Is Stéphan Bureau worried about the fate that our times have in store for freedom of expression? In a conference room at the Sphere Media company, where he welcomes The Pressthe host raises his eyebrows, as if the answer were self-evident.
“I’m very worried,” he says after a long theatrical silence, pressing the very. “Because she is defeated. This is a fundamental issue, there are real dangers and I will continue to say it, even if it means paying the price for what I come across as paranoid. »
I’m pissing off my family with free speech. People tell me: “Stéphan, you’re overwhelmed, you’re overwhelmed,” but you could offer me all the gold in the world and I wouldn’t budge.
A year ago, the veteran communicator dusted off the title of his series Contact (who went on air in 2006 at Télé-Québec) in order to cover his podcast project, which he initially envisaged as a parallel activity to the large plateau of Upside-down world. Where he could “give a voice to people that I would not have been able to meet otherwise”, he says, with this luxury of the long time of the in-depth interview, thanks to which the medium of podcast has emerged as a beneficial alternative to the attention deficit disorder that plagues traditional electronic media.
But in August 2023, when the TVA Group announced, a month before its return to the airwaves, that the second season of Upside-down world would not come into the world, Contact immediately became the main activity of its loquacious creator. Over the past year, he has received around fifty guests from different circles, and not the least, including Fanny Ardant, Georges St-Pierre, Frédéric Lenoir and Monia Chokri.
A brief glance at the title of each of the episodes, recorded in Paris or Montreal, however outlines a guideline corresponding to one of the main concerns of its pilot, that of freedom of expression, which would be undermined: Do comedians lack courage? (with Guy Nantel), Criminalize speech (with business manager Didier Maïsto), Media: above all suspicion? (with Marie-France Bazzo).
Talk about his interview with 2022 French presidential candidate Éric Zemmour, who is quick to mention the one he conducted with comic book author and fervent feminist Emma. “I wanted non-reconcilable points of view to be disseminated in the same place,” he says. Zemmour and Emma, there is no more opposite on the spectrum. »
A dangerous game
But faced with those who believe that it would be preferable not to hand the spittoon to Éric Zemmour, sentenced in 2022 for inciting hatred, Stéphan Bureau turns his back.
Éric Zemmour interests me so much because of what he embodies, what he channels. His success says something about the society in which he lives and it is by hearing him that I will be able to understand him.
“Silencing those who are angry is never a good idea,” he pleads in an uninterrupted flow that is typical of him, while constantly commenting on his own words and mentioning with a smirk, in passing of his tirade, be perfectly aware that his verbal “abundance” creates problems for the poor journalist who will later have to extract the substantial marrow.
“I have never had any other ambition than to help us better understand the world in which we live. What we are there for is to ask questions so that the citizen, whom we respect and who is capable of discernment, can form an opinion, not to pre-prepare one,” he explains, leaving to converse with speakers with astonishing comments on the Deep State (Didier Maïsto) and UFOs (Alain Juillet). “Can we be critical of Zemmour, can we heat him? I hope. But the moment you decide that certain ideas should not be heard, you are playing a dangerous game. »
Against the grain
Despite what some would describe as an ideological shift, Stéphan Bureau remains difficult to reduce to a label, unlike those, omnipresent in the media landscape, whose thought unfolds according to the strict boundaries of a chapel.
The 59-year-old man, who these days lives in Paris, often seems motivated by a desire, almost a compulsion, to take the consensus against the grain. Example among many others: during his first intervention on the French airwaves of BFM TV, where he acts as a consultant on American affairs, the commentator made it a point of honor to defend the record of the presidency of Donald Trump.
The war in Ukraine? “The Western press spent the first year and a half of this conflict denying reality and proclaiming that Russia was losing, wishing for something in the name of virtue,” he insists. It was not good information. »
That three major figures of Quebec television – Marie-Claude Barrette, Denis Lévesque and him – are now making themselves heard on the podcast (and on YouTube) and that a number of journalists associated with major media are launching their own platform is not without reason. link, according to him, with “a form of very pronounced squint of a press which, repeatedly, has demonstrated that it is missing the boat”, particularly during the pandemic, “where we have not been where we was waiting for us.” In other words: not critical enough.
Reread our interview with Marie-Claude Barrette
In July 2021, the host of Of course received a reprimand from the Radio-Canada ombudsman for his manner of conducting the interview with the controversial French doctor Didier Raoult. This media soap opera would crystallize, depending on your point of view, his image as a martyr for freedom of expression, defender of a disappearing concept of public debate or propagator of harmful ideas.
“It’s a process that was done in spite of myself,” observes the one according to whom the appearance of Trump in the political arena will have marked a turning point in the world of information, “when some said that given Because Trump embodies an unprecedented threat, we must practice journalism differently, we must warn.
Wouldn’t the “disenchantment or distrust” of a significant part of the general public towards the press be the ideal opportunity for a little introspection? Stéphan Bureau agrees. The Canadian Social Survey on Quality of Life, Virtual Health Care and Trust, conducted in 2023 by Statistics Canada among 10,000 citizens across the country, revealed that 53% of respondents had a low level of trust in media.
The media can choose to conclude that they are absolutely not responsible for this, that it is an issue that transcends them, that it is social networks that have polluted the public space, or wonder if their practices, the absence of certain subjects, may have generated distrust.
Your journalist would like to interrupt his interlocutor but he would be quite incapable of doing so. “One of two things: everyone who has a bad opinion of us is a weirdo who can’t read well. It’s possible. But I think there is some soul-searching to be done about our practices. I don’t know if it’s normal to be part of a profession that so many people doubt, without wondering where it comes from. »
A wonderful time
Stéphan Bureau is, however, not one of those who hold the proponents of what we call wokism responsible for all the ills of the planet – “There are forces in the world much more powerful than the wokes” – nor those who will try to convince you that it was better before.
“I believe that we are living in the most wonderful time there is,” exclaims the man whose next project will be to perpetuate Contact, a project for which, despite the collaboration of QUB Radio and Télé-Québec, he still takes a lot of money out of his pockets. “The times mobilize me, galvanize me. »
Beyond the guests with high viral potential that he receives at his microphone, Stéphan Bureau is also this sensitive interviewer, with a generous culture, capable of highlighting personalities on whom the spotlight rarely stops. One of the best episodes of Contactt? His meeting with the writer Marie-Ève Lacasse.
“Will everyone who listened to Mathieu Bock-Côté go listen to Marie-Ève Lacasse? “, he asks, a purely rhetorical question. ” Of course not. But I know that they compromised by visiting a platform where both are audible and that pleases me, because the pleasure of debate is not in winning, but in the risk of changing your opinion. »
Check out Stéphan Bureau’s podcast