Those who read TF Stern with any regularity will know his politic, his attitude to global warming. His latest writing centres on an article reporting an incident at a press conference involving one Professor Scneider.
McAleer, a veteran journalist and film maker, has recently made a documentary “Not Evil Just Wrong’ which takes a sceptical look at the science and politics behind Global Warming concerns.
He asked Professor Schneider about his opinions on Climategate – where leaked emails have revealed that a senior British professor deleted data and encouraged colleagues to do likewise if it contradicted their belief in Global Warming.
Professor Schneider, who is a senior member of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said he would not comment on emails that may have been incomplete or edited.
During some testy exchanges with McAleer, UN officials and Professor Schneider’s assistants twice tried to cut short McAleer’s question.
However as the press conference drew to a close Professor Schneider’s assistant called armed UN security guards to the room. They held McAleer and aggressively ordered cameraman Ian Foster to stop filming. The guard threatened to take away the camera and expel the film crew from the conference if they did not obey his instructions to stop filming Professor Schneider.
The guard demanded to look at the film crews press credentials and refused to allow them to film until Professor Schneider left the room.
McAleer said he was disappointed by Professor Schneider’s behaviour.
“It was a press conference. Climategate is a major story – it goes to the heart of the Global Warming debate by calling into question the scientific data and the integrity of many scientists involved.”
“These questions should be answered. The attempts by UN officials and Professor Schneider’s assistant to remove my microphone were hamfisted but events took a more sinister turn when they called an armed UN security officer to silence a journalist.”
TF followed this line with a fairly heated line on suppression of the freedom of the press, and leading to the failure of the media to give the fullest publicity that he felt the incident deserves.
(Right so far TF?)
Now there are two parts here as far as I am concerned.
The first is the nature of a press conference; its purpose and the rights of those involved. If one takes the time to watch the process rather than the just letting it flow over there are three things you will note;
1. The process has a purpose, an objective. It is to pass a message to the media. In this instance the professor was publicising the release of his latest book.
2. There are standards of courtesy that are usually observed. Those courtesies generally tend to favour the person presenting the conference. It is little different whether the person is presenting a scientific paper, a political statement or a religious sermon.
3. One of those courtesies relates to the asking of questions, the presentation of responses to those questions, and allowing a range of questions to be asked.
Think for a moment about the normal (usually weekly) press conference held by a very senior politician; I am thinking here President or Prime Minister. The press conference is a very good mechanism for the presentation of current action, flying future kites, and generally making the politician look good. The other side of the rostrum is looking for that vital piece of news that is going to headline the 6 oclock news on tv, or the front page of the next morning's newspaper.
Now think for a moment what might happen if a journalist or media publisher were to not observe the niceties, the courtesies of the press conference. In the extreme, he/she could be banned from the process leaving them without the direct contact with the "news maker". I can think of one instance here, a famous one in NZ, where a Prime Minister refused to attend his own press conference "as long as that charlatan is in there. Get him out!" The clash began with a series of questions at an ealier press conference and a rather inflamatory editorial piece combined with an excellent lampoon of the PM (the journalist was/still is an excellent cartoonist). I can recall "exclusion" being threatened by GWB against one journalist and his network for similar incourtesies. It is not all that uncommon.
So I arrive at the second part.
How does this apply to the situation that started TF's rant?
The Professor, whose conference was disrupted, was faced with a person whose intentions were (very obviously to my mind) to disrupt the proceedings, to use it to present his own and very contrary views, to suppress as far as possible the publication and dissemination of the proceedings of the true purpose of the conference.
In my mind the Professor's inital response to this un-house-trained puppy was polite and controlled. The repetitive, long-winded, and loud demands from the floor very quickly passed any acceptable limits. No one else in the room could ask a question simply because they were being shouted down.
Another parallel for you, TF. If I were to walk uninvited into your family Christmas celebrations and began preaching atheism through a megaphone with a mate videoing your and your family's reactions for the news I can imagine your reaction. I would be lucky to leave the room intact, if at all with my life.
The professor, rather than taking that extreme himself relied upon the (very tight) security being provided for all of the participants at the Copenhagen shindig.
To summarise -
If that wally, that rude, persistent, totally unwanted, self-appointed, self promoting idiot, that moron wishes to present his personal views he has the right to freedom of speech. He can without fret nor favour hold his own press conference. He might even be allowed to hold it as part of the Copenhagen conference.
What would be really interesting (if he were to do this) would be the attendance at his press conference. I think that if I were a journalist at Copenhagen I might be tempted to go. But the resulting article would be very similar to Tom Scott's views on Rob Muldoon.