As the world wrestled this week with the role Islamophobia played in the slaying of three innocent North Carolina students, Sun News Network’s The Source aired the latest in host Ezra Levant’s cartoonishly hateful series “The Arab Underground.”
Thankfully, it will be the last in the series because, as of this morning, the most trusted name in bigotry is gone. Sun News Network has shut down.
Its bigotry is well known and well documented. It was a network that promoted racism—against Arabs, against Romani people, against First Nations — under the veil of “opinion,” a disgraceful abuse of the latitude that is afforded to news commentary and columnizing.
Many Canadians commenting on Sun’s demise on social media celebrated the loss.
But Canadian journalists, including CANADALAND’s Jesse Brown, were overwhelmingly given to deference and back-patting, and to mourning the loss of 200 “industry” jobs.
@cbctom Whatever you thought of Sun News, even if you never thought of them, they are media brethren losing jobs. And that is sad for our craft.
@robyndoolittle I enjoyed a lot about Sun News. This is very sad. Thinking of all the journos there.
@kady Anyway, goodnight, twitter. Thinking of you, Sun News colleagues, and yes, should the opportunity arise, there will be hugs.
@danMacEachern Fewer media outlets isn’t something to celebrate. And lots of good people will lose their jobs at Sun News Network.
@justincigio Sun News gave many young reporters a chance and helped launch new careers during its short life. Something to remember.
Here’s something else to remember: these young reporters launched their careers by contributing to a hate-machine that perpetuated prejudice, especially against Muslims, in a nation that’s already highly suceptible to anti-Muslim sentiment.
It doesn’t matter how many people lost their jobs or how many young and talented journalists Sun News Network took a chance on. Everyone who accepted a cheque from the network was complicit in spewing its hatred.
I’m sure it was a young and talented reporter who cobbled together this special report, “Islam’s war on the world,” which suggested that a religion of 1.6 billion people had declared battle on the planet’s other 5.4 billion.
I’m sure a gifted video and sound editor thought to punctuate “The Arab Underground” bumper with the sound and graphics of an unsheathing sword.
And, surely, it took the best and brightest J-school graduates to trawl for violent disputes with which to portray Muslims as a sideshow, even if a story they came back with didn’t appear to involve any Muslims at all.
I’m not Muslim. But I grew up in a Muslim household and probably still look like one to most. In my own newspaper column, I can’t criticize an anti-terror bill without commenters demanding I disclose my heritage. When I wrote about Omar Khadr, one blogger called me and the Mouallem “family” (his quotations, not mine) “part of that murderous cult.”
That Murderous Cult. That’s right.
And yet these are the kinds of views that Sun News and its employees gave a platform to. They did so under the guise of a serious broadcast news network and not under the usernames of some batshit website commenters where they belong.
If the now unemployed Sun News Network staff, or the congenial media professionals offering their condolences to those who lost their jobs, were brown or Muslim they’d understand just how harmful it is to casually sensationalize stories about Islam in a country where half the population has unfavourable views of the religion (and rising).
Unfortunately, because this is the overwhelmingly white Canadian media, they don’t. Nearly all of those who mourned the job losses as a result of Sun’s closing don’t have to live as targets of the bigotry the network espoused. And that’s what makes this a worthy issue: Canadian journalists are quick to side with their “brethren” who they see as having been harmed, but the homogeneity of the industry makes them unwilling to acknowledge the legitimate harms their “brethren” caused to vulnerable groups.
Let’s be clear about one thing: stories about misogyny, anti-semitism and terrorism in the Muslim community should absolutely be covered. In fact, I was alarmed to see the friendly imam who married my wife and I (my parents insistence— it’s a long story) on The Source yesterday, calling for a rise of the caliphate and 100 floggings of adulterers and adulteresses (I’m assuming it’s not about us).
Extremism in every community should be covered, but with reason and sensitivity towards the people who play no part in it. And without the bigoted paranoia that was the hallmark of Sun TV.
Yes, Sun News Network gave many young journalists their first jobs (full disclosure: my first reporting gig was at its former Quebecor kid sister 24 Hours). But it taught these budding journalists that it’s OK to slant news in order to drive your political and social views, and to do so in a way that harms the already vulnerable. It’s not.
It taught them that it’s OK to brush 1.6 billion people with the same alleged beliefs. It’s not.
I hope Sun TV’s former employees aren’t out of work for long, but I’m glad that this morning they woke up jobless. It’s a victory for journalism.
Precarious as the news industry is right now, not all media jobs are worth fighting for.
Omar Mouallem is an Edmonton-based writer, Metro News columnist and editor of The Yards.