Ethnic Outbidding for White People: A Story About Populism in Canada Versus the United States – NYTimes

http://www.nytimes.com/newsletters/2017/08/23/the-interpreter?nlid=5411894

Not much new but good overview and reminder to NYTimes readers that we too have our dark side:

Breitbart News, the online news site often associated with the alt-right, has grown so powerful that when its former editor, Stephen K. Bannon, lost his White House job last week, it was widely assumed that Breitbart’s influence would only grow.

As this was happening, across the border in Canada, another right-wing media organization known as Rebel Media, which is often compared to Breitbart News, was imploding so severely it was seen as potentially auguring the implosion of Canadian right-wing populism itself.

The shift in Canada reveal something important about one of the biggest stories of the last year, events initially described as a “global populist wave.” Though the wave was later qualified down to just right-wing populism and just in Western countries, it increasingly looks even narrower than that.

The decline of Rebel Media, contrasted with the success of Breitbart, exemplifies something we’ve been saying for a while. The “populist wave” is actually quite specific to individual countries. And, most important, in each Western country where it appears, right-wing populism enjoys support among only about 15 to 25 percent of the population. (Those numbers are based vaguely on a 2016 study by the political scientists Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris.)

Whether that fractional support becomes an isolated fringe or a major political power comes down not to anything as fuzzy as culture or values, but to nuts-and-bolts political institutions.

It’s worth running through the sordid details of Rebel Media’s bad week. Faith Goldy, a correspondent, praised Charlottesville’s white nationalist marchers in a live video from the scene. Her video referenced “white racial consciousness” and the “JQ,” shorthand for the “Jewish question.”

A national backlash eventually led the site’s founder, Ezra Levant, to fire Ms. Goldy. But something had changed, maybe for good, with Rebel Media’s place in Canadian politics.

Conservative politicians openly denounced the organization. Andrew Scheer, the leader of the Conservative party, said he wouldn’t give Rebel Media any more interviews until it changed its “editorial direction.”

High-profile staffers and contributors quit. One, Caolan Robertson, released a video accusing Rebel Media of exploiting its supporters for donations it didn’t need. Mr. Robertson also accused Mr. Levant of offering him money to keep quiet. (Mr. Levant has accused Mr. Robertson of attempted blackmail.)

But Canadian journalists see broader forces at work. Jonathan Kay, in an article for The Walrus, wrote that Rebel Media failed in its mission to become the American Fox News or Breitbart because, in Canada, “structural barriers make the creation of this kind of conservative ecosystem impossible.”

Americans generally understand that politics work a bit differently in Canada, but wrongly assume Canadians are simply predisposed to be more liberal. In fact, those “structural barriers” against right-wing populism are more technical, and less particular to Canada, than you might think.

Amanda explained those structural barriers in an in-depth article this summer. The short version: Canadian politicians and civil society groups spent two generations engineering their political system to be highly tolerant of diversity and highly intolerant of something called ethnic outbidding.

Stephen Saideman, a political scientist and friend of the column, has defined ethnic outbidding as “when politicians compete for the support of a particular ethnic group, leading to ever greater demands to protect that group at the expense of others.”

This process can turn politics into a zero-sum competition between ethnic groups who come to see one another as threats. Right-wing populism, in the West, can often function as a kind of ethnic outbidding for white people.

If you want to know how Canada did this and why so many other diverse countries have failed, read Amanda’s story. Of course, we’re not denying that racism and right-wing populist politicians exist in Canada. Rob Ford became Toronto’s mayor after running on a populist platform. But, compared to the rest of the West, the country stands out for its resistance to populism. (And even Mr. Ford cultivated a multi-ethnic voter base.)

That resistance happens through institutions, and you see them working, for example, in Mr. Scheer’s disavowal of Rebel Media. Before any liberal readers rush to award Mr. Scheer a medal of courage, you should know that he was acting within his immediate political interests.

Political norms in Canada are unusually intolerant of overt white nationalism, which has strong and increasingly open support in the United States and much of Europe. The country’s electoral and legislative systems make it very difficult for a party to win power without heavy support from racial minorities.

And Rebel Media’s power, even before this week, was waning. This spring, when some politicians embraced Rebel Media, seeking to reproduce populists’ successes elsewhere, those candidates instead found defeat.

This summer, when reporting for Amanda’s story, we visited a Rebel Media conference in Toronto. Though we had only stopped by for the day, it was clear that this was a movement on the decline.

In a long and thoughtful article on Rebel Media, Richard Warnica of The National Post wrote that Mr. Levant, intentionally or not, is “forcing people to pick a side.”“

Nothing The Rebel did this week, as Conservatives and contributors edged away, was substantially different from what it had done two months ago, or six months ago or last year,” Mr. Warnica added.

What changed is Canada’s conservative establishment, which rejected Rebel Media. That is a marked difference from the conservative establishment in Britain, which embraced populism, or the conservative establishments in the United States and France, which tried to reject populism but instead were overcome by it.

The story of Rebel Media is of course a story of personalities and what unfolded between them. But it is also, like just about every major news story from the last year, a story about institutions.

Federal advertising ‘blacklist’ of websites includes far-right outlets

Makes sense. Alex Marland’s points about more transparency regarding the criteria for inclusion/exclusion are valid, however:

The extreme-right outlets The Rebel, Breitbart and the Daily Stormer are among more than 3,000 websites on an internal “blacklist” to ensure the federal government’s digital advertisements do not appear on sites promoting hate, porn, gambling and other subjects deemed unacceptable.

The expansive list also includes conservative news sites like the Drudge Report, the Washington Times, Gateway Pundit and the National Review, as well as many non-political websites, such as TMZ, Esquire and Cosmopolitan.

CBC News obtained a copy of a recent version of the list, dating from June, via an Access to Information request.

There are 3,071 websites on the current blacklist, which is maintained and regularly updated for the federal government by Cossette Media, the agency hired to place Ottawa’s ads online, on radio and TV and in newspapers. The vast majority of federal ad dollars is now directed to the web.

The released version of the blacklist is non-alphabetical and uncategorized, with no information about the date a website was added nor about the reasons for its inclusion.

“It has evolved consistently since it was established [in 2012], and continues to evolve as the internet landscape and industry trends change and technology advances,” Nicolas Boucher, spokesperson for Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), said in an email.

“Categories have expanded, and sensitivities evolve over time.”

Boucher, whose department co-ordinates federal advertising, declined to respond when asked about the reason for inclusion of particular websites, including some that appear innocuous.

But sites can be blacklisted because they “have consistently underperformed in advertising campaigns,” he noted. “Sites may also be excluded if there have been comments or complaints about the content.”

Breitbart added in December

Breitbart, the U.S.-based ultra-right website to which Steve Bannon recently returned after his departure as U.S. President Donald Trump’s chief strategist, was added to the list last December after complaints.

The move followed a social media campaign by Sleeping Giants, a shadowy activist group that emerged on Facebook and Twitter last November and pressed corporations to pull their ads from Breitbart, which also runs several affiliated websites.

Sleeping Giants focused on the Canadian government after an ad for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission appeared on the site for three days, Nov. 28-30, 2017, before being pulled. Previously, ads for Statistics Canada and Employment and Social Development Canada had also appeared there.

And in May this year, Sleeping Giants launched a campaign urging corporations to pull ads from Canadian ultra-right site The Rebel.

Boucher would not say when The Rebel was added to the blacklist, or why. (The outlet received a letter of support from Environment Minister Catherine McKenna last October when it applied for media accreditationat a climate conference in Morocco, in a press-freedom controversy.)

A Jan. 4 ministerial briefing note for PSPC outlines “brand safety measures” for determining which websites are forbidden when government digital ads are purchased via networks such as the Google Display Network.

“For digital advertising that is purchased programmatically — that is, by a computer, based on a series of parameters — we developed a list of acceptable sites referred to as a whitelist,” says the document, also obtained by CBC News under Access to Information.

‘Ensuring that editorial content does not incite racial hatred, discrimination or the subversion of Canada’s democratic system of government.’– Official criteria for excluding websites from receiving federal government ads

“For maximum safety, the whitelist is used in conjunction with a blacklist filter,” the document says.

“The screening process is based on criteria that the Government of Canada has been using for traditional media. These include ensuring that editorial content does not incite racial hatred, discrimination or the subversion of Canada’s democratic system of government.”

Boucher said that among the screened-out sites are those dealing with crime, death, tragedy, military conflict, “juvenile/gross/bizarre content,” profanity, rough language, sexually suggestive content, sensational and shocking content, gambling and sensitive social issues.

The in-house blacklist is an extra layer of “brand safety” supplementing the exclusion criteria that the Google Display Network and other ad services impose on their own distribution networks for all clients.

Governments should not ‘pick favourites’

An expert on political branding warns that governments too often focus on delivering messages directly to their political bases, and that advertising can be misused as a partisan tool.

Alex Marland, political science professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland and author of Brand Command: Canadian Politics and Democracy in the Age of Message Control (2016). (Memorial University)

“Our governments should not be picking favourites,” said Memorial University of Newfoundland political scientist Alex Marland, author of last year’s Brand Command: Canadian Politics and Democracy in the Age of Message Control.

“And because of the choices of media, you can communicate information to some Canadians, and other Canadians are never contacted.”

Marland said the Liberal government needs to be clear on exactly how and why websites are put on a blacklist, based on public and transparent principles, and how those websites can get off the list.

Among other sometimes surprising inclusions on the blacklist: men’s magazine Maxim, lingerie seller La Vie en Rose, female-targeted blog Jezebel, the promotional site for erectile dysfunction drug Cialis, sports sites SB Nation and Barstool Sports, Auto Trader, India Times, Mayo Clinic.

Source: Federal advertising ‘blacklist’ of websites includes far-right outlets – Politics – CBC News

Andrew MacDougall: Conservatives of all stripes must pass the Charlottesville Test 

Solid advice:

After taking two days to condemn the race-baiters in Charlottesville, President Trump reverted to form the very next day, when he drew an angry equivalency between the alt-right and what he termed the “alt-left.”

Trump’s obstinance in the face of such disgusting bigotry forces conservative politicians — many of whom owe their election to Trump’s coalition — into a choice.

Call it the Charlottesville Test: Would I be proud to march with my brothers and sisters in the harsh light of day with the world watching?

If the answer is “no”, the barge poles must be deployed. There isn’t enough distance they can put between themselves and their president.

Or, to put it in terms conservatives will better understand: The neo-Nazis are ISIL, Trump is their elite apologist, and you are the Muslim community. It’s time for you to denounce and expel the cancer in your midst, as you would ask moderate Muslims to do in the wake of a similar terrorist attack.

Canadians Conservatives are certainly wasting no time in condemning Charlottesville, such is the power of events to taint all of conservatism. Andrew Scheer, Michelle Rempel, Patrick Brown and others are making clear they have no desire to trade on the hatred Trump and others are all too willing to ignore.

They needn’t be applauded for doing what is right and obvious, but had they not done so the Liberals would have tried to hang Charlottesville’s goat horns on the party and the movement.

The true test, however, comes when the media spotlight fades and electoral needs still have to be met. Will conservative politicians continue to shun the significant demographics behind the alt-right movement?

Courting these segments of the electorate wasn’t, until recently, worth the effort (to say nothing of the opprobrium). But the internet has taken what used to be a silent super-minority in any room, and linked them together into a potent online force.

It’s the force that delivered crucial oxygen and votes to Donald Trump in the early days of the Republican nomination, along with millions of clicks to a slew of new websites trumpeting the “alt-right.”

History will record that Trump met these “deplorables” more than halfway in his run to the presidency. Their hatred of Hillary Clinton (“lock her up”) and the establishment (“drain the swamp”), and Trump’s willingness to embrace it, was what made the “politically incorrect” real-estate mogul their choice. Trump’s embrace is what emboldened racists and supremacists to speak out and hold marches like that in Charlottesville.

In Canada, alt-right me-tooism led to the rise of Rebel Media, whose kingpin Ezra Levant regularly features leading U.S. and U.K. alt-right figures such as Paul Joseph Watson, Gavin McInnes, Jack Posobiec, Laura Southern and Tommy Robinson.

This obviously doesn’t make all supporters of Donald Trump — or contributors and viewers of the Rebel, Breitbart and Infowars — neo-Nazis; it does make them guilty of poor judgment. In Levant’s case, the poor judgment was deliberate in the search for audience and revenue.

It’s precisely these growing audiences for the Rebel and its counterparts that makes them attractive to conservative politicians. It’s why Conservative candidates gave interviews to Levant’s crew during this spring’s leadership race, and why Trump hoisted Breitbart’s Steve Bannon into his campaign, then into the White House.

But a few bad apples really do spoil the whole bunch, as Levant found out this week when two of his more mainstream apples — Brian Lilley and Barbara Kay — quit rather than continue on in the wake of Charlottesville.

The lesson for Canadian Conservatives is straightforward: avoid click-merchants and work harder to promote true conservative principles.

Anyone can preach to the converted. Only the weak exploit a grievance and make it deeper. These are the marks of political cowardice, not shrewd electoral strategy.

It takes courage to take on those with extreme views in your own coalition and patience to engage with those who don’t share your political views at all.

Conservatives should speak to people, not whistle past them.

Source: MacDougall: Conservatives of all stripes must pass the Charlottesville Test | Ottawa Citizen

The Rebel’s fast running out of friends. Better late than never, I suppose.

Great column by Susan Delacourt:

It’s been a remarkable few days for political penitence.

Just as Donald Trump finally got around to disavowing neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan (it only took him two days), the founders of Rebel Media in Canada also decided that now was the time to make a stand against racism.

Ezra Levant, one of those founders, declared that Rebel Media would have nothing to do with the alt-right, while Brian Lilley simply walked away from the online outlet, saying he could no longer put up with “a lack of editorial and behavioural judgment, that left unchecked, will destroy it and those around it.”

Was anyone else reminded of that scene in Casablanca where the police captain pronounces himself “shocked, shocked” to learn there’s gambling going on at Rick’s — just before the croupier hands him his winnings? Did it truly take Levant and Lilley this long to become troubled by the thought that that their online outlet — a bizarre spinoff of the defunct Sun TV — might be whipping up hatred toward other races and cultures?

While it’s good to see MPs like Michelle Rempel and Lisa Raitt distancing themselves from the racist strain of modern conservatism, one really has to ask the question: Why now? Shouldn’t the last straw have come long before now — say (just to pick an example out of the air), when one of Rebel’s commentators, Gavin McInnes, went off the anti-Semitic deep end during a trip to Israel last spring?

Perhaps we should be relieved that events in Charlottesville this weekend are axing the connections between mainstream conservatives and the racists in the base. But a lot of damage had been done before last weekend, too. It’s a shame that the disavowals can’t be retroactive.

In one of her Twitter posts on Monday, Rempel stated: “Flirting with or giving a wink and a nod to Nazism and white supremacy for clicks and likes is disgusting.” Yes, that’s definitely true today. It’s been true for a while, actually.

Reminds me of another Casablanca quote: “Welcome back to the fight.” Once upon a time, conservatives and progressives could agree that racism was a blight on society and democracy. Now it’s a wedge issue. Worse yet, it’s a business model.

The worst kind of politics cuddles up to racists to get votes. The worst kind of business makes a profit from hate. Make no mistake: Rebel Media has been flirting with both practices for some time now.

Start with the politics. For an example of just how far some conservative politicians were willing to go to woo racist votes, take a look back to not so long ago — earlier this year, in fact, when Rebel Media was holding rallies against the anti-Islamophobia motion introduced in the Commons after the Quebec mosque massacre.

open quote 761b1bAppeals to the head and heart may not work on those who have calculated that there’s big money to be made in whipping up intolerance. Hitting them in the wallet might work better.

It is completely defensible in a democratic society to disagree with government motions in the Commons. But some of the stuff being uttered at these rallies was absolutely vile and racist — so disgraceful I wouldn’t repeat it here in this column.

Faith Goldy, the same Rebel Media personality who was at the Charlottesville rallies last weekend, was whipping up the crowd at a Toronto rally last February, mocking critics who called the rally racist, even as one woman in the crowd seemed moved to give a Nazi salute. No kidding. You can check it out on the Torontoist website, which called the rally “bonkers” and “chilling.” (Look at the raw video coverage and you might agree with that appraisal.)

I don’t recall much contrition from Rebel Media back then over that flirtation with Nazi symbolism, nor any official disavowals from many voices on the right at the time either.

In fact, Rebel Media was seen by many as an player to be cultivated during the Conservative leadership race. At that same Toronto rally, held at Canada Christian College, leadership hopefuls Kellie Leitch, Chris Alexander, Brad Trost and Pierre Lemieux came to address the audience. Not one of these candidates acknowledged the racism elephant in the room.

“It’s good to be in a room with severely normal people,” Leitch actually told the crowd. None of these would-be Conservative leaders won the race, of course, though Lemieux and Trost, combined, did remarkably well with their armies of anti-abortion advocates.

Andrew Scheer won the leadership. His campaign manager, Hamish Marshall, was listed as a director on Rebel Media’s federal incorporation records. At a pro-Trump rally held on Parliament Hill, long after Scheer’s victory, Goldy proclaimed Scheer to be one of “our people.”

Perhaps it’s Scheer’s influence reining in the racism at Rebel Media now. One would think that anyone who wants to be prime minister in Canada wouldn’t want to be carrying that kind of baggage during the next campaign.

Optimists believe Trump’s approach to politics is still toxic here. Cynics might suggest that the business model for racist media outlets is crumbling. Is that why Levant and Lilley needed to clean up Rebel Media’s act?

As iPolitics’ own Bea Britneff has been reporting, an anonymous outfit called Sleeping Giants has been aggressively campaigning to stop firms from advertising on Rebel Media.

That’s a very good thing, because — and it’s sad to have to say this — the best way to fight the spread of this online toxin is to go after the money that fuels it. Appeals to the head and heart may not work on those who have calculated that there’s big money to be made in whipping up intolerance. Hitting them in the wallet might work better.

Rebel Media has been making serious money and gaining serious ground abroad. Take a look at this excellent piece by Jason Markusoff in Maclean’s from a few months ago, which shows how Rebel Media has been expanding its international reach by making its message ever more outrageous and unhinged.

The most lamentable thing about Rebel Media isn’t just what its commentators have said. It’s that it has shown there is a considerable market for racism in this country — money to be made, careers to be built, from sowing hate and intolerance.

So here’s the good news: The experiences of the past few days suggest the market has reached a limit. Or so we hope.

Source: The Rebel’s fast running out of friends. Better late than never, I suppose.

Ezra Levant: The Rebel’s unrepentant commander – Good profile in Maclean’s

Good profile on Breitbart North by Jason Markusoff. Sad that there is a market for this kind of behaviour:

…Media highlighted the “lock her up” chant at Rebel’s rally, in part because there was little particularly new by December 2016 about Alberta economic hurt, carbon tax opposition or anti-NDP rallies; plus, there’s high curiosity about anything vaguely Trumpish penetrating Canada.

Levant chastized them for not focusing on his rally’s content, for two straight nights on his self-titled show, where he treaded lightly on that content and instead reacted to the reaction by news reports and politicians.

“How about just once, we all tell the media-political industrial complex to f–k off?” he ended his rant.

Within days, The Rebel was selling “lock her up” T-shirts, and announced the following week’s rally in Calgary. He hadn’t initially planned it, Levant explains, until that media response.

“As a signal to Canadians that you don’t have to do what Peter Mansbridge says anymore,” he says.

The second rally drew Conservative leadership candidates tacking to the party’s right flank, like climate change skeptic Brad Trost, Kellie Leitch, as well as Chris Alexander again, who had told most outlets he was mortified by “lock her up.” He told this audience his donors and “establishment types” warned him not to return. “I’m not going to fold to a bunch of politically correct people,” he said.

This time, Calgary news reports played it largely straight, leaving little for Levant to pillory. But he found his whipping post on Twitter: a twentysomething radio reporter. “We had a controlled experiment of the media. And Haley Jarmain screwed up,” Levant says.

Jarmain is a university student who also reports for Newstalk 770 radio. After live-tweeting the Calgary rally and filing her radio story, she tweeted about the insults she’d faced that afternoon but excluded from her report: “But I got death threats. Was laughed at. Told that I’m less of a human for my job.” Levant and supporters on Twitter pushed back skeptically: why didn’t she call police about threats on her life, or the rally security? She explained later, on Twitter and her radio station, it amounted to one guy telling her “you’re dead” in the foyer, and didn’t want to risk a he-said/she-said by reporting to the authorities.

The next day on The Rebel, Levant posted a 14-minute piece skewering her as a left-wing, social justice reporter, and promised to go over security tapes with her to catch this would-be-murderer. Voice oozing with sarcasm, he announced a cash reward, and acquired HaleyJarmain.ca and HaleyJarmain.com to redirect to his video. Levant’s Twitter backers mobbed further: called her attention-craving, a faker, part of the lügenpresse. (She and her station declined to comment to Maclean’s.)

Journalists tweeted in Jarmain’s defense and called Levant’s stunt disgusting and bullying. That’s just more media tribalism, he says. But journalists aren’t the only ones who worry about this dark side of Levant. “You want to be controversial; you want to hold powerful people to account for their action,” says Kory Teneycke, a longtime friend and former Sun News president. “But on the flip side, I think you get in trouble if you target people who are smaller than yourself.”

Coren says: “I’ve seen him do and say things that are incredibly hurtful, but I don’t think he actually feels it. He doesn’t know the effect he’s having on people.”

He scraped gutter mud a week earlier, too. An Alberta labour leader criticized a claim about his Edmonton rally size, and Levant threatened to post his profile from dating site Ashley Madison.

To call Levant perennially unrepentant is to call fish damp. That young reporter was “an embedded activist,” he says, the paragon of media skullduggery. “You know what?” he says, as though addressing her. “You can own that for the rest of your life as long as I have the money to keep the domain HaleyJarmain.com. She’ll own that lie. Or, we’ll catch the killer. Either way, it’s a win.”