Some Notes on the Rebel Media Meltdown

As has been widely reported, Ezra Levant’s Rebel Media is currently beset with several crises – correspondents have been fired and political allies in Canada are backing away; and a former employee in the UK, Caolan Robertson, alleges financial impropriety and the spiking of a story relating to UKIP.

In the UK, Levant’s operation has perhaps been most significant for reviving the activist career of Tommy Robinson (Stephen Yaxley-Lennon), the former head of the English Defence League. Robinson remains part of The Rebelstating that he is “grateful to @ezralevant for giving us the opportunity to mainstream our message & looking forward to red pilling Britain with their help”.

As a Rebel correspondent, Robinson has made provocative appearances outside courts, during which he has goaded defendants and witnesses (antics that ended up with him appearing in court himself); he has also been driven around the country to doorstep critics, including my friend Tim Fenton (although, oddly, Robinson didn’t seem to know much about him and kept calling him “Paul”, an unused first name) and the Quilliam Foundation. Levant and The Rebel have supported Robinson as a campaigner on various issues, such as “Justice for Chelsey” (which has included a Rebel-branded billboard in Sunderland) and fundraising for a disabled former soldier.

Media commentary on The Rebel is extensive, and does not need rehashing here – particularly useful is long-read at the National Post by Michael Warnica.

However, I will note some particular details of interest:

A UKIP Story Spiked?

– Caolan Robertson says in a video that he uncovered evidence that UKIP was attempting to “screw over” a leadership candidate, not named but obviously Anne Marie Waters. One would have thought that Levant would have been enthused by Waters’s candidacy, but according to Robertson he had a different priority – wooing Nigel Farage. Here’s my transcript of what Robertson says in a video (from 2 min 57 sec):

It was completely damning that I uncovered at UKIP. Basically caught the party commiting what looked like electoral fraud, and we had proof. But Ezra, he didn’t want to know… We actually accused us of campaigning for the candidate that the party was trying to screw over.

[Levant] openly talked about his plans for Nigel Farage to join the Rebel before, even trying to get him out to dinner with us all, hoping to form some kind of alliance. That problem with this story? Farage had openly been critical of the candidate in question, and so a national story disappeared over night. Paul Joseph Watson was also invited to this dinner by the way, in what seemed like another attempt to hire him right out under from Alex Jones. Obviously, he never showed to that dinner.”

That last sentence heavily implies that there was an actual dinner that Farage attended, although that’s not quite clear from the preceding.

Fundraising under False Pretences?

Robertson also alleges that donations were asked for even when funding targets were reached.

Robinson has posted a short video response, in which he doesn’t criticise Caolan Robertson but does assert that all funding has been spent on the purposes advertised. He also says that The Rebel in the UK is “running on negative equity”.

Levant Blackmailed?

In response, Levant alleges that Robertson and his partner George Llewelyn-John (who was employed as a cameraman) had attempted to “blackmail” him:

They threatened to release footage they claimed to have taken of Tommy Robinson confessing that he punched a guy at Ascot, in self defence. They said they had Tommy Robinson on tape confessing to that, and if we didn’t pay them thousands of pounds, they’d rat out Tommy — whether it was to the police or to a UK tabloid that would just love that video footage.

This is an odd claim. Everyone knows that Robinson punched someone at Ascot in June – a video captured by a third party appeared widely in the media at the time, and Levant even includes some of it in his own video. And Robertson’s “self defence” explanation was actually published by The Rebel. So what exactly would they be threatening to release?

Some other points of interest, beyond the UK:

The Middle East Forum Education Fund

Press Progress has drawn attention to (or “revealed”) the fact that Levant is listed on the website of the Middle East Forum as having received a donation from the Middle East Forum Education Fund (MEFEF). It appears to have been made to Levant personally, and no date is given. Press Progress notes that his name was added to the site in 2015, which corresponds to the start of The Rebel, although it looks like he was added alongside a lot of other names as a general revamp of the MEFEF webpage.

The Role of Hamish Marshall

Warnica draws attention to the significance of Hamish Marshall in fundraising:

At the root of that success is a business structure that looks more like a political campaign than a traditional media outlet. And the architect of that system is a man with deep ties in Canada’s mainstream conservative movement.

The Rebel uses political organizing software—a platform called NationBuilder—to organize and monetize its audience. (It also sells access to its email list.) The man who implemented that system is Hamish Marshall.

A longtime member of The Rebel board, Marshall is also the person most responsible for making Andrew Scheer the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. He’s now running Brian Jean’s campaign for the leadership of Alberta’s United Conservative Party.

Scheer granted The Rebel interviews, although he now says he will not do so again until the “editorial directions” change.

Kory Teneycke

According to Canadaland, Levant attempted to smooth Robertson’s exit by sending over his friend Kory Teneycke, “former director of communications for Prime Minister Stephen Harper”.

Vlad Tepes and James Cohen

– As an aside, Warnica’s article includes evidence suggestive that the Rebel correspondent “Viktor Laszlo” is the same person who runs the anti-Islam Vlad Tepes blog, and that this person is James Cohen, former head of the Jewish wing of the English Defence League and formerly with the International Free Press Society.