The Rebel was founded in February of 2015 by former Sun News Host and lawyer Ezra Levant. Largely crowd funded, the ultra-conservative “news source” has skyrocketed in website rankings, rated the 452nd most popular website in Canada by Alexa, sitting comfortably ahead of mainstream magazine Macleans. At its core, The Rebel appears to be very promising. Levant initially brought along his former Sun News colleagues Marissa Semkiw and Brian Lilley. He added Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes and anti-feminist 2015 Langley-Aldergrove Libertarian Party candidate Lauren Southern to the lineup, and later brought in social media queen Sheila Gunn Reid. The idea of The Rebel in itself is a good one: offer a right wing alternative to the leftist mainstream media. Despite a strong central cast, the execution of this idea has not been nearly as good as the idea itself.
One of the major complaints that people made about Sun News, and one that likely led to its demise, was that it was a relative echo chamber. Outside of now-CTF Alberta Director Paige MacPherson, the often loony Michael Coren and Tarek Fatah’s occasional outbursts, the Sun News cast typically just sang a unison chorus of identical views over and over again, driving away even some of the most staunch conservatives. The Rebel has taken this to new highs. The Rebel is an echo chamber to the extent that it has made the CBC appear to be a bastion of balanced broadcasting. Without dissenting voices to measure both sides of any debate, The Rebel will never win over anyone who isn’t on the right side of the political spectrum, and has also managed to drive away many on the center-right who initially supported it. Yes, the website’s popularity has continued to grow, but that comes more from its increasing visibility and funding than from continued support from existing viewers.
One of the features of The Rebel is its Megaphone blog. Writers are selected by The Rebel to be featured on its website and promoted on its social media. While some of these writers offer a sensible point of view and some fairly strong material, it seems that many of these writers were chosen simply for their connections to members of the central cast rather than their writing abilities. This has turned a feature with potential into a relative embarrassment, with poor quality writing and some fairly wacky viewpoints. Quite frankly, it’s a piss poor excuse for journalism. During one election time article, one of the Megaphone writers exclaimed that a poll he conducted concluded that Stephen Harper would win a majority on October 19th. His method? He asked a small group of drunk people in a bar. Why any media outlet with even a semblance of journalistic integrity would allow this to pass as an article is simply inexplicable. One member of the Megaphone cast is ultra-conservative elitist Dean Skoreyko. Skoreyko is the kind of person that only a mother could love. He’s intolerant, egotistical and on the whole, he’s an extremist. When this writer disagreed with Skoreyko on Skoreyko’s belief that the Conservative Party would be better served by maintaining a nasty demeanor rather than shifting to more positive, policy-based messaging, Skoreyko had a childish outburst and blocked anyone who retweeted or favorited the dissenting tweets. Having someone like this on their roster erases whatever credibility the abundance of atrocious writing hasn’t already taken away from The Megaphone. When seeking balanced, well-written political content by Average Joe authors, I’d advise readers to check out our great roster over at The Libertarian Republic rather than waste their time on The Megaphone.
At the core of all the problems with The Rebel is Levant himself. Don’t get me wrong. I like Ezra Levant. He often asks the questions and states the facts that mainstream media refuses to report. However, Levant also holds some fairly extreme viewpoints, and he hurts his own credibility by expressing them. During the Alberta provincial election in May, Levant exclaimed that he would sooner support the NDP than the incumbent Progressive Conservatives. This is despite his personal advocacy for many policies that the PC’s themselves brought forward. Levant also has a penchant for needlessly attacking anyone in the media who disagrees with him on anything. Many credible journalists approach Levant as a parody, and that is of his own doing. Levant also has a habit of posting inappropriate content. After Macleans inexplicably published an issue displaying convicted terrorist Omar Khadr on its front page along with two women, Levant photoshopped the cover to make it appear as if Khadr had been holding a knife to one of the women’s throat. Levant has become increasingly intolerant of dissenting beliefs. That may be an effect of the echo chamber he’s created.
Conservatives have been given a bad rap by the media and the left wing of politics. We’ve been framed as racist, sexist, intolerant, bigoted, hateful, fearmongerers, etc. We aren’t any of those things. Well…most of us aren’t. UK Prime Minister David Cameron once said, “I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I’m a Conservative.” I think this sums up conservatism perfectly. The true core belief in conservatism is in acceptance and tolerance of individual beliefs. True conservatives believe in individual liberties above all else. Some might call this libertarianism. I think it’s simply conservatism. The Rebel goes against this in almost every way. Through being an echo chamber largely of intolerance and ultra-conservatism (which I do not believe is the same thing as true conservatism itself), The Rebel has become everything that’s wrong with conservatism, and has given the left more fuel for their fire in the left vs right debate.
If we’re going to have a conservative news source in Canada, we deserve better than this. There are some great people working with The Rebel. Marissa Semkiw and Brian Lilley have managed to bring professionalism to an outlet that has overall been anything but. Lauren Southern has a ton of potential as a young, well-spoken and fearless advocate for her causes. Ezra Levant himself has proven himself to be very effective in the past when he puts aside his desire to simply upset people. There is an opportunity for The Rebel to reform itself and become everything it has the potential to become. The decision to send this outlet in the right direction is Levant’s alone. Whether or not he will make that decision is not yet known, but he’s running out of time to reform The Rebel and win over the majority of Canadians.