What started as a gritty protest by a former Badlands National Park Service employee who wanted to give President Trump a piece of his mind snowballed overnight Tuesday and early Wednesday into a Twitter movement in support of climate change science.
An anonymous group of people who claim to be National Park Service employees created an account using the agency’s official arrowhead logo as an avatar and unleashed on the Trump administration for muzzling federal workers, particularly those at the Environmental Protection Agency who have been barred from speaking to the press and public through social media.
The Washington Post reached out to the group via Twitter, without much success. “We will not be identifying ourselves due to the anger and threats coming from President Trump’s loyalists,” came an anonymous reply. “We are just here to push the science that is being dismantled by the current administration.”
Update: A day after this story published, anonymous individuals claiming to be government employees said they were handing over the AltUSNatParkService Twitter account to activists outside the federal government, according to the digital media company, Mashable. The name was then changed to Not Alt World. It’s now billed as “the resistance,” and claims that it’s comprised of non-government activists worldwide. None of the claims could be verified.
Like the Badlands tweeter, who amassed more than 60,000 followers in a day, AltUSNatParkService became a sensation. By noon, it had nearly half a million followers.
As Tuesday’s work day wound down, the National Park Service explained that officials at Badlands rooted out an ex-employee who still had access to its Twitter account and shut down his tweets. But AltUSNatParkService soon picked up where he left off, rapidly spitting climate change facts with the forcefulness of rappers such as Kendrick Lamar.
The tweets were factual jabs at the Trump administration, which sent marching orders to the EPA, National Park Service and the Forest Service under the Department of Agriculture to stop disseminating climate facts, decline calls from reporters and drop scheduled meetings with media. The administration’s stance toward the science may have had such a chilling effect that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voluntarily canceled a climate change meeting.
AltUSNatParkService offered a reminder that the vast majority of climate scientist say climate change is real, and it added in other tweets that scientists around the world are certain that human activity is the driving force behind the global warming.
Other protest accounts sprouted, according to Alice Stollmeyer, who compiled a list on Twitter. AltYosemiteNPS, AltYellowstoneNatPar, AltUSForestService, AltBadlandsNatPark, Resistance_NASA, Rogue NASA and Rogue NOAA are just a few.
Appearing to join the fray, Death Valley National Park tweeted about the discrimination that led to Japanese internment camps during World War II at about the time on the same day Trump released harsher immigration screens aimed at Muslim refugees.
Jenna Ruddock of the District owns one of the rogue sites, U.S. Science Service, or @natlsciservice. It started, the 25-year-old journalist and documentary filmmaker said, with a conversation with a colleague Tuesday night. “Wouldn’t it be great if people started making rogue Twitter accounts to publicize science being done by agencies that are currently under media blackout?”
Her answer was, “Yeah … great.”
“The major impact [of these rogue accounts] is that people are taking note, and it’s raising red flags all over the place,” Ruddock said. “One of the riskiest things would be for censorship, whether it’s of journalists or of scientific institutions, to go unnoticed. Censorship is a very slippery slope.”
Badlands had people up in arms over threats to the Park Service, she said, “but there are also other government institutions that would be at risk and I wanted to be able to highlight the great science being done by all of our government agencies.”
AltUSNatParkService proclaimed solidarity with the EPA and used its account to promote another cause, a proposed march in Washington led by scientists.