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After two political leaders refused to attend a climate debate hosted by U.K.’s Channel 4 on Thursday, the TV network decided on a very special replacement for them.
Instead of empty chairs, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Brexit Party Leader Nigel Farage were represented by ice sculptures. As the debate went on, the sculptures melted under the studio lights—and brought to mind the state of the planet.
Amid the televised debate, arguments sparked on Twitter about climate change and Channel 4’s response to Johnson and Farage’s absences.
And yet two Brexiteers couldn't face it. Funny, that.— Andy the Corsair (@CorsairHermes) November 28, 2019
Tells us all we need to know about Channel 4 for sure 🙄— Fred He's MY PM Flintstone (@Iwontcalmdown) November 28, 2019
It's pointless.— JoustingJim 🇬🇧 (@JoustingJim) November 28, 2019
Some said it was an appropriate and clever way to get the point across.
Should have been melting statues of the actual criminals involved— FactCheckUK - Impartial & Objective (@WildeSolomon) November 28, 2019
Would have been fun watching a melting Johnson collapsing under the studio lights
This is journalistic integrity. Fair play.— Election Kafka (@RuairiWood) November 28, 2019
Others saw it as disrespectful and a sign of Channel 4’s lack of neutrality. One Twitter user said the network is “politicized and fixated on issues.”
Channel 4 put melting ice sculpture on Boris Johnson’s podium in climate change debate stunt— Dr.Spock Brexit ERG Spartan (@DrSpock_Spartan) November 28, 2019
Very cheap stunt by a Pro-Remoaner lefty biased media channel.
Good on both Nigel & Boris for not attending this Remoaner 💩 fest...!!https://t.co/FPOiDclmCf
Channel 4 News is really losing it, I remember when it was a channel you went to for news everynight. Impartial and extensive. Now it has turned into the TV equivalent of the Independent. Politicised and fixated on issues.— AnthonyJ (@AnthonyJohnG) November 28, 2019
But many applauded the stunt.
Can’t wait for the snap polls! Who won the climate debate?— Mike Ducci (@MrDucci) November 28, 2019
Boris Ice Sculpture: 45%
Farage Ice Sculpture: 27%
Lib Dems: 8%
Don’t care: whatever % is left
No disrespect for the ice sculpture, but that doesn't take a lot.— Eeyoresmum (@eeyoresmother) November 28, 2019
I’m glad that Channel 4 have replaced Boris Johnson with an ice sculpture. It might not cut through to his ageing voter base but future generations will see it as history - some politicians just didn’t care that the planet is fucked— Rhiannon L Cosslett (@rhiannonlucyc) November 28, 2019
If only the ice sculptures were portraits of Boris and Farage themselves, some said.
Actually thought they'd commissioned an ice sculpture *of* Boris Johnson for the #ClimateDebate. Rather disappointed to discover otherwise.— Ross McCleary: Stakeholder (@strongmisgiving) November 28, 2019
Replacing Boris Johnson with a giant ice sculpture is problematic insofar as a giant ice sculpture is more coherent, likeable and prime ministerial than Boris Johnson, but we can't vote for it. #ClimateDebate— Alan Ferrier (@alanferrier) November 28, 2019
Before the debate even aired, Johnson threatened to “reassess” Channel 4’s broadcasting license, sparking more outrage online.
well, they’ve already said if they win they’ll be reviewing Channel 4’s broadcasting license. not at all dystopian!— george 🌹 (@faggylindsay) November 28, 2019
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Update Nov. 29, 9:50am CT: This post was corrected to state that Boris Johnson’s Channel 4 threat occurred before the debate aired.
Siobhan Ball is a historian, archivist, and journalist. She also writes for Autostraddle and bi.org