When Extinction Rebellion vandalised Parliament House they were engaging in ‘stuntism’— a word that was coined by Mark Latham. When I contacted Mark he told me he had been re-reading Peter Walsh’s memoirs and saw Peter’s use of the term ‘stunting’ which he then adapted to ‘stuntism’. So, this is definitely Mark Latham’s coinage. Mark Gwen at the Australian National Dictionary Centre tracked down one earlier use of the term for me—in an Ohio newspaper, the Scranton Republican, in 1935: but there it was applied not to politics but to preachers who turned the pulpit into a circus—they were accused of ‘stuntism’. So, Mark is the first to use this word of politics, and it captures Extinction Rebellion perfectly. They have nothing to add to the debate—no evidence and no arguments, so they just stage stunts. The problem is that such stunts are self-defeating—because by these stunts Extinction Rebellion attracts attention to itself instead of the issue. It stops people talking about climate change and gets people talking about vandalism at Parliament House or traffic being held up in city centres. And that’s exactly the point Mark Latham was making in coining the term—political ‘stuntism’ will always fail (even when it gets onto the TV or into the papers) because it has a ‘vampire effect’—it drains attention out of the issue and into the stunt.
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