Knowing the people, I doubt it, but how can we account for the hatchet job on Ezra Levant?
A while back in this space I ran an article on what is in fact a journalistic mystery — the decision of the National Post to devote five of its news pages to what it described as the rise and fall of Ezra Levant and his news medium, The Rebel. Neither has actually fallen, though the Post obviously expects them to do so momentarily.
Two things fascinated me. One was the extraordinary length of the story — about 10,000 words. Even the Post‘s founder, the voluble Conrad Black, rarely exceeds 3,000, but he invariably holds your interest. This thing doesn’t. Getting through it all is hard work. So running it regardless must represent a top management decision. It must have been policy, big-time policy!
Second, and far more significantly, although Ezra is vulnerable to attack on many fronts, the one singled out for dominant attention was his vigorous opposition to Islam and the jihadic terrorism it increasingly generates. The author invented a term to describe it — “counter-jihadism”– a new nominee for the Left’s boundless inventory of shiboleths, nearly always undefined. In the article Ezra is again and again portrayed as a leading counter-jihadist. But what exactly is counter-jihadism?
Think about that term. To counter something (says Oxford) means to “oppose, dispute, argue with, contradict, controvert, negate, challenge, or contest.” Now all of the people I know. without exception, would use any or all of these words to express what they think of, and how they would respond to jihadism. Maybe it’s peculiar to the crowd I run with, but I do know and like many Leftist people, all of whom would “oppose, dispute, argue with, contradict, controvert, negate, challenge, or contest” jihadism. One may validly conclude, surely, that in his counter-jihadism Ezra aligns himself with most of the country.
And where, one may ask, are Canada’s pro-jihadists? Those would be the people who presumably admire and applaud deliberately running over women and children on the street. blowing up crowds in shopping malls, cutting the heads off unarmed military personnel, and making sex slaves of all attainable “infidel” women, always in the name of Allah. It is not, thank heaven, a large constituency.
So the question needs to be asked: Why would the National Post, unfailing supporter of Israel, choose to attack Ezra Levant on the specific grounds that he is the sharpest opponent of jihadism (and therefore friend of Israel) in the Canadian media? What’s going on? Is Arab oil money finding its way into the Canadian print journalism, now desperate for funding? I don’t think it is, because I know some of the people involved and I can’t believe they’d be party to such a thing. But then how do we account for the extraordinary implications of this bizarre story?
A kind of postscript to it then took place. Kerry Diotte, ex-journalist, former staff member of Alberta Report newsmagazine, and now Member of Parliament for Edmonton Griesbach, republished my earlier comment on this National Post story on his website. In response to this, Mr. Diotte received the following letter:
The real issue here is the weak thesis by Ted Byfield, which is really an old trick he has used in columns for decades. He takes one term out of a 10,000-word piece in the Post – counter-jihadism – and bases his entire argument on why the Post writer would be against this. It is an entirely false premise, totally ignoring the other 9,998 words which outline other broader issues, like Islamophobia and anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim diatribes, and uncomfortable coziness with white supremacists. That is what triggered the Rebel staff departures, not whether contributors were “counter-jihadists.” But cartoon-like arguments like that perhaps explain why some of these conservative publications continue to fold.
The letter was signed by Ashley Geddes, another graduate of Alberta Report, who has since (alas) flowered as a senior production editor for CBC in Alberta. The stress on Ezra’s “counter jihadism” in the article was my invention, he writes. It as all based on “two words” out of the 10,000 in the article. The term actually appears 10 times in the article, five of them in its opening page. To wit:
- “Under Levant, The Rebel has become a global platform for an extreme anti-Muslim ideology, known as counter-jihad…”
- Levant says he has never used the term counter-jihad himself…”
- The Rebel has posted regular interviews with many of the seminal figures of counter-jihad…”
- “The fight over Bill 103 only really makes sense when seen through th lens of the counter-jihad…”
- “If you believe, as the counter-jihads do in a vast global conspiracy by Muslims to undermine th western way of life…
Then farther on we get:
- “The idea that Europe has fallen, and that North America may be next, is central to counter-jihadism.”
- “Counter-jihad blogs and thinkers are obsessed with stories
of Muslim-dominated no-go zones in European cities.”
- “In his address, Levant spoke to another key tenet of the counter-jihad: the belief that Islam is not a race, or even a religion, but an ideology open to attack.”
- “Victor Laszlo (a commentator on The Rebel) links to stories of Muslim depravity and interviews with counter-jihad thinkers… Most days he posts either the top-five or top-ten stories of the counter-jihad, and links to pieces about the supposed Muslim invasion of the western world.”
- Flamenco guitarist James Cohen is as close to a prominent figure as there is in the Canadian counter-jihad.
Given the evidence above, taken directly out of the article, I don’t think I can be justly accused of taking one reference and manufacturing it into a case against the whole article. Since the reference to counter-jihadism opens the article, fills most of its initial page and returns to it eight times in the ensuing criticism of Ezra,. I would say that this represents something more than two words taken out of ten thousand.
But then at first I didn’t want to blame the letter-writer either. I thought he must be a graduate of our new schools. Since he learned language through word recognition, he couldn’t actually read, and since he had been taught “the new maths” he couldn’t count, so how could you blame the letter writer?
Then I discovered it was Geddes, our own Geddes. What happened to him? It must be the influence of television. Such a shame. He read the National Post piece, all right. But as he more or less admits in his letter, it didn’t say what he wanted it to say — about white supremacy and all that. Too bad. What can you do with “counter – jihadism,” when everybody’s counter-jihadist?
Anyway, I think Geddes owes me. I already had to read the whole 10,000 words once. Then he writes his letter to Diotte, and I have to read them all again to prove him wrong, which I did. I’ll be 90 years old next year, a really old man. I’m thinking of laying a charge against him. Elder abuse. Or maybe I’ll just settle for a drink.
Ted Byfield was founder and publisher of Alberta Report news magazine, general editor of Alberta in the Twentieth Century. a 12-volume history of the province, and general editor of The Christians: Their First Two Thousand Years, a 12-volume history of Christianity. His column on education appears in The Christians.com, a web journal. He has recently authored two little books on modern pedagogy: Why History Matters and The Revolution Nobody Covered. You can order both copies here.