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Sun Media -- not its squalid commentator Ezra Levant -- is the problem

Image: Flickr/University of Saskatchewan

Ezra Levant is a squalid nuisance, barely worth contemplating.

Sun Media is the problem.

On Monday, Sun Media apologized for Levant's repellent and sexually obsessive hysterics about Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's parents, one dead and the other an elderly grandmother and thus neither in a position to defend themselves.

This only happened, of course, because Trudeau threatened no longer to talk to legitimate Sun Media journalists, of which we have been repeatedly assured there are a few, after Levant’s Sept. 23 rant, and because former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney intervened in his current role as a member of the board of Quebecor, which owns Sun Media.

Within seconds of the apology being read by an anonymous narrator, Levant's smug visage was back on the air and, not long after that, in the pages of the local edition of Sun Media's newspaper here in Edmonton. No apologies from him, thank you very much.

In other words, thanks to his enablers at Sun Media, Levant has gotten away with it again, just as he got away with his sinister racist screed about an entire people, the Roma, his false statements about George Soros, his reference to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council as "idiots" and "censors" for mildly ruling that he really shouldn't tell people he disagrees with to "f**k your mother" on the air.

In the interests of full disclosure, I'm compelled to inform readers that Levant has called me personally "a snitch," "a weasel," "a bully" (presumably for daring to criticize Sun Media), a person who unprofessionally sneaked union propaganda into Calgary Herald news stories, a "union boss” -- if only it were true! -- and a big chicken for refusing to appear on his program. Plus the Spanish obscenity translated above, of course.

As an aside, it's interesting to note in light of this that when the shoe was on the other foot, and the self-described free-speech advocate was being criticized for his Roma commentary, he did not respond to my three requests for his comments about the situation.

As far as I am aware, only in the case of the hate-filled monologue about the Roma -- when according to Rabble's Karl Nerenberg charges were seriously considered under Article 319 of the Criminal Code for public incitement and willful promotion of hatred -- did Levant himself apologize.

So we can count on it that Levant will make inappropriate comments again -- and again, and again -- and that each time Sun Media will say, sorry, so sorry, it'll never happen again … all the while tacitly encouraging Levant to continue.

In other words, it's Sun Media that gives Levant a multi-media platform for hate, obscenity, hectoring abuse and bullying. It's Sun Media that allows him to play unsupervised on national television. It's Sun Media that defends his excesses. It's Sun Media that apologizes for them -- usually with enough qualifiers to render the apology meaningless. So it's Sun Media that ought to be held responsible for what he does.

Sun Media's defences of Levant can be quite elaborate. In 2012, Sun News Network Vice-President Kory Teneycke publicly defended Levant's noxious rant about the Roma. The former member of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's political praetorian guard barricaded himself inside Sun Media's "message box" while doing his best to sound contrite about Levant's savage commentary.

Teneycke refused to acknowledge the patently racist overtones of Levant's sinister remarks and suggested they were merely meant to be satirical. Anyone who heard the original nine-minute episode of Levant's program knows this explanation is so preposterous that Teneycke himself may have been engaging in satire.

Thankfully, other respected public figures, like Bernie M. Farber, former CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, treated Levant's appalling remarks with the gravity they deserved.

Unfortunately, though, readers will be hard pressed to confirm any of this now, since Sun Media seems to have washed all copies of Levant's poison down the corporate Memory Hole. A recording placed on Youtube.com by a third party was removed "due to a copyright claim by Sun News Network."

And even Sun Media didn't bother apologizing in 2011 when Levant dressed up in an orange wig and mocked the death from cancer of NDP leader Jack Layton.

Why would Sun Media encourage this kind of behaviour by its commentator?

I can only speculate, of course, not being privy to their strategies. But it seems reasonable to conclude Sun Media fully endorses Levant's messages, even when they disavow particular examples like his rant about the Roma and now the attack on Pierre and Margaret Trudeau. Surely, at least until Mulroney stepped in, Sun Media also supported the attacks on the elder Trudeaus as a way to get at their son.

Finally, presumably Sun Media underwrites Levant's efforts to debase public discourse for the same reason as does Prime Minister Harper's Conservative Party, which is closely allied to Sun Media: because it is an effective voting suppression tactic that helps keep the Conservatives in power.

So don't expect Levant to act any differently, or Sun Media to do anything more about it except issue meaningless apologies, as dictated by circumstances, in future.

This may be good enough for Trudeau -- whose spokesperson said yesterday, no doubt with a sense of relief, that the Liberal leader would talk to Sun Media reporters again.

It ought not to be good enough for anyone else. Sun Media is the problem.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

Image: Flickr/University of Saskatchewan

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