Can one old man with a typewriter really have Fox News North on the ropes?

The Source, With David Climenhaga: Here I am on the set of my new Fox News North TV show with two polite young people from the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties to whom I’m about to be rude. Below: Sun News Network commentator Ezra Levant; Senator Patrick Brazeau.

Sun News Network commentator Ezra Levant is spending so much time complaining about me on national television these days they ought to call his show The Source, with David Climenhaga.

If this keeps up it’ll go to my head!

Apparently all on my own I pose an existential threat to the mighty Sun News Network, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s semi-official and ideologically perfect state broadcaster, because … what? … I think they ought to live up to certain minimal standards of decorum that they agreed upon to get their license seeing as we collectively own the airwaves from which they’re profiting.

At any rate, according to Mr. Levant, I’m a bad person because I want to restrict his fundamental Charter-protected right to say “f**k your mother” to anyone he pleases over the public airwaves and otherwise abuse people he disagrees with in the coarsest terms.

Well, excuse me!

On Monday night Mr. Levant devoted interminable minutes on his national TV program to assailing me for complaining to the toothless Canadian Broadcast Standards Council about his potty mouth, which he has elevated to a question of Great Constitutional Principle.

In the process, Mr. Levant posted about a dozen photos of me (all but one of them nice ones, thanks very much) that he apparently found on the Internet. Most of them came from my Facebook page by the look of it, posted there in moments of vanity that I have succumbed to over the years. This is an important point, which I will return to in a moment.

But Mr. Levant, who calls himself a journalist and repeatedly knocks me for not living up to journalistic standards, whatever they are, doesn’t seem to do so well in that department himself.

In his first broadside against me, on June 13, he accused me of being a propagandist for the Alberta Federation of Labour. To borrow a phrase that would have been familiar to the late U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, beloved icon of the Canadian right, “I am not now nor have I ever been an employee of the Alberta Federation of Labour.”

On Monday, Sun News Network – which boasts that it offers “straight talk” and “hard news” – said I was the Director of the Alberta Union of Public Employees. Never mind that there is no Alberta Union of Public Employees, that the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees has no employee with the title of director, and that I haven’t worked at AUPE for more than a year. In addition, Mr. Levant promoted me to the rank of “union boss” – I only wish!

Well, I do work somewhere. I’ll leave it to Sun News Network’s team of crack researchers to figure out where. Third time’s the charm!

As for my need to adhere to journalistic principles, seeing as I’m a former journalist, a point Mr. Levant keeps harping on for some reason, arguably I do observe them. Leastways, it would be completely reasonable to say I do a better job at being fair to the people I criticize than Mr. Levant does. Unlike him, I do not constantly claim to be a journalist. (By the way, I am a former Baptist too. Am I obligated to promote Baptist doctrine on my blog as well, I wonder?)

On the contrary, I am one opinionated 60-year-old guy with a one of those electronic typewriter-computational-gizmos and a personal blog that’s read by a few thousand people. I left journalism when I left the Calgary Herald – from which I was not fired, by the way, notwithstanding Mr. Levant’s on-air claim that I was. The point of this blog is to express my own views, and it’s a great joy to me that so many people seem to agree with them and enjoy reading my posts.

Another of Mr. Levant’s knocks against me is that I wouldn’t appear on his program to argue with him, and that – imagine this! – I complained to the Broadcast Standards Council about his appalling language instead of taking it up personally with him. From this he concludes that I don’t believe in debate.

Oh, give me a break! I think it is quite fair to say that Mr. Levant’s on-air style is that of a bully and a boor. This is apparent to anyone with time to waste watching his program. His disgraceful on-air treatment of CBSC panel member Troy Reeb on Monday night is an excellent example.

Good for Mr. Reeb for trying to make his points in the face of Mr. Levant’s constant interruptions and vituperation, but why would I subject myself to this when I am guaranteed to lose the argument because Mr. Levant controls the levers and gets to edit the tapes?

Mr. Levant’s on-line supporters, of whom there are several, may accuse me of cowardice, but I can assure you I am not going to lend my time or credibility to this on-air bully’s histrionics.

Speaking of those supporters, here is the sort of thing they have to say. This anonymous comment appeared on my blog yesterday: “You have a problem with Ezra, deal with him directly. Quit acting like a little pansy and running off to Daddy to deal with your issues. Some journalist you are. Maybe if you had been in a fist fight or two growing up you wouldn’t be such a eunuch now.”

Actually, I am a third-degree black belt in Uechi-ryu karate and I have been in a fistfight or two – although it fair to say that, possibly like the apparently typically foul-mouthed Tory, Senator Patrick Brazeau, I have lost more than I have won.

While they add a few flourishes, this writer’s points reflect Mr. Levant’s arguments.

Which brings us back to the matter of those photos. What was Sun News Network’s purpose in running so many pictures of the sole private citizen identified as standing up and criticizing Mr. Levant’s appalling commentary?

Moreover, why did Mr. Levant quote on the air from my submission to the CBSC – taking my arguments, it is said here, out of context with the effect they appeared weaker than they are? Shouldn’t a citizen who writes a letter to an organization that offers to consider and rule on complaints about broadcasters have a reasonable expectation his or her statement will not be dissected and ridiculed before a national audience by the person he or she was complaining about?

None of us can know for certain what led to these actions by Mr. Levant and Sun News Network. But it cannot be denied they have the effect of bullying citizens who dare to criticize them through the paltry mechanisms available for that purpose, and of discouraging other citizens from doing the same thing. This is another reason why regulation of this type must be handled by a public agency with enforcement powers.

Indeed, reasonable people considering making a complaint to the CBSC are now quite right to be concerned about this, given the abusive and intimidating tone typical of some of Mr. Levant’s supporters.

When Sun News Network first appeared on the scene, smiled upon by Mr. Harper and promoted by a former senior member of his political staff, Canadians were warned that it would become “Fox News North,” paid for by Canadian TV viewers. These warnings were not heeded. Arguably, though, this is exactly what has happened – except, if anything, the reference does a considerable injustice to Fox News, which is a model journalistic citizen by comparison.

All this said, the closing moments of Mr. Levant’s program had me laughing out loud, as he pleaded with his supporters to write the prime minister to demand an end to all regulation of on-air content in the name of “freedom.” I suppose a few of them may, although I suspect that writing more than 140 characters is beyond the capabilities of many.

Can it really be that one old man with a typewriter has Fox News North on the ropes?

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

42 Comments on "Can one old man with a typewriter really have Fox News North on the ropes?"

  1. Given my observations of Ezra during his days as an undergrad at the U of C, it would be fair to say that his “debate” style has always tended to bullying and boorishness…

  2. JimBobby says:

    Testify, David. Ezra has proven himself to be a clown time and again. Keep calling him out!

  3. Aunty Ezra says:

    David I have a feeling that all those at your workplace are very proud of you and happy to have you as an employee. By the way, I don’t think Ezra even knows the meaning of debate; he is a ranter.

  4. the salamander says:

    Outstanding … !! I’ve been watching the tempest in the Levant teacup brewing furiously now for a while. So glad to see you’ve provoked & angered the frumious beasty in his lair.. and perhaps drawn him out where he can be bagged and wrapped.. and mailed to Harper Headquarters. Keep in mind that there is always a high risk of rabies, when being around rabid animals.. political animals are often carriers.. as is easily noted by their frothing at mouth and barky bark erratic behavior.. So think twice before physically confronting such dangerous beasts or their political handlers or groomers.

  5. Justin says:

    I don’t understand why you don’t just go debate Ezra on Fox News North? I think you are just empowering him by refusing an interview when he says you like to submit quiet complaints but won’t debate him openly… Just have it out

  6. anne Wilson says:

    Ugh, Ezra. Good for you Dave.

  7. I’m quite impressed, sir. For a blogger to create this much stir, you must be doing something right. Here’s to the power of citizen reporting and communication.

  8. Filostrato says:

    I suppose that if Canada harbours a Fox News North outlet (or maybe “outflow” would be a better word) then we have to have our very own Bill O’Reilly substitute.

    Enter Ezra O’Levant, the shoutiest foulmouth in the west.

    As for Brazeau, he may be one of the biggest wastes of skin that Harper has ever put on the senatorial welfare roll. But as long as he does the job he was appointed for, i.e. voting “Aye” to any Con piece of legislation that passes his desk – when he’s there, that is – and only asking “How high?” when told to jump by Dear Leader, I suppose he figures he’s worth every penny of the money the stretched rest of us have to pony up.

  9. david says:

    Thanks to this morning’s supportive commentators. The negative comments, I presume, will roll in during the afternoon and evening, when Sun News Network’s supporters get up and shake off their hangovers. One observation: Mr. Liebrecht comments approvingly on the amount of stir created by this story, but in my view it is not nearly enough. Since the Toronto Star report on Mr. Levant’s first use of the colourful Spanish phrase appeared, the story has been ignored by mainstream media, despite Sun News’s on air attacks on the CBSC panel and the only known complainant, despite Sun News’s inappropriate on-air ridicule of the contents of my letter to the CBSC, and despite Mr. Levant’s public attempts (and those of his supporters) to browbeat me into appearing on his show. Is this now acceptable conduct in broadcast media? It would seem so. It is also a concern that no one who wants to complain now seems to know who at the CRTC is handling this file, or with whom one communicates about it. Isn’t this a legitimate media story – or am I just too close to it to see clearly?

    • Stan says:

      Sunnews watchers are all alcoholics?
      Seems a bit of a hateful descriptionl doesn’t it?

      Why don’t you want them showing your letter on air, is it that embarrassing?

  10. Paul Turnbull says:

    Justin: The point of not debating Ezra on his own show is that it’s not a level playing field. The host controls the show and the dialog. The proper place for this debate is exactly where it’s happening, out in public where Ezra can’t curtail his opponents speech by imposing time limits and constantly interrupting. Ezra always seems to forget that you can’t support free speech unless you listen as well as talk.

  11. SM says:

    “I’M DEBATING AS LOUD AS I CAN!!”
    e. levant

  12. Candice says:

    Can what Levant does actually be called ‘debate’ ? Too bad for the U of C that everyone has to know he graduated there. I would have guessed the Bill O’Reilly School of Faux Journalism, where you learn to drown out the person you are ‘interviewing’ and pretend that you won an argument.

  13. Malcolm Matheson says:

    In the interest of accuracy, your article should read, “Mr. Levant’s online supporters, of whom there are SOME…”
    There is little evidence to support your allegation that there are several.
    Other than that, well done.

  14. Tom in Ontario says:

    Paul Turnbull is right. David would be foolish to appear on Levant’s show and take part in a one sided debate for the reasons stated. Is the Levant insult a legitimate news story? Of course. But as we know any media outlet whether it’s the Toronto Star or Sun News, the news is what they say it is. The latest about a revolutionary and exciting push up bra is likely more interesting for Star readers than any insult spewed forth by Sun News. That’s why we need Alberta Diary more than ever. The insults may fly, but the old man with a typewriter has proven he has a tough hide.

    As for the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council–are those people actually paid?

  15. Bruce says:

    Just starting reading this blog and I must say it’s good. Very good. As for the loud mouth in question, let Mr. Levant ferment awhile longer. Irrelevance, I think, is one of a bully’s worse nightmares.

  16. Alex P says:

    I suppose you could set some conditions Sun News would not particularly want to accept. Then accuse them of being smelly jelly poopy pants, or some such.

    I recommend: a half hour opening statement, ill fitting clothes for Ezra, and a foot petal that would trigger a keister kicking machine aimed at Ezra. Also, the ‘debate’ gets interrupted regularly so you can stand up, back lit as if surrounded by a halo, and say, “Well, that’s ten minutes of your life you can’t get back!”

    Or maybe I’m just dreaming.

  17. Lou says:

    David, I know where you work, but I can’t for the life of me figure out where Ezra works.

    What does he actually contribute to Canada?

    I guess we have to be satisfied with John Lennon’s advice to Davey Jones of the Monkees (when Jones wanted people to take him more seriously) – ‘the world needs clowns.’

    But the more important question (and the one that’s likely easier to answer) is who pays Ezra.

    Because let’s face it, when it comes to special interests, there is no one more special than Ezra Levant.

  18. Holly Stick says:

    If you are the old man, why is Levant the crochety one? I think beneath the sometimes amusing drama clown stockaholic is an angry Muslim-hating bigot.

  19. Anonymous says:

    “When Sun News Network first appeared on the scene, smiled upon by Mr. Harper and promoted by a former senior member of his political staff, Canadians were warned that it would become “Fox News North,” paid for by Canadian TV viewers.”

    Is the above an example of your “fair” coverage you give to people you criticize? Give me a break; your writing essentially boils down to “everything is wrong in Canada due to some conspiracty involving Prime Minister Harper.”

    • Paul Turnbull says:

      Personally I’m not interested in fair coverage or biased coverage, only accurate coverage.

      And call me when you’re interested in putting your name behind your opinions.

    • CuJoYYC says:

      Typical false equivalency argument profferred by an anonymous Tiny Tory Troll. Sigh. C’est domage.

      • CuJoYYC says:

        I should add that Dave is a retired journalist writing a blog of his own thoughts, observations and opinions. He does not claim to be a purveyor of news, although he often does provide news.

        Sun News Network claims to be a purveyor of news. They are not. They provide opinions, repeated ad nauseam, masked as news à la Fox News,. Ergo the nickname Fox New North.

        That, anonymous, is your false equivalency du jour.

  20. Carlos says:

    Dave congratulations. You have with the limited resources available to you, raised Ezra to his top psychotic state. I am not a journalist and I do not like to insult people but in this case it is an exception because this man is a complete IDIOT. He fits right in wherever he is and one of these days just like the Becks and the other extreme right soldiers he is going to find himself with his head in a toilet trying to puke his powerful brain out.

    As far as debate, like Paul Turnbull says, this is where he has to debate you if he is capable to. He wants you in his program because he knows very well the advantage he has there. Just an old bully tactic.

    I think that Harper should give this guy a chance and appoint him minister of Foreign Affairs to replace bully 2 John Baird.

  21. Lee W says:

    Does the concept of freedom of speech upset you, Mr. Climenhaga? Why do you regard it necessary to restrict Charter rights as to what can be said on television by somebody like Ezra Levant, who is, and claims to be, an “opinion journalist?” By using coarse language on the air, Mr. Levant (or any television personality) runs the risk of alienating viewers that were formerly supportive of him, and one could argue that that is a sufficient deterrent. If he chooses to use a foreign language expletive on his show anyway, so be it. If you don’t like it, find the button on your TV remote that says “channel +/-”, press it, and STFU. Allow the rest of us to do likewise and decide for ourselves if such behaviour on national television is agreeable to us or not.

  22. anne Wilson says:

    Anonymous: Dave isn’t calling it a conspiracy. You are. He’s flat out saying Sun News coverage is bad, bullying and partisan, and giving examples. That’s fair.

  23. Tom in Ontario says:

    Dear Anonymous:

    What’s a conspiracty?

  24. Garnett says:

    It was with some trepidation that I opened the comments to this edition of your blog. I thought that the 20 blogs would mostly consists of rants about left wing union anti-harper from the Sun of Fox squad. I am shocked to see that only two of the comments are from this ilk.
    I enjoy your writing and am thrilled that it has created such a vitriolic response from Ezra as it this demonstrates how limited he truly is. Unfortunately, (or fortunately) I have not been able to bring myself to actually watch the troll in his chosen lair.

  25. Daniel says:

    Of course, someone who writes for rabble.ca complains about the lack of civility in Canadian media. The irony is breathtaking and the hypocrisy is vile.

  26. Kusten B. says:

    Let’s see if I got this straight:

    1) You submitted a complaint to some “authority” asking them to to censor another person’s speech.

    2) When provided with an opportunity to discuss/defend, in a public face-to-face discussion with with the person you are trying to have censored, your reasoning for doing so, you weakly balked (“Give me a break!“).

    3) After you refused to debate the person you were trying to have censored, you complained about the fact that he subsequently read out, on-air, your letter of complaint to the authorities in which you asked them to censor his speech, because there is, you feel, a “reasonable expectation” that people who complain to authorities asking them to censor someone else’s speech won’t have the content of their complaint made available to the public, not even by the person whom the complainant is asking to be censored.

    Does that just about sum it up?

    You’d be right at home in 1972-era East Germany, Climenhaga.

  27. Roland Jodoin says:

    Wow, LeeW surely elevates the conversation to new heights. He manages to both support freedom of expression AND tell you to Shut The Filthy Umbrella.

    I’m not worried about Dave’s capacity to take on such weak opposition, but here’s my bit of support in any case. Keep on keepin’, Dave!

    • Kutsen B. says:

      It is inadvisable for those who are defending the right of an individual to voice his own opinions to use the phrase/acronym “STFU”, because the proper response to speech you disagree with is debate, i.e. more speech, not calls for censorship, including self-censorship. But Lee W’s main point — that if Mr. Climenhaga doesn’t like Ezra Levant’s views or the way he expresses them, he should just change the channel instead trying to have those views censored so that others who want to hear those expressions of speech will be unable to do so — is entirely legitimate. And it bears repeating that David Climenhaga didn’t merely type/blurt out “STFU” — which is merely a colloquialism, delivered in the vernacular, and not an actual call for censorship — but rather ran to a censorship authority to get Ezra Levant censured, and then used his speech (this blog) to complain about the fact that his call for censorship was discussed in a highly public forum by the would-be object of his censorship.

      • Holly Stick says:

        So Kutsen, are you saying that you want to hear Levant tell someone to go and copulate with their own mother? Do you think that is in any way professional behaviour? What would justify Levant making such a vile remark?

        • Kutsen B. says:

          Holly, I don’t want to hear anyone saying anything that’s factually incorrect, or rude, and I don’t want to hear someone talking too loudly, or in an annoying tone of voice, but other people’s right to express themselves is of far more importance than what I want.

          You can rest assured that there will always be people extant who don’t want to hear what you have to say, but I believe you have a right to voice your opinion, in whatever tone you choose, whether other people want to hear it or not.

          “What would justify Levant making such a vile remark?”

          Um, maybe the fact that a huge multinational company with a track record of propping up/supporting the vilest, most murderous South/Central American dictatorial regimes was campaigning to hobble an industry that provides a decent standard of living for thousands of hard working Canadians and their families?

          It doesn’t really matter in any case, because no one in any free country should have to justify their colorful language to anyone — not to you, to me, or to David Climenhaga.

        • Stan says:

          If I don’t want to hear him say that I change the channel….

  28. anne Wilson says:

    Hm, Kutsen, that’s not accurate. David is asking to have rules he didn’t make enforced, rules that Ezra agreed to, and that now Ezra wants to get around by saying those rules are bad and making fun of them. Whatever, Ezra can argue that way, but it’s weak.

    • Kutsen B. says:

      “David is asking to have rules he didn’t make enforced…”

      Are you seriously suggesting that if, say, Judy Rebick happened to use some colourful language – or an epithet or two – to describe the “neo-con” Harper during one of her appearances on the CBC, that David Climenhaga would complain to the CBSC because he just cares so much about everyone following the CBSC’s rules?

      David Climenhaga complained because he doesn’t like Ezra Levant’s politics. He should just admit this obvious truth, and stop this ridiculous ingenue act, this pretense that he is merely motivated by his overarching interest in ensuring that the CBSC’s rules are enforced equitably.

      • Stan says:

        Whoa whoa whoa!!!!
        You have to shut your mind and pretend you’re stupid to be in synch with the hate filled liberal loons here.

        Facts and logic don’t apply here.

    • Stan says:

      No, Ezra is saying that the same people who make the decisions on him are also his competitors.

      Does that seem fair?

      Also they are forced to join this ‘voluntary’ association.

      Try logic!

  29. Stan says:

    Hmm, referring to Sunnews as Fox News North is hate speech, isn’t it?

    Or was that a term of endearment?

Comment