German car enthusiasts have launched a social media campaign that aims to “end climate hysteria” and take on teenage activist Greta Thunberg’s Friday For Future movement.
In a riff on the FridaysForFuture hashtag that has been used by millions of environmental activists in recent week, car lovers have instead coalesced around the #FridaysForHubraum, a term that translates as the engine capacity of a vehicle in German.
A ‘Fridays for Hubraum’ Facebook group attracted some 400,000 members but was taken down by its admins on Thursday after being hijacked by right-wing populists and conspiracy theorists that used it to make disparaging remarks about Thunberg and her supporters.
But the campaign has persisted, with several pages set up on Facebook with the same logo as the original group, and a campaign on Twitter. One page, which had 37,000 followers as of Friday, urged its users not to be negative about the Fridays For Future movement.
“We are the ones who have to behave right now. No hustle, blunt insults and anything else that the media could fall into. Quickly, we'll be in the negative, and no one will take what we're actually following. Preserving our love for automotive,” it said.
'Express their feelings'
The creator of the page told Euronews that they were not involved in the original Facebook group but wanted to give car enthusiasts an opportunity to “express their feelings”. They said they did not believe the views of those opposed to climate movement should be restricted.
In terms of staying positive, the group appeared to be true to its word: a post from Friday urged its followers to plant trees in an effort to offset the impact of car pollution, while another linked to a 2009 YouTube video of an automobile that ran on water rather than fuel.
Other posts urge followers to sign petitions that oppose taxes on car users or efforts to stop people driving petrol vehicles, as well as memes targeting Thunberg.
Although Germany has a vocal environmentalist movement - and the Germany Green party have significant power over government policy, unlike elsewhere in Europe - it is also a major car manufacturer, with the automotive sector responsible for millions of jobs.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has had to walk a fine line between satisfying climate change activists on the one hand and auto manufacturers on the other, particularly in Bavaria, which is the heartland of her coalition partner the Christian Social Union (CSU).
A representative of the Friday For Future movement did not respond to requests for comment from Euronews.