Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
Official editorial in Canadian newspaper calls for climate skeptics to be silenced.
If anyone should be passionately devoted to free speech, surely it’s journalists. Five years ago yesterday, nine writers, editors, and cartoonists associated with the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, were slaughtered in Paris. Islamic fundamentalists considered them guilty of blasphemy.
So what did the entire editorial board of Canada’s Winnipeg Free Press newspaper do the day before that anniversary? It loudly called for censorship. It promoted intolerance. It published a lengthy editorial titled Time to silence voices of denial. This isn’t the opinion of a single writer, we’re informed, but an official, “consensus view.”
The editorial’s arguments are the usual weak broth. We’re told that climate change is “undoubtedly the most urgent problem of our time.” News alert: Freeman Dyson, one of the world’s most brilliant physicists, disagrees. Here’s what he told a Salon interviewer more than a decade ago:
The idea that global warming is the most important problem facing the world is total nonsense and is doing a lot of harm. It distracts people’s attention from much more serious problems.
The editorial says “many people still deny it exists.” So let’s quote Dyson again:
I’m not saying there’s no climate change. Of course there’s climate change. Climate change is part of the normal order of things, and we know it was happening before humans came. There is also human-induced climate change. That’s certainly happening too. But I don’t think there’s reason for worrying about it.
The editorial tells us scientists have “reached a near-universal consensus on human-made climate change.” Here’s Dyson one more time:
In the history of science it has often happened that the majority was wrong and refused to listen to a minority that later turned out to be right.
This editorial twice employs the term “climate change deniers.” That’s nasty, high-test character assassination. Anyone who differs from the majority view, so the argument goes, is depraved. Morally toxic. Equivalent to Holocaust deniers.
Humanity has never been able to accurately foresee the future. Endless lists of predictions, particularly pessimistic ones, have fallen flat (see here, here, and here). But dare to point this out in the climate context, and journalists call you vile names.
How strange that, at a time when we’re encouraged to be not just tolerant but supportive of religious, ethnic, racial, and sexual minorities, Winnipeg Free Press journalists are singling out an intellectual minority – climate skeptics – to be silenced and spat upon.
As I observed a year ago, governments, media outlets, business leaders, churches, and schools have spent decades insisting there’s a climate emergency. Independent thinkers who challenge this doctrine are swimming against the tide. They’re surrounded on all sides by a worldview to which they conscientiously object. They are a despised minority, whom mainstream society thinks it’s OK to demonize.
According to this editorial, however, climate skeptics have been controlling the conversation:
Climate-change deniers, including those directly invested in the fossil-fuel industry, should no longer dictate the terms… [bold added]
Because (sarcasm alert), the tens of thousands who’ve recently lost jobs in Canada’s oil industry are actually running the show. The companies reacting to hostile government policies by pulling billions of investment dollars out of Alberta are, in reality, in charge.
Just as other minorities have historically been accused of covert, anti-social influence, this editorial implies climate skeptics are responsible for heat waves, droughts, floods, and Australian wildfires. The refusal of skeptics to sit down and shut up is, we’re told, intolerable:
…in 2020, there’s no longer room for debate about the existence of climate change…We need our leaders to make climate change a priority issue, but that can’t happen until they, and we, stop wasting precious time with circular debates and denials while the world burns down around us. [bold added]
Newspapers are supposed to be about a lot of things. Holding governments accountable. Ensuring that the powerful don’t steamroller over the weak. Promoting debate about society’s most pressing problems – and debate about the various ways those problems should be tackled.
The Winnipeg Free Press, however, says enough is enough. Intellectual fundamentalism has arrived. There’s only one truth.
The survivors of the Charlie Hebdo massacre know precisely where such fundamentalism leads.
Jan 9 & Jan 21, 2020 UPDATES: Duplicate versions of this editorial were published online. One was published on the 6th of January, the second on the 7th. The latter has been taken down, and links within this story have been updated accordingly. Originally, the image appearing at the top of this blog post looked like this. Since it was a screen capture of the duplicate, it too has been changed.