You can tell a lot about a person by the way they respond to being challenged.
Those with courage of conviction and the confidence that comes with real intellect will back their positions and rise to the occasion. Those whose sense of ego is mightier than their strength of character will retreat, resort to insults or not respond altogether.
So when David Suzuki – environmental guru, would-be benevolent dictator and all-around perfect human – arrived in Ottawa Tuesday evening to tell a church filled with a paying audience what a sustainable future looks like, he shocked his own loyal supporters by aggressively refusing to speak with this reporter and a cameraman (who’d only arrived after a media release about the event from the Green Party was sent to the national press corps).
When we first arrived we were welcomed, asked how long we’d like with the good doctor and where we should set up our shot. When it was revealed we represented Sun News, we were no longer welcome.
David Suzuki didn’t just refuse to speak to us. He refused to appear altogether, sending a handful of hostile event organizers to remove us from the premises. They would, eventually, but not before creating a real drama in front of a real audience that exposed the real nature of David Suzuki.
After much debate and my reiterating I would be staying to ask a question, one of the event-organizers-turned-Suzuki-mandated-attack-dogs turned to the sizable crowd, incensed that I wouldn’t leave quietly, and yelled for someone to call 911 – help! A reporter is trying to do her job!
No one did anything except Green Party leader Elizabeth May (who was at the event as a moderator) who got up, ran across the floor and pleaded for me to be allowed to stay, yelling to the organizer: “Only Rob Ford calls 911 on the media!”
Then she gave me a hug.
Suzuki never showed his face. The man who believes he leads by example, illuminates inconvenient truths and feels righteously empowered to bring down those he feels do wrong, refuses to be held to account. His critics, he believes, should be silenced.
This is the ugly side of David Suzuki.
The hypocrite. The narcissist. The man who has become what he hates.
For someone who’s made a living trying to foster various dialogues, the list of those David Suzuki refuses to talk to is clear: anyone who doesn’t love him is on it.
He’d have his followers believe anyone who questions him hates the environment, denies climate change, wants the polar bears to die, slowly. For posterity, I fit none of those categories, but all David Suzuki knows about me is I work for Sun News, and so I’m out.
Lots of people hate Sun News. That’s something we at the network can live with. Sometimes we do things some people don’t like. One of those things would be taking the not-so- infallible David Suzuki to task for oh, I don’t know, his often exorbitant speaking fees (about on par with Justin Trudeau’s), his bizarre and dubious demands for a “nicely dressed”, all-female entourage to take him from his hotel to the John Abbot College where he spoke for an hour last October (for $30,000). Or his endorsing Joyce Murray in the Liberal leadership race despite being an on-air personality at the CBC, which has clear rules that its on-air personalities remain politically neutral.
David Suzuki encourages curiosity, critical thinking, questioning the world around you. Just don’t question him.
Were David Suzuki a stronger, smarter man, he would face Sun News; give himself the opportunity to have his voice heard on a network whose viewers don’t always agree with him. But he’d rather preach to the converted.
In refusing to answer legitimate questions, he exposed his own hypocrisy in front of an audience that wants to love him. That’s the real nature of things with David Suzuki. And it’s only an inconvenient truth for him.