Brian Mason, a top NDP cabinet minister, blasted the United Conservative Party Thursday for snuggling up to Rebel Media. The two main leadership candidates, Brian Jean and Jason Kenney, responded by fleeing Ezra Levant’s alt-right outfit at light speed.
At the same time, they reviled Mason for suggesting they had any link at all with the outfit that last weekend sympathized with the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Va., even as a young woman was killed by a car.
But the UCP doesn’t get off that easily.
It’s true that both Kenney and Jean have lately decided not to appear on Rebel shows.
Kenney slammed Rebel-inspired demonstrators for chanting “Lock her up,” referring to Premier Rachel Notley.
Levant savaged him for that. Kenney was aggrieved. Now he should be grateful for anything that puts distance between himself and The Rebel.
But Jean and Kenney have usually been friendly with Levant and Rebel Media. Hamish Marshall, Jean’s leadership campaign manager, was on the Rebel’s board until recently.
The fact is, Levant has been very useful. He’s relentless in tearing down the provincial NDP and federal Liberals, often with brutal language conventional politicians can’t use (not yet, anyway).
By amping up hostility so intense that Notley faced death threats, Levant probably helped the conservative unity drive.
Rebel Media has always pandered to fears and alarmism, but it worsened over time, changing from outspoken criticism of political correctness to radical hatred of Muslims, refugees, and just about everyone else who isn’t a white Christian conservative.
It’s a curiosity for sure that Levant is Jewish, declares it proudly, and yet dismissed as comedy one Rebel correspondent’s rant called “Ten things I hate about Jews.”
Rationality is not the best tool for explaining The Rebel.
The pure hatred has escalated. Hearing that 2,000 migrants have died in the Mediterranean Sea this year, a correspondent said, “Good — here’s to 2,000 more.”
On that Virginia weekend, it all snapped.
Video showed how blindly racist and anti-Semitic those demonstrators are. It was some of the vilest stuff to appear on U.S. TV in many years, and that’s saying a lot.
“Jews will not replace us,” they chanted. One white supremacist said he didn’t know how President Donald Trump could stand to see his “beautiful daughter” with “that bastard,” her Jewish husband.
The same crazed zealot said the woman who was killed, Heather Heyer, caused the attack.
The Rebel got caught up in this, disastrously. Correspondents appeared to be all in with the neo-Nazis and the growing pro-Confederacy movement in the U.S. (Is it coincidence that the most popular southern newspaper during the Civil War was called The Rebel?)
Correspondent Faith Goldy praised the “alt-right” demonstrators, and baited or insulted counter-protesters. Her camera then caught the car plowing through the crowd. On Thursday, she was fired.
After the weekend, Rebel co-founder Brian Lilley quit, along with other contributors.
A fired London correspondent also accused Levant of misusing donated funds. Levant denied this Thursday and said he was being blackmailed.
Lilley said The Rebel’s editorial stance would destroy it. Levant immediately wrote a memo to staff saying he would no longer employ the term alt-right.
Levant said he rejects the racist worldview of the Nazi symbolism on display. “That’s not conservatism, that’s just racism,” he wrote.
Knowing Levant slightly, I do believe that’s his personal view. But he has played his own role in all this.
His correspondents became agitators rather than reporters. He constantly inflamed the kind of people who are drawn to extremist ideology.
And some Alberta conservative politicians, desperate to destroy the NDP, found Levant’s tactics useful.
As Mason suggested, the one good thing about Virginia is that it forces a clear choice on people. You’re either with the neo-Nazis and white supremacists or you’re not. And if you are, you will be part of a very small minority.
Jean and Kenney both repudiate this hateful ideology. When they saw trouble coming, they parted ways with The Rebel.
But some conservatives got their hands dirty for tawdry political reasons. The Rebel was their useful surrogate, their battering ram. They chose to flirt with deepening darkness.
They should stop that, forever.
Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Herald