Fracktivist Farm, a most Orwellian tale

The story of Fracktivism in Lancashire could have been written by George Orwell given the similarities with his 1943 essay Animal Farm...


They took over Maple Farm and renamed it Fractivist Farm. On the wall, in large, white letters, they daubed Seven Commandments, the last of which ran: "All Fracktivists Are Equal".

Soon, though, it became obvious that some Fracktivists are more equal than others...

Tina, Claire, John and others were busy spreading the Fracktivist doctrine from the comfort of their homes, while the other Fracktivists slept in makeshift accommodation at Fracktivist Farm and on scraps of land nearby.

These other "frontline" Fracktivists were like the beasts of burden, doing all the work of climbing on delivery lorries and "locking-on" in front of Cuadrilla's site. It was these Fracktivists that risked arrest and prosecution, but Comrades Tina, Claire, John and others praised them for their glorious commitment to Fracktivism and told them that they were "heroes".

When there was no money to pay their fines, and these frontline Fracktivists questioned why they had to fund their fines themselves, Tina, Claire, John and the others reminded them that the Legal Fighting Fund was never intended to pay individual fines (which were actually a badge of honour that Fracktivists could wear with pride) and that the money was needed to fight the Frackers and their expensive lawyers - and nobody could deny that they needed all the money to fight the Frackers, so the frontline Fracktivists came to accept that they needed to pay their fines themselves. In fact, after a while, they forgot all about the earlier promises to pay their fines.

Ahead of a big march to the Cuadrilla gates, some of the frontline Fracktivists questioned why they had to acquiesce to the  Frackers and the Police by allowing a delivery convoy into site first - when the First Commandment of Fracktivism ran:  "Fracktivists Are Friends, Frackers and their Enablers Are Enemies"? Tina, Claire, John and the others were quick to explain: "Comrades, do you not see that it was just a clever ploy to get them to scale back their policing by letting the convoy through, so that there would be less police officers to stop us walking in the road later?" Some of the frontline Fracktivists were still uneasy about what they saw as capitulation to the Enemies of Fracktivism. "It was a triumph," said Tina, Claire, John and the others. "We won a great victory, Comrades, because by allowing the convoy in first, we were able to walk in the road unhindered, creating the media impression that we were so strong and numerous that the authorities had no way of stopping us. It doesn't matter that the Frackers have all the equipment they need to carry on working, what matters is public perception - you surely must agree that it is more important to portray Fracktivism as a success in order for it to spread than it is for us to delay a convoy getting onto site?" The frontline Fracktivists eventually came to accept this received wisdom.

The Third Commandment of Fracktivism ran: "Fracktivists Shall Never Attack Other Fracktivists", and so it was a surprise to the frontline Fracktivists when Tina, Claire, John and the others all attacked Gayzer Frackman who had, until then, been one of the most dedicated frontline Fracktivists of them all. They berated him on social media and hounded him in real life, luring him to a meeting and then creating the conditions to have him arrested, and then they cast him out. Some of the frontline Fracktivists were at first concerned by this, but Tina, Claire, John and the others settled them by pointing out how the Third Commandment painted on the farm wall said "Fracktivists Shall Never Attack Other Fracktivists, without cause". The frontline Fracktivists were initially puzzled, but accepted that of course it was OK to attack their fellow Fracktivists if they turned out to be traitors, just as Tina, Claire, John and the others - who had lately become known as "The Admins" - had rightly pointed out.

When Cuadrilla announced that it had successfully drilled the first horizontal shale gas well in the UK, and with every proclamation of how many jobs it was responsible for and how much money it had spent locally, the frontline Fracktivists felt dejected and as though their toils over the last year were pointless. After all, weren't they supposed to be stopping the Frackers?  But The Admins were quick to soothe them: "Comrades, by your labours, you have delayed Cuadrilla by several months. We are winning!" And they pointed to the number of Facebook fans their pages had and the number of Twitter followers, and declared "Comrades, does our presence on social media not demonstrate that we are mighty and that Fracktivism is continuing to spread? You must continue your efforts so that we can encourage more people to join our ranks!" Hearing this, the frontline Fracktivists were relieved to know that the arrests, criminal records, fines and general discomfort were worth it; they were winning! They celebrated by calling each other "Warriors" and applauded The Admins for they obviously knew best.

Fracktivism's Fourth Commandment ran: "Fracktivists Must Never Take Money From The Frackers". The frontline Fracktivists couldn't understand why over 80% of eligible residents living near Cuadrilla'a site accepted direct community benefit payments, but The Admins were able to allay their fears: "Taking money from the Frackers is to be encouraged so we can widen their financial losses, Comrades," they said, reminding the frontline Fracktivists that the Fourth Commandment had always read "Fracktivists Must Never Take Money From The Frackers Except If It Helps To Bankrupt Them." Still, they remained suspicious of Tina who managed to avoid paying £55,000 in High Court costs, and wondered if she was working off her debt by acting as a double-agent for the Frackers.

At some point, the frontline Fracktivists started to question why they were the ones always getting their collars felt by the Police, and why they were taking orders from The Admins. They watched the TV news and saw Tina and Claire talking about "their" fight, and then they saw the Frackers discussing "their" progress, and suddenly, they realised that it was impossible to tell them apart; The Admins spoke and behaved exactly like the Frackers, and, just as they suspected the Frackers to be above the law, they came to appreciate that The Admins were also immune to punishment because they were never the ones risking arrest on the frontline. Fracktivism had come to exist for the sake of existing and to pander to the egos of the attention-seeking Admins, who despite claiming that Fracktivism was leaderless, had nonetheless assumed the position of leaders and exploited the weak-willed frontline Fracktivists.


We're making light of it here, but the comparisons with Orwell's Animal Farm are stark. John Knox, for instance, is the equivalent of Boxer, the committed and hard working but mentally slow cart horse. Eventually, the pigs that came to run Animal Farm for their own advantage sent Boxer to the knacker's yard when he was no longer any use to them - The Admins in our story, Tina Rothery, Claire Stephenson, John Hobson and others will likely discard John Knox once he's no longer useful to them, just like Julian Brock and Brian Morrison have each been cast aside.

Eventually, the frontline Fracktivists are going to wake up to the fact that they've been mugged-off by the hierarchy and wonder why the hell they risked so much for a small bunch of people that didn't care about them one bit...

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