Lengthy Editor's Note: The following is our first politically-themed article on ShowbizMonkeys.com. While it does have to do with an online news "network" made up of notable names from the now defunct Canadian right-wing news channel, Sun News Network, it's essentially a review and description of events from the first year of a political website and its associated media. We're classifying it under Television.
We allow our contributors to post what they're interested in writing about, and encourage offering unique content that may not be found in a similar way on other websites. We know we don't have frequent story updates on ShowbizMonkeys.com, but we hope what we do post ends up being interesting and engaging, and fits within the ideals of the editorial board. When first noticing this particular article, we deactivated it from our website, as it extensively covers a website that the editorial board finds (along with many of its owners and contributors) quite abhorrent.
However, as you can see here, we've reposted it. We hope that our visitors, as we were able to internally, will look at a well-written and fairly balanced article about the positives and negatives of Rebel Media's first year of operations (and its head Ezra Levant), and can take part in an adult conversation below that doesn't devolve into partisan attacks. (Or maybe we're overreaching, and no conversations will happen at all!) Either way, we respect S.P.'s longtime contributions to this site, and his writing in general, enough to activate his story to our site.
We can also use this for you to help us answer a question: would you like to see more politically-minded articles and discussions on ShowbizMonkeys.com, or do you feel this isn't a place for it? With the U.S. Election in full swing, many larger websites than ours cover politics whenever it relates to the pop culture world, but we've never really gone down that route. Would you prefer us to keep things that way, or would you like to see more stuff like you can read below (knowing that, given our editorial and writing staff lean strongly to the left side of the political spectrum, they may look quite different than S.P.'s piece below)?
We appreciate your patience, your visits, your discussion, and your input. Oh, and for any Americans reading who have no idea what Sun News Network and The Rebel even are, the easiest (though not 100% perfect) comparisons would be FOX News and Glenn Beck's The Blaze, respectively.
The Sun News Network went off the air one year ago, after it proved to be unprofitable. Undeterred by the demise of the obscure Canadian news channel, former Sun staff, Ezra Levant, formed his own Youtube news channel, The Rebel. Joined by a small number of his former Sun colleagues and some new faces, The Rebel is now attempting to do what the Sun could not do. Be profitable. Levant is well aware of the dying medium that is television and would like to get away from all of its drawbacks in favor of the internet. The difference now is that an internet based news channel has more freedom and flexibility, a greater potential audience, and a much lower operating budget. After a year of broadcasting on the internet, the same question that haunted the Sun remains. Can the channel be sustainable? Levant sure as hell hopes so.
So just who is Ezra Levant? He is a loud mouthed lawyer and journalist who absolutely loves trouble. He has a history of antagonizing people and organizations that he perceives as violating freedom. Levant likes things such as the oil industry, ride sharing services, free speech, and attacking left wing causes. This last point especially, is what many of Levant's followers enjoy about him and his journalism on both The Sun and now on The Rebel. Levant can be counted on to get into feuds, go on inappropriate rants, or to have it out with professional protesters. Not surprisingly, Levant has had to deal with the consequences of his pot stirring behaviors. Despite having to dig himself out of a Human Rights Commission hole, be forced to apologize for his antics, or even get called Hitler, Levant still enjoys his job in the news industry.
The Rebel primarily deals with Canadian news, with a heavy focus on all things political. The channel openly identifies itself as being conservative, contrarian, and being able to offer the other side of the story that the rest of the media will not tell. Much of the Canadian news media, especially the three major television networks, present their news in a very left leaning way. Any time news is presented with an ideological bias, the full story is denied to the audience. This is where The Rebel prides itself in being able to deliver what the rest of the media will not tell the viewers. Levant has referred to the three major television networks as a media party, who all have a left wing agenda to push. In response, The Rebel has pushed their own conservative values and relentlessly attacked the left wing and its supporters. To Levant, the left wing media is a force that influences people, politics, policies, lifestyle, finances and much more. This is why Levant pulls no punches in tearing apart the left wing. He would like to tell you there is more than what the mainstream media is giving you, as the mainstream media is interested only in perpetuating a left wing narrative. So whenever the mainstream media portrays people or causes as victims or heroes, Levant will have a different take on it.
Frequent examples include: climate change activists, Muslim migrants, trans gender people, labor unions, third wave feminists, aboriginal rights, Quebec, and David Suzuki. In the specific example of David Suzuki, Levant seems to hate Suzuki with a real passion. This is evidenced by the countless videos Levant has made about Suzuki. This here is a grudge that has been going on for what seems like an eternity now. This sort of long term criticism of the left wing is a regular thing at The Rebel, that is done not just by Levant, but by all of his contributors as well.
The Rebel has contributors that have proved to be outstanding in their work. The first and most obvious one is Brian Lilley, a former Sun News staff and the co-founder of The Rebel. Lilley has great interviewing skills and is incredibly persistent at uncovering the hidden truth. Every so often, he makes videos where he delivers a monologue on a heated subject, where he comes off as constructive, sensitive, and with a dose of reality. The second contributor that shines is Holly Nicholas. She is a geologist who has filmed many videos where she explains the science behind all the pipeline and climate change issues. She has a good understanding on how politics and economics impact the oil industry, which makes her way more qualified on this topic than your average news pundit. The third contributor that stands out is Lauren Southern, a university student who constantly finds herself at odds with the modern post secondary campus culture. Southern, a young libertarian, makes videos about the misplaced priorities of her generation. Her videos where she confronts the slutwalk feminists have broken the million view mark, making her the break out star of The Rebel. Levant is happy to point this figure out, as proof of The Rebel being a success. As for Levant, he possesses a lot of desirable skills in journalism as well. Levant often makes good use of his background in law to explain the tedious legal jargon in carefully worded documents. He interviews controversial people, and he is completely fearless in voicing his opinion.
Levant is not without faults. He regularly reduces people that he does not like by calling them by an incomplete and inconsequential label. For example, he will put down some left wing politicians as being nothing more than an oboe player or a former substitute drama teacher. Levant also frequently makes the claim that he has been exiled from Alberta, which at best, is a bad joke intended to glorify himself. His worst offence is his habit of painting all members of a single group with the same brush, and more often than not, in an unflattering way. Or at the very least, he ends up giving off that impression. Some of Levant's poor judgement also extends to his choice of on-air staff. Some of the contributors are just plain ignorant and obnoxious. Others try for bad comedy sketches that aare both unfunny and pointless. Worse yet, are the news personalities that are bad at journalism. The Rebel has one contributor go so far as to repeatedly blame the Alberta government for increasing the suicide rate in the province by thirty percent. Another contributor extolled the virtues of big game trophy hunting in Africa. On more than one occasion, staff at The Rebel had used the term, "rape-fugee."
With this kind of an approach to journalism, how can anybody take The Rebel seriously? Or for that matter, as a credible alternative to the very left wing mainstream media? News should be about facts, not attempts at brainwashing audiences into following an ideology by blowing things out of proportion. The Rebel does not understand this, and feels that just being super right wing is the antidote to the Canadian media being left wing. Worse yet, is that The Rebel insists on news having to be delivered in a very stereotypical right wing way. As a result, the news is often sarcastic, arrogant, and full of bad jokes. Most intrusive of all, is The Rebel's hellbent insistance on using cutaways that have absolutely nothing to do with the news. As far as The Rebel is concerned, the news is better when it is interrupted with movie clips. On top of all this The Rebel never hesitates to praise the right wing or to take petty shots at the left wing. So it turns out, it is totally acceptable for contributors at The Rebel to endorse Donald Trump or to openly mock the prime minister of Canada for mispronouncing a single word. This is after all, a news channel that prefers to come off like a headline grabbing tabloid newspaper.
The Rebel does not stop at being a tabloid news channel. It also does a lot of activism. Its seems like there is not a week that goes by without The Rebel starting some kind of a petition to fire somebody, asking people to boycott a company, attempting to impeach the American president, , or to encourage its viewers to put up signs on their front lawns to stop the carbon tax. All this takes place in the news videos, so it is quite common for a contributor to finish their video by asking the viewer to visit a websiteor to donate money to cover legal costs. The Rebel goes way too far when they purchase radio ads or billboard signs that trash politicians that The Rebel does not approve of.
All these attempts at activism costs money that The Rebel does not have. On a regular basis, The Rebel can be counted on to ask its viewers for money to pay for the advertisements and polls. Every so often, The Rebel goes on a crowd funding campaign, where they ask viewers to pay for things like office space, equipment, wages, or a studio. When their financial goal has been met, Levant is eager to remind the viewers that it was all made possible by donations, and that there are still more plans ahead. Money is further raised by the selling of merchandise and advertising space. Due to the oppositional nature of The Rebel, finding advertisers has proven to be an incredibly difficult task. Considering all the times The Rebel asks for donations, it gives off the impression that The Rebel is desperate for money. This was made even more evident, when Levant himself made a redundant post, asking viewers to support independent journalism by making a donation. This is a part of Levant's game plan. He wants his viewers to believe that The Rebel is the only option for politically incorrect news, and to hook viewers into The Rebel. He even said so himself. With luck, these viewers grow dependent on The Rebel for news, and open their wallets every time The Rebel needs money for a cause. Their longer term plan includes putting up a paywall,to charge paying members for access to the shows. While this is somewhat discouraging to viewers, it is understandable that The Rebel would have to resort to charging people. After all, Levant does have to make payroll, pay for overhead, and to put a roof over his head. In order for this to happen, Levant would need to do more than ask his viewers to buy shirts and copies of Ethical Oil. Chances are, The Rebel will likely not face the same demise as its spiritual predecessor. Considering the number of right wing politicians that have come onto The Rebel to do interviews, it is safe to speculate that right wing political parties have been donating enough money to The Rebel to keep it from dying.
At the end of the day, despite a lot of silly things that take place at The Rebel, the news channel does have a lot to offer. They carry news that the mainstream media will not broadcast. The Rebel challenges the left wing narrative. Levant happily reads out hate mail on his show. The Rebel refuses to impose any censorship on their comment sections. One of their contributors filmed himself voting in last year's federal election without showing his face. Above all, The Rebel is proud to be contrarian. This is important, because just about all news is one sided, and The Rebel offers some much needed balance. It is just too bad that Ther Rebel can not be balanced within itself.
After a year of being in business, and despite showing some signs of struggle, The Rebel has stated that they are only growing. They have more activism on the way, intend on adding new contributors, expanding into book publishing, and are planning for more exclusive material behind the upcoming paywall. While the finances of The Rebel are not public, it is not hard to imagine that running a business such as a news channel on the internet is nothing short of an incredible challenge on multiple fronts. Being able to make it to the one year mark is a huge accomplishment in many ways. The most important of which, is that The Rebel gives people more choice as to where to get their news.