Pumping up the volume
Yours truly, done up in-house celeb profile-style:
Pumping up the volume; SUN NEWS PRESENTS EZRA LEVANT
The Calgary Sun
Mon Dec 26 2011
Byline: JOANNE RICHARD
Ezra Levant is on a personal mission to save the world the best way he knows how ( "Given that obviously I lack any other skills," he says), and that's by turning up the volume and making noise.
Basically, by being a professional loudmouth -- an informed, funny and feisty one at that, who won't shut up or back down until he gets results.
Levant's energy, enthusiasm and let's-rumble attitude dominate the air as host of The Source, an informative news commentary show weeknights on the Sun News Network.
"I use my outdoors voice indoors ... and frankly it's been ever thus," says Levant, who's not the least bit offended by his nickname LaRant. "To be honest, it's fairly accurate, but that's part of the fun of the show -- to tee off on things that need teeing off on ..."
Attacked for his conservative politics and opinions, Levant is on the warpath to champion free speech weeknights on primetime Sun News. A lawyer by training, Levant prides himself on being loud and clear.
"I love my opening monologues or rants, if you like. They're a chance for me to let 'er rip on the issues of the day. Interviewing interesting guests is fine ... but I've got my opinions too, thus the rants!"
Some of it's dirty talk, including the Alberta oilsands -- it's one of his very favourite hot-button topics. Levant is Canada's ethical oil champion and it's no pipe dream to believe we can supply our own oil needs and wean ourselves off conflict oil that support reprehensible regimes.
"We're an energy superpower and an ethical superpower so we have to stop being so meek and gentle with foreign critics, who would shut us down and strengthen the monopoly of the butchers in OPEC," rants Levant, who argues a moral case in his bestselling book Ethical Oil: The Case For Canada's Oil Sands which won this year's National Business Book Award.
Critics and lobbyists make the oilsands out to be inherently evil -- "unethical, dirty and even nasty ...," so distasteful that any debate about them is over before it starts, he says.
"Ethical oil is like fair trade coffee or conflict-free diamonds. Ethical oil burns the same as conflict oil in your gas tank. And it costs the same. But it is morally superior. And some people value that."
Seems the squeaky wheel gets greased and Levant's noise was heard on the other side of the world, sparking a war of words. "We made a little YouTube ad comparing Canadian ethical oil with the misogyny of Saudi oil, and we ran the ad on the Oprah Winfrey Network. The Saudis threatened to sue any Canadian broadcaster that ran the ad -- which proved our point about what thugs and bullies they are, and how scared they are of oilsands oil as a competitor."
The 39-year-old father of two loves a good fight -- and he won't back down. On air and in his regular Sun Media news- paper columns, Levant is a top defender of freedom of speech, of property rights, of gender equality and "freedom from creeping fascism in the world, be it the nanny state regulating every aspect of our personal lives, or a jihad against our western liberties."
Complaints are common and provide comic relief - actually his favourite part of The Source show is reading the hate mail from "various whiners, who instead of wanting to debate you or turn the channel, they want the government to gag you. We have a word for these people -- fascists, thin-skinned censors, the nanny state, know-it-alls, busybodies, meddlers ...
"Instead of debating stuff, they think you should duct tape your mouth shut!"
No one is shutting him up -- although they've tried. In our safe, western liberal democracy, unbelievably Levant was prosecuted by the Human Rights Commission for 900 days for the offence of hate speech for publishing the Danish cartoons of Muhammad in 2006 in The Western Standard magazine.
He was also interrogated for 90 minutes by a government agent for his religious and political views -- which he recorded and posted on YouTube.
He's shown the Danish cartoons at least five times on The Source -- "just as a symbol that I'm free and I don't care what some bureaucrat says, I'm not going to shut up."
Adds Levant: "That was an important fight for free speech, the independence of the media and the separation of mosque and state."
Being the only person in the free world prosecuted for publishing those cartoons also drives his fight to further safeguard freedoms. "Although freedom of speech and thought is stronger now because of technology like cellphones, cameras, Facebook, texting, etc., the forces of tyranny are on the march, too."
Levant really likes to shake things up and even dress up, too. A recent on-location comedy skit dressed up as Marg Delahunty, Warrior Princess, on the hunt for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, was a Sun News highlight. It's not the first time he's worn costumes to drive his point home, including segments dressed up as a lumberjack, a postman and cloaked in a burka.
He loves on-location reporting, too: Levant's brilliant and hilarious 4 a.m. surprise visit armed with a heat-sensing infrared camera to Occupy Toronto a few weeks ago turned up lots of empty tents -- an un- Occupy movement in fact!
It's all about building up some momentum to change things, says Levant. "It's like rolling a big boulder -- once you just get it started rolling, it can move on its own. But it's the first push that matters the most. I try to push things."
Born and raised in Calgary, Levant lived west of the city, in the countryside with a view of the mountains, near ranches and a native reserve. "So I had both cowboys and Indians as friends when I was a kid," says Levant, who earned a commerce degree from University of Calgary and a law degree from the University of Alberta.
He is the founder and former publisher of the Alberta-based The Western Standard and has written six books, including Shakedown and the soon-to-be- released The Enemy Within: Terror, Lies and the Whitewashing of Omar Khadr.
The Source is his first TV talk show and he's loving every minute of his hour in the Sun. Reaction? "Some love it, some hate it but both camps seem to be watching.
"I don't just want people who agree with me watching the show -- I want people on the other side of the fence to watch the show and think about it and maybe even once in a while to be persuaded."
Another source of irritation: The CBC. "$1.15 billion per year of your tax money for one channel on your 500 channel TV dial."
Well, there's a new channel on the block to provide honest TV narrative, other points of view besides the one sanctioned by the state broadcaster, the CBC. "It's a challenge and a pleasure to earn our viewers one at a time but it's frustrating that our chief competitors -- CTV and CBC -- don't have to."
Cable subscribers are forced to pay for these channels, whether they watch them or not. "I'm glad we're not in the pocket of government, but it is a tilted playing field."