[Editor’s note: Brian Lilley, a former Sun News Network correspondent who helped found The Rebel in 2015 with Ezra Levant, and whose column runs in 30 Canadian newspapers, yesterday announced his exit from the conservative media organization, saying he is “not comfortable being associated with a group that, rightly or wrongly, is being increasingly viewed as associated with the likes of Richard Spencer.”
Spencer is a white nationalist who spoke at last weekend’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which ended in the death of a young woman named Heather Heyer, a counter-protester. A correspondent from The Rebel covered the event, prompting Levant to publish a “staff memo” attempting to distance the organization from the white supremacy and racism that inspired the rally and which, he argued, has taken over the “alt right.”
It wasn’t enough for Lilley. “What anyone from The Rebel was doing at a so-called ‘unite the right’ rally that was really an anti-Semitic white power rally is beyond me,” he wrote. Lilley’s full resignation letter is below.]
I may have helped start The Rebel, but I am no longer with The Rebel.
I wish them well going forward but no longer feel comfortable being part of the group that originally planned to carry on the legacy of Sun News.
When Sun News Network folded, I knew that there was still an audience looking for informed commentary from a small c conservative perspective and planned on doing what I could to keep in touch with the viewers that had followed me through those turbulent years at Sun.
Many of those viewers did follow me to The Rebel and as a new media start-up the organization has had incredible success. But is it the source for informed commentary from a small c conservative perspective?
I can hear the critics screaming no, and too often I agree with them.
As The Rebel has expanded at a rapid pace, currently one of the top YouTube news channels in the world, it has also changed its focus, its goals and its orientation.
This departure has been a long time coming. What may have started as a concern over the harsh tone taken on some subjects came to a head with this weekend’s events in Charlottesville, Virginia.
What anyone from The Rebel was doing at a so-called “unite the right” rally that was really an anti-Semitic white power rally is beyond me. Especially not a rally dedicated to keeping up a statue of Robert E. Lee, a man that whatever else he stood for, also fought on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of America’s bloodiest conflict.
I don’t think for a moment that Ezra Levant, or anyone else at The Rebel, is a racist nor a white supremacist. As Ezra has already pointed out on Twitter, he himself is Jewish and not a fan of the Klan.
He has also posted for the whole world to see, a memo that was distributed to all Rebel staff and contributors explaining that the company no longer wants to associate with the “alt-right.” Ezra explains that while he was originally intrigued by the idea of the “alt-right” as an anti-establishment conservative movement, things have since changed.
“But the alt-right has changed into something new, especially since Trump’s election. Now the leading figure — at least in terms of media attention — is Richard Spencer, and other white nationalists,” Levant wrote.
I was never enamoured by the “alt-right”, never saw the appeal but I take Ezra at his word when he describes his evolution. But just as he has evolved, just as The Rebel has evolved, so have I and the uncomfortable dance that I have been doing for some time now must come to an end.
What The Rebel suffers from is a lack of editorial and behavioural judgment that left unchecked will destroy it and those around it. For that reason, I am leaving.
As a serious journalist with nearly 20 years experience at the highest levels in this country, and abroad, I cannot be a part of this.
I am not comfortable being associated with a group that, rightly or wrongly, is being increasingly viewed as associated with the likes of Richard Spencer. Like many of you, I had family that fought the Nazis, I never want to be in the same room as one.
I am also not comfortable with the increasingly harsh tone taken on issues like immigration, or Islam. There are ways to disagree on policy without resorting to us versus them rhetoric.
The original idea of The Rebel was to carry on the legacy of Sun News without the huge corporate overhead, the CRTC regulations and to act as an alternative to the mainstream media. In many ways, The Rebel has succeeded, in others it has failed.
In today’s political and online culture, I know one thing to be true, I will be attacked from all sides for this. Some will ask why I waited so long, others will call me a sell-out or use that vile word “cuck” and claim I am no conservative.
Let me assure you, I will continue to fight for the principles I believe in. Smaller government, greater personal freedom, a dedication to conserving that which made this country great in the first place. I will just do it in a different venue.
I wish the folks at The Rebel well in the future, hope they right their ship, but I won’t be sailing on it any longer.