XR leak: Hallam Holocaust comments were a deliberate ‘provocation’

A memo from controversial Extinction Rebellion co-founder Roger Hallam, leaked to Freedom, suggests his offensive interview with Der Spiegel was a deliberate tactic to “provoke a big media reaction.”

Hallam’s interview with the German newspaper, in which he suggested the Holocaust was “almost a normal event … just another fuckery in human history,” sparked global condemnation when it was published on Wednesday — including from XR Germany which said he was was no longer welcome in the country.

The intense backlash was agreed with by XR UK, which also “unreservedly” denounced Hallam, and even Ullstein, the German publisher of Hallam’s upcoming book, said it would be cancelling publication.

A day after publication, on Thursday 21st, Hallam semi backed down, apologised for his “crass” comments and said:

“I realise that in the interview I got side-tracked into an unnecessary debate about where the Holocaust sits in terms of horrific genocides. I see now my cultural insensitivity,” he wrote on Facebook.

“I understand that such a debate is obscene and offensive, in particular for all those who remain haunted by memories of what occurred and for all those who lost people they loved.”

Edgelord politics

From the memo passed to Freedom however it appears this may have initially been part of the plan. Shortly after giving the Der Spiegel interview, but before it hit the news stands, he sent a lengthy missive to XR UK and XR Germany explaining what he’d done and suggested:

“… don’t get stuck in continuing the frame of the badness of Roger’s act. The damage we need to talk about is the betrayal of the German media in refusing to make clear to German people the hell they entering into if the country’s politicians continue to allow emissions of carbon into the atmosphere.”

Hallam’s text goes on to posit scenarios that interviewers might come up with and offers suggestions for answers, mainly geared around minimising his role (as “only an organic farmer from Wales”) and using interest in the media storm to get out messages around media complicity in climate catastrophe and political inaction.

Towards the end of the memo, Hallam outlines his strategy as ” we use the moral outrage of the opposition and turn it around to expose their own radical immorality” and suggests he will keep doing similar at other events:

I am interested in saying “outrageous” things at the LSE debate on 5th Dec (I think) to create another media event which we can turn around to our advantage in a similar way. I think designing this sort of “trap” for the media has strong similarities to on the street direct action dynamics and we should be pro actively designing them as part of M and M Strategy to maximise the power of our messaging.”

XR itself however seems to have been unimpressed by what seems to have been an unsanctioned tactic from Hallam, whose relationship with the organisation has become increasingly fraught in recent months. In an official statement made after press interest blew up, the UK group said:

 “Jewish people and many others are deeply wounded by the comments today.

“Internal conversations have begun with the XR conflict team about how to manage the conflict process that will address this issue. We stand by restorative outcomes as preferable, although in some cases exclusion is necessary.

“We stand in solidarity with XR Germany, with Jewish communities, and with all those affected by the Holocaust, both in the past and in our times.”

Whether Hallam will remain linked to XR in the near future and what further “outrageous comments” he might intend to make on December 5th are not clear.


The full memo can be read here, and also appears to have been acquired by der Feitag.