R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe praises teen climate activist Greta Thunberg: She ‘made me burst into tears’

NEW YORK — Michael Stipe appeared at the New York Public Library Friday night, where he had a wide-ranging conversation with artists Douglas Coupland and Jonathan Berger about art, politics, Thom Yorke, and his unabashed love of Vin Diesel and “Wreck-It Ralph.”

The R.E.M. frontman also sang the praises of Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist who has become an unlikely social-media phenomenon for her impassioned speeches and defiance of political leaders including President Donald Trump.

More: Greta Thunberg: Meeting to help Trump understand climate change ‘would be a waste of time’

“Look at who she’s become now, in terms of a symbolic representation of youth and the power of an idea in the 21st century,” Stipe said. “How far we have come to embrace a voice like that, and for her to be such a powerful symbol.”

He went on to say how moved he was when Thunberg referred to her Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis as a “superpower,” addressing critics who mocked the condition and called her “mentally ill” last month.

R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe has a new photography book, "Our Interference Times: a visual record."
R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe has a new photography book, “Our Interference Times: a visual record.”

“To refer to it as her ‘superpower,’ that moment made me burst into tears and feel like I have superpowers, too,” Stipe said. “I’m not on the spectrum, but I feel like my vulnerabilities and insecurities are what helped me become the person I became.”

The topic of Thunberg came up as Stipe, 59, explained why he no longer reads the news because it gives him “anxiety.” He added that he recently deleted his Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, for “a third and final time.” The social-media giant and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, have been in hot water over allowing misleading and false political ads.

More: Facebook doesn’t have to run paid ads peddling politicians’ lies

“I cannot stand Facebook and everything they represent and what they mean politically,” Stipe said.

Stipe recently released a book of photography called “Our Interference Times: a visual record.”


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