New York Times reporter Dan Bilefsky took on a right-wing radio host in Quebec, for some reason, on Sunday: “‘Trash Radio’ Host in Quebec City Fires Up Outrage, and Big Ratings.”
From the start it was clear this would be no friendly profile, like the ones the Times used to file to boost liberal radio hosts (back when liberal radio tried to be a thing), like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow in 2005, back when she hosted a show on the radio network “Air America.” The paper also adored left-wing radio personality Lizz Winstead in 2004, as “A Radio Voice Challenging Right-Wing Talkers.”
By contrast, here’s Bilefsky’s less than warm welcome for his subject, right-wing Quebec radio host Jeff Fillion.
He has claimed that police officers accused of raping indigenous women could not have done so because the officers were young and handsome and the women had “rotten teeth” and “sniff glue.”
He was accused of mocking a man whose teenage son had committed suicide.
Jeff Fillion, 50, is among the most prominent and provocative talk radio hosts on Quebec airwaves, dominating what his critics call “radio poubelle,” or trash radio. His critics revile him. His fans adore him.
At a time when Mr. Trump’s tirades on Twitter and beyond are changing global political discourse, Mr. Fillion and his fellow shock jocks are drawing legions of listeners in this picturesque political capital, propagating a cocktail of anti-immigrant, anti-environment and anti-feminist views.
They are also testing the boundaries of free speech in a country that prides itself on liberalism but has seen a growing far right....
The talk radio genre has proved particularly popular in Quebec City, where fringe anti-immigrant groups like La Meute, or Wolf Pack, stoke fears that immigrants, and Muslims in particular, are incompatible with Canadian values....
Accused of being sexist, racist and generally outrageous, Mr. Fillion, an admirer of Mr. Ford, counters that he’s none of those things but, rather, a libertarian who is not afraid to speak his mind. Fascinated by American politics and popular culture after living in Miami as a young man, he says, he was inspired by the way Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern adroitly provoked and attracted attention on talk radio.
Just in case his offensiveness crosses a line, CHOI Radio X, which broadcasts his frenetic show, employs a 40-second delay when he is broadcasting. (It has never used it, he boasts.) In a city of about 530,000 people, his noon show gets an average of 23,600 listeners, making him No. 1 in his slot.
Critics accuse “trash radio” of nourishing the far right in a French-speaking province where anxieties about identity run deep.
Maxime Fiset, 30, a former neo-Nazi who now works in Quebec City for the Center for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence, said that talk radio was normalizing far-right ideas.
And National Public Radio normalizes far-left ideas, with the tactic approval of the Times.
Bilefsky used a 19-month-old crime to try some guilt by association, burying a detail that made the preceding handwringing irrelevant. Alexandre Bissonnette tore up a mosque in Quebec City in January 2017, and the mosque’s president blamed “trash radio” hosts for “creating a toxic climate.” (And gave Bilefsky’s article aheadline.)
Five days before the attack, Mr. Fillion invoked the threat of Muslim extremists, suggesting on his show that some wanted to “integrate and to live like us, and to get close to us, and, at an opportune moment, to hit us.”...,Mr. Fillion’s supporters said he had been taken out of context. (During Mr. Bisonnette’s trial, there was no evidence presented suggesting he listened to talk radio or to Mr. Fillion.)
But talk radio has displayed an undercurrent of Islamophobia....
Bilefsky finally found someone willing to say something supportive about the popular show, and let the host come to his own defense.
“Trash radio is a term used by the Left to attack anyone who doesn’t agree with them,” he said.
A figure so polarizing that even my meeting with him spurred a backlash, Mr. Fillion has become a folk hero for defenders of freedom of expression.