understanding this write-up. However, this post is written to be intelligible one way or the other.
Jonathan Moylan’s ANZ Hoax was classic rebel behaviour
Moylan’s illegal hoax identifies him as a rebel in the Moyerian sense, playing a crucial role within the Australian anti-coal movement. In Doing Democracy, Moyer introduces the rebel by writing, “Rebels promote the democratic process, especially when a social problem is not publicly recognized and the normal channels of participatory democracy are not working adequately.” (emphasis added) Moyer specifically identifies the use of “extra-parliamentary means” and notes “Rebels are usually the first to be recognized publicly as challenging the status quo.” We can see how this fits Moylan’s stunt: participatory democracy is failing to address the issue of Australia’s coal mining and export, Moylan deployed an “extra-parliamentary” tactic, in this case a misleading faux press release, and he has thus been recognised as challenging the status quo. The hoax was an effective rebel tactic.
Social movements require rebels in order to succeed. While Moylan’s fake press release was illegal and controversial, this accords with the role of the rebel, which is to use extra-parliamentary means to draw attention to a previously unrecognised social problem.
But are rebel tactics always suitable? And what follows them? It’s worth trying to identify the state of the anti-coal movement in Australia and whether Moylan’s timing was strategic – which I’ll do in a future post.