Catch Leo If You Can

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On the run from the FBI in the real-life crime movie "Catch Me If You Can", Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Frank Abagnale Jr. pens a letter to his father.

It begins, “Dear Dad, you always told me that an honest man has nothing to fear, so I'm trying my best not to be afraid.” 

Abagnale Jr. had been posing as a lawyer, a doctor, and a commercial pilot while getting rich by forging and cashing payroll cheques from Pan American Airways. An honest man he was not.

He was able to travel the world and buy fancy cars and luxurious homes all because he had a gift for deception. He told people things that simply weren’t true. And, for a while, they believed him.

When put that way, Frank Abagnale Jr. and his Hollywood portrayer might have more in common than you first thought.

DiCaprio stoked controversy — and invited mockery — last week by telling an American entertainment website of a “scary” and “terrifying” ordeal he had while filming a movie in Calgary.

“We would come and there would be eight feet of snow, and then all of a sudden a warm gust of wind would come,” he said. “It’s terrifying, and it’s what people are talking about all over the world. And it’s simply just going to get worse.”

There’s no reason to think DiCaprio was intentionally dishonest in his comments. But he was clearly misinformed on the facts.

DiCaprio was talking about what Calgarians know as a ‘chinook,’ a proven scientific and meteorological phenomenon. This involves a sudden mid-winter blast of unseasonably warm weather generated by wind patterns from the westward Canadian Rockies. To him, it was irrefutable proof that climate change is about to destroy the planet, and he had no reservations about broadcasting his mistaken diagnosis to the world.

There were also subtle anti-Alberta overtones in DiCaprio’s doomsday prediction. He’s visited and criticized Alberta’s oil sands before, calling for a total shut down of oil stands extraction. “We must fight to keep this carbon in the ground,” he said. Would DiCaprio have been as eager to play the climate change card if he experienced a chinook in, say, Montana or coastal Washington or his hometown, heavy-oil producing state of California, as opposed to Alberta?

DiCaprio used his celebrity to advance his cause based on emotion and misinformation instead of science and fact. The fact is a chinook has absolutely nothing to do with climate change. It is a perfectly common and scientifically explainable weather occurrence that the people of southern Alberta are intimately familiar with.

Of course, these kinds of torqued up and misleading tactics are nothing new for celebrity environmental crusaders. Hollywood director James Cameron called the oil sands a “black eye” and a “curse.” Actress Daryl Hannah called them an “atrocious environmental travesty.” But neither DiCaprio, Cameron, or Hannah have anything on Canadian folk singer Neil Young, who recently called Fort McMurray a “wasteland” that “looks like Hiroshima.”

DiCaprio and his fellow travellers ought to know they actually undermine their entire movement when they resort to such hyperbole and incorrect claims. The debate about how best to tackle climate change should be serious, respectful, and science-based. These celebrity-based comments to date are none of the above.

By the end of the movie, DiCaprio’s Abagnale had exhausted all of his cons. He was hunted down while making more fake cheques and thrown in jail for defrauding Pan Am of nearly $3 million.

DiCaprio might want to take a lesson from his own character. If he keeps going around with arguments as counterfeit as Abagnale’s cheques, sooner or later he’s going to get busted.



Brad Tennant
Energy Citizens, Alberta



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