Here’s all you need to know about Canada:
When Canadian author Mordecai Richler died a few years ago, the crusty, controversial author of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and Barney’s Version was duly eulogized on the front page of the nation’s newest paper, the National Post. (It didn’t hurt that the Post employed three — count ’em! — of Richler’s talented children — but his death was a no-brainer A1 headline at every other Canadian newspaper, too.)
The next day, a different, equally glowing obit also praised Mordecai Richler — on the front page of the New York Times.
The day after that? News of that almost unheard of hono(u)r — a Canadian writer, memorialized on page one of The Paper of Record! — was breathlessly reported…
On the front page of the National Post.
And that is the only story you ever need to know, to completely understand Canada, your neighbor to the north (with a “u”.)
Oh, and one other thing:
Last night, the country’s first “conservative” 24-hour news channel, the Sun News Network, went on the air at 5PM sharp.
I’m obliged to note that I’m friendly with a few of the folks who host programs on the new network.
That said: I’m guessing I wasn’t the only one who got a little thrill watching Sun News’ “countdown clock” tick-tick-tick yesterday. (Yes, some folks videotaped the countdown clock for posterity. What can I say? That’s how desperate Canadians were for change, and how thrilled they were that it was on its way.)
When 5:00PM finally arrived and Ezra Levant greeted his viewers, I was delighted. Americans who remember the days before Fox News and the internet can probably identify with that feeling.
Our state-sponsored TV channel, the CBC, is supported by my tax dollars, rabidly anti-American and anti-Israel — and, a blessing of sorts, extremely low rated.
Other stations range from left-middle to left-left. Often this is more a case of self-selection than ideology; Canada’s media centers are our big cities, and people in big cities are typically “progressive. Their passion for “Earth Hour” and Cuban vacations and “mulitculturalism” is simply “normal.” Chances are, they’ve never met a gun owner, a climate “skeptic,” a practicing Christian, an opponent of “gay marriage” — or a Conservative Party voter.
Having said that, watching Sun News the first day still felt a bit like dutifully showing up to a pal’s new “little theatre” production of The Music Man, or your child’s Christmas pageant. You’re kind of pre-cringing, waiting for part of the set to fall over.
Yet I’m betting many of us were pleasantly surprised. Much of the on-air talent comes from the world of print; sometimes it shows (guys, they’re called “haircuts”…) but, delightfully, sometimes it doesn’t. Everyone deserves a medal just for going on TV live, to a national audience, in a recently constructed studio on its very first day.
As the show biz bible Variety reminded us this morning, not everybody is happy with the very existence of Sun News.
As I reported here months back, Canada’s self-appointed guardians of the nation’s “values” — Establishment elites like Margaret Atwood and major newspaper columnists — tried to keep Sun News off the air before it even launched.
They didn’t succeed, obviously. And I predict that after about a week of cursing on Twitter, most of them will forget all about it and go back to fretting about the upcoming national election and the latest made-up quote attributed to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Those of us who remain tuned in, meanwhile, are happy to hear phrases like “free market economics” and “low taxes” uttered on Canadian TV without eye-rolling and sarcasm.
Of everything I saw last night, nothing moved me more than Charles Adler’s opening monologue. Adler is one of our biggest talk radio hosts. He’s a TV veteran from way back, though (with the local Emmy to prove it). I’ve been sending everyone over to the Sun News website to see his stirring welcome to his new audience, in which he shares the story of his father smuggling him, as a baby, out of Communist Hungary in a knapsack:
We took a risk for freedom, for democracy… for Canada.
It’s a moving meditation on common sense values, success, risk taking and being part of a challenging (ad)venture in a new era. Hope you’ll give it a few minutes of your time.
Naturally, the channel’s first real “controversy” came at the instigation of host Ezra Levant.
At the behest of a foreign-born imam, Levant was famously prosecuted by the Alberta government in 2006 for publishing the so-called “Mohammed cartoons.” Yesterday, by way of introduction, he showed them on his program.
And — you’ll never guess — an imam complained!
The imam, a convert named Stephen Rockwell, issued a bizarre statement invoking the Holocaust, making soap out of Jews, and the n-word.
Plus — you’ll never guess — he declined Ezra’s invitation to appear on the show today. Levant informed viewers tonight that he was going to put up a photograph of Rockwell for their benefit, but “didn’t want to frighten” them.
As a self-described troublemaker and media veteran going back to his college days, Ezra Levant is in his element. Other on-air folks aren’t as seasoned, but they’re — for lack of a gentler word — ideologically sound. Sun News scooped up almost all the nation’s openly conservative commentators in print and radio. I predict veteran Parliament Hill reporter Brian Lilley and hyperarticulate high finance expert (and children’s author!) Theo Caldwell will be the channel’s breakout stars.
So, American readers: please congratulate us, and keep your fingers crossed. If you catch clips from Sun News on the internet, do cut us some slack; we don’t have the economies of scale, and sheer capital, to launch something as visually fancy as Fox. But Sun’s heart and mind is in the right place. Millions of us are thrilled and relieved.
As my fellow Canadian blogger, Kate McMillan posted triumphantly this morning:
April 18th, 2011: The day a whole new stratum of Canadian society learned what it’s like to yell at the TV