Monday, August 19, 2013

Ezra Levant is right for once

A Sun Media columnist has finally written a piece I agree with.

The headline “Hey hey, ho! ho! They don’t know” on Ezra Levant’s recent column may not scan, but as an attack on journalists it makes some sense.

Levant, who makes his living excoriating those who do not agree with his far-right point of view, here criticizes journalists for simplistic coverage of protest rallies.

He writes that he attended a recent rally of about 50 people in Hamilton protesting against the proposed reversal of the direction in which a Canadian pipeline carries crude oil.

His analysis of the usual news coverage of such events is, unfortunately, accurate:

The quick and easy formula for reporters is to make a rough estimate of how many protesters attend, take some pictures of the most colourful signs and costumes, get a bumper-sticker-deep slogan quote from a spokesman, and you’re done.

Levant says he could have accomplished that in five minutes, but he stayed for two hours, interviewing the participants and learning that their knowledge of the proposal was indeed sketchy.

Then he Googled the names of half a dozen protesters and learned that – shock! horror! three of them were from London (Ontario, presumably) and another “was from out of town too.”

So far, this is solid reporting. Levant, though, can’t leave it there.

But it got darker. Because the more I looked, the more I realized these protesters were not just idealistic young people trying to heal the world. They were dominated by an inner circle of hard-core anarchists.

He does not report that these anarchists attended the protest, so readers cannot assess how they exercised this dominance.

But Levant is right on his main point: Lazy journalism, driven by unforgiving deadlines, presents incomplete and misleading versions of even simple events such as a protest rally.

The more a viewer or reader knows about an issue, the less satisfactory he or she finds this sort of coverage.

The solution? Journalists should stop covering protests unless they can explain the issues involved in a bit of detail.

Yes, stop covering most protests. After a few outraged phone calls to assignment editors, the protesters may just wither away.

Not so, of course, Ezra Levant.