Rebel Media’s meltdown and the politics of hate
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/08/2017 (1935 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Somewhat lost in the mayhem this past week surrounding United States President Donald Trump’s grotesque flirtations with white supremacists and neo-Nazis was a modest, related uprising in Canada.
In the space of just a few days, the Rebel Media, a far-right website founded two years ago out of the ashes of the short-lived Sun News Network, has imploded under the weight of its own foolish attempts to find sense in the blatantly nonsensical “alt-right” movement.
The implosion began Monday, when Brian Lilley — a conservative broadcaster of some notoriety and co-founder of the Rebel — suddenly resigned. In a Facebook post, Lilley said he made his difficult decision because, in its coverage of the events in Charlottesville, Va., the Rebel had become far too sympathetic to the goals of U.S. white nationalists.
Although Charlottesville prompted his resignation, Lilley was only reacting to something that had been building for some time. In its relatively brief lifespan, the Rebel demonstrated an increasing willingness to defend the ideas expressed in the farthest-right niches of this and other countries. That willingness and sympathy was never more clear than it was in the aftermath of Charlottesville, a “unite the right” protest that was punctuated by a self-styled Nazi sympathizer driving his car into a crowd of opposing demonstrators, killing a 32-year-old woman and seriously injuring many more.
At the epicentre of Lilley’s concern was correspondent Faith Goldy, one of this country’s most notorious right-wing commentators.
An articulate and charismatic media personality with a penchant for dancing the thin line between rational and irrational, Goldy reported from Charlottesville first-hand. In the course of her dispatches, Goldy argued the events in Charlottesville were evidence of a “rising white racial consciousness” that was going to change the political landscape in America. She also went to great lengths to laud the 20-point “meta-political manifesto” composed by white nationalist leader Richard Spencer, a document that included calls to organize states along ethnic and racial divides and celebrates the superiority of “White America.” Goldy described Spencer’s manifesto as “robust” and “well thought-out.”
After she was summarily eviscerated on social media for expressing sympathy for Spencer and the other white supremacists, she posted a video rebuttal on the same Monday that Lilley announced his resignation.
Goldy’s forceful defence and the opinions she expressed about the issues that motivated the organizers should be required viewing for anyone looking for insight into the long-term goals of the white nationalist movement: transforming the unambiguous hatred that motivates the alt-right and the white nationalist movement into something that resembles rational political debate.
In the opening moments of her video, Goldy denied the suggestion that just because she sympathizes with some of what the Charlottesville organizers have said, she is a white supremacist, a racist, or a neo-Nazi. At the same time, however, Goldy conceded she “does not bathe in the guilt of white tears” and that she is an opponent of “state multiculturalism” and “cultural Marxism,” all terms that fall easily into the lexicon of white nationalism. And she made an appearance in a podcast broadcast by the Daily Stormer, a notorious and unabashed neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic and white supremacist website.
Goldy is hardly alone in her work to legitimize white extremism. The campaign to sell hate as a political movement is present in the articulate rantings of Spencer, the tweets written by former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard David Duke and in Trump’s ill-conceived efforts to defend all of them.
All last week, Trump attempted to assign blame, with his frequent references to “many sides,” to the violent counter-demonstrators who came to Charlottesville to confront the racist protesters. He also repeatedly attempted to get the public to buy into the fiction that there are rational moderates operating behind the grotesque facades of organizations that are, objectively, all about hatred.
Not everyone protesting in Charlottesville was a white supremacist, Trump argued, implying along with Goldy that some of those who campaign for white supremacy — and all that it implies — should be considered crusading politicians and not criminals.
The fact that Trump, Goldy and the organizers of the Charlottesville protest choose to wrap themselves in more elegant terms such as “white consciousness” does not change who they are or what they represent. It certainly does not give them the right to call themselves a political movement.
Now, back to Canada and the self-destruction we are witnessing at the Rebel. It’s important to remember that although Goldy and other Rebel commentators are obsessed with the activities of the alt-right in the U.S., the underlying sentiments that drive that movement are alive and well in Canada.
That does not mean the Canadian cousins to the alt-right personalities are comfortable with the relationship. Ezra Levant, co-founder of the Rebel along with Lilley, has been working overtime to distance himself from the alt-right. He fired Goldy three days after her video rebuttal, fearing she had created the misconception that the Rebel was in league with the Charlottesville Unite the Right organizers.
Like Goldy, Levant posted a video explaining why the Rebel is not an online collection of white nationalist sympathizers. However, like Goldy, the more Levant talked, the more he made it clear that while he might reject alt-right tactics, he is more than a little sympathetic to alt-right ideas.
In his video, he also tried to equate the violence of the alt-left and its flagship movement, Antifa, as the equivalent of the alt-right movement, describing Charlottesville as a clash between “two extremist street gangs.” He claimed that leftist “agents provocateur” had likely infiltrated Charlottesville with Nazi flags and paraphernalia to discredit the Unite the Right march and that it was the violence perpetrated by leftists and its flagship group, Antifa, that had cultivated broader support for the alt-right.
In one of his final definitive statements, Levant theorized that the gross majority of the supporters of Black Lives Matter, a movement sparked by incidents involving police shootings of unarmed black suspects, are actually white. And that BLM was really the “mirror image” of the alt-right.
It’s not surprising that after Levant posted his video, the Rebel continued to disintegrate. Prominent contributors have jumped ship, conservative politicians are publicly denouncing the site and vowing never to appear as guests again, and corporate advertisers are scurrying to end their support.
While it still breathes, the great value of the Rebel is to remind Canadians that although we have not witnessed a tragic event like Charlottesville, we still boast some of the same kinds of people with the same kinds of twisted thoughts.
Yes, the agents of hate, ignorance and intolerance are alive and well and posting videos right here at home.
Born and raised in and around Toronto, Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school with a lifelong dream to be a newspaper reporter.