Don't Let the Alt-Right's Rebrand Fool You - 2017-08-24
This February, I attended a Rebel Media event days after six Muslims were gunned down at a Quebec mosque. Over a thousand Rebel supporters had shown up to protest a government motion to condemn Islamophobia. Faith Goldy—the now former Rebel reporter who rose to even higher infamy for her Charlottesville coverage—emceed. She riled up the audience members, calling them "patriots," and describing the government motion as a "clash of civilizations." Whenever a speaker linked Muslims with terrorism, the crowd, sporting Infowars and Make America Great Again gear, broke into cheers.
The crowd grew even more hostile when Goldy and Rebel co-founder Ezra Levant pointed out the mainstream media in the room, including me. A number of audience members rose to their feet, turned toward the press, and then shouted "Fake news!" I felt like I'd been transported to one of Donald Trump's campaign rallies. As a reporter, I've covered a lot of unsettling people and events. But the mass anger spurred on by the Rebel crew made me feel, for the first time ever, that I needed to get out of the room. I was afraid. At one point, a colleague Tweeted that she saw a man raise his arm in what appeared to be a Nazi salute. Levant flatly denied it, claiming the gesture was from the Hunger Games. Online, his followers harassed my fellow reporter for days. It was unrelenting.
By then, I'd been reporting on the rise of the alt-right in Canada for a year, and was familiar with this rhetoric. At a school board meeting in Peel, a group demanded the Muslim prayer be banned in schools and one man tore a Koran to shreds. At a rally at Toronto's city hall, where protesters showed up to speak out against the same anti-Islamophobia motion, I heard a woman wearing a Make America Great Again hat yell "Islam is evil." The day after the February Rebel rally, I was in Emerson, Manitoba where I overheard an old man say Muslim refugees couldn't be trusted because they are taught to lie to assimilate—but would soon take over and destroy Western culture. When I later interviewed him, he told me he'd learned everything he knows about Muslims from Fox News and, of course, the Rebel.