Sun TV a hate machine

In a nation already highly susceptible to anti-Muslim sentiment, Sun News Network gave a platform to prejudice in the guise of news

As the world wrestled last 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 Canadian Jihad.

Thankfully, it will be the last episode, because as of Friday, February 13, the most trusted name in bigotry is gone. Sun News Network has shut down.

Its bigotry is well documented. It was a network that promoted racism – against Arabs, against Romani people, against First Nations – in the guise of “opinion,” a disgraceful abuse of the latitude afforded news commentary and columnizing.

Many Canadians commenting on Sun’s demise on social media celebrated the loss. But journalists were overwhelmingly given to deference and back-patting, and to mourning the loss of 200 “industry” jobs.

Among the tweets:

@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.

@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: those young reporters launched their careers by contributing to a hate machine that perpetuated prejudice, especially against Muslims, in a nation that’s already highly susceptible to anti-Muslim sentiment.

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 the special report Islam’s War On The World.

I’m sure it was a gifted video and sound editor who thought to punctuate The Arab Underground segment on Canadian Jihad 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.

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’s right. These are the kinds of views that Sun News and its employees gave a platform to. They did so in the guise of a serious broadcast news network, 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 (and rising) holds unfavourable views of the religion.

Unfortunately, because this is the overwhelmingly white Canadian media, they don’t. Nearly all of those who mourned the job losses resulting from 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,” 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 me (at my parents’ insistence – it’s a long story) on The Source the other day calling for the rise of the caliphate and 100 lashes for adulterers.(I’m assuming that wasn’t about us.)

Extremism in every community should be covered, but with reason and sensitivity, not the bigoted paranoia that was the hallmark of Sun TV.

Yes, Sun News Network gave many young journalists their first job. (Full disclosure: my first reporting gig was at its former Quebecor kid sister, 24 Hours.) But it taught those budding journalists that it’s okay to slant the news for the sake of your political and social views, and to do so in a way that harms the already vulnerable. It’s not.

I hope Sun TV’s former employees aren’t out of work for long, but I’m glad they woke up unemployed this week. As precarious as the news industry is right now, not all media jobs are worth mourning.    

Omar Mouallem is an Edmonton-based, National Magazine Awards winning writer who has contributed to The Walrus, Wired and Eighteen Bridges.

A slightly longer version of this story originally appeared at | @nowtoronto

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