A few weeks ago, a nice young man came to my door, offering a three-month subscription to the Edmonton Sun for $30. I know the Sun essentially sucks, but I figured, hey, $30 for three months of a newspaper. What’s the harm?
After about a week, I contemplated cancelling my subscription and getting a refund. After three months of having this daily right-wing screed darkening my door, I can tell you without contradiction that I will never, ever spend so much as a dime on the Edmonton Sun again. And this comes from a lifelong newspaper reader, someone who loves newspapers and wants them to thrive. But the Sun is indefensibly bad.
It’s not just its obsession with the Edmonton Oilers at the expense of real news. It’s not just that you have to wade through dozens of pages of car dealership ads to find the tiniest of news stories. It’s not just that the newsroom is so woefully understaffed that very limited space available for local news is swallowed up by enormous, space gobbling photos. It’s not just that it employs Canada’s worst editorial cartoonist. Considering the tragic state of newspapers today, I could almost live with all of these flaws. But what I cannot abide by the fact that the Sun is now the Official House Newspaper of the Conservative Party, Stephen Harper, publisher.
The Sun is, and always has been, brazenly right wing. Right wing blather is what the Sun does, and I know that. It is what it is. But there is such a thing as being intelligently right wing. The Sun is not. It has now gone so ludicrously over the line, so Fox News-ish, that it now can’t even pretend to be objective.
The object of the Sun’s ire is, obviously, Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau.
In the approximately 90 days I’ve been reading the Sun, I’ve seen anti-Trudeau stories or columns in easily 70 of those editions. I’m confident in saying that the name Justin Trudeau has appeared far more often in the past 90 days than the name of some guy named Stephen Harper. And Thomas Mulcair, the actual leader of the opposition? Barely rates a mention.
The Sun hates Justin Trudeau — and hates is not an exaggeration — because he represents the gravest threat yet to their glorious leader, St. Stephen of Harper. The attacks on Trudeau are relentless, and sometimes nearly devoid of facts. The Sun tried very hard to tar Trudeau as a terrorist sympathizer because he visited a supposedly radical mosque that was on some kind of government watch list. Turns out that Trudeau visited the mosque before the warning was issued, but that didn’t stop the Sun from trying repeatedly to make something out of nothing.
Then, of course, there’s Ezra Levant. I doubt if any Canadian newspaper has ever hired anyone so venal, so vicious. This self-aggrandizing blowhard has been given free reign to write columns with little regard for the facts. Why he remains in the employ of the Sun organization is beyond me, particularly after the Sun was forced to apologize this week to — ready for this? — Justin Trudeau. Levant went on a screed on his Sun TV show about Trudeau that was so wrong, so cruel to the Trudeau family, that the Sun was forced to apologize.
The Sun’s standard fall back position when Levant goes over the line, which he does regularly and with great glee, is that he is a commentator, and not a journalist, so he is not bound by the usual rules of journalism. This is total bullshit, of course. A columnist is bound by the same rules of accuracy of any reporter; he or she is allowed an opinion on the facts, but the information in the column must still be accurate. Levant apparently works under a different set of rules.
The fact the Sun supports the Conservatives is not reason enough to abandon the whole publication. Lots of papers have made the same mistake. But the Sun’s praise of Harper is so obsequious, so blinkered, so unflinching, that it has zero credibility as a newspaper in national matters. And I’m OK with any media outlet keeping a close eye at Justin Trudeau. For example, in Wednesday’s Sun, national bureau chief David Akin wrote a thoughtful, reasoned piece on Canada’s role in the war on ISIS. The Conservatives haven’t made up their minds yet, the New Democrats are asking pointed questions, but Trudeau’s Liberals have already said “The Liberal Party is not supportive of any extension into a combat role. We think Canada’s role should be strictly non-combat.”
Akin’s point was that the Conservatives and the NDP are discussing the matter, while the Liberals have made up their minds. This is important to bring up. This is how it should be done.
But Akin in a reasoned voice in the right-wing looney bin that is the Edmonton Sun. It is, quite literally, not worth the paper it is printed on.