French village rejects Elon Musk and his satellite internet antenna

Author : bojogalak
Publish Date : 2021-02-20 08:41:41

French village rejects Elon Musk and his satellite internet antenna

Saint-Senier-de-Beuvron, population 350, is none too thrilled to have been picked as a ground station for Musk’s Starlink project for broadband from space.

“This project is totally new. We don’t have any idea of the impact of these signals,” said Noemie Brault, a 34-year-old deputy mayor of the village just 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the majestic Mont Saint-Michel abbey on the English Channel.

“As a precaution the municipal council said no,” she explained.

Musk, founder of SpaceX and electric carmaker Tesla, plans to deploy thousands of satellites to provide fast internet for remote areas anywhere in the world.

It’s a high-stakes battle he is waging with fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos of Amazon as well as the London-based start-up OneWeb.

Antennas on the ground will capture the signals and relay them to individual user terminals connected by cable.

Starlink’s contractor had already secured French regulatory approval to install nine “radomes”—three-metre-tall (10-feet) globes protecting the antennas—in Saint-Senier, one of four sites planned for France.

In December, Saint-Senier issued a decree to block construction on the field.

But the refusal was based on a technicality, and the contractor, Sipartech, told AFP that it plans to refile its request, which the council will likely be unable to block.

“That worries us because we have no data” on the eventual effects of the signals on the health of humans or animals, said Brault, herself a farmer.

“And when you hear that he wants to implant a chip in people’s brains, it’s frightening,” she said, referring to Musk’s Neuralink project.

‘Not technophobes’

François Dufour, a Greens council member and retired farmer, said he believes residents had reason to worry.

“The risks from electromagnetic waves is something we’ve already seen with high-voltage power lines, which have disturbed lots of farmers in the area,” he said.

Besides, “social networks, internet, they exist already—why do we need to go look for internet on the moon?” he said.

France’s national radio frequency agency ANFR, which approved Starlink’s stations, says they present no risks to residents, not least because they will be emitting straight up into the sky.

There are already around 100 similar sites across France dating from the first satellite launches from 50 years ago, it adds.

That hasn’t convinced Jean-Marc Belloir, 57, who worries that his cows will start producing less milk.

“On our farm, we’re always online. My cows are linked up; my smart watch warns me when they’re going to calve,” Belloir said. “But when you see the range of these antennas, there has to be some research” on the potential impacts.

Still, he baptised his latest calf “SpaceX du Beuvron,” combining Musk’s firm with the name of the creek that runs through his village.

As men in Hollywood and other prominent industries in the United States tumbled from their perches in rapid succession after hundreds of women began coming forward in 2017 with stories of abuse under the #MeToo hashtag, women in France also began opening up about their experiences with sexual harassment and violence.

The movement soon had a French equivalent, #BalanceTonPorc (Squeal on your pig), a hashtag launched in October 2017 by New York-based French journalist Sandra Muller. A month later, thousands of women were in the Place de la République in Paris and in other cities protesting violence against women.

“It was very powerful,” said Léa Bages, a consultant who specializes in gender relations, noting that the demonstrators were of all ages and from all sectors of society.

Unlike in the US, though, where a year after the #MeToo hashtag first went viral more than 200 men powerful men had lost their jobs, few men in France were punished for their aggressions.

What’s more, there was significant societal pushback against the movement, the most notable from a group of more than 100 prominent women, including actress Catherine Deneuve, who signed an open letter lamenting the destruction of ambiguity and defending men’s right to hit on women. To these women and the many who agreed with them, #MeToo was a puritanical overreaction and an affront to French values and the country’s cherished culture of seduction.

Recently, though, that has changed. In the past few weeks there has been a new reckoning here that has resulted in powerful men being forced to resign. “I feel like I’m back in the US three years ago,” said Alice Coffin, a Paris city councillor and longtime feminist activist. “It’s striking.”

Critical mass

The #MeToo movement in France began to reach critical mass last year. The marches continued and grew. It was also in 2020 that posters denouncing sexual abuse and gender-based murders with slogans like “Silence is not consent” became ubiquitous in Paris. The discussion about gender-based violence was suddenly everywhere, and it was changing public opinion.

A turning point came in January 2020, when Vanessa Springora published “Consent,” a memoir in which she detailed her sexual relationship with the writer Gabriel Matzneff that began when she was 14 years old. Matzneff had written openly about his love for sex with children and the literary establishment not only protected him, but lauded him. Now, though, now many of Matzneff’s former supporters turned on him and prosecutors announced that they would look for other victims.

The following month at the César awards, France’s version of the Oscars, actress Adèle Haenel walked out in protest after Roman Polanski, who has been convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl, won the award for Best Director. In late 2019 Haenel became the first prominent actress to speak out against sexual abuse in the French film industry, accusing director Christophe Ruggia of sexually harassing her for years beginning when she was 12.

The accusations kept coming and the dominos continued to fall. July saw the hashtag #MusicTooFrance, encouraging those who had suffered sexual or sexist violence in the music industry to speak out. In August, a deputy mayor of Paris, Christophe Girard, was pressured to resign that position over his longstanding support of Matzneff, though he remains a city councillor. In November 2020 Mediapart published a column by an organisation of actresses denouncing sexual violence and rape at Cours Florent, one of France’s most famous acting schools.

The momentum picked up even more in 2021. In January of this year, Camille Kouchner published “La Familia Grande (The Big Family),” a book accusing her stepfather, Olivier Duhamel, a well-known political scientist and constitutional expert, of sexually abusing her twin brother when he was 14.

The book set off a raft of repercussions. Duhamel resigned all his positions, including that of president of the National Foundation of Political Science, the organisation that oversees the prestigious university Sciences Po. Frédéric Mion, the director of the university, was then forced to step down over his handling of the incest allegations and after numerous students at schools in the Sciences Po network throughout France alleged they were victims of sexual assault at the school and administrators and staff there did little to address their complaints. Elisabeth Guigou, a former justice minister and close friend of Duhamel, left her position as the head of a committee on sexual violence against children.

The book also sparked the #MeTooInceste hashtag, which went viral and led to the outing of other famous men. In late January, the Paris prosecutor’s office opened an investigation into French actor Richard Berry after his daughter accused him of incest, the same week that French TV producer Gérard Louvin’s nephew publicly accused him of incest.

#MeTooIncest was quickly followed by #MeTooGay, an outpouring of testimonials from gay men breaking the silence on the abuse they suffered as young men or as adults.

“Something very important is happening

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