Rebel Without A Spine

Facts often prove a nuisance to those with an agenda to push or a narrative to sell. Just as those who peddle snake-oil rely on manufactured illness to hawk miracle cures, those who ply their trade in fear rely on ignorance to further an ideology.

I’ve long used social media as a means to combat misinformation, and it just so happens that one of my earliest fact-checks involved a media personality who wears his well-established history of “reckless disregard for the truth” as a point of pride.

In September 2010, ahead of the Sun News Network’s launch, future-host Ezra Levant penned an astonishingly libellous column for the Sun chain of papers accusing billionaire philanthropist George Soros of, among other things, having been a Nazi collaborator.

I combed through Levant’s column, countering each false assertion with documented facts, and soon learned my effort had made its way to Soros himself, who then notified Sun Media of his intent to sue for defamation.

A full retraction and apology was issued, noting there was “no basis for the statements in the column … Sun Media and Ezra Levant retract the statements made in the column and unreservedly apologize to Mr. Soros for the distress and harm this column may have caused him.”

I continued to follow Levant’s work – and that of his colleagues – after Sun News went to air, documenting mistruths, mocking hyperbolic absurdities, and when possible, pairing false reports with links to the facts.

Though I’d become somewhat of a thorn in Levant’s side, it was my possession of the only recording of his racist anti-Roma tirade after Sun News thought they’d effectively purged it from existence – a recording which aided in forcing him to, again, issue a grovelling apology – which cemented his disdain for me.

And perhaps explains why the self-described “fearless Rebel Commander” is so, utterly terrified of me.

When The Rebel, Levant’s online vanity project launched after Sun News’ demise, promoted an “EMERGENCY PUBLIC MEETING” regarding Alberta’s future under the “extremist” Notley regime – an event billed as “an independent, non-partisan meeting, open to the public for free” – I reserved a pair of seats.

After receiving a confirmation email from Amanda Achtman, Levant’s loyal apprentice who first served him at Ethical Oil before joining him at Sun News and now The Rebel, I was surprised to find another email, this one directly from Levant, notifying me of his personal intervention to cancel my reservation, claiming to be “concerned from your past conduct that you will be disruptive and profane.”

Knowing Levant’s assertions were fabricated, I requested evidence to support his allegations of my “past conduct” or “track-record” of being “disruptive and profane.”

posted a screenshot of the exchange to twitter, and quickly received numerous invites to be another’s +1 for the Calgary event.

I sent a number of follow-up emails to both Levant and Achtman, requesting proof of the various allegations cited to justify cancelling my reservation, and specifically asked whether I’d be barred from entering if I attended as someone’s guest.

Despite repeated requests, neither opted to respond.

After being asked to write about the presentation, I took a right-leaning friend – a Levant fan – up on the ‘+1’ offer and agreed to meet at the Carriage House Inn, the town hall’s location, a half-hour before its scheduled start.

I arrived in good time, maneuvered my way through the steady-stream of attendees and proceeded to the check-in tables. Before I had a chance to confirm my attendance, however, I was whisked away by a pair men whom Levant hired, it seemed, to specifically watch for me and prevent my participation. When I asked for an explanation as to why I was disallowed from this “open to the public” forum, I was told it was open to everyone — except me.

Neither man could explain why, only that they were under strict orders to ensure I didn’t get in.

When Levant ventured out to greet people, he accidentally offered me a hearty “Hello, and welcome!” before recognition set in, after which he frantically turned-tail and rushed away, shouting that I was “not welcome here,” refusing to answer when I asked him to come back, face me, and explain why.

As I stood in the lobby he passed by twice more, perhaps hoping I’d pull a Levant and cause a scene, but I simply continued to request explanation, and he continued to remain silent as he hurried by.

It was the same with Achtman who bolted when she first saw me, later making a few extra passes, each time refusing to stop and answer my queries. I offered to leave once I received an explanation as to why I was barred, but was told by one of Levant’s hired henchmen that I’d get no explanation, and if I did not leave I’d be arrested.

Knowing I’d done nothing wrong, I offered to face arrest, to stay and wait for the police to sort things out. When the police arrived, they seemed completely baffled by the farce. According to his gatekeepers, Levant claimed I’d “long been banned” from the Carriage House Inn, though I’d never once before set foot there. He also alleged I had a “track-record” of disrupting his events – his guards even claimed there were pictures, though neither I nor the police were allowed to see them – and he had a documented history of my ejections — again, flat-out lies.

Once the police determined all the allegations Levant provided were false, they simply shrugged and said there were no grounds on which to arrest me, nor could they force me to leave. One officer suggested I could “make better use of the night in this beautiful weather” than wait on an explanation which likely wouldn’t come, and I agreed.

I thanked them for their time and went on my way.

In the end, the “EMERGENCY” town halls were nothing more than an effort by Levant to build his fledgeling Rebel brand.

Employing his usual strategy – creating a threat (radical outsiders intent on destroying Alberta), presenting himself as the saviour (the “mainstream media” are complicit and incompetent) and, of course, asking for money fund his ‘heroics’ – Levant is working to rescue The Rebel from sharing the fate of his previous media ventures. Through this overwrought grasp at relevance, Levant sought to recruit a new generation of “severely normal” Albertans to his Rebel army; to rouse their anger, stoke their fear, and demand they fight to restore Alberta to her glory.

As evidence by Levant’s own photos of the audience, there are, indeed, a handful of Albertans eager to take up the pitchforks and torches, call themselves Rebels, and “take Alberta back” from the “socialist insurrection” — so long as it doesn’t interfere with Bingo night.

Correction/clarification: BigCityLib informs me he, too, had a recording of Levant’s anti-Roma screed, which was made for people pursuing the complaint. And though I wasn’t aware, it seems he has quite a history with the Rebel Commander himself. His chronicling of Levant’s growing trail of lost legal battles – and the subsequent financial payouts/grovelling apologies – is rather impressive and well-worth exploring.

Here is the full email exchange between Levant and myself, and eventually Achtman too:

From: Alheli Picazo 
Date: Fri, Jun 5, 2015 at 9:07 PM
Subject: Town hall meeting
To: Amanda Achtman, Ezra Levant 
Hi Ezra,

I’m still waiting on your response to my questions, as I have multiple invites to the event and I do plan on attending.

I’ve now added Amanda to this exchange, as she approved my RSVP, just in case you’d rather respond through her — you know, how middle-school girls communicate when they’re mad at each other.

Clock’s ticking.

Alheli
From: Alheli Picazo 
Date: Thu, Jun 4, 2015 at 3:27 PM
Subject: Re: Town hall meeting
To: Ezra Levant 
Hi Ezra,

I eagerly await your response to the questions I’ve already posed, both in my previous email and over on twitter, and now that I’m up to 9 invites to be another’s +1 for the evening, clarity as to whether the event is indeed “an independent, non-partisan meeting, open to the public for free” is necessary.

I find it quite amusing that you’re so frightened by a wee Calgary lass who is quite literally less than half your size, and who is known (in real, offline life) by those who count themselves your followers – even some who are your personal friends – as quiet and gentle, and nothing but respectful. And it’s these hard-right leaning friends who want me to accompany them to the event. If I take one up on the offer, will only s/he be admitted and myself turned away? Are there any other unwritten rules for the night that I, or others, should be aware of?

Looking forward to your response in this exchange which, might I add, you initiated.

Alheli
On Tue, Jun 2, 2015 at 9:08 PM, Alheli Picazo  wrote:
Hello Ezra,

I’m sorry to hear that despite being billed as “an independent, non-partisan meeting, open to the public for free,” you’ve taken it upon yourself to screen the guest list. I suppose that means if there is to be a Q & A, the questions/questioners will be pre-selected (if not staged) as well.

And that’s fine. It’s your event, you can do as you wish. Funny though, given your history of making hay over being kicked out/off premises – subsequently demanding those seeking to exclude you respect your freedom and face the tough questions; accusing them of being cowards, afraid of real scrutiny – you’re so quick to do the same.

But I must ask what you’ve based your assertion of my apparent “track-record / past conduct” of being “disruptive and profane”? Perhaps someone who doesn’t actually know me has misinformed you? Or maybe you just made it up, as is your penchant? Because we both know you’ve made an entirely fabricated assertion. Why? There’s no need. If you’re so intimidated at the thought of my presence, just say so.

Though yes, admitting as much would take away from that whole Rebel thing. And I wonder, should someone ask me to be their guest, will I be turned away at the door? Will there be a blacklist to ensure only the like-minded are admitted? If so, you really should change the event’s description.

Though it’s unfortunate you won’t allow me to attend, at least by your personal intervention in the matter you’ve once again revealed the depth – or lack thereof – of your commitment to ‘freedom.’

Hope all goes well, and I’ll watch for the (hopefully full, unedited) event video.

Alheli

On Tue, Jun 2, 2015 at 7:32 AM, Ezra Levant wrote:
Dear Alheli,

I see that you have signed up for our Calgary town hall. I am concerned from your past conduct that you will be disruptive and profane, and that you are not attending in good faith.

Given your track-record, and given that this event will likely sell out, it is my view that we cannot set aside two seats for you, and so I am cancelling your reservation.

If you are genuinely interested in the event, we will be putting a video of it on our website.

Yours truly,

Ezra Levant

Do you know what would be terribly awkward, further showcasing the depth of Levant’s hypocrisy? If there were video of him doing precisely what he claimed he feared I’d do as justification for my exclusion from a public event:

Juxtapose! Here’s me at Levant’s town hall being catastrophically disruptive and oh, so profane:

Here’s one of Achtman’s passes. She managed a nod here!
(I’m not sure what’s up with the audio, will try to upload again later today._

And here’s one of the ever-so-brave Levant’s passes.
(Again, I have no idea why the audio failed with these short snippets. Will work to fix.)

As I was getting ready to leave – sitting in my vehicle in the Carriage House Inn parking lot, updating twitter with what had just happened – the Reform Party of Alberta was putting flyers in car windows. The leader had been greeting attendees down the hall from where I’d stood in the lobby, and when he saw me inside my car, he wasn’t keen on letting me have a flyer —
so I just grabbed one off the truck beside me (and hurried back to my car and locked the doors, as he was quite angry).

It’s disappointing how much vitriol has been directed toward CANADALAND and Jesse Brown for daring to publish my run-down of events. For a crowd who claims to be the defenders of free speech, they certainly are quick to condemn anyone who dares publish something they’d rather not read — or would prefer not have been written

You know: “Free speech for me, not for thee!” Their master has taught them well.

As for Levant: if you are reading this Ezra, my invitation to meet face-to-face stands. I’m happy to meet-up – with a neutral third-party (mutual conservative friend, perhaps) if it’ll make me seem less intimidating – and see if we can work things out.  Because we both know all your allegations of me were lies, and you continue to misrepresent (through your underlings, natch) what actually happened at the Calgary event.

I won’t hold my breath. But I will leave this here, as a friendly reminder that by your own admission, nothing you say should be mistaken for fact:

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 4.12.23 AM

On June 16, a shorter version of this piece (without the additional media) appeared on CANADALAND.

Levant, Coulter Protect Free Speech

The rules laid out for attendees of the Coulter event in Calgary demonstrate who’s ‘free speech’ Ezra Levant, Ann Coulter, and event sponsors International Free Press Society are seeking to defend…their own.

Levant and Coulter both hide behind the guise of ‘free speech’ to justify their slander, bigotry, and blatant racism.
There is a difference between ‘free speech’ and ‘hate speech.’ Sadly, neither one of these neo-conservatives seems to be able to distinguish between the two.

Cross-posted at www.rabble.ca

Fomented Outrage And Phoney Censorship

Ezra Levant, the self described expert on free speech in Canada, is Outraged! over the cancelation of Ann Coulter‘s scheduled Tuesday appearance at the University of Ottawa.

Levant’s been busy on twitter, Facebook, TV and radio, desperately trying to sell the public his version of events and paint himself and Coulter as hapless victims of ‘left wing censorship.’ Take, for example, the conversation between Levant and Rob Breakenridge, just hours after the event was cancelled:

Levant: “It’s been a terrible night for our reputation as a freedom loving nation . The University of Ottawa, which is one of two of the Universities in our Nation’s capital, with the cameras of the world rolling, showed that when it comes to freedom of speech for controversial views, for dissenting views, there is no room in Canadian academia, or at least at the University of Ottawa, and it was an embarrassing night. It was an international embarrassment and frankly it’s contrary to our Canadian values. In Canada, we believe in freedom of speech even for views that we don’t like, but at U of O, they had a more closed minded approach that I think is a great shame”

Breakenridge: “You know, I mean it’s unbelievable. Just out of curiosity, I know the University of Ottawa is one of the campuses that holds this odious Israeli Apartheid week each year. You can go look at the speakers who spoke this year, the speakers who spoke last year; there’s some pretty radical and nasty anti Israel folks being brought into speak at the University. The student establishment’s OK with that. Even the pro Israel students are OK. They understand free speech. It’s unbelievable what happens when someone shows up who politically incorrect or who’s views run afoul of this student establishment, we saw tonight.”

Levant: “You’re right. I was there I was in the room. We had hired so many private security guards because the University insisted that we do at our own expense, where as when left wing speakers come in they are never asked to pay for their own security, and yet with all the private security and all the police, the police made the determination that 2000 people outside who had whipped each other up on facebook saying lets bring thing to throw at her, let’s tar and feather her, the police made a decision that is was dangerous, it was unsafe to proceed with the event and that the public and the speaker were at risk of physical jeopardy, and I want to ask you listeners Rob, does that sound like Canada to you?
“…Here at the University of Ottawa, the vice president set a totally different tone he sent a letter basically to Ann Coulter that if she dared attend, she was at risk of being charged with a crime, and while all these young cuffs looked to the vice president said ‘oh you set the tone, so it’s OK to try and keep a speaker off campus, so it;s OK to make subtle threats’ and they got the message and they did exactly what that vice president did, the basically followed his instructions they added a degree of menace to it…if I was a University of Ottawa alumnus tonight I’d be deeply ashamed of my school.”

Breakenridge: “Yeah, we’ll it’s an embarrassment for this school, it’s an embarrassment as you say in many ways for this Country. Now from what I’ve read, I read of tables being knocked over, I read of fire alarms being pulled, I mean everything they could resort to to stop this from happening. Now what were you seeing? what did you hear about?”

Levant: “…We were inside, we were a little bit worried, we knew that security had called the event off, we knew that it was unsafe for ann coulter but we did not make that announcement for some period of time until we could confirm that we had a safe way out, there was about 150 people in the room at that time so we didn’t want to cause a panic by letting them know that the violent protestors had blocked the front doors, I mean that’s not something you announce to 150 people so we just sort of waited…”

“But you know, In a way Rob, let me look at the silver lining here, the purpose of this free speech tour sponsored by the international free press society, was to demonstrate what freedom of speech looks like in action, and it’s ironic that it took an american commentator to expose the weaknesses in Canada’s free speech. And although it’s terrible that the speech was cancelled and that the threat of violence is unacceptable, in a way it proved our whole point that when it comes to freedom of speech, that Canada has fallen a long way down…It’s not just that they destroyed Ann Coulter’s right to speak, it’s that they destroyed 450 Canadians right to listen.”

“Maybe some people would agree with her, maybe some people would disagree with her. But they’ll never have that right to make up their own mind because a bunch of thugs shut the whole thing down, that is so un canadian, and for that to happen with smiling face of Francois Houle, the vice president beaming over everything, is disgusting…Let’s show that Calgary cares about freedom, even if Ottawa doesn’t. I think we can prove on Thursday that Alberta and Calgary are strong and free we’re not like Ottawa, rotting and censorious.”

It’s a shame that Levant doesn’t share the same dedication to accuracy as he does to freedom of speech; Perhaps he wouldn’t come across as such a blatant liar. The fact is that the entire fiasco was likely pre planned to drum up publicity for Thursday’s event in Calgary, and give Levant and Coulter a reason to file a frivolous complaint with the Canadian Human Right Commission they so despise. Even the ‘Coulter in Canada’ website has been updated with the screaming banner ‘Cancelled – Free Speech Suppressed‘ across the Ottawa event.

From the urgent and utter hysteria coming from the Coulter and Levant camp, you’d assume they must have been legitimately wronged. In this instance, however, the facts simply don’t support their arguments.

Just as he did in the radio interview, Levant claimed on twitter that “Cops advised that proceeding with Coulter event in face of protesters would be dangerous to her and the crowd…Police officer tonight at Coulter event, faced with 2,000 screaming protesters, ‘we cannot guarantee her safety.’…Sgt. Dan Beauchamp on shutting down Coulter event: ‘it’s a public safety issue.'”

Every one of these assertions is utter nonsense.

The CBC’s Kady O’Mally reports that “it was not the police who ‘shut it down.’ I spoke with Ottawa Police Services media relations officer Alain Boucher this morning, and he told me, in no uncertain terms, that it was HER security team that made the decision to call off the event. ‘We gave her options’ — including, he said, to ‘find a bigger venue’ — but “they opted to cancel … It’s not up to the Ottawa police to make that decision.”

O’Mally also debunks the claim of ‘2000 screaming protesters,’ noting that “the number of protesters (has) been variously estimated between a few dozen to 200,” an attendee asserting that “at no time was there any evidence of physical threat. To the extent that there were safety issues, it was because you had 600 people coming out for a talk and the organizers had absolutely no logistical plan to handle it. People annoyed like they get annoyed waiting to get into a jammed hockey game. But no ‘threat’ environment.”

It’s ironic that an event purported to be about free speech and media bias, had barred media from entering the venue. The statement Levant gave to the semi filled auditorium before they evacuated, chastising the University of Ottawa for ‘censorship,’ adding “a fish rots from the head down,” is also rather comical. In essence, Levant is chastising himself, Coulter, and the Conservatives who organized the event; After all they are the ones who ultimately nixed the event, censoring themselves in the process.

No matter how vile or inflammatory she is, Coulter has every right to speak in Canada; One doesn’t have to be intelligent or credible in order to run their mouth, as demonstrated by the existence of Fox News Channel (where Coulter is a frequent contributor.)

I personally welcome the opportunity for Coulter to share her ‘wisdom’ with Canadians, if only to demonstrate just how ignorant she truly is.

Cross-posted at rabble.ca