How to Manufacture a Story: David Suzuki Edition

What’s the over/under on an upcoming settlement between Sun News and environmentalist David Suzuki? One million? Maybe two?

I ask because I’d imagine Suzuki is about ready to unleash all his lawyerly hounds after Sun’s Ezra Levant called him a “dirty old man” who makes “bizarre and sexist requests.”

I’m inclined to stay out of this one. I also find the cult of David Suzuki kind of nauseating and Ezra, well, there are better life pursuits than hacking through his spin (I happen to be paid to hack through other people’s spin).

But Ezra and others are now saying the reason other reporters aren’t leaping on the story is because Suzuki is protected by the left-wing “media party.” Ezra makes this sort of claim a lot, and this seems as good an example as any for debunking it.

The thing with Ezra is is that much of the time his scoops disappear into thin air when you examine them too closely. So here’s my argument about why my socialist, media party hive-mind brothers and I might choose not to follow the Suzuki sex scandal.

The key with Ezra is you have to look through what he’s saying for what he can prove.

What he’s saying: As part of his rider for a speaking engagement at a small college, Suzuki demanded attractive young women follow him around dressed in sexy outfits. These women would then be invited up to his private Penthouse (presumably for some hot, carbon-neutral hanky panky).

What he can prove: Suzuki’s assistant requested he be followed around by female body guards.

That’s actually it. The rest is all in Ezra’s imagination and clever phrasing. The “rider”? Requesting the bodyguards be pretty? Made up by Ezra. There’s no sign that Suzuki requested the women be dressed any way at all.

So why have bodyguards? Apparently so he can “travel from one venue to another without being accosted too many times along the way.”

Ok, but why female body guards? I assume because he wanted to avoid the optics of the kind, old environmentalist being guarded by big, intimidating men. I assume this because that’s what the emails actually say: “No seriously, I believe it is his way of being discrete and less intimidating.”

This seems to be backed up in the correspondence we see about the bodyguard’s attire. The consideration seems not to be making them sexy, but making them appear not like bodyguards: “Please be certain that the women are nicely dressed, we don’t want them in evening gowns, but definitely NOT Police Tech uniforms.”

Keep in mind the emails about outfits were between school staff, not Suzuki’s people. There’s no evidence Suzuki’s assistant requested the girls be pretty, only some school staff fussing about the appearance of the people who will be following around their expensive guest speaker.

As for the penthouse, you have to torque this quote pretty hard to make it scandalous:

“In terms of acknowledging their contribution after the tours are completed, we will need to gather them together at the end to either give them some brief time with Suzuki (which I will try to make happen, either by having him step out of the penthouse or enabling them to join the group in the sanctified air).”

So this is a group of students (it doesn’t seem to be the bodyguard girls) getting a chance to either talk to him outside or with another group of people indoors. Hardly a private invitation to David Suzuki’s sex den. The only offensive thing about this statement seems to be the use of the gag-inducing term “sanctified air.”

The total cost of $40,000 does seem insanely high for a David Suzuki speech but hey, the college gets to decide how it spends its own money.

So where’s the sex scandal? All I see is a somewhat odd request for female bodyguards accompanied with a plausible explanation.

Ezra is a talented spin-man. I once watched him put together a case that the Liberal Party of Canada was behind Anonymous based on literally nothing. If he has real evidence that Suzuki is creepily asking for sexy college escorts then he’d have a story. But all I see so far is another one of his smoke and mirror routines.

UPDATE: My old coworker David Rodenhiser points out Suzuki spoke to a sold-out crowd of 1,600 at John Abbott College and his speech was live-streamed to about 14,000 more students. So his speaking fee worked out to about $2 per student.

UPDATE #2: Commenter Jay Watts points out that Suzuki was the keynote speaker at a fundraising gala that night. According to this faculty association memo the dinner was a hefty $650 per plate. That means just 64 attendees would have paid off the entire cost of bringing Suzuki into town. Of course, the dinner itself would have costs but it still seems pretty likely the college made money off of Suzuki’s visit.