Review: SUN TV News’ “The Source” with Ezra Levant
April 19, 2011 by Paul McKeever
Technically, SUN TV News launched today at 4:30 PM (EST) with a profile of its various shows, but it truly took off at 5:00 PM with the first episode of “The Source”, featuring host Ezra Levant. I have to admit it: my expectations for Levant’s show were pessimistic.
In 2008, I wrote a column for The Western Standard’s blog – Levant had sold The Western Standard by that time – titled “Freedom Requires a Better Defence“. The central argument was that Levant’s arguments in favour of freedom were so poor as to leave the undecided thinking that freedom is not defensible. Imagine my horror upon hearing Levant explain, during SUN TV’s 4:30 PM programming profile, that “The Source” would be all “about freedom”. It was a horror that compelled me to watch episode 1 of “The Source”, if only to gauge how badly Levant’s show would undermine the cause of individual freedom.
Strategically, the show had its rough aspects – surely Levant can make better use of his biting wit than to stand in front of the camera for the first 30 or 40 or minutes delivering lectures on various topics (see suggestion below) – but I am happy to report that, in episode 1 of his show, Levant delivered impressively.
For example, the CBC website has an online questionnaire called the “Vote Compass“. One answers 30 questions on a scale of 1 to 5, and – in the end – is told which political party one is best aligned with. Levant demonstrated – live, before the viewers’ eyes – that default alignment is: Liberal Party of Canada. In a deliciously scandalous demonstration, Levant gave the “no opinion” answer to every single question in the survey, yet the “compass” declared him to be most closely aligned with the Liberals (and – surprise [not] – least well aligned with the Liberals’ most troublesome competition in this election, the NDP). Either the survey is telling us that Liberals are vacuous, or the poll is – as Levant concludes – nothing but a tool to promote the Liberals. And, as Levant helpfully pointed out, the survey was developed by a former Michael Ignatieff team member.
In another segment, Levant took on the CRTC, arguing essentially that it should have no power to censor. Immediately thereafter, he did a segment practically designed to invite trouble from the CRTC: a segment in which he showed all of the Danish Mohammad cartoons the republication of which famously got him into trouble with the Alberta Human Rights Commission a few years back. Levant, it appears, is itching for another fight and, if the CRTC doesn’t take the bait, it will only embolden Levant. The coming days and weeks should be interesting.
That said, Levant did not rest on his cartoon laurels. In a segment impressively titled something akin to “Are You a Maker or a Taker?”, Levant laid out disturbing statistics concerning the proportion of Canada’s employees who work for an employer that takes for a living (the government) versus those who make for a living (the producers in the private sector). Levant – like too few others – apparently recognizes that one is defined and valued not by whom one chooses to include as good company, but by whom one excludes. My bet: the excluded takers will be among Levant’s most regular viewers (see the example of Howard Stern’s prudish listeners).
What is truly commendable is the fact that SUN TV allowed Levant so blatantly to take on the CRTC, to republish – again – the Mohammad cartoons, and to call the bigger part of Canada’s employed viewers “takers”. Hopefully, SUN TV is not giving Levant such rope on a temporary basis. SUN TV’s value to freedom-loving Canadians and to the freedom and future of Canada – not to mention its value to advertisers seeking an actual audience – in the medium to long term will be wholly dependent upon allowing Levant and others to shine light on the dark and smelly corners in which Canada’s moochers and looters – Canada’s takers – can be found gnawing on the bones of their victims.
What I’ve written above might appear a bit one-sided and optimistic. However, I stand by it because of the truly unusual, truly courageous editorial policy SUN TV News clearly is taking from the outset. Moreover, it is noteworthy that there did not appear to be even a smidgen of pro-Conservative (big-C) propaganda in Levant’s show. It was – perhaps deliberately – non partisan. Levant’s focus was not the who, but the what. That, alone, inspires great optimism.
My pessimism about Levant’s show is not entirely discharged, however. One stylistic aspect of the show was the display of a quotation shown just before each commercial break, each quotation appearing in a box labelled with one word: “FREEDOM”. There was a good quotation (which I don’t recall) from Einstein, but the quotation that both surprised and worried me was nothing other than the John Galt oath that appears in Ayn Rand’s celebrated novel, Atlas Shrugged: “I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” I experienced surprise (and a bit of hopefulness) at seeing that quotation made in a mainstream political broadcast – made with reverence rather than with ridicule. That quotation contains, in a nutshell, Ayn Rand’s ethical philosophy: rational egoism. Yet the prevailing ethics in all of Canadian society – and in all of Canadian broadcasting – is the opposite: altruism; the holding up of sacrificing-of-oneself-for-others as the highest moral value and purpose. Altruism is also the prevailing ethics of the conservative movement, much of which holds self-sacrificial Judeo-Christian ethics in high regard. Hence my worry. If SUN TV – and Levant – are to be the voice of conservativism on Canadian TV, there is a risk that Rand and her ethical philosophy – which, in my view, is the necessary foundation for continuing individual freedom – will be misrepresented or misunderstood as being in some way conservative; that her fame and the reverence many hold for her and her philosophy will be used to attract people to conservativism.
In point of fact, Rand was anti-altruist, anti-conservative, and atheistic. For example, her rational egoism runs diametrically opposed to the notion that socialist medicine – which Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives imposed on Ontario, and which both federal and provincial Conservatives regularly vow to defend and fund – is moral. It runs against the typical conservative, anti-liberty, “war on drugs” or “anti-drug strategy” championed by the god-fearing, bible-thumping conservatives who are hell bent on handing a peaceful cannabis seed seller like Canadian Marc Emery over to the U.S.A. to rot in a prison, away from the eyes and memories of sympathetic Canadians. It runs contrary to the human rights codes, income taxes, retail sales taxes, rent controls, and Sunday shopping bans et cetera that have been introduced by Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives and by other conservatives, for decades, in this country. Why would a self-styled “conservative” like Levant want to demonstrate such reverence for the core of Rand’s ethical philosophy in the context of praising freedom? One hopes that it is conservativism’s soapbox that is being used.
I close with a suggestion. The USA’s Rush Limbaugh used to have a television program that aired in the early morning, even in Canada. One of its central and most entertaining aspects was ridicule: ridicule of all things false and leftist, including efforts by the mainstream media to whitewash the Democrats and then-President Bill Clinton. I remember, as one example, a bit in which Bill Clinton was shown telling the cameras that he wanted his privacy for a few minutes. He was on the beach in France (was it Normandy?). In the mainstream news, Clinton was portrayed as thereafter having been “caught” laying a rose on a grave near the beach (or some such thing). The mainstream media portrayed this allegedly private, allegedly deeply personal, alledgely unscripted event as something the taping of which Clinton was unaware. Rush blew a hole in the bullshit by turning one of his cameras upon perhaps 50 to 100 mainstream newsmedia cameras positioned only tens of feet away from Clinton. Limbaugh exposed the fact that there was nothing private, deeply personal, or unscripted about the event. He demonstrated that the whole thing was political theatre – in effect, pro-Democrat propaganda – and that there had been a conspiracy among the mainstream media to falsely portray the event as though it were some kind of unexpected paparazzi moment. The value, to the public, was extraordinary. I highly recommend that – to break-up the monotony of Ezra’s 1/2 hour opening rant – SUN TV spring for a videographer to follow the party leaders/government leaders around, to shed light on the truth when CTV, CBC, and Global conspire not to let reality get in the way of good fiction-telling. When the others are doing what is tantamount to covering up for the fact that Roosevelt could not stand unaided, show the ‘crutches’. The truth will set us set us free…and it may well pay off, for SUN TV.