In which contributing editor Mark Bourrie laments his fall from journalistic grace.
It’s been a long road to perdition. A year and a half ago, when Quebecor was recruiting for its new TV network, I was approached by Kory Teneycke, who was hunting for talent for what his critics called Fox News North. Teneycke used to be Stephen Harper’s director of communication. He’s a pretty bright guy, but about as cuddly as an icicle.
We had lunch in the Market. Sun News, he said, needed some research strength. I could come aboard, PhD in hand, and work on long investigative projects. But these would not be reports on government wrong-doing. They’d be targeted hatchet jobs on people like David Suzuki and other lefties.
We never got around to talking money or any of the other finer details. I heard him out, let him pay for lunch, and walked back to Parliament Hill convinced that the Sun network was commercially sketchy. If I took the job, it would be my last one. There would be no future in books, journalism, or academia if I went with these guys.
But I wished them well. Readers of this blog know that just under my skin, there’s a juvenile delinquent itching to get out. If the likes of Ezra Levant want to take the piss out of the smug downtown Toronto elites and old frauds like Suzuki, I’d be glad to watch.
And it was a bit fun to see, at first. But Sun TV quickly went from being wonderfully hokey to a network with a mission to take down anyone that got in its way ideologically and commercially. It morphed from something brash and populist to a tedious propaganda machine. As the months have gone by, the network has become a sort of parody of a news station — it’s like watching SCTV, but without the talent.
So a few months back when Sun TV’s Brian Lilley went after a friend of mine, Glen McGregor, in a commentary that mocked his recently-deceased mother, I’d had enough. I trashed the Sun TV gang on social media.
Last summer, my PhD thesis, translated into English, was published by a respected Canadian house. Reviews have been great, and the book made the Maclean’s best-seller list. Because the book has military overtones, there’s been some new media interest as Remembrance Day approaches.
My publicist booked me on Michael Coren’s show a couple of weeks ago. Last Wednesday, I got an e-mail saying the interview had been cancelled by Sun TV. It wasn’t Coren or Coren’s producer who made the decision. Someone higher up had killed the booking and banned me from Sun TV.
There are a few ironies here. I was supposed to go on Coren’s show to talk about the press censorship system in Canada in the Second World War. That’s the subject of my book, The Fog of War.
The Sun’s talking heads talk a good fight about censorship. Ezra Levant, the network’s big star, was investigated and questioned by officials of the Alberta Human Rights Commission for running cartoons of the Muslim prophet Mohammed cribbed from Danish newspapers. Levant has constantly criticised the commission for its outrageous and unwarranted action of following the law passed by the Conservative government of Alberta and investigating a complaint. To Levant and company, their boy was subjected to a horrendous abuse of the law. They neglected to report that the Human Rights Commission, after conducting its investigation, did not pursue the case.
Though the commission dismissed the complaint, Levant still milks this puppy as though he’s freshly-sprung from the Gulag.
I don’t care whether I’m ever on the Sun News Network. If hitting the trash TV circuit is the only way to peddle books, I’d rather flip burgers or greet people at Walmart.
But next time the people in the Sun’s stable bawl on TV about freedom of the press, feel free to laugh. Freedom of the press is not just for journalists, it’s also about the right of people to be heard in the media. But in Sun TV land, it’s not about freedom, fairness, or truth, it’s about loyally following the script that’s handed to you. So they can keep it. And they can stick it where the Sun don’t shine.