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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney under fire for using Oscar meme to denounce energy policies

Click to play video: 'Will Smith slap meme tweet overshadows Jason Kenney’s carbon tax announcement' Will Smith slap meme tweet overshadows Jason Kenney’s carbon tax announcement
Jason Kenney is again demanding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau not go forward with a planned hike in the carbon tax on April 1, saying with inflation so high it will hurt struggling Albertans. But as Tom Vernon explains, his message is being overshadowed by a meme – Mar 28, 2022

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is under fire for using a meme from the Oscars as a way to draw attention to green energy policies, which he disagrees with.

The meme, which was posted on Kenney’s social media accounts, is a photo of actor Will Smith slapping comedian Chris Rock on stage over comments made about Smith’s wife at the awards show on Sunday.

Click to play video: 'Moment: Will Smith slaps Chris Rock on-stage after Oscars joke about wife’s hairstyle' Moment: Will Smith slaps Chris Rock on-stage after Oscars joke about wife’s hairstyle
Moment: Will Smith slaps Chris Rock on-stage after Oscars joke about wife’s hairstyle – Mar 28, 2022

In Kenney’s version of the tweet, the word “reality” is written in text over Smith while “green energy policies” is written over Rock.

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Many have criticized Kenney’s use of the meme, saying it promotes violence and questioned his intentions behind the use of the image.

Calgary police commissioner Heather Campbell urged Kenney to delete the tweet, saying Kenney’s use of the meme is “abhorrent.”

“The idea that you and your staff have used the abject violence of that terrible moment as a comparison to the need to achieve net-zero and decarbonization… is abhorrent,” Campbell tweeted on Monday morning.

Click to play video: 'Kenney defends Will Smith slap meme as making a point about green energy policies, Russian oil' Kenney defends Will Smith slap meme as making a point about green energy policies, Russian oil
Kenney defends Will Smith slap meme as making a point about green energy policies, Russian oil – Mar 28, 2022

University of Calgary’s vice-provost for equity, diversity and inclusion Malinda Smith also denounced the meme and asked if someone hacked the premier’s Twitter account.

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“The apparent hackers are promoting physical violence… Disappointing judgement, poor taste, bad timing?” Smith’s tweet reads.

LISTEN: Extended transcript of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s secretly recorded meeting with UCP caucus staff

Lori Williams, an associate professor at Mount Royal University, said Kenney’s tweet is an indirect endorsement of violence against his critics.

“It looks like an endorsement of violence against those with whom you disagree. We’re seeing too much of that at public events. We’ve seen attacks against health-care workers and attacks against opponents at various rallies,” Williams said.

“Clearly he’s not directly advocating violence, but he is using an incident of absolutely inappropriate violence to suggest that he’s somehow in touch with reality.”

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Williams also said Kenney’s use of the meme is a dog whistle to people who disagree with environmentalists and environmental policies while blaming the extra costs on the federal government.

“It’s meant to appeal to the base to look like he’s fighting for Albertans, but all he is doing is pointing the finger at the federal government for all of the problems and challenges that all groups are facing without recognizing the biggest expense: utility bills,” Williams said.

Read more: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney defends recorded comments about ‘divisive voices’

Political memes are also potentially dangerous.

Williams said memes that encourage respectful debate are great, but are problematic if they start attacking others for having a different opinion.

“We know that young people can often be turned off politics. You know, it’s entirely possible that this kind of meme, if it keeps young people that oppose Jason Kenney from participating in the process, would probably be fine with him,” she said.

Read more: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s leadership review moved to mail-in vote

Kenney defended the use of the meme, saying the image has taken over the internet and is a “great way of making a point” about energy affordability in the province.

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“The point is that folks who have been trying to drive families into energy poverty got it wrong… I think that ordinary people will understand what that reality is,” he said during a news conference aimed at attacking the federal carbon tax on Monday.

Click to play video: 'Alberta premier attacks ‘green left’ while defending Will Smith slap meme' Alberta premier attacks ‘green left’ while defending Will Smith slap meme
Alberta premier attacks ‘green left’ while defending Will Smith slap meme – Mar 28, 2022

Later in the media availability, he read out the definition of a meme while saying green energy policies are making life more expensive for Albertans.

He also said the reduction of energy development has led to geopolitical instability in places like Syria.

“It is time for a balanced debate on energy policies,” he said.

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