Day 6

Will Conservative leadership candidates cut ties with Rebel Media after Gavin McInnes' anti-Semitic rant?

This week, Rebel Media contributor Gavin McInnes let loose an anti-Semitic rant on his internet talk show. For months, several Conservative Party leadership candidates have cozied up to The Rebel. Now, writer and author Michael Coren says it's time for them to cut ties.
An attendee holds a homemade sign at the Rebel Media Freedom Rally in Toronto on February 15, 2017. (Torontoist/YouTube)

For months, several Conservative leadership candidates have been cozying up to Rebel Media, attending its events, advertising on its web site and, in some cases, echoing its views.

This week, candidate Chris Alexander decided it was time to cut ties, in the wake of a four-minute anti-Semetic rant from Internet talk show host and Rebel Media contributor Gavin McInness.

Michael Coren, a writer, author and one-time conservative provocateur himself, says it's time for the rest of the candidates to follow suit.

"What Gavin McInnes said was simply unacceptable," he tells Day 6 host Brent Bambury. "He can say those things. I believe in free speech. But he shouldn't be embraced by a public platform. I would plead with Kellie Leitch to come forward and say no more, nothing more to do with The Rebel."


The video

McInnes recorded the video while on a "fact-finding mission" to Israel with other Rebel Media contributors.

In it, McInnes says he is "becoming anti-Semitic," offers a partial defence of Holocaust deniers and trots out a well-worn myth about Jews being responsible for the Ukrainian Holodomor. Then, he moves on to the Treaty of Versailles.

The video is part of an episode of The Gavin McInnes Show, which is not affiliated with Rebel Media. Ezra Levant, who runs Rebel Media, tells Day 6 that McInnes will continue as a Rebel Media commentator, but that he doesn't stand by what McInnes said in the video.

Coren says that's "profoundly shocking." 


A former provocateur speaks up

Coren penned a scathing piece for The Walrus titled "The Rebel Hits a New Low."

Columnist and author Michael Coren considers outrage as "the currency of the new right". (Submitted by Michael Coren)

In it, he writes that "this is about more than just the ideological pathologies of one weird Canadian media company. It is about a warped new ideological arena where Zionists and creepy Nazi apologists are willing to overlook their differences in service to a common hateful cause."

Former Sun News Network host Ezra Levant founded The Rebel in February 2015. The Rebel broadcasts its content on its YouTube channel and website. (Canadian Press / Jeff McIntosh)

"I think we have a pretty civilized political debate — generally — in this country," Coren tells Day 6. "But I believe The Rebel has gone way beyond democratic Canadian conservatism."


A powerful constituency

Coren says he believes Conservative politicians have been reluctant to cut ties with Rebel Media because it has emerged as a powerful voice for people who feel their concerns aren't being met by mainstream politics.

"Let's not pretend this is a flimsy, unimportant media platform," he says. "I'd like to say it's not working, but I think it probably is working. There are people who, for whatever reason, feel disenfranchised. A lot of Canadian conservatives are followers and devotees of The Rebel. Outrage is the new currency of the new right." 

Coren also says that it's up to mainstream conservatives to take a stand, because opposition likely won't be effective coming from anywhere else. 

Chris Alexander, Kellie Leitch, Andrew Saxton and Erin O'Toole participate in a Conservative Party leadership debate at the Manning Centre conference, on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017 in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang)

"Yes, people on the liberal left are very angry. But I don't believe The Rebel and their people really care about that. We need the intelligent and informed right — the moderate right — to say this has gone much too far." 

So after a long journey through his own brand of rabble-rousing conservative political thought, Coren has emerged rededicated to the task of combating what he sees as extremist politics.

"The sewers will always breath," he says. "There will always be people who want to scream and shout, to live on anger and outrage. We can't do anything about that. We shouldn't want to. They're allowed to have those opinions. But to legitimise what is by nature illegitimate is a terrible political sin." 

To hear Brent Bambury's conversation with Michael Coren, download our podcast or click the 'Listen' button at the top of this page.