Delegitimizing right wing pundits is important in this moment of crisis

Journalism in 2021:Canadian media outlets must stop giving space to dangerous nationalist voices

Graphic Joey Bruce

Mainstream media in Canada continues to give space to and normalize dangerous and inaccurate right wing voices. This must stop.

As the danger of a fascist right south of the borderline is now clear, let us scrutinize the voices within the mainstream media who parrot similar ideas in Canada. 

On Twitter, many accounts that voice support for the Conservative Party of Canada often support protests against public safety measures and claims that COVID-19 is a hoax. 

Given declarations from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and public health experts—calling on people to wear face masks in public places, avoid social gatherings, and respect social distancing protocols—it is important to monitor how influential figures on the right are responding to this call. 

On social media, we can see how waves of personal accounts voicing right-wing opinions like questioning the danger of COVID-19, are expressing dismay, distrust and often outright rejection of public health recommendations. 

It is notable that many of these accounts also cast doubt on the legitimacy of President Joe Biden’s election, vigorously retweeting Donald Trump (before Trump was banned). Also boosting posts by Erin O'Toole, whose Conservative Party election campaign slogan “Take Back Canada,” spoke to racist frameworks of Canadian nationalism, similar to Harper’s “old stock” remark in the 2015 election. 

There is a trend of right-wing social media accounts in Canada often posting conspiracy theories about QAnon, also retweeting Canadian opinion writers like Rex Murphy and Brian Lilley, who often revert to populist rhetoric mirroring a Trump world view.

Murphy has been challenged for years because of his opinions that enforce frameworks of colonial violence against Indigenous peoples, as well as his refusal to acknowledge the contemporary territorial rights of Indigenous sovereignty movements. Murphy also wrote on Nov. 19, 2020, that “solar panels and wind turbines” are “unreliable technologies” without offering any specific proof or statistics.

The issue is that commentators like Murphy still have a platform and are the voices most widely shared by right-wing conspiracy theorists who today are claiming that Trump won the election, and are calling on people to “protest” social distancing measures.

Instead, Lilley and many others walk a fine line of pandering to the extreme right-wing while keeping one foot in the mainstream world.

Lilley wrote a cynical article in the Toronto Sun about the shift toward people wearing masks in Ontario this summer. He wrote: “suddenly, out of nowhere, we were all wearing masks in Ontario,” as if this was something to mock because previously mask wearing was not widespread. Masks save lives, period. 

Instead, Lilley and many others walk a fine line of pandering to the extreme right-wing while keeping one foot in the mainstream world. 

As an undergraduate student in history at Concordia University, I must follow the basic framework of providing evidence and specific citations to back up any argument or perspective presented within an essay. So, why are national right-wing pundits like Murphy and Lilley not held even to this basic standard of evidence and truth?

Now it is important for community activists and students to openly challenge such extreme voices being presented as legitimate. We have seen what the proliferation of “alternative truths” led to in the U.S. with the Trump administration and associated media institutions. Today, similar frameworks of selective truth are being peddled by right-wing opinion writers in Canada. 

For people who believe in social justice, collectively challenging the proliferation of opinion writing in Canada not based in fact is necessary. 

This generation must challenge opinion writers in Canada who justify systemic racism and the continued dispossession of Indigenous peoples. The fact that our society is failing to address and heal this historic and sustaining injustice makes us all worse off. 

Writers who make excuses for systemic racism, for Trump, for climate change deniers, for the continued expansion of the fossil fuel industry must be removed from any spaces that grant such dangerous views legitimacy. 

In order to find a way out of this medical, ecological and environmental crisis, one key point for people living in Canada is to challenge mainstream media institutions like the National Post, the CBC, Maclean’s and many others for agreeing to play ball with right wing figures who are dangerous. They distract and undercut our collective ability to find a way towards a better and more healthy future for all of humanity and the planet. 


This article is part of a series which discusses different aspects of journalism as a way of keeping a record of the scope of the profession in 2021. Topics range from the impact of gender in journalism to its history.