Source: Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia

The ombudsman overseeing Canada’s public broadcaster recently ruled that a report linking conservative US commentator Ben Shapiro to extremists and far-right groups was “sustainable” and fair. 

The CBC published a 2022 article titled “‘It’s a slippery slope’: How young men fall into online radicalization.”

The article’s cited expert, podcaster Ellen Chloë Bateman said Shapiro’s “content is used by extremist, far-right groups as an entry point that exposes young men to harmful comments and posts on platforms like TikTok, YouTube and other apps.” 

CBC’s attempt to link Shapiro to far-right extremism led to a complaint to CBC ombudsman Jack Nagler by Jamie McDonald, who argued that the public broadcaster had no evidence to back up its claims. 

“What we have here is state-sponsored propaganda written by someone with a particular ideological bent, as well as an aversion towards Mr. Shapiro and those like him who uphold traditional Judeo-Christian values,” wrote McDonald. 

The complaint prompted a review by Nagler. Although CBC added an editor’s note to the story, the report was largely unchanged. 

“It seems the broadcaster is bent on maintaining the narrative they have written, which is even more slanderous and lacking in journalistic professionalism now that it has been edited for a second time,” McDonald wrote back to the ombudsman.

In his conclusion, Nagler did conclude that using the term “expert” to describe a podcaster was an “amorphous descriptor.”

“In this instance, the experts that CBC has cited are journalists. Now, there are times when a reporter dives so deeply into a subject that they have truly mastered all the ins and outs. But more often than not, their expertise is ‘once removed,’” wrote Nagler. 

While noting that the article had areas in which it could improve, ultimately Nagler upheld the report without any significant changes. 

“There are peer-reviewed academic papers that explore a connection between the work of Shapiro and other conservative figures and the radicalization of young men, the very theme of CBC’s article,” wrote Nagler. 

“I’m not saying that the examples I cited are perfect, or necessarily correct in their analysis. But they demonstrate the thesis that CBC was getting at in this report: that there is an observable phenomenon that might help predict which young men are at risk of radicalization. So my ultimate conclusion is that the premise of the article is sustainable, and so is its reference to Ben Shapiro. It was not a violation of journalistic standards.”