Riding a conservative wave of anti-Trudeau fervour in the wake of Canada’s 2015 federal election, a new website called Debate Post entered the country’s media landscape last year. Debate Post’s tagline is “News Worth Debating” and describes itself as a “leading political and world current affairs website.” They proudly advertise “15 years of experience in JOURNALISM” (emphasis theirs) and assert that “the website has always encouraged independent views, and never encouraged any party’s agenda.” Do these claims hold water? In short, the answer is no.
On July 8, 2017, Debate Post published a story with a headline reading “BREAKING: Anonymous releases direct video message to Trudeau regarding Khadr payment.” The article itself contains only one sentence: “We received this video from a self-destruct email on July 8, 2017, the video shows anonymous sending a direct message to Justin Trudeau, watch below and share.” Embedded on the page is a video titled “Anonymous sends a message to Justin Trudeau” uploaded by the Canada First YouTube account.
I can’t believe the infamous hacktivist collective has called out Justin Trudeau! Perhaps they’ve issued a warning to the Liberal government about Saudi arms deals or controversial pipelines. Let’s see what their video message says…
“This message is for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau concerning the 10.5 million payout to convicted terrorist Omar Khadr. You are expected to make many positive changes to Canada, but this was a failed change that will never represent Canadian values. You promised never to negotiate with terrorists, so why did you offer to pay Omar 10.5 million dollars in silence? You are a coward. You will fail as Prime Minister. The Canadian people will come together and stand against you. Negotiating with terrorists is no joke. You will lose the next election in the biggest humiliation of your life. We advise you to go back to teaching drama. Our future generation cannot count on you as you have put Canada in a mess that will be hard to recover from, but in the end only you have the power to choose your own destiny. We are Anonymous. We Are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.”
Well, okay then. That is certainly not the kind of video one might expect from Anonymous. In fact, the language used in the video is strikingly similar to the kind of rhetoric coming out of right wing social media groups like Elect Conservatives, Never Again Canada, and Canada First. From the “Canadian values” remark to the ancient “go back to teaching drama” talking point, it is painfully obvious that the script was lifted straight out of Canada’s online reactionary playbook. The bit about “negotiating with terrorists” is an angle that had already been popularized through widely shared memes in the days preceding the video’s posting.
It should be apparent to anyone with a reasonable set of critical thinking skills that the video published by Debate Post is fake. Debate Post knows that most of their readers will not scrutinize the veracity of the content they publish so long as that content confirms the biases of their audience. However, they must have anticipated at least some degree of some scepticism as an “Anonymous Canada” Facebook page was created in a pathetic attempt to lend the story a veneer of credibility. It didn’t require much digging to notice that the page was coincidentally created on the same day the video was uploaded. Not helping the case for legitimacy is the fact that an Anonymous Canada Facebook page has already existed since 2011 and has over 30,000 followers. And, perhaps not surprisingly, that page has actually made numerous posts in support of Omar Khadr. Here are the two pages, side by side:
On another note, I couldn’t help but wonder why Debate Post embedded a video uploaded by the Canada First YouTube account into their own “BREAKING” story about a video that they claimed to have received via “self-destruct email.” I figured there must be a direct connection between Debate Post and Canada First. When asked for comment about this connection, I was told by a representative from Debate Post that “Debate Post and Canada First are partners.” Interesting. If Debate Post is in the process of “building a reputation of a reliable news source [sic]” like they say they are, it seems rather peculiar that they would partner with a group like Canada First.
What is “Canada First”? They are one of many online right wing groups that have come out of the woodwork since the 2015 federal election. Groups like Canada First are ostensibly fashioned around tenets like patriotism, pro-free speech, and anti-political correctness. A more accurate set of descriptors, however, might include terms like pro-Trump, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, anti-LGBT, anti-social justice, anti-climate science, anti-facts, etc. Here is a small sample of the kinds of memes one can find on Canada First’s page:
Both Canada First and Debate Post function as cogs in a heavily oiled right wing outrage machine. The major difference between the two is that while the former is simply a social media advocacy group, the latter tries to present itself as a legitimate news source. Debate Post’s formula for maximizing outrage rests almost entirely on the headlines they publish, and most of those headlines are sensational and misleading at best. They know the headlines are what pops up in social media news feeds and grabs attention, and that many will not bother to read past them. Debate Post’s mission to disseminate bullshit is outlined in their Facebook page’s cover photo: “Remember to spread the stories on Facebook, Twitter, and by forwarding them to your friends and family. The media won’t report the truth, so it’s up to grassroots activists like yourself to do it for them.”
The actual content behind the Debate Post’s clickbait headlines tends not only to be sparse, outdated, or lifted from other sites, but it is also filled with baseless assertions, blatant inaccuracies, and complete fabrications. Here are several examples illustrating Debate Post’s utter lack of journalistic integrity:
Could this headline be any more misleading? The video we’re told to watch, which Debate Post embedded onto their site, was uploaded by Club 28 Canada. Club 28 is Canada’s branch of the neo-Nazi group Blood and Honour. The video depicts a man asking Trudeau to “sign his bandana,” which the Prime Minister obliges. Shortly thereafter, the man pulls out the “bandana” from underneath his clothing to reveal that the bandana was in fact a Nazi flag. Good job Debate Post, you just shared Blood and Honour’s neo-Nazi bullshit.
When one clicks on the article, they will quickly find out that the alleged “non-gay sex ban” is nothing but a wild assertion based on a recent study about reducing CO2 emissions conducted at Sweden’s Lund University. The “non-gay sex ban” is nothing but a ludicrous non-sequitur dreamed up by the good folks at Debate Post.
Well that’s interesting, because this was literally made up: https://www.buzzfeed.com/ishmaeldaro/canada-clinton-foundation?utm_term=.kaG3EGxqAQ#.bnLEmdqW5v
Huh? Try reading the incoherent explanation behind the headline and see if you can make heads or tails of it: “Justin Trudeau says Charter protects all Canadians ‘even when it is uncomfortable’. So how does Khadr respond? Just the same as inviting Trudeau and his family to a free vacation to his private island, of course the headline is Satire, but the way all this unfolded made it sound like the truth, Omar and the Trudeau government manipulated the Canadian people.”
Evidence of Justin Trudeau colluding with God? Whoa, that’s quite a scoop!
Meanwhile, the article itself contradicts its own headline. The quote from the Prime Minister is included in the piece: “On behalf of the government of Canada, we wish to apologize to Mr. Khadr for any role Canadian officials may have played in relation to his ordeal abroad and any resulting harm.” Trudeau specifically stated “on behalf of the government,” not on behalf of “all Canadians” as the headline would have one believe.
Kathy Woycik’s column just may take the cake as the most bonkers column Debate Post has published. The Prime Minister of Canada is GUILTY OF VOTER FRAUD? That is quite a serious allegation! So what evidence does Woycik present to back up her claim? Well, it turns out Woycik is not overly interested in backing up her assertion. Instead, the article is basically just a stream-of-consciousness hodgepodge of conspiracy theories and talking points. It also happens to be absolutely riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. One more notch of credibility on Debate Post’s belt! Here are some of the best passages from Woycik’s impressive feat of journalism:
- “We all know that JIHADIST JUSTIN converted to Islam. We all know he doesn’t care about non-Muslims. We know that he is trying to impress the Corrupt UN so he can be one of those psychopathic people to sit and use his evil means to bring New World Order to pease [sic] Gorge Soros [sic].”
- “The fact that JT has newly appointed as Immigration Minister, Ahmed Hussen, a Somalian Muslim, someone who, did I mention he is Muslim, someone who [sic] will have no problem bring in [sic] the New World Order to Canada, that is an Islamic Muslims duty…it says that in the Quran.”
- “The Muslims on JT Corrupt Liberal Team are connected with the Muslim Brotherhood along with the gang leader JIHADIST JUSTIN.”
- “Unless the people of Canada can find a great lawyer and arrest and persecute this corrupt PM, dethrone the corrupt Liberals, we will lose our Country before we can vote this JIHADIST JUSTIN and his CORRUPT Liberals out of office. I would be the first one donating to hire that lawyer. Even if another party gets into power in 2019, with all these Muslims in our Country and him pushing them to get Citizenship…we will have lost our country to Muslim rule, Quran, Sharia Law by 2023 if this MIGRATION is not stopped now.”
Uh oh, 2023 is only six short years away!Based on the headlines they run and the content they publish, it is quite apparent that Debate Post is making a deliberate effort to stoke up fear, anger, and resentment in as many gullible Canadians they can reach. It does not come as a surprise, then, that their posts on social media are frequently met with violent responses. Here are just a few screen shots taken from the comment section of Debate Post’s Facebook posts (with comments aimed at Trudeau on the left and Muslims on the right):
Jason Long is the “editor-in-chief” at Debate Post. It is stated in his mini-bio that “his goal is to provide factual news across Canada and the United States on politics.” Unfortunately, Jason Long and his crew at Debate Post have fallen spectacularly short of that goal. For a site that calls itself a “reliable news source,” Debate Post is nothing short of an embarrassment.