YouTube stars Josh Pieters and Archie Manners made headlines last week after publishing a video pranking members of the environmental group Just Stop Oil (JSO) in south London. The group has become well-known for its public disturbance protests in the last 12 months and has garnered a lot of criticism along the way.
The viral clip, which has now amassed almost one million views, depicts an anonymous friend of the pair joining JSO and acting as a mole to share their plans and whereabouts with Josh and Archie so they could devise their disruption plan. To build the group’s trust, he attended a full-day protest.
Josh, Archie, and members of the public willing to help wore “Just Stop P***ing Everyone Off” t-shirts and formed a human wall around the group, blocking them from staging a slow-walk protest during the morning rush hour. Photos from the counter-protest were swiftly picked up by mainstream media outlets, with The Sun publishing “on behalf of a fed up nation… prank you.”
Notorious for their rather unorthodox means of protesting, JSO protestors have become infamous for aggravating the general public, often by obstructing busy roads, bringing hundreds of cars to a standstill, and disrupting high-profile events such as Wimbledon and the Ashes cricket by launching themselves onto playing fields. Two weeks ago, the group sparked fury on social media following their refusal to move off the road despite a mother pleading with them that her baby needed to go to the hospital. A passer-by filmed the exchange and posted it online, leaving viewers horrified.
Much of the public will perhaps feel a sense of smugness that the group has seemingly gotten a taste of their own medicine.
The pair also became aware of a secret “banquet” the group was hosting at a cathedral in London on the 25th of July and decided it would be the perfect place to stage a second prank. What was supposed to be an evening of plant-based food, music from a harpist and a discussion of their achievements so far turned into an evening of disruption and frustration.
The anti-JSO protestors attached 150-decibel alarms to helium balloons and allowed them to drift up to the high ceilings, leaving the group with, in their own words, “a very difficult problem to solve.”
Despite how controversial JSO has become, there were mixed reviews on the video, with some calling the stunts “childish and pointless” and questioning how they were at all funny. While some labelled Josh and Archie as “the heroes we have always needed” and that they “have done the U.K. proud.”
So, what is JSO protesting?
JSO is an environmental activist group fighting to end fossil fuel reliance, demanding that the British government abort all plans to give licenses to new oil, coal, and gas projects.
The mission was dealt a major blow on Monday after the Conservative government gave the green light to hundreds of new oil and gas licenses. A rather astonishing announcement to make just days after Greece saw wildfires destroy entire regions and livelihoods, and June was declared the hottest month on record. Whether you agree with JSO’s methods of protesting or not, you cannot deny that its cause is worthwhile.
“People need to be taken with a cause.”
The video does make it very clear that Josh and Archie are not climate deniers and do believe that governments must do more to address the climate crisis; however, they agree that JSO’s “tactics are putting people off the environmental cause, which is a problem given it’s 45 degrees in Spain right now.”
While appearing on the TalkTV show Piers Morgan Uncensored, the pair were commended for their efforts in disrupting JSO. Morgan said: “The manner of their protests has been completely backfiring because the public is just seeing people setting out to deliberately ruin their day-to-day life… that’s not how you bring people on the agenda.”
However, as many on social media have pointed out, the pranks have got the press and public talking about JSO again, providing them with a front-page platform. The group has since responded and seems to have taken the stunt in good spirits, claiming that they “thoroughly enjoyed Josh & Archie’s prank,” calling it a “Great action design — nonviolent and ever so slightly disruptive.”
The duo has amassed more than 1.4 million YouTube subscribers and have become well-known for their daring experiments and for pulling high-profile stunts, with their list of victims including controversial political commentator Katie Hopkins and anti-vaccine protestor Piers Corbyn.
Josh and Archie were at the forefront of media attention again in February after purchasing a pretend spy balloon and flying it over the Chinese embassy in London. The balloon floated for more than ten minutes before “diplomatic protection and counterterrorism” police were alerted. The video came after the shooting down of a suspected Chinese spy balloon in U.S. airspace earlier this year.
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