Weapons of mass distraction: They came armed – or perhaps eared – only with headphones.It’s a philosophical puzzler for the Age of Terror, the cyber-equivalent of a tree falling in the woods. If a group of eco-warriors lays siege to Parliament House but no one notices, did it really happen?
It’s not an abstract question. It actually did happen – or did not, depending on your philosophical position – on Wednesday, as the guests at a “listening party” for the soundtrack of the controversial play Kill Climate Deniers descended on the national seat of power, right under the noses of heavily armed security staff, who either didn’t notice or didn’t care.
It was a stealth attack – so stealthy, in fact, that the organisers, playwright David Finnigan and musician Reuben Ingall, don’t know the exact size of their invading force.
“We don’t know how many were there,” says Finnigan. “All we could see were lots of people moving through the building with headphones on. Six of them joined us at the end for a cup of tea, but we’ve heard there were lots of others there too.”
The audio assault is the latest manifestation of a project that has been raising the hackles of conservatives since late 2014, when the ACT government granted almost $19,000 to the Aspen Island Theatre Company to develop the play about an attack by 96 armed eco-terrorists during a Fleetwood Mac concert in Parliament House, and the valiant resistance led by a female Environment Minister, who eventually sees them off.
The project has spawned an e-book, a live music event, a film script and, now, an album and a surreptitious listening party.
“Once we decided it didn’t have to be a stage play in the traditional sense the options began opening up,” says Finnigan. “The next step is an album of remixes.”
But the one thing it hasn’t yet spawned is an actual theatrical production. “I’d love to see it done as a play one day,” he adds wistfully.
The project – or, rather, ArtsACT’s funding of it – was first attacked by Canberra-based writer Don Aitkin on his blog in September 2014, before being picked up (almost inevitably) by Andrew Bolt the following week. (Aitkin later softened his line after learning more about the play.)
“If I were thug enough to write a play with the title Kill Climate Scientists would I get a grant,” Bolt thundered and wondered. “Would the ABC rush to present my defence?”
In an irony sure to delight him, Bolt’s words have now been appropriated as the spoken text of one of the early-’90s techno-flavoured tracks on the album.
Take that, you: Reuben Ingall stares down John Howard in Parliament House.
The outrage over the play eventually spread as far as the UK outpost of right-wing media outlet Breitbart, where the 700-plus comments on a piece railing against it included the likes of this:
“The good news is that these pussies are afraid of guns. When that day of reckoning finally comes it will be like shooting fish in a barrel.”
“Are you prepared though, to kill them before they kill us? I certainly am, and I’m devoid of remorse for doing so.”
Righteous indignation indeed.
The funny thing is, Finnigan insists the eco-terrorists are the bad guys in his work, which he describes as “a light-hearted, fun, Die Hard-esque action story” that also seeks to ask some big questions.
“What happens when the two-party political system that runs on polls and the 24-hour news cycle comes up against something as big as climate change? The tools just don’t seem fit to deal with the problem. There’s comedy in that, but there are also real questions we need to ask about what happens when there’s a need for change but a system that can’t deliver it.”
David Finnigan at the Parliament House listening party on Wednesday.
In case you’re wondering, they did get legal advice before launching their “assault” on Parliament House. After all, when there are burly staff with machineguns on the doors, you don’t want to take unnecessary risks.
“This is not in any way a protest, or a threat of any kind, but it was always going to be read as a provocation by some people,” says Finnigan.
“I think the AFP, to their credit, is aware of what is a real threat and what is not.”
Unlike, he might have added, some in the commentariat.
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