Friday, February 13, 2015

Closing thoughts on Sun News (and a warning to other news media)

It's official, at 5:00am this morning the Sun News channel went black. No report on it's closure, no goodbye to it's 8000 loyal viewers, just gone with barely a whimper. They might be a tad embarrassed.

The opinions on Twitter of their closure can be categorized as "good riddance", "Good but sorry for those who lost their jobs", and "It's a great loss to press freedom in Canada". I reside in the first category and in this post I plan to explain why I don't share the views of the others as well as explore some of the more general aspects Warren Kinsella discusses about the slow demise of news media.

First off, on job losses. Over the years on this blog I have (what I believe to be accurately) described many of Canada's up and coming economic issues, particularly revolving around Alberta as Canadian public opinion largely sees Alberta as the "economic engine of Canada" and federal government policy has tended to reflect this. I've written about our incredibly inflated housing bubble. I've written about the great deflation Canada now finds itself in (and the hyperinflation the western world is going to experience in the final futile attempt of central banks to ward it off). I've written about the demise of news media and how pay walls are the final nail in the coffin. This entire blog exists for one purpose, and one purpose only, to help readers prepare and understand events coming down the pipeline in the future.

This blog is not journalism, it is my beliefs as to the trends and commentary of current and future events and people are free to choose whether or not to believe me, and whether or not to prepare. The undeniable fact is that incredible numbers of job losses, food shortages, bankruptcies, credit collapses, and increasingly fascist laws meant to keep it all under wraps are already in the cards. I make no attempts to market or advertise or attract readers to this blog as I accepted long ago that it won't reach everyone, and that not everyone is willing to hear it. Those who choose not to will very likely be blindsided by their blind faith in the system and institutionalized propaganda it puts out on a daily basis through a heavily controlled communication strategy and those who desire a deeper outlook will find it on their own.

What I'm getting at here is that incredible changes are already occurring and suffering as a result of them is inevitable and while I feel bad about this suffering conceptually I also understand I can't do anything to prevent it and if I took every single forecast to heart I simply wouldn't be able to write about the deeply seeded troubles Canada's facing. As is, even with trying to keep emotionally detached from related current events which are both increasing in quantity, and frequency, it still too often becomes too much and overwhelming; I'll make an angry rant about it and then disappear for weeks as it can really get to me.

Ultimately this blog revolves around the only sound principal left: you'll have to save yourselves because the system isn't going to do it for you. In fact the system will deliberately keep you in the dark. Even after CBC news reported the demise of Sun News, Sun News employees still hadn't been informed by the company itself rather they found out the same way everyone else did: by another news source. This is analogous to how Canadians on the whole will likely discover everything in their country is not as it appears with the "upper management" attempting to maintain confidence and ward off the chaos the truth will ignite. Self-preservation above all.

The employees at Sun News losing their jobs now may have been blindsided by the event, but the signs that such an event was coming were everywhere. It was their choice not to heed them and instead have blind faith that somehow despite the fact that they were bleeding money hand over fist and the only time the average population ever heard about them was when Ezra Levant did something stupid the network would survive anyway. Much as Canadians have blind faith in our economic performance, or the integrity and trust of CSIS to not abuse it's ever expanding powers, despite a mountain of evidence that indicates the contrary. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

I myself have had to follow these types of trends and signs several times in my own career. It's a tough call to make especially when the system or job you reside in tells you everything is fine. What do you believe? your own intuition, or those who supposedly are in the know? Each and every time it was a hard decision to make as I was sacrificing the illusion of security I had built for myself, and each and every time my instincts proved to be right. I even warned my coworkers who often would say I was being alarmist and crazy only to find themselves out of work a few months later. Ultimately what it comes down to is that if you want to insulate yourself from these systems you'll need to critically think for yourself and ignore the influential groupthink the system pushes to serve it's self-preservation at your expense.

Now, on the topic of the journalism delivered by Sun News: I think the best way to address this is to respond directly to Warren Kinsella's points on the matter so I will quote the relevant sections here.
They’re celebrating, I guess, because they disagreed with the opinions that were found on Sun News. They didn’t like conservative opinions being broadcast, so they think it’s funny that 200 people have lost their jobs. I find that completely insane, for two reasons.
Firstly, folks, I disagreed with those conservatives, too. Plenty. On sex ed, on CBC, on abortion, on niqabs, on social programs, on climate change, on Islam, on gay marriage, on Liberals and liberals, on just about anything you can imagine: I would regularly appear on Sun News Network to argue with those conservatives, face-to-face, on-camera. I would argue, aggressively, against the conservative point of view.

And, over almost four years, a funny thing happened: they kept inviting me back. They asked me to come on much more than my day job would permit, in fact. And they were professional and courteous and fair to me. Only once did they try and shut me down – here – but multiple Sun folks called me afterwards to apologize, and to say that it would never happen again. It didn’t.

That’s the first thing: if you disagree with someone’s opinion, debate them. Present evidence. Argue with facts. Be passionate. Because that’s what Sun News Network gave me an opportunity to do, over and over, for four years.
Being that I don't believe in the bullshit "left vs. right" straightjacket the system uses to create division "conservative opinion" doesn't bother me. In fact much of the "Conservative opinion" out there I largely agree with. I wrote a post explicitly praising ex-Conservative MP Brian Jean for standing up for his constituents and putting real fiscal and social responsibility first above his career. I've taken Trudeau and the Liberals to task many times, and I'm not very fond of the NDP either though I rarely write about them as this blog isn't about politicians, it's about real events which a party with largely no power or influence simply doesn't factor into.

The problem with Sun News's brand of "Conservative opinion" isn't that it's "Conservative opinion" it's that it's "Conservative party opinion". Sun News was obsessed with Justin Trudeau even though the Liberals are not currently even the official opposition. This obsessive reporting on everything Justin Trudeau is doing, while very rarely reporting on what the actual government is doing and taking a critical look at that borderlines on campaign advertising as opposed to news. It was very apparent Sun News doesn't like Justin Trudeau and they constantly conflated their opinion and fact while taking every opportunity to discredit him.

While I don't deny there may be some "Liberal bias" amongst other establishments such as the CBC, the difference is these other establishments actually do try to report most of the news in fact I often find they are not critical enough of the government actions taking government press releases at face value, though with little access to actually question the government I'm not sure what else they can do. Sun News was more about convincing you of their opinion first and not bothering with the facts.

When the Rob Ford crack story broke and other establishments were busy trying to find the video and root of the story Sun News was making up it's own narrative about how the video must be fake. They put a lot of time into simulating and investigating how it could be fake, but spent very little time actually asking the question "is the video fake?". In fact the very idea the video could be fake originated with Sun News and that is the narrative they pushed until the legitimacy of the video could not be questioned anymore at which point they went into damage control and gave Rob and Doug Ford their own shitty show which didn't even last 1 episode. This is far beyond reporting the news with a Conservative bias, this is flat out making shit up to fit your own political spin, viewpoint, and agenda. It's not news at all.

Yes, I'm perfectly aware "Ezra Levant" wasn't the sole journalist at Sun News. I'm aware folks like David Akin are quite admired as respected journalists, which again pokes a hole directly in the belief that Sun News's failure is attributed to a rejection of "Conservative opinion" as much of the praise is coming from folks on the "left" as well as the "right". A few good journalists does not a good brand make however. Journalists seem to forget that their credibility resides within the brand name they publish under. The majority of the information Sun News put out was deliberate misdirection, or even outright lies, and once a reader or viewer became aware of this fact it is the brand name that suffers.

Nobody wants to read a "news" outlet where the truth and credibility of what they're reading is largely in question. That sort of journalism does not promote rather it harms democracy. Even Fox News puts out a good truthful article now and then but I never link them due to the questionable credibility of the organization which would actually discredit the perfectly sound information. I instead go and find the same information from another source so I can assure my followers, or readers, best I can that it is legitimate.

Debating someone who lies to further an agenda is pointless in fact I've attempted to start debate with Ezra Levant several times. He never once responded to me even though I saw him selectively choosing people on his twitter to debate who were weak at debating. Ezra Levant would only debate on his home turf where he could control the message. In the end he ended up blocking me, so much for "passionately debating with facts" I guess.

Kinsella's points on the state of the news media in general though offer for a much more interesting discussion.
Here’s the second thing: in case you haven’t noticed, our traditional news media are dying.
There are all kinds of reasons for that: the Internet, Google and Facebook and Craigslist, bad business decisions, whatever. We can debate the causes ad nauseum. But the fact is that the media, as we knew it, is disappearing.

Bloggers and social media mavens will celebrate the mainstream media’s demise, too. But they shouldn’t. Because bloggers and tweeters don’t generate actual news – they just comment on it. They offer opinions on someone else’s work. Someone else’s journalism.
When that journalism disappears, mark my words: our democracy will be diminished, and possibly even in peril. I’m not exaggerating. There is nothing that keeps the powerful in check – not Question Period, not a public opinion poll, not even the police – as effectively as journalists do. I’ve worked on both sides, and I know, I’ve seen it: every time a newspaper dies – every time a TV network dies – the powerful grow more so. You may think that’s okay, but I sure don’t. They are not always benign in the way they exercise power.
First off, I'm in utter agreement that nobody keeps the powerful in check more than journalists do which is why what people want is real journalism and not a bunch of reporters spouting the official line, or treading water on difficult topics so as not to offend their advertisers. Sun News's approach wasn't to keep the powerful in check it was to push the official line of the powerful. But it's not just Sun News that is utterly failing at keeping the powerful in check, all news media is failing to do this just perhaps not as spectacularly as Sun News has. Yes the internet has changed the economic models of journalism but what the internet has also done is provide the ability for citizens to become their own commenters, their own journalists, and provides ease of access to alternative sources.

There is a deep hunger for alternative information ever since the financial collapse of 2008. Plenty of real journalists were reporting on the coming collapse, the derivative scams, all of it (such as investigative journalist the late Michael C. Ruppert who also broke the Pat Tilman series, CIA drug running and much more the mainstream media still refuses to report on). However these real journalists were nowhere to be found on your T.V.

Contrary to Kinsella's assertion that all alternative media aren't really journalists at all and just piggyback off the work of others is the work of Press for Truth for instance. Press for Truth, unlike the mainstream media, has been heavily covering the lawsuit against the Bank of Canada. What lawsuit you ask? Exactly. It would be impossible for Press for Truth to simply be utilizing the mainstream media's reports on this because there aren't any. This lawsuit is based on the fact the Bank of Canada isn't operating within it's charter, pretty important for accountability one would think and yet the mainstream media is silent on it.

The Bilderberg meetings are another area where the mainstream media fails to hold the powerful accountable often opting instead to write bullshit opinion pieces on why what everyone thinks about them is stupid because they say so. They never send people to cover the events in person, while alternative media does. Pretty well any footage you ever see of those meetings is sourced not from a mainstream outlet but rather independent bloggers and journalists. the mainstream media would have you believe the world's most powerful people meeting yearly in a private secret meeting is no big deal. Nothing to see here folks! At one point in time the mainstream media even denied the Bilderberg meetings existed at all which when you consider the powerful heads of the media corporations attend isn't very surprising, is it?

When it came to the G20 Press for Truth came through for Canadians again with on the ground footage and a full documentary that even has a custom soundtrack that puts the CBC's Fifth Estate investigation into the G20 to shame. If only the news media had put as much effort into investigating the events of G20 as the alternative media had then maybe chief Bill Blair and the swarms of abusive police at the event would be held accountable, as well as finally finding out where their marching orders came from. To this day no one really knows.

Alternative media has been claiming for years that western intelligence were illegally spying on it's own citizens, it was called a conspiracy theory and never investigated by "real" journalists until you know, it turned out to be true. I remember being called a crackpot for telling people their phone can listen to them even when it's off. Now it's common knowledge thanks to a journalist named Glenn Greenwald who prior to the Snowden leaks and despite his publications on The Guardian was considered "fringe" for his conspiratorial views.

I don't know any blogs like mine which engage in commentary that claim to be journalists, both journalists and commentary exist in the alternative media world just as they do in the mainstream media world.

John Stewart's The Daily Show quite often has clips of the commentary of numerous media outlets all spouting the exact same lines, the exact same phrases, with the exact same inflections. While he never explicitly points it out it is very odd that magically all of these supposedly independent media outlets and journalists and reporters all use the same phrase. If the alternative media is simply using the work of others then the mainstream media is just regurgitating the handouts passed down to them. Hardly a path to accountability of the powerful.

Finally, the complete lack of faith in the mainstream media and a huge roadblock into holding the powerful accountable, or at least the population's perception of being able to do so is that it is the powerful that are bankrolling the news. Go look at the Calgary Herald or Edmonton Journal's "energy" section on their website and what you will find on the right side of the page is a huge strip of industry funded propaganda "sponsored by CAPP". Yes, the energy section of the news in Canada's energy capital is bank rolled by none other than the energy sector. It's hard to believe the full extent of criticism is being levied against the energy sector when it's bankrolling the news that criticism would be found in. CAPP also has direct access to publish whatever it would like people to believe to these "news" websites with no oversight as to the integrity or validity of the information.

Warren Kinsella is absolutely right, the mainstream news media is dying and frankly it is dying because it is not holding the powerful accountable.

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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for CenturyLink

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.


  1. Whenever i hear 'pundits" talk about the "left-wing bias" of the CBC I always ask them to quote three examples - will you do so please

    1. What I said specifically is "While I don't deny there may be some "Liberal bias" amongst other establishments such as the CBC", not that I'm declaring there is, I'm just saying I can't conclusively show there isn't.

      In general though it does seem many of theirs broadcasts (not necessarily reporting, but radio shows, etc) are geared towards a more progressive audience. There's nothing wrong with that but they don't really have any equivalents geared towards a conservative audience.

      The reason I use the word "may be" is that it's really hard to determine when looking at news media from outside the box of left vs right as from my perspective all news media reinforces this false paradigm to some degree.