Sun TV has come unstuck in time. It's as if, in its first few days, its pundits felt that they had a duty to diligently cover all the events they had missed before it existed. It's a news network for the recently cryogenically unfrozen, who may be lying in bed and wondering about this Fidel Castro guy or the CBC "Vote Compass" story that was exhausted weeks ago.
Host Ezra Levant also bravely showed everyone those controversial Danish cartoons from five years ago. It felt as if, with the move to European-cartoon-brandishing, he was risking burning through all his A-material in the first 24 hours. Within six months, I predict Mr. Levant is reduced to reading Asterix comics aloud and following up with viewer e-mail responses the next day.
(Sun TV spends a lot of time reading its own e-mail, which is about as exciting as it sounds. I can't wait for the conversation about whether they should switch from Firefox to Chrome.)
So far, Sun TV is a network about being a network. It spent most of its first day congratulating itself for being there and most of its second day retelling its nascent creation myth with telethon-esque levels of self-regarding pathos, full of awe at the amazing odds its staff feels it overcame to make it to air.
That's right: all the triumphalism of pirate radio, with absolutely none of the cool.
The anchors shout a lot for people who mostly agree with each other, as if music someone else had chosen was playing too loudly. The women smile and nod a great deal. They all wear bright short skirts. None of them have sleeves. About 70 per cent of Sun TV's programming feels like being trapped at a second cousin's wedding reception.
They don't tell you much news, in either the strictest or the most lenient sense of the word, but they do tell you what to think about it. On Wednesday from time to time an anchor would turn briskly to the camera and say, "Here's what's happening now," then replay a story from the day before. Which hadn't actually happened then, either.
For example, in demonstrating an understanding of the rules of our parliamentary system, Michael Ignatieff did not actually threaten to commit a crime. Either that or we'd better build even more new prisons, for Canada's clearly underutilized civics teachers.
"The world's a dangerous place," one of Sun TV's promos keeps insisting. And only they could make that fact this uninteresting. Not only did they literally have a dog-bites-man (all right, woman) story, but they were still repeating it 24 hours later. It seems against the spirit of the Sun Newspaper tradition to turn on puppies like this. Where have all your cute puppies and puns gone, Sun?
I think I understand the idea behind Sun TV, and behind Fox News before it: These are places where angry people go to have fun. They're like anger theme parks. Their hosts are larger-than-life cartoons, welcoming the eager angry with buffoonish gestures and catchphrases.
So far, Sun TV's most notable catchphrase comes from Theo Caldwell, host of The Caldwell Account, who likes to say, "In the marketplace of ideas, you need buyers and sellers - that's how you find the price of the truth."
If I were assigned the difficult task of making sense of that statement, I'd say that it means that the truth is simply whatever idea is most popular - a concept that would be abhorrent to traditional conservatives, who like to accuse liberals of this kind of moral relativism. It's those conservatives, not the more liberal of us, who should've been looking south to Fox News in the States before now and worrying about Sun TV.
Glenn Beck, for example, is leaving Fox with his ratings between his legs. (He seems to have sold his chalkboard to Mr. Levant.) The Republicans are struggling to find a leader who is credible but also can summon their frenzied, paranoid base. It has been like a blowout party over there, and now the right is being discredited by its excesses, linked to its own worst elements the way the left was held to be discredited by the 1960s.
My son came downstairs while I was watching Sun TV. Fifteen minutes into his oatmeal, not five years from voting age, he laughed and said, "Wow, they're like little kids who've built a cardboard fort, and now they're pretending dragons are attacking it."