By Craig McKee
What a week. First I filed a complaint March 26 against Sun News TV host Michael Coren for his horrifically biased and abusive report on Richard Gage’s Rethink 9/11 visit to Toronto the previous week. Two days later, Coren was calling me a “Jew-hating truther” based on an exchange we had on Twitter about the Gage tour.
During the exchange, I said nothing at all about Jews, negative or otherwise (you can read the full exchange at the bottom of this article or in the comments section of my previous post).
Meanwhile Coren was leading the charge in attacking NDP Member of Parliament Megan Leslie for having the nerve to post Gage’s Halifax appearance on her web page.
The attack on Gage, and truthers in general, came in a segment of Coren’s Canadian cable program The Arena on March 21 (I reported on this in my previous blog post). I filed my complaint with the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, which includes most of Canada’s large private broadcasters among its members.
While Gage was being interviewed on camera, the words “conspiracy loony” were flashed on the screen. Later, the banner read: “truther trash.” Coren said that those who question 9/11 are sad, desperate, frightened people trying to be big. He called Gage’s “cultish” followers deniers, failures, losers, and crazy people.
He followed up on Facebook, writing that “almost all truthers are insane.” He also very cleverly compares 9/11 trutherism to believing “Napoleon was a robot and Hitler was made of cheese.” He even mentions “little green men in Uranus.” Or was it your … ? Never mind.
It seems that Coren doesn’t need to be able to substantiate claims he makes. Instead, he spews out an assortment of mean-spirited quips, insults, unfunny “jokes,” and arrogant condescension. In fact, on a previous installment of The Arena, he admitted that “I like being attacked. It’s a perverse thing; I don’t know.”
I encourage others to file their own complaints against Coren. Here’s how the process works: First you submit the complaint by accessing the form provided on the CBSC’s web site (you can also fax or mail the complaint). You give the details about the broadcast and what specifically you had a problem with. After it is received, the complaint is sent by the CBSC to the broadcaster, and they have three weeks to respond. If they do not resolve the problem to the satisfaction of the complainant, he or she can ask the CBSC to put the complaint to their Panel for a decision, which can take up to four months.
Several ethics codes can be applied
The Panel looks at whether the broadcast contravened any one of several journalist codes, including the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Code of Ethics. (When I called the CBSC, I was told that it didn’t have to cite which provisions of each code had been violated, that the Panel would apply the appropriate provisions.)
But here are a couple that seems pretty clearly to have been broken:
- Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics deals with “Full, Fair and Proper Presentation: “It is recognized that the full, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, comment and editorial is the prime and fundamental responsibility of each broadcaster.”
- Clause 1 of the CAB’s Equitable Portrayal Code deals with Equitable Portrayal itself. It says: “Television and radio programming shall respect the principle of equitable portrayal of all individuals.”
- Clause 2 on Human Rights says it is essential that programming: “ … contains no abusive or unduly discriminatory material or comment which is based on matters of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability.”
- Clause 3 on Negative Portrayal is even clearer: “In an effort to ensure appropriate depictions of all individuals and groups, broadcasters shall refrain from airing unduly negative portrayals of persons with respect to race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability. Negative portrayal can take many different forms, including (but not limited to) stereotyping, stigmatization and victimization, derision of myths, traditions or practices, degrading material, and exploitation.” (While Coren clearly thinks truthers are mentally ill, it isn’t clear how strictly the CBSC keeps to the letter of the list of who can be discriminated against. It does, however, say that broadcasters should ensure “appropriate depictions of ALL individuals and ALL groups.”)
So, we’ll see. But if none of the codes are deemed to apply to this situation, then it’s time the codes were rewritten. So there.
If they find against me, then it ends there. If the complaint is upheld, then Coren has to read a statement about the decision (provided by the CBSC) on his program. The network must also read the statement a second time during prime time. If a broadcaster is found to have broken the rules in a similar way three times, it can be tossed out of the Council.
The complaint I filed is not the only one made since the March 21 report. Jordan Combden of Toronto, who on Facebook goes under the name Winged Knight, filed a complaint with the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) over Coren’s report. Complaints sent to the CRTC about private broadcasters are passed along to the CBSC.
Coren followed this report on March 28 with round two on The Arena, his demand that Megan Leslie apologize for having the audacity to post Gage’s Halifax appearance on her party web page. Leslie’s posting of the event was actually raised in Parliament by Conservative MP James Bezan, who stated that Gage’s tour is “disrespectful” to the families of 9/11 victims.
Coren addressed Leslie in this report, saying: “Who told you that truthers and 9/11 deniers don’t spread hatred? Really, where do you live? In what world do your function? The anti-Semitism in the truther movement is vile, it’s tangible.”
Get the not-so-subtle association Coren is making? Anti-Semitism and 9/11 DENIER. Get it? Truthers are, or might as well be, Holocaust deniers. In case you didn’t get the implication the first time, Coren tops off his report by liberally quoting the 9/11 views of former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who specifically mentions the Holocaust. Coren adds that many truther conferences have been sponsored by Iran. By not being more specific, he implies that this includes conferences held inside North America. I’m familiar with many 9/11 Truth conferences and none of them were staged by Iran.
With the involvement of a federal MP, the mainstream media has started to take notice of the Gage’s Rethink 9/11 tour of Canada just as it winds up (April 1 in St. John’s Newfoundland). Reports of Leslie being criticized have appeared in the Toronto Sun, Calgary Herald, Prince George Citizen, as well as ctv.ca and cbc.ca.
This second report continued Coren’s nasty and witless attacks, but the tone was different this time. He introduced his first report by saying he “had a lot of fun” at the Gage event (even though he usually stays home in the evenings and “tucks up in bed”). He called us “silly” and “childish,” and he clearly felt that the best way to dismiss the truthers was to ridicule them.
But when he attacked Leslie one week later, it was a different story. We truthers are no longer those lovable but deluded “loonies,” now we’re racists, raving anti-Semites, and dispensers of hate speech. It seems that Coren felt he needed a bigger bang to go against someone in the position of the NDP deputy leader than he did for Gage who is – after all – just a truther.
My CBSC complaint against Coren
This isn’t the first time that Coren has been the subject of a complaint before the CBSC. In 2011, he commented on the riots that took place in London, England in response to the shooting of a 29-year-old black man. Specifically he was asked about the fact that it was reported that the riots were organized by people using BlackBerrys.
He responded: “Well, it’s not about poverty. It’s not about BlackBerrys. It’s about black thugs.” Coren hastened to add that even though he had pointed to “gangs of black young men,” it wasn’t about race but about culture. In 2012, Coren received a complaint over comments he made about pit-bulls and their owners. The CBSC found that Coren had not broken any of the relevant ethics codes in either case.
Here is the text of the complaint I filed on Wednesday:
The March 21st edition of Sun New network’s program The Arena with Michael Coren featured a report on the appearance in Toronto of the founder of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, Richard Gage. The report went far beyond simple bias against Gage and others who question the official story of 9/11.
While Coren was interviewing Gage, the words “Conspiracy Loony” were pasted across the screen. Among the labels Coren gave Gage and those who support him were “deniers” and “crazy people.” (Gage’s entire position, as reflected by his presentation and what he says in interviews, is that the evidence is what’s important – not theories.) Later in the report, Coren labelled truthers as “loonies, losers, and weak-minded people.” He said: “Truthers are frightened and small and desperate to be brave and big. It’s understandable, but ultimately silly and childish. What will they disbelieve next?” Coren also likened truthers’ ideas to thinking Napoleon was a robot and Hitler was made of cheese.
Coren interviewed a number of audience members about who they think “did it,” and he, not surprisingly, got several different answers, which he treated as a big joke (those truthers can’t make up their minds …). He even said he was deliberately presenting “the worst of the worst” in choosing these particular clips. He has followed this up on Facebook (I realize this is outside of what the CBSC can look at) by saying that “almost all truthers are insane.”
The way the interviews were edited was also a major concern. This was done in such a way so as to deliberately make the interviewees look as bad as possible (often cutting them off in mid-sentence). Another individual videotaped the Gage interview while it was taking place, and this made it clear that the significant portions of the evidence being offered by Gage, the very evidence that is the foundation of his presentation, were cut out of the interview.
Instead, Coren kept asking about whether Gage thought it was true that all Jews had been told to stay away from the Twin Towers that day. When Gage said he hadn’t looked at this and didn’t know (and wasn’t prepared to deny something without having looked at the evidence), Coren then asked triumphantly, “So you think it’s possible that all the Jews were told not to go to work that day?” Later in the report we saw the words “Let’s blame the Jews!” across the screen while Coren continued to ridicule the idea that 9/11 was anything other than what we’ve been told.
He maligned all people who question the official story, tarring them with a single brush. This did a tremendous disservice to the viewers and went far beyond simply expressing strong opposition to a position he didn’t agree with (which, of course, he has the right to do). He ridiculed a broad group of people and suggested they are mentally ill. He clearly had no concern for fairness or journalistic integrity.
I thank you for your consideration in this matter. I’d be happy to provide any other information you might need.
Coren’s shows his colors in Twitter attack
Here’s that Twitter exchange, which begins between Coren and someone named Audrey G. Williams:
Williams: I can’t believe people call you an intellectual when you basically discredit such an amazing man like Mr Richard Gage
Coren: I agree. And his refusal to condemn the lie that Jews were told to stay away from work on 9/11 was brilliant & ethical.
Williams: I will ask Richard Gage for you when I go to his lecture on March 31st.
Coren: I already asked him several times. He’s a nut, as are his cultish followers. Losers, anti-Semites, wankers.
Me : Gage didn’t “refuse to condemn” as you put it. He just stayed away from your clumsy attempt to make him look bad.
Coren: He didn’t need any help from me! Nor did the other dullard racists who went on about evil Zionists.
Me : You realize Zionism isn’t a race, don’t you? It’s a political movement, open to criticism like any other.
Coren: Of course. I also realize that it’s used as a euphemism by cowardly anti-Semites. Such as …
Me : So it’s the only political movement that can’t be criticized without the critic being called an anti-Semite?
Coren: Not at all. But when someone thinks “Zionists” all stayed away from work on 9/11 they are what they are.
Me : Gage didn’t say that! YOU tried to get him to say that! He addresses evidence. You should try it.
Coren: You’re either extremely stupid or extremely anti-Semitic or both. Either way, spread your hatred elsewhere.
Me : Sorry, what did I write that was anti-Semitic? To disagree with you is the same as hatred? Wow.
Coren: Just blocked another Jew-hating truther. I support free speech but on their own dime, not mine. There: another conspiracy for them!
So there you have it. Were my remarks anti-Semitic? No reasonable person would say so. However, if you’re looking for intolerance of identifiable groups or individuals, you need look no further than The Arena from Monday to Friday.