This blog is written by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Posts appear Monday & Wednesday.
Government official urges television weather presenters to use loaded language to help the climate cause. When one writes a critical book instead, he’s suspended from his job at a government-owned station.
France Télévisions is a publicly-funded, government-owned broadcaster. According to its website, it prizes diversity. Human differences, it says, are an important source of creativity and innovation. But only some kinds of diversity are welcome. Different skin colours are OK. So are different ethnic backgrounds. Different opinions not so much.
This week, on-air weather presenter Philippe Verdier (one of the most recognizable faces on French television), was told by his employer, the aforementioned French broadcaster, not to report for work. The duration of his suspension is unclear.
Verdier, who describes himself as a journalist, is the author of a newly-published, already sold-out-on-Amazon book titled Climat Investigation. In a statement on his publisher’s website, Verdier categorically denies that he is a climate skeptic. He thinks global warming is a “reality,” but that France is well-equipped to take it in stride.
His primary concern is the threat climate dogma poses to free speech. Government officials and media outlets, he says, are hostile to healthy debate. Anyone who doesn’t parrot the party line is stigmatized and insulted. Indeed, their livelihoods may become threatened. According to one source, rather than defending freedom of speech, labour unions have demanded Verdier be fired.
Verdier told a magazine the catalyst for the book was a June 2014 meeting convened by Laurent Fabius, France’s Foreign Minister, in which weather presenters were urged to talk about “climate chaos” on air. Yes, this is the sad place at which we’ve now arrived. Career politicians leaning on weathermen to employ hyperbolic language. Verdier, who reportedly holds a Masters in Sustainable Development was “horrified.”
Journalists are supposed to help the public make informed decisions – not feed them government-approved, pre-digested pablum. But one need only glance at the front page of the website of Verdier’s employer to see how far from that purpose media outlets have strayed. The still-six-weeks-away UN climate conference in Paris – aka COP 21 (which stands for the 21st annual Conference of the Parties) – is being prominently promoted. Click on that particular link and you’ll think you’ve been transported to Greenpeace headquarters. The climate generation. Sustainable development. Carbon footprints. Cripes.
Near the bottom, there’s even a 40-page, downloadable Act for Our Climate report published by this same government-owned broadcaster. It says fighting climate change is a corporate priority (p. 4). I’d settle for even-handed, responsible reporting. Alarmed by the threat climate change poses to younger generations (p. 5), this document is alarmingly unconcerned about government indoctrination and conformist thought.
Yesterday, an article in the UK’s Independent newspaper told us about the “anger” and “fierce criticism” that Verdier’s “controversial” book has generated. Another, in the Guardian, emphasizes that the book’s release “is timed to coincide with France’s hosting of a major UN climate summit.” Yes, the timing is excellent, but before anyone gets too excited, large numbers of books are normally published in the fall, prior to the holidays.
Elsewhere, an online petition supporting Verdier’s right to free speech has been launched. It reads, in part:
Philippe Verdier, a journalist in charge of the weather service of the French public TV channels France Télévisions, is threatened in his job and his career for having published a non-conformist book about climate…In January, citizens from all countries in the world stood up for freedom of speech, with « Je suis Charlie » as a motto. Time has come to stand up again.