Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Meet its Real-Life, Climate-Defending, Disney-Dissenting Villains

When their name appeared in Joss Whedon's new TV show, the environmentalist group Rising Tide took to social media to fight back.
A Rising Tide event. Photo by Linh Do.

A Rising Tide action in Washington, D.C., in 2011. Photo by Linh Do / Flickr.

All-volunteer environmental organization Rising Tide has found a way to make the appearance of their name in new Disney-produced TV show play out to their own benefit. The show, Agents of the S.H.I.E.L.D., debuted last week and is a spin-off of the popular superhero movie The Avengers.

Rising Tide responded to the use of their name by switching tactics and becoming "social media insurgents," Parkin said.

The avengers in the television show, government agents working for a vaguely NSA-like project, are fighting a villainous hacktivist group whose name is nearly the same as the environmental group's: "The Rising Tide."

The real-life Rising Tide wasted no time in responding. "In reality," they wrote on their blog, "Rising Tide is not an underground group that undermines humanity, but a network of climate activists challenging the root causes of climate change. Rising Tide North America works in solidarity with communities that live on the frontline of fossil fuel extraction and climate change."

They put out a petition, in which they asked Disney to stop using their name. That's been signed 639 times as of this writing.

But that's just the beginning of how the incident is playing out. Rising Tide also responded to the use of their name by switching tactics and becoming "social media insurgents," according to organizer Scott Parkin, diving into Facebook and Twitter to broadcast the message that "Rising Tide" is a real group that organizes around climate change.

That's a departure for a project that usually concentrates on in-person organizing among communities affected by climate change. While it's not the first time Rising Tide has created an online campaign, it may be the most fruitful one so far.

One benefit Rising Tide has gotten from taking to social media is a closer relationship with real-life hacktivist group Anonymous, which came to their defense via Twitter. Another is that the show—with its NSA-like heroes—has given the group a chance to draw the connections between climate activism and the movement to protect privacy rights.

Parkin says that agents with the FBI, for example, have visited members of Seattle Rising Tide at their homes or schools more than 10 times. Other climate activists are getting similar visits, especially those who are resisting the Keystone XL pipeline.

"We're not big fans of pop culture that frames government agents as the heroes because we feel they're fairly repressive," Parkin told YES!

Check out this back-and-forth on Twitter, which begins with Anonymous, is picked up by a fan of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and ends with a response from Rising Tide:

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