You may remember this guy:
In fact, he isn’t a real reporter losing his shit on tv (though there’s a good chance that the viral content aggregation site where you originally saw the video told you that he was). In fact, he’s a comedian called Tom Walker.
After this clip went viral, he subsequently made a whole lot more on a similar theme. Russia Today was involved in some capacity, whether they actually helped produce the original skit or merely commissioned him to produce more after the first one succeeded.
We’ve covered Russia Today’s cheerfully anarchic promotion of any and all alternative (and “alternative”) viewpoints before, and this series of sketches isn’t that new, so what gives?
Well it’s suddenly become relevant because RT’s French channel just began a series of reports featuring Philippe Verdier giving his own views on the COP21 climate conference. If you’ve never heard of Verdier before (and if you’re not French then there’s no reason why you should) he used to present the weather on France 2, until he was fired for publishing a book expressing mildly sceptical views regarding the environmentalist lobby.
You can watch the first in the series here.
Quick and dirty translation:
Hello. I’m very happy to be here speaking to you freely every day about the COP21 summit on RT France. So… the family photo of around 140 world leaders standing side by side with François Hollande… The French President has been waiting for this for a long time, it’s a rare moment, an historical moment; we’ve never seen such participation on the part of global VIPs in a conference on climate change. It even feels like there’s a climate emergency happening right now. That’s not necessarily true, however. This conference happens every year at the same time. This is the 21st – that’s why it’s called COP21. If there’s any emergency, it’s more to do with foreign relations and politics. There was no follow-up on the Kyoto Protocol that was decided upon at the end of the 1990s, and if there’s nothing to follow on from that then it’s not the ice shelves that are going to collapse, but rather climate change diplomacy. We’re here at the Eiffel Tower next to the Peace Wall because I would like to remind you of something. In 2007 the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Al Gore and the IPCC – the group of climate change experts that was incorporated into the UN. They said this: “If we don’t deal with climate change, if the Earth continues to warm up, there’ll be a greater risk of wars.” However, other observers have pointed out that the past 20 years have been some of the hottest on record, but also a reduction in the number of wars and the number of victims of warfare. It’s a reasonable question to ask during the COP21 summit: were they right or not? The French people haven’t been taken in by the COP21: a recent survey showed that around three quarters of people think that if an agreement is reached following the COP21 summit, it will simply be a greenwash, and that it is mostly being driven by electoral considerations. We know that President Hollande ws elected with the help of the green vote; he needed their help and invited them to join his first cabinet, before getting rid of them. Now, with the Presidential elections of 2017 approaching, he needs to win back the green vote, particularly in light of the declining inluence of the Green Party. What’s more, the climate change issue also gives him a chance to finish the year on a high note, allowing him to avoid discussion of vexatious subjects like unemployment – where the numbers are looking extremely bad. See you tomorrow.
RT, of course, has never had a particular editorial line on climate change (it enthuses over heartwarming pro-environment stories just as happily as it reports climate sceptic conspiracy theories). It doesn’t really have an editorial line on anything that doesn’t affect Russian foreign interests, but it will happily jump on other people’s anti-authority narratives wherever it finds them (it takes a similar approach to the Palestinians).
That’s not the interesting part, however. The interesting part is that it’s applying the exact same strategy using a helpful comedian and a genuine-if-disaffected reporter, and apparently achieving a broadly similar effect in both cases. Verdier’s piece has not had the same viral coverage as Walker’s skits, but he has had a certain amount of support (and a few criticisms) on Twitter:
(The message reads “Thank you @RTenfrancais for letting me cover my 4th COP summit freely and with no weasel words”.)
And on Facebook:
(The comment above reads “Dissidence has found a political asylum.”)
These people are geniuses. I’m deadly serious: RT, if you have any jobs going, message me. I want in on this. No money required; to sit at your feet and absorb your brilliance will suffice.