Ezra Levant's The Rebel gets its cause

Rachel Notley doesn’t understand the media—or martyrs

The best gift the Alberta NDP premier could ever give Ezra Levant was to try to ban The Rebel website

Sun News Network columnist and host of The Source, Ezra Levant speaks to a crowd of  a few hundred at a Calgary for Israel rally at city hall in downtown Calgary, Alta. on Thursday July 31, 2014. The event was being held to show solidarity with the Israeli people while condemning pro-Palestinian supporters who attacked members of a Jewish family during what he called a pro-Hamas rally two weeks ago. Stuart Dryden/Calgary Sun/QMI Agency

Stuart Dryden/Calgary Sun/QMI Agency

TheRebel.media turned one year old on Monday, and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley got Ezra Levant and his website the birthday gift he’s always wanted: martyr status. Journalists typically cringe when they become the story. For the self-styled Rebel commander, victimhood appears to be one of his favourite sorts of stories; the opening montage of his Ezra Levant show features clips of him chasing an uninterested David Suzuki with questions and talking tough at his own Alberta Human Rights Commission hearing, not so much what others say in reply.

That Notley’s office has declared his correspondents are banned from Alberta media lockups and press events is a gift that keeps on giving for Levant. It’s brought massive attention to the conservative commentary site Levant formed in the ashes of Sun News Network, and has a petition that’s easily convertible to his mailing list. It’s made the types he so routinely disparages as the Media Party circle the party wagons around him. And this all matters for the same reason that Levant’s outlet has survived and even grown modestly at the same time as Canada’s broadcast and print media outlets have been forced to slash: they rely heavily on advertising revenue while Rebel is mostly crowd-funded. He’s opened up a legal support fund to sue the Notley government for media access to government events, and while Levant wouldn’t say how well it’s fared, unprecedented attention to a right-wing David against NDP government Goliath story has good potential to tug at the heartstrings and wallets of conservative Albertans and folks anywhere in Canada who use words like “freedom” or “liberty” in their social-media bios.

Legislatures or governments have pushed against bloggers or upstart commenters before, but it’s jarring to see it in legal writing by a provincial lawyer: “Our client’s position remains that your client and those who identify as being connected to your client are not journalists and are not entitled to access media lock-ups or other such events,” Alberta Justice barrister Jason Fung wrote last week to a media lawyer hired by Rebel. Notley spokeswoman Cheryl Oates tried to hurl a lasso around the definition of a journalist and how Rebel falls outside of it: that “we didn’t allow bloggers or online news sources in” to a legislature availability Feb. 3 with Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (from which Rebel’s Sheila Gunn Reid was banned), and that in reported testimony in a pre-Rebel libel suit, Levant said he’s never called himself a “reporter.”

Who determines whether or not somebody is a journalist? For one attempted answer, let’s go to Judge Wendy Matheson’s decision in that very libel case. She described Levant as an “outspoken political commentator, journalist and blogger.” He may not be a reporter, but nor are the camera operators, columnists, website editors and producers who fill the Alberta legislature for annual budget lock-ups.

The “no webbies” defence by Oates was even more unseemly in the age of not only Vice, Buzzfeed and Huffington Post, but also Green Energy Futures. You haven’t heard of Green Energy Futures either? It’s a web production of environmental think-tank Pembina Institute, co-sponsored by oil companies Shell and Suncor, to share multi-media stories abut the “clean energy revolution that’s already under way.” A freelancer for Green Energy Futures joined the embargoed media briefing in November for the Alberta climate change panel and response plan. The term “reporter” doesn’t show up on its About Us page, either.

Journalism outlets don’t typically launch petitions, or create websites titled NotleyIsABully.ca. They don’t normally wear T-shirts with a red circle and slash around the governing party’s name, as Gunn Reid did in her video explaining her blacklisting. But up until a few years ago, newspaper reporters didn’t shoot video, and something called InsideClimate News wouldn’t get considered for a Pulitzer Prize, let alone win one. In explaining this new saga, Edmonton radio host Ryan Jespersen began: “How do I describe Rebel Media? It’s an, it’s an upstart conservative messaging platform… well, they fly their own flag to be sure, they pull no punches and they make no apologies.”

In an age of news media splintering, outlets don’t all look the same anymore. Some misbehave against a government, and some do its favour. The ban should be and will likely be short-lived, and not just because Levant brands it “unconstitutional.” A lawsuit would play even further into Levant’s hands and revenue ambitions. Notley’s government announced late Monday it’s tapping a former Canadian Press manager to review its media policies and report back within weeks. What’s the government’s best-case scenario in a prolonged impasse—Rebel never gets the full context of a government policy or announcement, and has to scrounge second-hand reports to produce roughly the same nasty reports it would have produced if it had access?

Update: To the surprise of almost nobody, the NDP firmly backtracked by Tuesday, and will allow TheRebel.media into media events. Notley gave Levant an even greater gift: satisfaction of a moral victory over a lefty government. “We’ve heard a lot of feedback from Albertans and media over the course of the last two days and it’s clear we made a mistake,” said a government statement Levant will keep framed above his bedroom mirror.

The NDP government is nine months old. It’s too young to be so brittle, and it’s getting too old to make such bombastic rookie mistakes. And on its first anniversary, The Rebel has looked more sympathetic than anyone could have imagined.


Rachel Notley doesn’t understand the media—or martyrs

  1. Huge mistake by the Notley government.

  2. The article writer leaves out a couple of important points, Most importantly, the reason for Ezra’s rise in success while the mainstream media flounders is exactly because of Mr. Markusoff’s smarmy “I’m the real media and Ezra’s a wannabe” tone. Keep patting yourself and your friends on the back Jason while you assure yourselves you’re legitimate and he’s not. I bet Ezra’s been around longer than you and I’ll *definitely* bet he has 10 times the readership you do.

    Secondarily, your jab at Ezra’s human rights commission hearing is absolutely gutless. Why don’t you put up $150k of your own money to defend free speech and get back to us (I won’t hold my breath).

    P.S.: The only reason David Suzuki was “uninterested” was he knows well Ezra would decimate him in any sort of open dialogue or debate.

    • Bingo! Let’s not forget Rebel Media has surpassed Maclean’s in only 1 year!

      • Cathy, are you saying the Rebel has surpassed macleans in terms of readership? Do you have a source for that? It’d be interesting to see that Ezra has more readers than Macleans.

  3. Entertaining, in a John Doyle kind of way.

  4. “I don’t think in my entire life I’ve ever called myself a reporter.” -Ezra Levant. He said it on the stand, under oath, in a court of law. Why is this so hard to understand?

    • Why is it so hard for you to understand that not all journalists are reporters? Even the judge in the case said he was a journalist or did you not read the story?

    • What is the relevance? If he can be defined as either a journalist or a reporter by the government’s standards, then that should be proof enough. Case in point: Judge Wendy Matheson describes him as a journalist, whether Levant chooses to accept that description or not.

  5. Markusoff fails to appreciate that Ezra has many followers who consider him the only credible journalist who does not pander to the liberals and the left spectrum. I guess the fact that the Rebel surpasses Macleans wrt followers must gnaw at their ego (more than “grown modestly”, I’d say). Warren Kinsella wrote a great piece on why Notley made a huge mistake and not once did he sound as condescending as Markusoff.

  6. If Levant and crew expect to be accredited, then I suggest anyone who has a Facebook account, a Disqus account, a Twitter account or a blog should also be entitled to accreditation. Just because he has a website and followers does not entitle him to any type of privileged access. Certainly, some standard of ethics and honesty should be a requirement to be accredited as a journalist. And unlike print or broadcast where he has benn called to account before, there is no standards council to hold him to any public accountability for his online ramblings, other than the civil courts. And he hasn’t fared well there in the category of “truthiness”.

    • John,

      clearly you haven’t been paying attention. Levant was once the publisher of the Western Standard magazine, he had a show on Sun TV, and he is a regular contributer to other publications. He and Mark Steyn are responsible for the elimination of Sect 13 from the Human Rights commission.

      He isn’t just some dude in his mom’s basement. He has a large following, and the two-faced liars he goes after in the political sphere fear him. that is why they have always tried to silence him.

      Levant is more of a reporter and journalists than anyone you could find at Macleans or the Toronto Star…..or the CBC for that matter.

      • “Levant is more of a reporter and journalists than anyone you could find at Macleans or the Toronto Star…..or the CBC for that matter.”

        Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha! Ezra Levant is no more a reporter or a journalist than my cat is. Having a following, an opinion &/or a forum to push that opinion does not make anyone a journalist.
        And if this was about someone on the other end of the political spectrum I suspect your response would be completely different.

        • It really doesn’t matter what you call him because apparently there is no journalist accreditation required at the Alberta Legislature and should one become required, Levant would have no problem getting accredited given his experience. Were you to look around and dig into the past schooling of many prominent journalists, you might that many never actually graduated with a journalism degree. Many have English degrees. Some have political science degrees. Some are just really good writers and fell into it. Some might have gone to school but didn’t actually graduate. How are they going to keep him out? He is more well known then a great majority of he active newspaper people in Canada?

    • The Alberta Legislature Press Gallery supports Levant’s cause. Are you suggesting that the group that represents journalists, and is made up primarily of journalists, is wrong?

  7. Rachel Notley doesn’t understand you are not supposed to use government resources and tax payers money to promote your own personal preferences or deny your personal dislikes. The point is she is making this personal and not being professional. This is an abuse of power. You don’t have to like Ezra or agree with his view point but it is always good to be aware viewpoints outside of your own and he does tend to cover issues that other media seem to be suspiciously silent about.

  8. The NĎP is a plague on Albertans.
    One that killed my job with its eco dream…

    Friggen sickening , the PC party pi$$ ed off a lot of peple yup.

    I hope Rebel media sues the britches off her and her cronies.

    You should do the rite thing AND CALL AN ELECTION NOW

  9. There was a time when the MSM kept governments honest and accountable rather than being their cheerleaders. Rebel Media is doing what the MSM should be doing!

  10. All reporting on this seems to be about Levant.
    1. this is about freedom of speech and freedom of the press, I don’t have to agree with a journalist to support their right to report.
    2. The individual banned from the legislature news conference was Sheila Gunn Reid, who currently has the best selling book in Canada
    3. The Alberta press gallery says both individuals that the Premier banned are journalists
    4. The government has not only banned these individuals from the legislature, they actually had them removed from the common area of a Calgary hotel.
    Democracy demands the public of all stripes stand against tyranny.

  11. Not sure if this comment will be acceptable to the Macleans usual bias to non-urbanites because I am one of those, ex-miltary; small business owners the Liberal Governments expect to administer the many regulations the Government of Ontario establishes to buy votes.

    Anyway, I do use the Macleans “Silly Words” such as Freedom and Liberty in my social media. I also do not quickly lay off our employees and absorb losses well into the six-figure level when the Politicians once again screw up the marketplace.

    If the self-serving JournOlists at Macleans did their job when the Prime Minister of Canada and a similarly minded Premier have a News Conference then the NEED for the Rebel would not be so important at such News Conferences.

  12. This is just another example of why the NDP government in Alberta will never be elected again. The blunders and stupid mistakes that are the hallmark of this government just never seem to stop. Notley has quickly become one of the most hated politicians in Alberta’s history and her party are considered to be the enemy of the people of Alberta. And that’s just after a few months in power! Now they come along and pull this stunt and no matter what they say about it from this point on, Albertans know that this is nothing more then a cheap sleazy attack on its critics. Rebel Media has been a godsend for many people across Canada for its gutsy stand on issues that the mainstream media refuse to cover.

  13. Should not the other media outlets be stepping in to fight this fight as well? If they condone this censorship of one media outlet, and it goes unchallenged by them, they will have no moral standing to complain when it is done to them at some time in the future. This is a precedence that can not be allowed to be set, yet it is being set right now. Aided by their silence. Their silence is making them complicit in creating an allowable level of censorship of media, when it does not favor a government. This means YOU Maclean’s! You should be deeply involved in this fight, but you’re not. For that failure to step up and do the right thing, you have proven that you do not deserve Canadians respect, nor do you deserve to call yourselves “journalists”! Shame on all of you!

    • The sad thing is, about 10 years ago Macleans was willing to defend free speech when they supported Steyn in his human rights case against the four Muslims who claimed hate speech in a Macleans reprint from a chapter of Steyn’s book, which merely pointed out that demographics in the Muslim world would soon overwhelmed Western democracies. And guess what Steyn was right, and thank god he and Maclean’s took on the human rights commissions. But it will be a long, long time before we see Maclean’s undertake such effort again.

  14. Eighty nine ($89) USD an hour! Seriously I don’t know why more people haven’t tried this, I work two shifts, 2 hours in the day and 2 in the evening…And i get surly a chek of 12600 USD whats awesome is Im working from home so I get more time with my kids……………………………….. w­­­­­w­­­­w.Income-Join.Com

  15. First things first. Rebel Media, no matter how odious Ezra and his band of “rebels” choose to be, are the media. They are journalists. As awful their slant is on things, if you look at their website, they absolutely believe they’re conducting a form of journalism, as slanted and stupid as it is. To borrow from George Costanza, if you believe your lie is true, then it’s not a lie. If those bozos believe they’re journalists, then they are. Bless their hearts.

    That means they probably deserve media credentials to various government budget lockups and events. And it also means they shouldn’t be kicked out of events that they’ve already been credentialed for. The NDP government was wrong on both counts, but I’m not convinced that the previous Tory government(s) wouldn’t have done the same thing.

    Now … all of that said … it’s also incumbent on Rebel Media to act like a credentialed member of the media. That means less about the slant of their coverage and more about how they conduct themselves at events. Basically, it means you act like a professional adult and not some kind of sophomoric moron who’s only there to act like the proverbial fecal-matter-in-the-punchbowl.

    I saw a selfie photo on Twitter recently of a Rebel reporter/journalist/columnist/whatever-she’s-calling-herself holding her nose while, in the background, you could see Alberta’s agriculture minister speaking at a podium about Bill 6, the controversial legislation aimed at moving Alberta’s farm safety laws away from 19th-century England and closer to 21st-century Canada. Her tweet was something cheeky, along the lines of, “this is what it’s like to be in the same room with the Agriculture minister while he’s speaking.”

    That’s just excellent reportage right there (INSERT SARCASTIC TONE HERE). If I’m not mistaken, it was the same “reporter” who tried to enter the room this time around, too, even though her co-worker (or co-rebel, or whatever-they-call-themselves) was already in the room, presumably with proper credentials.

    But that’s all in the eye of the beholder, obviously. Online news outlets have as much right to slant as the printed or broadcast ones. That’s where things are headed in the “new media.”

    Ask any NHL team and I’m sure they’ll tell you that one of the biggest challenges at the start of each year is figuring out who should get a press pass and who shouldn’t. There are all kinds of fan sites and blog sites that are applying for full press access to NHL games and I’m pretty sure they’re not all getting them. But the NHL can make that call, unilaterally. They’re a private business, not government.

    And … if news-printed-on-dead-trees is going the way of the passenger-pigeon, then we all have accept the fact that crowd-funded vanity websites operated by bloviating buffoons like Levant are as much a part of the “new media” as anyone else is.

    I’m glad the government has changed its position on The Rebel, but next time one of its members is in a government lockup, I’d suggest the government members hold their noses.

    • I used to watch the left leaning CBC and then turn to Ezra on Fox to get the other side of the story which the CBC had neglected to report. Ezra was no more biased than Mansbridge. So anyone who thinks Ezra is not a journalist and is an idiot, hopefully feel the same way about Mansbridge.
      Ezra was truly a breath of fresh are in a generally leftist biased media.

  16. The extent to which Premier Rach has exceeded expectations she and her government will botch everything is truly mind boggling. Invoking a “guilt by association” mentality to ban anyone associated with her government’s highest profile detractor from quasi-public events held on public property is sand-poundingly stupid. Does anyone doubt the positive publicity thus generated or Ezra Levant is thousands of times greater than the harm Notley’s crew would have suffered by an impolite Rebel tweet or two, had his cohort been allowed to watch Notley and Trudeau kiss each other’s butts or sit through the Seinfeldian “royalty review about nothing”? Heads should roll to demonstrate Rach’s leadership in protecting freedom of speech, because that worked so well with climate change and pipelines.

  17. Its time for an article on how the wild rose invites MLA’a to cross the floor. If as an elected official you feel there is an obligation for the elected government to honor the Charter of Rights and Freedoms cross the floor and represent the interests of the people.
    There is a non confidence petition in the works now on change.org, perhaps if Notley is confident she has the right to squash the charter she should call another election to see if people believe this

  18. I wonder if it had been a Macleans reporter who was banned if the terminology would have been a “martyr” ?

  19. Rachel Notley and Canada have recently caused me to become more pessimistic about the intelligence of human beings and I thought that I couldn’t possibly be more negative about the intelligence of the average human being. I really didn’t think that Canadians would vote in Trudeau to lead a majority government, I thought common sense would prevail and that it would take more than promising ‘small deficits’ to whoo voters. Boy was I wrong about that. I was even more wrong about Rachel Notley, however, I honestly thought she was intelligent that she was an Albertan first and would realize that her and her party were swept into power due to Conservative bungling not because Alberta suddenly wanted to go socialist. But apparently, she really did think that everyone in Alberta wanted a socialist regime in power that would be unaccountable to no one and, consequently, it will be at least another 50 years before we ever see another NDP government ruling in Alberta. As a former Manitoban now living in B.C. I have lived for too many years under the socialist regime mentality of NDP thinking, it was one of the reasons I decided to leave. Rachel and Justin have done wonders for my skepticism and quickly deteriorating respect for people in power and just how utterly clueless they can truly be and yet still be elected.

  20. Ezra LeRant is just an uglier version of Ann Coulter. Are there any pictures of this braying donkey with his mouth closed?

    • Have you looked in the mirror lately – you might just be the perfect example