I want briefly to record my indebtedness to the late Sun News television network, and to its staff: a couple hundred mostly young earnest industrious, rather underpaid people who lost their jobs when the signal went down at five, Friday morning. My friend Ezra Levant (who is secretly a mensch) describes most of these people as “severely normal.” That is to say, they did not necessarily share the strongly-articulated opinions of some of the on-air personalities, and may therefore live to find future employment. For the Sun’s stars, however, let us say an extra prayer. They may now be as unemployable in Canada’s left-atheist mainstream as I am.
Perhaps I can claim a third prayer, for after a year or so occasionally on camera, I became unwelcome even at Sun News. But it wasn’t their fault: I’m a grinding audience killer. The medium is, after all, the message, and television gets impatient with long-winded, droll, allusive, “highbrow” types, who take pauses longer than most sound bites as they think through what they should say next. Quite apart from any political or religious bias, TV demands quickness and obviousness. It is in terror of “dead air,” but also of substance, or the threat of substance. Perhaps the worst solecism that can be committed on air, from the viewpoint of a television producer, is to say something that requires thought, and then grant the audience five seconds to absorb it.
Sun News was unambiguously “tabloid,” and sometimes lots of fun, but not therefore less “serious” than the major networks. Absolute zero is absolute zero. But it presented views that were different from, even opposed to, those of the other networks. It took (rather mild) “redneck” positions, amplified by sometimes rather witty theatrical stunts. More to the point, it covered news that the “majors” instinctively suppress.
An example was Faith Goldy (also a friend), determined to cover the criminal trial of Benjamin Levin, for sex offences involving children. When Ontario’s current premier, Kathleen Wynne, was education minister, the gentleman in question was her deputy. He drafted in 2010 a new “sex ed” curriculum by which small children in all the province’s public schools were to be indoctrinated on homosexuality, masturbation, anal sex, and so forth. The draft was hurriedly withdrawn when parents’ groups got hold of the details. A revised version is now being processed, which according to rumour may actually be more foul than the original. It is scheduled to be imposed in September, not only on the public schools, but on all Catholic and private and home schools in the province, without exception. But this time the minister, now premier, has clamped down on all information, and is dodging questions in the Legislative Assembly from an intrepid opposition Member, Monte McNaughton (whose own party leader has asked him to shut up).
Miss Goldy was covering Mr Levin’s trial, alone. She rightly called attention to the fact that other media weren’t in the courtroom, even though they have the resources to mob much lesser cases. She, alone, had pursued many other stories that liberal media wished to ignore. So did others from the Sun News “babe cave”; and the “angry old white men” from the evening talk shifts persistently placed before viewers the sort of guests (including some with real expertise) that liberal media would never dream of letting anyone watch.
This, to my mind, is why Sun News is now off the air. The CRTC (Canada’s broadcasting regulator) made one decision after another to limit the network’s exposure to the public, and thus access to revenue — while carefully dangling little carrots to keep it running up huge losses. As a man not born yesterday I could see exactly what they were doing; Sun News management had to pretend they could not. Management failure has been alleged, but as Roy Thomson used to say, the broadcasting authorities issue licences to print money: either they give you one, or they don’t. The chief management failure was naiveté: failure to see that the old girls and boys on the CRTC would not be well disposed to them; and nor would the cable carriers, with their own horses in the competitive race that Sun News was trying to get into.
Now that they are dead, their enemies gloat, politely. (Canadians are so polite.) The setting of Sun News has proved, to the surviving talking heads, that there is no audience for anything like Fox News in Canada — the “conservative” network which, after getting open access to the USA television market, promptly whupped all their liberal competition.
Another common view is that of Heather Malice, in the Toronto Scar. She attributed the network’s demise to its “bullying.” Canadians won’t stand for that, she assures us — the sort of bullying by which Davids intimidate Goliaths — and that’s why Sun News went down. Ms Malice (if I have spelt her name correctly) is the sort of journalist Canadians instead approve and adore: all ethylene-glycol sweetness and sanctimonious light.
“What is to be done?” as Lenin might have asked, had Lenin been a deeply religious and rightwing counter-revolutionary. … Pray?
Yairs, pray; and I should think, stop using our skins for wallpaper.
To my experience, the only journalism that can make a difference is elitist, “broadsheet,” and uncompromising. By seeking the truth, it will offend many readers, and alienate most potential advertisers, too. Fine and well, for some will still read it, if only to find out what is going on. Aim for the top, and let the truth trickle down; and prepare for the near future, when anything Catholic or Christian will be banned anyway.
Rightwing populist journalism was perhaps worth a try. It cannot help us much or for long, however, for as we discover, quite apart from whether our enemies will let us get away with it, we fail even when we succeed. For it addresses a culture that is bleeding to death — in moral, intellectual, spiritual, and even demographic terms — a blank culture of sleepwalking consumers, easily manipulated by the cynical. It cannot aim high, for the audience is low; it must crouch very low, to hit any target. It must participate in the grunge, swim in the sewer as it were, to get public attention or “market share.” For sure, there is money to be made, dredging; but the rats won’t like it if you preach.
And it makes no sense to preach to those who aren’t listening. Reporting what others would suppress is enough, with patient and unexcitable accuracy. And putting it on paper makes plenty of sense, for in the near future we will have to pass the news around, discreetly. The single sheet, that can be folded to pocket size, and smuggled through the electronic sensors: that is the future of honest journalism. The sheet that can then be read aloud, to eager ears, or shown to eager eyes — in secret gatherings, away from the drones and microphones of “inclusiveness,” and “human rights.”
For the rest, the truth is that only God can help us, so that all our strategies should be designed directly to enlist His aid: cor ad cor loquitur. We might think there is some shortcut to success, through that mass market. Truly, there is not, and the more time we spend looking for it, the more time we will waste.