By Craig McKee
This week, I filed a second complaint against Sun News and their truther-hating host Michael Coren for his accusation that AE911Truth’s Richard Gage and all who agree with him are anti-Semitic hate-mongers.
In my original complaint to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, I cited Coren’s March 21 installment of The Arena in which he accused Gage and all truthers of being insane, weak-minded, anti-Semitic losers. I hadn’t really planned on filing a complaint about Coren’s March 28 follow-up program (which was primarily a rehash), but a second viewing convinced me otherwise.
In that second show, Coren suggested that Gage is motivated by a hatred of Jews, even though there isn’t a shred of evidence to back this up. He said that most truthers believe that ALL the movers and shakers behind 9/11 were Jews, although he provides no basis for this contention. He also says he has talked to “some people” who claim ALL the Jews were told to stay away from the World Trade Center on 9/11. But, of course, he doesn’t tell us who those people are.
Here’s the line by Coren that led to me filing this second complaint:
“There were many Jews who died on 9/11 – died in the towers, died as first responders. Died. Jews do die, you see, Mr. Gage and your clan. Jews do die.”
Whether this defamatory and false allegation breaks any of the codes of ethics administered by the CBSC remains to be seen. One thing we already know is that Michael Coren is a condescending clown of a journalist who prefers ridicule to research and distortion to discussion – at least where 9/11 is concerned.
Here is the body of the complaint I filed:
“Coren continued where his March 21 show left off in attacking Richard Gage of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth and anyone who questions the official story of 9/11. He spent much of the March 21 report calling Gage and his supporters insane, neurotic, paranoid, weak-minded, crazy, anti-Semitic, and losers. In his follow-up show, he narrowed his focus in attempting to define Gage and those who agree with him as being anti-Semitic bigots who are motivated not by evidence, but by hate.
Despite the abhorrent nature of Coren’s mocking and condescending “report,” it was one remark in particular that led me to file this second complaint, as I will explain.
Most of the report focused on the question that Gage had been asked in his original interview (shown on March 21 and repeated on March 28). Coren asked: “Some people I’ve spoken to say that all the Jews were told to stay away from work – is that true, too?”
Gage said he did not know and that he had not looked at this question (he was asked the question three times). In fact, Coren admits that he asked several people at the event the same question, and NONE of them said they believed this to be true. Most, according to Coren, said they didn’t know, which he interpreted as giving credence to a “hateful” claim. According to Coren, they should have said it was false based on an assumption that it was false.
In his report, Coren explained to his viewers that Gage and his fellow truthers are motivated by a hatred of Jews. He applied this to NDP MP Megan Leslie’s decision to post Gage’s Halifax presentation on her web page, saying: “Who told you that truthers and 9/11 deniers don’t spread hate? I mean where do you live? In what world do you function? The anti-Semitism within the truther movement is vile, it’s tangible.”
Coren provides not one example of anything vile having been said on the subject by Gage or any truther at this event or any other. Apparently we’re just supposed to take his word for it.
He further explained that Jews did in fact die on 9/11 in the towers (which no one connected to this report, including Gage, has denied – or even questioned). And the statement from Coren that prompted this complaint followed:
“There were many Jews who died on 9/11 – died in the towers, died as first responders. Died. Jews do die, you see, Mr. Gage and your clan. Jews do die.”
This directly accuses Gage of believing and claiming that no Jews died on 9/11 because they had all been warned to stay away. Coren is DIRECTLY accusing Gage of hating Jews, of being a bigot who is motivated by hate. There is not a single shred of evidence to support this defamatory accusation.
In truth, Gage is motivated by science. His entire presentation – and every one of the hundreds of presentations he has given all over the world over the past several years – are focused on the scientific evidence that he believes shows that the official version of how the towers came down cannot stand up to scrutiny.
Coren also uses the term “9/11 denier” in referring to Gage. This is a deliberate attempt to make the link to “Holocaust deniers,” which Gage is not. Did Coren come across even one Holocaust denier at the Gage event? If so, he didn’t mention it in his report.
Of course, Coren is entitled to argue that Gage’s position has no merit. This isn’t about Coren’s right to freely offer his opinions. It is about defaming an interview subject – along with an entire identifiable group – for the second week in a row by accusing them of being purveyors of hate speech. It is about another failure by Sun News to live up to the very codes of ethical conduct that it voluntarily submits itself to by virtue of its membership in the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.”
First complaint goes to next level
My first complaint moved to the next stage this week when I rejected the position offered by Sun News’s director of legal affairs, Anuradha Iyer, that everything Coren said on March 21 fell into the “free speech” category. I present my entire response to Iyer below, so that you can all marvel at my legal acumen – or at least my capacity for self-punishment.
The response serves to notify the CBSC that I am not satisfied with the Sun News explanation and that I want a decision to be rendered. The latest that decision can be made is August 22 although it could come sooner.
Iyer responded to my complaint with a letter that included this:
“Sun News accepts that some viewers may disagree with Mr. Coren’s opinions expressed during the segment in question. However, the principle of freedom of expression, which forms a cornerstone of our democracy and legal system, provides that Mr. Coren has the right to express his opinion on the facts being discussed and the position being taken by Mr. Gage and others, and not be sanctioned for doing so.”
My rebuttal of Iyer’s comments becomes part of the record and will be considered when the decision is rendered. Here’s what I wrote (minus my inclusion of my Twitter exchange with Coren, which was covered in my March 31 post). It’s a bit long, so I won’t be hurt if readers wish to skip the italicized paragraphs below:
“On April 14, I received the response to my complaint against Sun News concerning a March 21 report by Michael Coren on his program The Arena. The response was completely unsatisfactory and ignored most of the concerns I raised in the complaint. For this reason, I wish to have a decision rendered by the CBSC.
I would like to offer a rebuttal of the response from Ms. Iyer. First, I would like to address her “By way of background” comment, which is factually incorrect:
Ms. Iyer states: “Mr. Coren was describing his attendance at an event organized by the founder of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, Richard Gage. By way of background, this is a group of individuals commonly referred to as “9/11 conspiracy theorists” or “truthers”, who do not believe the “official” story that the Twin Towers were brought down by Al-Qaida operatives.”
This is not accurate. The organization Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth represents more than 2,100 architects and engineers who do not believe that plane impacts and office fires brought the three World Trade Center towers down on Sept. 11, 2001. They believe that the scientific evidence indicates that explosives had to have been used for the buildings to fall the way they did. This organization stays away from speculating about who was responsible for these controlled demolitions.
And a clarification: Ms. Iyer states that those who question the official story of 9/11 are commonly referred to as “9/11 conspiracy theorists” or “truthers.” While many who question the official line are happy to call themselves “truthers,” the term “9/11 conspiracy theorist” is often used by those who wish to marginalize them. “Conspiracy theorist” is often intended to suggest that the individual is speculating on a subject without the benefit of facts or evidence, which does not fit Gage or his organization. The term is also a misnomer given that we all agree that 9/11 was not carried out by a single individual – therefore we all agree it was a conspiracy. We just don’t agree on who was responsible.
But the essence of my complaint is that Coren branded interview subject Gage (including the 2,100 architects and engineers he represents), other unidentified interview subjects, and all of those who question the official story of 9/11, as being mentally ill, among other abusive, derogatory, and unjustified attacks.
In the report, Coren refers to the above as:
- “crazy people”
- “deniers” (a veiled reference to Holocaust deniers)
- “little people”
- “trying to be big”
But Coren goes even further when he says:
“It’s the same seamless garment of paranoia, neurosis, and insanity.”
Coren is calling 9/11 truthers in general, and Gage in particular, paranoid, neurotic, and insane.
- Neurosis is defined by dictionary.com as: “… a functional disorder in which feelings of anxiety, obsessional thoughts, compulsive acts, and physical complaints without objective evidence of disease, in various degrees and patterns, dominate the personality.
- Paranoia is defined as: “… a mental disorder characterized by systematized delusions and the projection of personal conflicts, which are ascribed to the supposed hostility of others, sometimes progressing to disturbances of consciousness and aggressive acts believed to be performed in self-defense or as a mission,” and “… baseless or excessive suspicion of the motives of others.”
- Insanity is defined as: “… the condition of being insane; a derangement of the mind. Synonyms: dementia, lunacy, madness, craziness, mania, aberration.”
Let’s be clear about one thing: Coren was not joking when he made this remark. He meant every word. And when he said “insanity” he did not mean in the sense of foolishness. He meant mentally deranged.
This position was reinforced by the incredibly unprofessional and unethical act of placing the words “Conspiracy Loony” across the screen while Gage was being interviewed at the very beginning of the report. A moment later, this changed to “Truther Trash.” We weren’t told whether it was Gage’s views that were trash or whether he was being called trash. Clearly, both interpretations were possible.
In the case of CHOI-FM re Le monde parallèle de Jeff Fillion(CBSC Decision 02/03-0115) Decided July 17, 2003, the Panel found against Fillion, stating that:
“He spouted ugly and generalized epithets, comprehensible only in their flailing nastiness and not because a serious listener might have actually understood what his competitor did, if anything, to merit criticism. Thus, for example, the Quebec Panel finds that “conceited asshole”, “that worthless piece of trash”, a “loser”, a “piece of vomit”, a “shit disturber” and a “tree with rotten roots” fall into this category, whereas focussed comments such as the accusation that Tétrault was “a poor communicator” who had lost most of his listeners are fair game.”
Coren and his program even use some of these same words. Fillion says “that worthless piece of trash” and Coren’s program says, “Truther trash.” Fillion says “loser,” and so did Coren.
From the Panel’s decision in Sun News Network re The Source (Chiquita Banana). (CBSC Decision 11/12- 0847+). Issued June 13, 2012:
“The Panel Adjudicators concluded that host Ezra Levant used personal and particularly coarse insults with respect to a Chiquita executive that he named several times on the air, thereby violating the provisions of Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics regarding full, fair and proper presentation.”
This is directly relevant to the personal attack made against Gage, who was identified on air and referred to by name several times. While the Chiquita Banana executive was insulted in very vulgar way (with a Spanish phrase that translated to “Fuck your mother”), the insult in this case is even more personal because it directly insults Gage’s character and mental fitness. These attacks were not only nasty and personal, but they were also baseless.
Also from the decision: “… [Ezra Levant] indulged in language excesses that widely overstep the limits of what is acceptable in dealing with a controversial issue, even from a biased point of view. He named the Chiquita executive who is a man with a Spanish name and said in a distinctly aggressive tone, several times, that the latter was a liar.”
If calling this person a liar several times in an aggressive tone “widely oversteps the limits of what is acceptable,” then I would argue that calling someone “insane,” “trash,” “anti-Semitic” (with no basis for doing so), “loser,” and “weak-minded” is at least as bad. And the above makes it clear that Coren’s obvious bias cannot be used as an excuse for this unacceptable language.
This idea of personal insults crossing a line is reinforced in another decision where Sun News was not found to be in violation of the codes (Sun News Network re Canada Live (Margie Gillis interview) (CBSC Decision 10/11-1803+) Decided December 15, 2011:
“It is only when hosts have directed nasty personal insults at individuals that the CBSC has found violations of Clause 6. While Erickson was forceful, she did not make any nasty comments about Gillis personally.”
Clearly in the case of Coren’s personal attack against Gage, Sun News failed to live up to this standard.
Ms. Iyer writes: “The CBSC has repeatedly affirmed in past decisions that broadcasters are entitled to discuss controversial public issues and express strong opinions on matters in the public interest, even if such views may be considered controversial, provocative or unpopular by some viewers.”
I have no concerns with Coren’s “controversial” opinions about any issue. He is entitled to those. But he is not entitled to defame all of those with whom he disagrees – including identified interview subjects like Richard Gage. Ironically, it is those who question the official story of 9/11 whose views are usually considered to be “unpopular” by our society. Apparently, Ms. Iyer thinks Coren should have the right to air unpopular views but she doesn’t think truthers deserve the right to do this without being accused of being deranged lunatics.
Ms. Iyer writes: “Clearly, Mr. Coren was amused by the event, and was of the opinion that the position taken by Mr. Gage (and the other “truthers” interviewed) was untenable and unsubstantiated by any empirical evidence. It was Mr. Coren’s opinion that Mr. Gage’s position on 9/11 (as well as that of the other truthers interviewed) had no merit and was in fact, something that was quite laughable.”
First of all, Mr. Coren DID NOT ATTEND THE EVENT. He did some interviews and then left before the event started. This fact was recorded by other independent media who were covering the event and who actually taped the exchange between Coren and Gage. And while Coren did not claim explicitly that he had stayed for the two-hour presentation, he implied as much when he said that he usually stays home in the evenings and “tucks up in bed,” but in this case he made an exception. Given that the event began at 7 p.m. and that Coren was gone by then, I’m sure his bedtime wasn’t significantly affected. The clear implication was that Coren had spent the evening at the event and listening to the evidence presented, which he had not. His opinion was set before he arrived.
In fact, his report made NOT ONE reference to anything from Mr. Gage’s scientific presentation or even to the evidence mentioned in the pre-event interview. So when Ms. Iyer describes Coren’s belief that Gage’s position was “untenable and unsubstantiated by any empirical evidence” she ignores the fact that Mr. Coren made no effort to address any of that evidence.
Coren did focus on a question about whether all the Jews were told to stay away from the World Trade Center on 9/11. When asked about this claim, Gage said he did not know anything about it, that he had not looked into this. Coren continued to push this even though Gage had been clear. “So it’s possible they were told to stay away?” Again, Gage said he has never looked at the question. After being asked a third time, Gage says, “I guess it’s possible, I don’t know.” Coren focuses on the fact that Gage won’t condemn the idea just on principle. Coren said to Gage: “I don’t know either, but I can assume …”
Coren stated that truthers (including Gage) “always” like to blame Jews. “Always Jews. And little green men living in your anus.” Charming.
He did not deal with what Mr. Gage said, but rather attacked and demeaned him for what he did NOT say.
Ms. Iyer: “The very purpose of such current affairs programming is to provoke discussion and debate regarding matters of public interest.”
Coren’s report did nothing to provoke discussion. In fact, it did everything to block any kind of serious debate by ridiculing and defaming those he was disagreeing with.
Ms. Iyer “strongly disputes” my contention that interviews were edited in such a way as to mislead, but this is proven false when you simply look at the question Coren asked about which journalists had lost their jobs for speaking out on 9/11. Gage began to answer, saying, “Christina …” But his answer was cut there, apparently for comic effect. This left the false impression that Gage failed to recall even one name. Had Gage really not been able to name one person, then letting the clip run would have made him look worse. Cutting it in this misleading way was clearly meant to convey a false impression.
Gage was cut off in mid-sentence several times, which had the effect of making his answers appear less credible. When Gage was asked about who was responsible for 9/11, he started to answer, “I don’t know how high the conspiracy goes or how wide …” but he was cut off. Clearly there was a “but” coming but we never heard it.
On the same subject of who might have been responsible, Gage said, “If you look at what happened after 9/11 you can get a few clues …” Again his remarks are cut there so that we never hear how that thought would have been completed.
And again, Gage is told that Popular Mechanics did an investigation that showed how his position to be “bogus.” Gage’s sentence that began, “Then they proceeded to do a flimflam job …” was AGAIN cut off so that we did not hear the rest of the thought. This was done deliberately to undermine the credibility of what Gage was saying.
Here are some of the ethics code provisions that I believe have been breached:
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.”
Clearly this clause indicates that even opinion and commentary must be given “full, fair and proper presentation” in accordance with the Code. It is obvious that this was not done. Calling those who are not satisfied with the official story of 9/11 “insane” is hardly full, fair, or proper. Coren and Sun News failed in the prime and fundamental broadcast responsibility.
Clause 1 of the CAB’s Equitable Portrayal Code says: “Television and radio programming shall respect the principle of equitable portrayal of all individuals.”
Again, Coren is free to disagree with truthers, and with Gage in particular, but instead he attacked their character and their mental health while ignoring anything they were saying.
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.”
This list does not specify those who support a cause or who question a dominant opinion, but according to the Fillion decision referred to above, any identifiable group is protected against abusively discriminatory remarks. The decision states:
“Fillion demonstrated an utter lack of respect, not only for the competitive host, but also, more important, for the audience he ought to serve. The public interest is in no way served by such shallow grandstanding from the safe side of the microphone. As this Panel concluded in CHOM-FM and CILQ-FM re the Howard Stern Show (CBSC Decisions 97/98-0001+ and 0015+, October 17 and 18, 1997), “Every Canadian, regardless of nationality, is diminished by abusively discriminatory remarks which are aimed at any identifiable group.”
“Any identifiable group.” This is very clear. Even though truthers are not mentioned specifically in the list of categories of groups that are covered by the codes, they are still an identifiable group (as are the professionals who are part of Gage’s organization), and they deserve the same fairness and civility that any of those groups deserve. And Coren was certainly guilty of “shallow grandstanding from the safe side of a microphone.”
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.”
Coren failed spectacularly to live up to the stated goal of appropriate depictions of ALL individuals and groups. The last sentence in the paragraph above describes perfectly what he did in his report. Had the comments he made been directed at any other identifiable group there would have been widespread outrage. But it is apparently acceptable at Sun News to use stereotyping and stigmatization to attack the mental health of “conspiracy theorists” on the public airways.
Clause 7 on Controversial Public Issues also applies to this complaint: “Recognizing in a democracy the necessity of presenting all sides of a public issue, it shall be the responsibility of broadcasters to treat fairly all subjects of a controversial nature.”
While Coren did allow Mr. Gage a few moments to speak, he made no effort to fairly treat this subject of a “controversial nature.” He ignored the evidence presented by Gage and instead called him anti-Semitic and mentally ill. He then compounded this a week later in his March 28 broadcast when he likened questioning the 9/11 official story to hate speech.
I thank the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council for taking the time to consider my complaint. I look forward to your decision.”
Sun News and their battles with “secretive bureaucrats”
Sun News has had a frosty relationship with the CBSC since the network was granted a license by the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in 2010. A condition of it being granted a license was membership in the CBSC, which is an industry-funded organization that represents the vast majority of the private broadcasters in Canada.
At Sun News, they rail at the idea of a bunch of secretive bureaucrats cooking up censorship schemes to prevent the free expression of ideas. Host Ezra Levant calls the CBSC’s panel members Conservative-hating “fools” who are intent on censoring free speech. He calls them “stupid” and the panel a “bullying censor sitting just off camera with a buzzer ready to hook me off the TV.” FALSE. Levant gets to unleash his infantile rants on TV every day, and no one has hooked him off the TV yet. One can only dream …
And Mr. Levant has played fast and loose with the truth in these rants. He calls the CBSC censors, which they are not. He says they ban things, which they do not. He says they are bureaucrats who attack the right of private broadcasters to use free speech while giving a pass to the government-owned Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. What he doesn’t explain to his viewers is that the CBSC was created by the private broadcasters themselves, and it is these private members who fund the association and who are responsible for the contents of the ethics codes that it uses. So, of course they don’t have jurisdiction over the CBC, which has its own complaints mechanism.
In a memorable anti-CBSC rant after a ruling had gone against him in 2012, as if talking to an audience of 10-year-olds, Levant said this:
“They say I’ve broken their rules and that Sun News is in trouble for what I say on this show. They say that what I’ve talked about with you, my viewers, is not allowed in Canada. They say I’m “biased”; they say my monologues are “tirades.” Those are the words they used. And they have demanded I read out a confession on the air.”
Sorry, Ezra, but no one is censored for being biased nor are they for launching tirades. And the CBSC does not force hosts to read confessions. They require their members to read a statement that they have been found to be in violation of one or more of the ethics codes administered by the CBSC. Simple as that.
The blatant dishonesty in Levant’s comments is incredible. I didn’t follow the antics of Sun News in 2012 (and my life was happier for it), but the recent defamation of Richard Gage and all members of the 9/11 Truth movement has forced me to sit through some examples of their infantile hate-mongering. Could it be that their nickname, “Fox News North,” is an insult to – gulp – Fox News? I didn’t think that was possible.