The Canadian website that Mark Latham now calls home

Alex Jones of InfoWars.com
Alex Jones of InfoWars.com

Sky News might have sacked former Labor leader Mark Latham in March, but he still appears online thanks to a Canadian online media venture driven by a controversial personality Ezra Levant.

Latham has pursued a sometimes controversial career as a political commentator, including at Fairfax Media. His sacking from Sky News came on the heels of several incidents, including calling teenagers who had made a video about feminism "dickheads" and adding "I thought the first guy was gay."

Since April, Latham has found a new home online, Mark Latham's Outsiders, on Rebel Media, the website founded by Levant, a Canadian right-wing activist, in 2015.

Latham didn't respond for a request for comment for this article.

A lawyer by training, Levant has a long history in the world of right-wing Canadian politics and activism.

In 2001 he served as communication director for the leader of a right-wing opposition party but was forced out of the job and threatened to sue some of the party's own MPs. He set up the Western Standard magazine in 2004, which published cartoons of the prophet Muhammad and folded in 2007.

Levant then spent a few years working as a lobbyist, writer and columnist - once penning a column that suggested a bus driver's "Muslim-style head covering" contributed to a fatal car accident, a column that that had to be retracted - before joining the upstart Sun News Network in 2010.

He fast became the right-leaning network's most prominent voice, and made Canadian headlines in 2012 for a commentary on his show when, among other things, he said Romani people "are not a race. They're a shiftless group of hobos" (Levant apologised for his comments in 2013). The network folded in February 2015.

Just weeks later Levant had already moved on to his next project, Rebel Media. The site originally focused on attacking the usual foes of Canada's right - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, "fake" refugees and the left-leaning government of Rachel Notley in Levant's home province of Alberta. It was hardly just the preserve of a fringe right, as a number of mainstream right-wing Canadian political and media figures were regular contributors to the site.

But that has changed.

According to Toronto-based journalist Jonathan Goldsbie, Rebel Media began as something similar to Glenn Beck's The Blaze in the United States before morphing into a Breitbart-like website. In Goldsbie's view, Rebel Media has become "a far-right site" more akin to Alex Jones' InfoWars, which Levant himself appeared on in July 2017.

"They rode the alt-right, the far-right wave, but have gone beyond that," says Goldsbie.

That wave crashed at Charlottesville, Virginia in August.

At Charlottesville, Rebel Media correspondent Faith Goldy praised the white nationalists' statements about "race and the JQ" - using far-right code for the so-called "Jewish question" - and was broadcasting live when her video feed caught a driver deliberately ramming into a crowd of protesters, killing one. This, plus the fact that Goldy appeared on a podcast on the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer, was the final straw for many Rebel Media contributors, who abandoned the website in what Goldsbie describes as a "chain reaction of disavowals."

Levant, for his part, has since pledged to "reboot" Rebel Media.

Richard Warnica, a journalist at Canada's National Post who wrote an in-depth profile of Levant and Rebel Media in August, suggests the departures of figures like Goldy and "Proud Boys" founder Gavin McInnes have forced Levant to give coveted premium space to less well-known figures, such as Mark Latham.

Incidentally, Latham posted a video last month announcing he will be introducing more premium, subscription-based content.

But this strategy does not appear to have paid dividends, at least not yet.

According to Similarweb, traffic to Rebel Media has plummeted since August. Mark Latham's most popular YouTube video has garnered fewer than 40,000 views - a recent interview with Milo Yiannopoulos, which aired almost a week after a BuzzFeed article discussing Yiannopoulos' links to the far-right was published.

But Ezra Levant has been here before - surrounded by fresh controversy, hectored by his foes as the latest venture looks on the verge of foundering. If anything, it is a place where he seems to thrive, and Mark Latham is along for the ride.

"Ezra's brand does well being under attack," says Warnica.

Michael Colborne is a Canadian journalist based in Prague.

This story The Canadian website that Mark Latham now calls home first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.