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The Selective Outrage Of Ezra Levant

John Bell

June 22, 2012

The right-wing faces an intolerable censorship in this country, gagged by the left-wing consensus that rules the mainstream media.

How do I know? Ezra Levant says so.

Levant has been the subject of a Canadian Broadcast Standards Council review resulting from his use of personal attacks and foul language.

Last December, he used his televised bully pulpit to denounce a decision by Chiquita Brands International to avoid using Alberta’s Tar Sands syncrude. Levant, lead propagandist for Alberta’s “ethical oil”, called Chiquita “anti-Canadian bigots.” This is all standard operating procedure for Levant, illogical propaganda but still within the not particularly stringent rules governing broadcasters.

But then he went too far. He singled out one Chiquita executive with an Hispanic sounding name for personal abuse, using a particularly offensive Spanish insult. An astute viewer, blogger David Climenhaga, complained to the CBSC.

The CBSC review decided that this personal attack clearly violated its code, and ordered Sun TV to twice broadcast the following announcement, once during Ezra Levant’s time slot and once during any prime time slot:

“The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has found that Sun News Network breached the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics in its broadcast of The Source on December 22, 2011. The program contained a coarse insult directed at a specific named person. This violated Clause 6 of the Code.”

This punishment that doesn’t even constitute a slap on the wrist. Yet Levant has done all in his power to use the ruling as proof that socialist bullies are out to censor the voice of right wing truth. He read the passage, braying that it was a “false confesson” demanded by a “kangaroo court.” He then singled out all the individuals on the CBSC by name and directed the same foul insult at them.

In theory, this violation should call into question Sun TV’s broadcast license renewal. The CBSC has now referred the matter to the Canadian Radio-televison and Telecommunications Commission, which has the power to pull the plug at Sun TV. More likely it will reveal that the CBSC and CRTC are paper tigers, and that Stephen Harper’s favourite “news” network can safely ignore the few rules that regulate television journalism.

I hesitate to give the clown prince of punditry this much attention, but the case got me thinking about censorship, who is being stifled and who isn’t.

There is a big difference between regulation of industry under capitalism and censorship. Levant raises the bogus issue of “censorship” because he and his ilk are fundamentally opposed to regulation. His crusade is not for civil rights but for unfettered corporate rights, not for free speech but for free markets. Cut red tape, get rid of the gravy train bureaucrats, let industry regulate itself, let me hurl any profane insult I wish at anyone who disagrees: this is the same old neo-liberal agenda.

If Ezra Levant were really a champion for freedom from censorship, he wouldn’t have to look far to find it.

Corporate censorship

In Edmonton, advertising giant Pattison Outdoor refused to rent a billboard to Greenpeace; the plain text sign would have read: “When there is a huge solar energy spill it’s just called a nice day. Green jobs, not more oil spills.”

Pattison Outdoor is part of the Pattison Group, and controls a huge share of the advertising market through billboards, transit ads and the like. Owner Jim Pattison is Canada’s third richest man, with strong connections to the Conservative Party. In my city, Pattison bus shelter ads regularly feature campaigns by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers extolling the virtues of the Tar Sands. Pattison spokespeople refuse to explain why Greenpeace’s whimsical slogan was rejected.

Would Ezra speak out to denounce the obvious censorship at work here? Life is too short to waste time actually suffering through his program, but I find no evidence that he acknowledged the event. If he did, my bet is that he would rail loudly about the rights of any business to refuse service to anyone they didn’t like.

How about this one? For more than a year, Ottawa’s Carleton University has refused to divulge the strings attached to a $15 million gift from billionaire Clayton Riddell. Riddell is Canada’s twelfth richest man and past chair of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. His “gift” endowed the Clayton H. Riddell Graduate Program in Political Management, cheer-led by Reform Party founder Preston Manning.

Academics at other universities have protested corporate gifts that give business control over academic content. Carleton refuses to fess up; after a Freedom of Information demand, it released a document with all the relevant text blacked out. One of the redacted pages was headed: “An invitation to transform Canadian politics.”

Levant is too busy creating the myth of his own victimization to be concerned about this censorship. If he noticed, I would bet he’d loudly defend Carleton’s right to keep the details of the deal “confidential.” Otherwise, other billionaires who want to create schools to churn out graduates in their own image might be scared off.

Artist and environmentalist Franke James discovered that financial support for a European tour of her work was suddenly revoked on orders of the Conservative government. Jeremy Wallace, Deputy Director for Climate Change at Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, wrote that the message in James’ artwork would “in fact run counter to Canada’s interests.”

Parks Canada employees have been ordered to stay silent about massive layoffs and cuts that threaten our publicly owned lands. A letter sent to 4800 member of the Public Service Alliance of Canada told them: “as employees of the public sector, our duty is to support the elected government.”

Would Ezra speak up for these real victims of censorship and attack? Environmental extremists and union thugs? You know the answer.

Too bad the real victims of the war against our right to know don’t have their own daily, nationally televised talk shows like poor, censored Ezra.

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