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.
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.