A journalist has been threatened after making a joke tweet claiming AFP was reporting how the iconic Mont Blanc – which means “White Mountain” in French – was to be renamed the “Grand Mont” after L’Oreal removed the word “white” from its skin lightening cream.
The tweet that was a reference to the L’Oreal decision to remove words such as “white”, “whitening” and “clear” from its skin lightening products in the wake of BLM protests.
The joke tweet, which quickly went viral in France, was mostly seen for what it was – a joke – but some apparently also fell for it and took it seriously.
The tweet read: “Mont-Blanc could be renamed, and adopt a more neutral name, like Grand-Mont. ‘A white summit, a symbol of oppression, which dominates Europe, this is something that will no longer happen in 2020’, said an Extinction Rebellion activist. (AFP)”
Of course, there was no Extinction Rebellion activist and the information did not come from AFP.
The journalist who posted the tweet then received threats and deleted it.
He told French newspaper 20 minutes: “Unfortunately, I created a fake news without my knowledge, and many laughed, but some believed it. It happens from time to time that I react to the news with this kind of joke, but usually, it does not create controversy.”
Speaking to CEN on condition of anonymity, the journalist behind the tweet said: “At first, it made my friends laugh a lot, but then negative messages began to appear after it was shared on Facebook. I said to myself ‘something is wrong’ so I deleted it to calm things down.”
He added: “When I wrote the tweet I looked for something grotesque, absurd, and when I thought about Mont Blanc I said to myself ‘OK it’s funny and absolutely impossible that anyone would take it seriously’. Honestly, I didn’t want it to be ambiguous. But maybe the tweet was not written well enough. I also believe that on Facebook, users don’t have the same sense of humour as on Twitter, and my post was more likely to be taken seriously.”
Speaking about the threats, he said: “I think people are very upset about these social issues. I received a few threats on Facebook, and some even looked for where I work.”
And when asked about George Floyd’s death, he said: “I believe that the George Floyd tragedy makes everyone think, and makes it possible to hope for changes in society, in the police, in governments… This goes through symbols: the statues that are knocked down, the words that we want to delete, modify. I believe that everyone is still very raw, and that the time for peaceful reflection will come after.”
The mayor of Mont Blanc resort town Saint-Gervais, Jean-Marc Peillex, speaking about the tweet, told 20 minutes: “If this name was discriminatory, why not? But it turns out that it is white because of the eternal snow. All this is really degrading in fact, it’s making fun of people!”
Ironically, 20 minutes report that the Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc cosmetics brand was recently acquired – by L’Oreal.
Customers are calling for a boycott of French cosmetics giant L’Oreal after the brand announced it would remove the words “white” and “whitening” from its products, but would still continue selling them.
L’Oreal is France’s “most powerful” brand, according to London-based brand valuation consultancy Brand Finance.