The rise and now seeming fall of Rebel Media happened fast. Launched less than three years ago, by former Sun News Network host Ezra Levant. The site soon skyrocketed in popularity among right leaning political commentary sites behind only the likes of Breitbart, InfoWars, and the Drudge report. It has also helped launch the careers of a number of new stars in the conservative movement including perhaps most famously Lauren Southern. Now though, it all seems to be falling apart for Rebel Media following an August full of controversy resulting in the resignations and firings of a number of its staff including the sites own Co-Founder. This coupled with the fresh allegations of shady journalism and financial corruption being made by former employee’s has left the conservative media giant facing an uncertain future.
The cause behind this recent wave of firings and resignations you ask? Like many things in the political world this past month it all starts with the now infamous Charlottesville Unite the Right Rally. An event that was controversially covered by Rebel correspondent Faith Goldy, who opted to take a clearly sympathetic stance with the rally goers.
Among those who were upset with this sympathetic stance being Rebel Co-Founder Brian Lilley. Who on August 14th unexpectedly announced he was leaving the company in a since deleted Facebook post. Brian claimed he did not want to be working with an organization that was increasingly being linked to the likes of White Supremacist Richard Spencer. Claiming the Rebel should never have had a presence at the event which he described as an “anti-Semitic white power rally.”
What was most surprising about the timing of that announcement is that Ezra had only just hours before, posted this public condemnation of the Alt-Right to the Rebels homepage and YouTube Channel, hoping to distance the organization from both the rally and Alt-Right in general. This release had Ezra himself describing the Alt-Right movement as one that, “now effectively means racism, anti-Semitism and tolerance of neo-Nazism.” All this though, coming clearly too late for Brian and many others at the company.
In his post on Facebook Brian wrote, “What The Rebel suffers from is a lack of editorial and behavioral judgment that left unchecked will destroy it and those around it. For that reason, I am leaving.” A sentiment that has been echoed by a number of other now former members of The Rebel who have left this past week, including John Robson, and veteran Conservative commentator Barbara Kay.
I am sorry to announce my resignation from Rebel Media. My admiration and respect for Ezra, Faith and others remains undimmed: pic.twitter.com/GqL4X1wIPT
— Barbara Kay (@BarbaraRKay) August 15, 2017
In fact another of the sites biggest remaining stars, former Co-Founder of Vice Media and Libertarian firebrand Gavin McInnes is expected to be leaving the site himself at the end of the month though the exact reasons for that are unclear at the moment. Regardless it’s another blow to a site who has now lost almost all its big names in 2017 for one reason or another.
In attempt perhaps to stop all the personnel bleeding just yesterday the Rebel finally fired the rally reporter Faith Goldy. You can see Ezra’s announcement video below, which states the official reason being that it has been uncovered that Faith once appeared on a podcast affiliated with the Daily Stormer. This revelation though clearly coming at a convenient time for the site, who was looking for a valid reason to let her go without upsetting too many of its own readers.
The Charlottesville coverage has done more than just fracture the unity inside the organization though. It has also galvanized the left against it. For the past three months there has been an attempt at organizing a boycott of Rebel Media. With the idea being to pressure major companies into pulling their ads from the Conservative site. While initially not meeting with much success, since their Charlottesville coverage a huge uptick has occurred with now over 250 major businesses agreeing to pull their ads from Rebel. Other fallout has included the fact that multiple mainstream conservative politicians who had formally pandered to the site and its readers are now publically disavowing their support. The site has also had its first annual “Rebel Cruise” event cancelled by the Norwegian Cruise line this past week after they bowed to public pressure.
Amazingly, all this might not even be the biggest problem Rebel Media is facing at the moment. As the site has also spent the past week engaged in an increasingly heated battle with two former employees Caolan Robertson and George Llewelyn-John who are accusing the site of both shady journalist practices and shoddy financial schemes. In a video published just a few days ago the pair make the case that The Rebel exists primarily just as a money-making scheme meant to line the pockets of Ezra himself. Robertson argues that while the site makes more than enough to sustain itself from paid subscribers and wealthy anonymous backers, it still is constantly pressing its viewers to donate to a never ending string of money raising campaigns, all the while never offering proof of just where this money goes. While the whole video is certainly worth a watch as it outlines the complete case against Rebel and Ezra. I have set it to begin where the most damning money generation scheme allegations are made.
All these allegations of course, Ezra has not only denied but also gone so far as to suggest are just part of a blackmail scheme being created by the pair against him. A case he outlines in his own response video below.
Perhaps most troubling about this response though, is that it comes across more like an attempt at a personal character assassination of the pair, rather than a calm rebuttal to the concerns they have raised. No real evidence is presented regarding where all the collected money really is spent, and we just left with taking Ezra’s word that it all goes to good causes. Other allegations including those surrounding the sites questionable journalistic practices are ignored completely as well.
For example in Robertson’s video he claims he was ordered to stand down from covering a story exposing electoral fraud by the UKIP party. Because at the time Ezra was courting party leader Nigel Farage to join the team, and thus such a story would have been counterproductive to those efforts. If Caolan is to be believed, it would seem that The Rebel is far more concerned with attracting new “big names” that can help with fund raising efforts over things like journalistic integrity. In fact Robertson also states that InfoWars star correspondent Paul Joseph Watson was also being courted at the same time in hopes of stealing him away from the rival site. Though these efforts ultimately led nowhere, likely because Paul didn’t want to be involved with the shady practices of The Rebel. It’s still shocking none of these claims are even touched upon in the official Rebel response.
Instead Ezra focuses on claims that the pair pocketed loads of money from The Rebel, and then attempted to blackmail them for more, though no real evidence is offered to support this last claim. In the reverse of this, Caolan and George have actually provided audio recordings to back up their claims that Ezra and The Rebel offered them straight up hush money bribes in order to ensure the pair stayed quite. Thus far in this battle for public opinion one side has been offering real evidence to back up their claims, the other has just been asking that we all take their word for it.
One final strange aspect of this feud, is that Ezra seems to obsessively focus on a belief that Robertson was threatening to release damming footage of another Rebel correspondent Tommy Robinson. Despite the fact that Caolan never brings this up in his video, and even included in its description the following, “First off, I’d like to make it clear that this has nothing to do with Tommy Robinson. Tommy is a friend and a total innocent. There’s no way he could have known what we have uncovered.” Ezra has since continued to push the narrative that Caolan and George are threatening Tommy, but the three all maintain this is sheer nonsense on the part of Ezra.
Regardless of the truth to any of this, combined with the fallout from the rally coverage these allegations couldn’t come at a worse time for The Rebel. Even the earlier parts of this year haven’t exactly been kind, with constant issues seeming to plague the site. Such as two months ago when yet another correspondent was fired when he was found to be plagiarizing his work.
Just before that of course was perhaps the biggest blow of all, when their star reporter Lauren Southern announced she was leaving to go independent. There were signs at the time that there was more to this story, but Lauren herself seemed uncharacteristically quite on the topic, which caused some speculation she had signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement regarding her departure. Now Caolan has revealed that she was actually fired for refusing to do more crowd funding and threatened with legal action if she ever spoke about it directly.
— Caolan Robertson (@CaolanRob) August 17, 2017
The Rebel appears to have found itself smack dab in the middle of the political Right’s ongoing identity crisis. An identity crisis largely shaped around the use of the term Alt-Right and the debates over just who it should be applied too. While the media is currently using it on the more extremist types who appeared in Charlottesville last weekend, over the past year a wide variety of people have been accused of being Alt-Right, from Libertarians to even just Liberals who haven’t totally abandon free speech principles. It’s not entirely unreasonable to say that the term can be applied to anyone opting to not fully fall in line with modern day political correctness standards, which includes most likely the majority of The Rebels own reader base.
It’s because he understands this that Ezra chose to put up an alternative viewpoint of the rally on his website. In doing so of course, he quickly lost support from the older more traditionally conservative readers who are so terrified by the people behind the rising popularity of figures like Nigel and Trump. In his panic to now seemingly reverse course to appease that older base though, all that it really looks like is that The Rebel is waffling between two sides with no real clear identity of its own anymore. Something that is just going to end up costing them both sets of readers in the long run.
Given this political cowardice and inconsistency, combined with the allegations of questionable journalism and milking its readers for money. It’s no surprise The Rebel has lost such a large amount of its own reporters and readers. In fact the sites readership has been in a steady nosedive since a peak back last February just before Lauren Southern exited. So where does The Rebel go from here? While the saga with Caolan and George will likely play out in a lengthy courtroom battle, there still remains the fact that The Rebel has managed to alienate both its traditional and Alt-Right readership in the past month. With alternatives all around that aren’t insulting them or asking its audience for constant cash, the question becomes do we still really even need The Rebel?
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